Results tagged ‘ Cy Young Award ’
In his previous quests for landmark hits such as his 500th and 600th home runs, Alex Rodriguez went days without achieving them as at-bat after at-bat piled up. Not so with his 3,000th hit, however.
A-Rod wasted no time in becoming the 29th member of the major leagues’ 3,000 Hit Club Friday night when he hit the first pitch he saw from Detroit’s Justin Verlander for an opposite-field home run with two out in the bottom of the first inning. Rodriguez’s first big-league hit was 21 years ago as a rookie with the Mariners.
His 3,000th hit was also his 667th career home run. The only players other than A-Rod with 3,000 hits and more than 600 home runs are Hall of Famers Henry Aaron and Willie Mays.
Rodriguez joined former teammate Derek Jeter as the only players to reach the 3,000-hit plateau wearing Yankees uniforms. Four other 3,000 Hit Club members played for the Yankees during their careers: Paul Waner, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs.
A-Rod also became the third player whose 3,000th hit was a home run. The others were Boggs with Tampa Bay in 1999 and Jeter against the Rays at Yankee Stadium in 2011. Rodriguez acknowledged the fans’ applause with a curtain call.
That A-Rod’s 3,000th hit came against a pitcher the caliber of Verlander, a former American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, was not a surprise. Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP, entered the game with a .357 batting average and four home runs in 28 career at-bats against Verlander.
Michael Pineda had a chance to make history Sunday, but the pitch count police did him in. Rather than rant on like an old man about how pitchers are being babied to death these days, let me just say quickly what they can do with pitch counts. Shove ’em.
Here was Pineda using high fastballs, swirling sliders and freeze-frame changeups to embarrass one Baltimore hitter after another before a Mothers Day crowd of 39,059 at Yankee Stadium. Five of his first six outs were by strikeout. Over the fifth and sixth innings, he punched out six hitters in a row. The righthander added two more Ks in the seventh to bring his total to 16.
The fans, naturally, were loving it with their typical hand-clapping reaction to every two-strike pitch, a tradition that began at the Stadium June 17, 1978 when Ron Guidry set the franchise record with 18 strikeouts against the Angels. Pineda had a very good chance at breaking that mark or at least tying it. His pitch count, however, stood at 111. That was enough for manager Joe Girardi, who by the way was the catcher in the only other two games in which a Yankees pitcher struck out 16 batters — David Wells and David Cone, both in 1997.
So out came Pineda, depriving the crowd of an opportunity for an historic moment. Quite a few headed for the exits what with the Yankees comfortably in front at that point by five runs. The drama had exited the game with Pineda.
Girardi said he was unaware wha the club record was and that even if he did it would not have mattered. Considering how early in the season it is and that Pineda has a history of arm miseries in his brief career the call to the bullpen was the choice to make.
“Maybe if he was coming off a serious injury, it might have been a different story,” Girardi said.
A manager cannot worry about records. I get that. The idea is to win the game, which the Yankees did, 6-2, to take the series and boost their lead in the American League East to three games over second-place Tampa Bay where they will open a four-game set Monday night.
Personally, I could not help but be disappointed. When a pitcher is on the way Pineda was Sunday, one cannot help but want to see more, particularly if he is in range of a major achievement. After all, he was within four strikeouts of the all-time mark for a nine-inning game by Roger Clemens (twice) and Kerry Wood.
I was reminded of a game I watched on television one night early in the 2007 season. Jake Peavy, then with the Padres, had 16 Ks through seven innings against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. I was all prepared to watch him go for the record when Bud Black, then in his first year as San Diego’s manager, yanked him. Black, a former pitcher, yet!
Later that year when Peavy was named the National League Cy Young Award, I chatted with him by phone as the representative of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and asked him about that game.
“I’m with you, man,” Peavy told me. “I argued like crazy to stay in the game, but Skip hit me with that ‘It’s too early in the year’ stuff.”
That game was played April 25. Sunday was May 10. But another big difference is eight years. Major League Baseball is married to the pitch count these days and challenging it only marks you as a dinosaur.
Still, there is no evidence I see that holding pitchers back protects them from arm problems. There are more pitchers on the disabled list and lining up for Tommy John surgery than every before. In his 18-strikeout game, Guidry threw 138 pitches. He went on to win the American League Cy Young Award that year, pitched for 10 more years and nearly won a second Cy in 1985 but was runner-up to the Royals’ Bret Saberhagen.
Pineda was no more aware of the record than was Girardi and made no argument to stay in the game. He must have used the word “happy” two dozen times after the game to describe how he felt. Think of how often he might have said it if he were allowed to take a shot at the Yankees’ record book.
The way Pineda was pitching it is hard to remember that he was actually behind in the score early on. He hung a 2-2 slider to J.J. Hardy, who drove it to left field for his first home run this season. That was in the second inning when Pineda also struck out the side, which he did again in the fifth. By then, the Yankees had moved in front after a four-run fourth inning against Bud Norris.
Carlos Beltran, who is starting to swing the bat better, got the Yankees even with his first home run of the year coming in his 100th at-bat. A walk to Chase Headley and singles by Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury extended the advantage with a two-run double.
There was no stopping Pineda now. Fortified by more offense later on — a home run by Brian McCann in the fifth and an RBI double by Gregorius in the seventh — Pineda just proceeded to attack Orioles hitters.
“I felt great; everything was working,” Pineda said. “I was happy to do this on Mothers Day because I know my Mom was watching in the Dominican.”
She is not the only person watching. Pineda has become one of the dominant pitchers in the league with a 5-0 record and 2.72 ERA. He has stepped up big-time to help the rotation deal with the loss to injury of Masahiro Tanaka. Pineda was asked if he feels that he is now the Yankees’ ace.
“I’m not focusing on that,” he said. “I just want to keep helping this team win.”
Dellin Betances struck out one batter in the seventh and one in the eighth. It maked only the third time Yankees pitchers had 18 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. In addition to the Guidry game, they did it July 26, 2011 at Seattle.
Pineda tied Cone’s club mark for strikeouts in a game by a righthander, but I sure would have liked to see him try to go for the all-time record.
That the Yankees seem to have righted themselves could not have come at a better time. The Mets, the hottest team in the major leagues with an 11-game winning streak, a 10-0 home record and an overall best mark of 13-3, come to Yankee Stadium Friday night for the first round of the 2015 Subway Series.
While the Mets were winning all 10 of their games at Citi Field thus far, the Yankees went on a 10-game trek through Baltimore, St. Peterburg and Detroit and emerged with seven victories and showed exceptional pitching, timely hitting and much improved fielding.
After dropping two of three games to the Orioles, the Yankees swept a three-game series from the Rays and took three of four games from a Tigers team that had the best record in the majors at the start of the set and might have been knocked out of first place in the American League Central if the Royals could win Thursday night against the White Sox. Similarly, a Red Sox loss Thursday night would have thrust the Yankees into a first-place tie in the AL East.
All this sounded impossible a week and a half ago when the Yankees seemed adrift with an abundance of hitting, pitching and fielding lapses. They started the trip with a woeful 2-4 record and come home with a strapping 9-7 mark.
Granted, they ran into a Tampa Bay club that is already heavily laden with injuries, but the Detroit team the Yankees faced has one of the most ferocious lineups in the game and yet was held to nine runs in four games, an average of 2.3 runs per game by the Tigers, who began the series averaging 6.4 runs per game.
The Yankees’ 13-4 victory Wednesday night when they jumped on former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price for six runs in the first inning contained more runs by them than the Tigers scored in the entire series. Former two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera was tamed with a 2-for-13 showing.
The Yankees followed that blowout with a tight pitching duel in Thursday’s frosty Comerica Park (33 degrees at first pitch) between Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez. Neither was involved in the decison as the score was 1-1 in the seventh inning, the last for each starter.
Tanaka gave up a first-inning run on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez and held the Tigers to two hits, both doubles by J.D. Martinez, one out into the seventh with two walks and six strikeouts. The Yankees’ offense wasn’t much better. They had merely three hits. Their runs, both scored by Jacoby Ellsbury, came on a balk by Sanchez and an infield out.
The winning decision went to Dellin Betances (3-0), who snuffed out a rally in the seventh with two critical outs and added a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts. Andrew Miller followed with a no-hit, two-strikeout ninth inning to go 6-for-6 in saves.
Behind the pitchers was outstanding defense from a team that made 11 errors over its first eight games. The Yankees in their past eight games have committed only one error. Third baseman Chase Headley made two sparkling, back-handed plays that robbed hits and in one case in the seventh inning saved a run.
Playing a day game gave the Yankees the opportunity to get back home the same evening and not in the wee hours of the following morning, so they could enjoy a deserved night of rest before the job ahead of them against their resurgent neighbors from Queens.
Following the path of last year’s honoring of Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill with plaques in Monument Park, the Yankees in the coming season will do likewise for Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Willie Randolph. Joining Torre, whose No. 6 was retired last year, the uniform numbers of Williams (51), Posada (20) and Pettitte (46) will be put away for good.
Williams will be honored Sunday, May 24, before the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Rangers. Randolph will be feted during Old-Timers’ Day festivities Saturday, June 20, prior to the Yankees’ 7:15 p.m. game against the Tigers. Posada will take his place in Monument Park Aug. 22 and Pettitte Aug. 23.
Williams played his entire 16-season major league career with the Yankees (1991-2006) and batted .297. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits, sixth in games played (2,076) and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the AL batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.
A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000), Williams is the Yanks’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series MVP after batting .474 with six runs, two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series victory over the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning, game-winning home run.
Posada also spent his whole major-league career – 17 seasons – with the Yankees from 1995-2011 and batted .273 with 900 runs, 379 doubles, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI in 1,829 games. As a player on five World Series title teams (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, ‘09), Posada finished his career among baseball’s all-time postseason leaders in games played (second, 125), doubles (third, 23) and hits (fourth, 103). His 119 postseason games behind the plate are the most all time. In 2011, the Puerto Rico native became the first big leaguer to catch at least one game with the same team in 17 straight seasons (1995-2011) since the Reds’ Johnny Bench did so over the same stretch of seasons from 1967-83.
A five-time AL All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner (each in 2000-03, ’07), Posada twice finished in the top 10 in AL Most Valuable Player balloting (third in 2003 and sixth in 2007). He is one of eight players to appear in at least one game with the Yankees in each of 17 different seasons, along with Derek Jeter (20), Mariano Rivera (19), Yogi Berra (18), Mickey Mantle (18), Frankie Crosetti (17), Bill Dickey (17) and Lou Gehrig (17). Along with Jeter and Rivera, Posada is part of the first trio of teammates in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL history to appear in a game together in each of 17 straight seasons, a feat they accomplished from 1995-2011.
Pettitte was selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft and pitched in 15 seasons with the club (1995-2003, ‘07-10 and ‘12-13). As a Yankee, Pettitte posted a 219-127 record with a 3.94 ERA and 2,020 strikeouts in 447 games (438 starts). The lefthander, who is the franchise leader in strikeouts (2,020), is tied with Whitey Ford for most games started and trails in victories and innings pitched only to Ford (236; 3,171) and Red Ruffing (231; 3,168) in club history. Pettitte made at least one start in each of his 15 seasons with the Yankees, tying Ruffing for second-most all-time in franchise history behind Ford (16 seasons). The three-time AL All-Star (1996, 2001 and ‘10) is the only pitcher drafted by the Yankees to win 200 games in the majors. Pettitte was the runner-up to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen for the AL Cy Young Award in 1996.
In 40 postseason starts for the Yankees, Pettitte was 18-10 with a 3.76 ERA and is the club’s all-time playoff leader in victories, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts (167). He appeared in eight World Series (seven with the Yankees and one with the Astros) and earned clinching victories in Game 4 at San Diego in 1998 and Game 6 against the Phillies in 2009. He was also on Yankees staffs that won World Series championships in 1996, ‘99 and 2000. In 2001, Pettitte was ALCS MVP after going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA in two starts against the Mariners.
Randolph played in 13 seasons for the Yankees from 1976-88 and hit .275 with 1,027 runs, 259 doubles, 58 triples, 48 home runs, 549 RBI and 251stolen bases in 1,694 games. He appeared in 1,688 games at second base with the team, more than any other player at the position in Yankees history, and ranks third on the organization’s all-time list in steals. The five-time AL All-Star (1976-77, ‘80-81 and ‘87) was also the 1980 AL Silver Slugger winner in the award’s inaugural season. Randolph played in 37 postseason games with the Yankees from 1977-81 and hit a game-tying home run in Game 1 of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers. He and Ron Guidry were named co-captains of the Yankees March 4, 1986.
In addition to his 13 playing seasons with the Yankees, Randolph spent 11 seasons coaching for the organization. He was the club’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and bench coach in 2004.
The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.
“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”
Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.
“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”
“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”
Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.
“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’
“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”
I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.
They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.
And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.
This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”
He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”
Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.
Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.
Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.
Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”
That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”
Masahiro Tanaka did not walk off the mound Sunday grabbing his right elbow, which was the best development of the day for him and the Yankees. Making his first start in 10 weeks after being treated for a partially-torn ligament in his elbow, Tanaka showed no ill effects of the injury and gave the Yankees encouragement about his status for next season.
The only negative aspect of the Japanese righthander’s outing was that he failed to go at least six innings for the first time in 19 starts. Manager Joe Girardi made the move to the bullpen after 5 1/3 innings. Tanaka was on a tight pitch count considering the circumstances, so when Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground single to right field against the shift on Tanaka’s 70th pitch the skipper felt he had seen enough, most of which was good.
“Pretty darn good,” Girardi said, then referring to catcher Brian McCann added, “Mac said his stuff was the same [as before he got hurt]. Now we’ve got to get him ready to start Saturday [at Boston]. His first pitch was 92 [mph]. I don’t think I was prepared for that. We haven’t had a lot of good news lately, so this was welcomed.”
Tanaka got off to a shaky start as he allowed hits to the first two Toronto hitters, but the run that scored on a double play proved the only one he would allow. He was touched for five hits and again displayed superb control by not walking a batter (he did hit one) and had four strikeouts. His splitter was on target as eight of the 16 outs he recorded came on ground balls.
“Overall, I was satisfied,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I wanted to check how well the elbow responded. I was able to go pretty strong. I was relieved. Gradually, as the game went on I stopped worrying about it.”
When Tanaka did walk off the mound, he did so with a 2-1 lead. The Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the first on the first of two McCann home runs in the game and went ahead in the fifth on a homer by Brett Gardner, his 17th this season and No. 15,000 in franchise history. Both bombs were off Toronto’s hard-throwing starter, Drew Hutchison, who could not get through the fifth inning.
The Yankees attacked the Blue Jays’ bullpen in the seventh. Back-to-back doubles by Gardner and Derek Jeter off Todd Redmond accounted for one run, and McCann knocked in two more by greeting lefthander Daniel Morris with his second homer of the game and 22nd of the season.
Jeter kept up his torrid home stand with his fourth straight two-hit game, the first Yankees player 40 or older to do that and the first in the majors since the Braves’ Chipper Jones in 2012. DJ is 8-for-17 (.471) with three runs, two doubles, one home run, three RBI and a stolen base on the home stand.
A strong candidate for both Cy Young Award and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award consideration in the American League before he got hurt, Tanaka improved his record to 13-4 with a 2.47 ERA and to 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA in seven day-game starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka is one of four pitchers to have made his first post All-Star Game appearance in September after being named to an All-Star squad that season, joining the Indians’ Ray Narleski in 1956, the Astros’ Joaquin Andujar in 1977 and the Red Sox’ Clay Buchholz in 2013.
No sooner had Jacoby Ellsbury reached first base with a leadoff single in the third inning Wednesday night at Detroit that I said to myself, “Anyone else on this team want to help this guy?”
Ellsbury had accounted for both Yankees runs in Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss with solo home runs and opened Wednesday’s game with a single and a stolen base but was stranded at second base.
I do not claim any penchant for mental telepathy, but I may have transmitted something across to the rest of the Yankees because all they did an entire turn through the batting order that inning was follow Ellsbury’s lead and reach base with hits.
It was a manager’s absolute dream as Joe Girardi watched each player he placed in the lineup knock his way on base. Ellsbury’s speed got him a second steal as he outran a pickoff. Derek Jeter brought him home with a double as the parade began, followed by a single by Martin Prado, a double by Mark Teixeira and singles by Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Chase Headley, Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli. Not only did the Yankees get nine hits in a row but also eight straight with runners in scoring position, which in some cases this year has been a series worth of clutch hits.
And that was no tomato can on the mound off of whom the Yankees got nine consecutive hits, two shy of the Rockies’ major league mark against the Cubs in 2010. The Detroit starter was none other than 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price, who entered the game with a 10-5 career record against the Yankees.
Price never did get an out that inning. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus yanked him for another lefthander, Blaine Hardy, who gave up two more runs on sacrifice flies by Ellsbury and Jeter as the Yankees swelled their lead to 8-0.
Remember how excited the Yankees were Monday night when they scored eight runs against the Royals with James Shields starting? Well, this time they scored that many runs in just one inning.
Ellsbury certainly looks comfortable back in the leadoff spot where he batted most often in his years with the Red Sox. Girardi has had to use him in the 3-hole much of this year because of the inconsistency and injuries to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.
Usual leadoff man Gardner was out the first two games of the trip because of a right ankle bruise. He was back Wednesday night but dropped to the 8-hole because of his career problems against Price (2-for-20 entering play).
With two hits, two stolen bases and an RBI over his first three plate appearances, Ellsbury definitely was a table setter. Yet for a change he had plenty of support.
As appreciative as Girardi for all this offense was Yanks starter Shane Greene, who did not give up a hit or a run until the fourth inning. The righthander did not pitch as it he had a huge lead but rather as if the score was close, the best approach for a pitcher to take.
Green gave up two runs, five hits and one walk with a hit batter and eight strikeouts in seven innings to remain undefeated in eight starts since July 21 and improve his record to 4-1 with a 3.09 ERA.
The big-inning victory also did the Yanks quite a bit of good in the standings. They picked up a game on the Orioles in the American League East and now trail by six and sliced a game off the deficit for the second wild card spot to 2 1/2 games behind the Mariners and two behind the Tigers.
When the Yankees-Tigers series began, all the talk was about Detroit’s rotation. The Tigers had lined up against the Yankees three former American League Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander and a 13-game winner in Rick Porcello.
Guess what? None of them notched a victory.
Talk centered on the Yankees’ staff after it limited one of the AL’s top offensive clubs to merely six runs over 39 innings in winning three of the four games. The only game Detroit won, a 4-3, 12-inning matchup, did not provide a victory for their starting pitcher, Price, who was out of the game in the ninth.
Yankees starters, meanwhile, were 2-0 with an ERA of 0.99 as the rotation gave up only three earned runs in 27 1/3 innings. Not that the Tigers’ crew was bad. The Detroit starters combined for a 2.42 ERA, which any manager will take over a four-game set, but it was just not a match for the Yankees.
Thursday’s 1-0 victory behind rookie Shane Greene and in front of a sellout Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,013 was a nice finishing touch. Greene pitched one batter into the ninth and scattered five hits and three walks with five strikeouts to improve his record to 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA. He as yanked in the fifth inning of his prior start at Boston but this time came close to his first complete game in the majors. Maybe next time.
“We won” is the best thing Greene took from the game. He is a man of few words and at times seems overwhelmed by his surroundings in the majors — except when he is on the mound. The righthander utilized an effective sinker-slider mix with an occasional four-seam fastball that was never more valuable than in the sixth when it produced a pivotal double play against Victor Martinez, the second half of the Tigers’ 1-2 punch behind two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera, who was rested until the ninth inning Thursday when he batted as a pinch hitter in the ninth against David Robertson (31st save) with a chance to do damage and ruin Greene’s effort.
Cabrera batted with runners on first and second with none out. He hit a hard grounder past Robertson, but it was gobbled up in front of second base by Brendan Ryan, who stepped on the bag and threw the ball to first base for another crucial double play. Fans gasped when Don Kelly lofted a fly ball in shallow center before Stephen Drew, starting at shortstop for a resting Derek Jeter, put it away for a satisfying final out. Also bailing out Robertson in the Kelly at-bat was catcher Francisco Cervelli, who made two terrific stops of balls in the dirt to keep the potential tying run at third.
Drew was also responsible for the game’s only run with an opposite-field double to left in the fourth off Porcello. The new mix of players up from the minors and the result of trades has given the Yankees a burst of freshness.
“It has changed the complexion of the team,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We have gotten better defensively, and pitchers are giving us more innings.”
Greene’s work allowed over-loaded Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances a needed day off. The Yankees had been sputtering at home this year but have turned that around since the All-Star break with 10 victories in 14 games.
“We have talked about needing to play better at home,” Girardi said. “We are doing all the little things. These are the best four starts in a row that we have had all season. Their pitchers were the guys being talked about, but our pitchers did a great job.”
Those of us in the press box had to be on the alert Wednesday night. I cannot recall a time when so many foul balls were hit in our direction. That’s usually a sign of hitters being unable to get around with the bat against a pitcher with exceptional stuff.
It came as no surprise because the pitcher was Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner who has had something of a star-crossed season this year. Verlander entered the game with a surprisingly high ERA (4.66), but he seemed the ace of recent vintage this night.
When not fouling pitches back on a regular basis, the Yankees were making out after out against Verlander until Jacoby Ellsbury broke up his no-hit bid with a two-out single to center field in the fourth inning.
Chase Headley, who has been a fine addition to the Yankees, finally got through to Verlander with one out in the fifth with a drive into the second deck in right field for the third baseman’s second home run since joining the Yankees and ninth of the season.
That made the score 1-1. The Tigers had touched Chris Capuano for a gift run in the first inning. Rajai Davis reached first base on an error by Derek Jeter and second on a wild pitch by Capuano before there was an out. Davis crossed to third on an infield out and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s flyout to the warning track in right field.
Capuano got help from Ellsbury to keep the game tied in the sixth. The center fielder leaped high to glove J.D. Martinez’s drive to right-center at the top of the wall in front of the Yankees’ bullpen for the third out of the inning.
Capuano more than held his own against Verlander. The lefthander had eight strikeouts, twice as many as his opponent into the seventh inning, and only one walk. He came out of the game after giving up two-out singles by Andrew Romine and Ezequiel Carrera in the seventh. Adam Warren retired Davis on a grounder to the right side for the third out. Capuano has pitched to a 2.48 ERA in 19 inning since joining the Yankees.
It was a shame he was out of the game when Brian McCann’s 13th home run gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Capuano had pitched well enough to earn a victory, but the run put Warren in place for the winning decision instead.
Warren’s shining moment came in the eighth when the game nearly came unglued for the Yanks after a dual error by second baseman Stephen Drew on a ground ball by Victor Martinez gave the Tigers runners on first and third with one out. Warren fell behind 3-0 in the count to the next two hitters but came back to set down both of them. He used a pair of 96-mph fastballs to strike out J.D. Martinez and finished off Nick Castellanos on a routine fly ball to right field.
Verlander was gone after seven, and the Yankees pushed their lead to 5-1 in the eighth against lefthander Blaine Hardy. Mark Teixeira drove in a run with a single and was the second runner to score on an errant throw to first base by Romine, the shortstop, on a call overturned after a video replay.
Teixeira turned out a casualty. He cut his right pinky on catcher Bryan Holaday’s spikes and required stitches. Tex will not play Thursday’s series finale and could be lost for even more time.
That was the one negative drawback in an otherwise positive night for the Yankees, whose string of games decided by two runs or fewer ended at 16.
The Yankees came out on the plus side (2-1) of their three match-ups against former Cy Young Award winners, and they now have a winning career record (6-5) against Verlander, who has not beaten them in two years.
Yankees pitching has been particularly good in this series against the Tigers, who lead the AL in batting but have scored only six runs in 30 innings the past three games.
Hiroki Kuroda was hoping to make history Tuesday night in his start against the Tigers and 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price. Detroit is the only team in the major leagues against whom Kuroda does not have a victory. With a defeat of the Tigers, Kuroda could have joined 13 other pitchers who have beaten all 30 big-league clubs.
For a while there, it appeared as if Kuroda would do just that. After giving up a first-inning run on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez, Kuroda set down 13 hitters in a row and watched his teammates take the lead on home runs by Brian McCann and Martin Prado and a two-out, RBI double by Jacoby Ellsbury.
Home runs off Price are nothing new. He entered the game tied for the most homers allowed in the AL with 20. Both bombs were solos, however, so the Tigers remained within striking distance. Detroit cut the deficit to 3-2 on a leadoff home run in the seventh by shortstop Andrew Romine, brother of Yankees farmhand Austin Romine.
Kuroda ended up being hurt by the over-shift defensive alignment that has been in vogue this year. Leading off the seventh inning of a one-run game, Victor Martinez hit a soft grounder to the left side where no one was stationed to field it. A weak dribbler became a leadoff single.
Kuroda almost got out of the inning. He retired Torii Hunter on an infield pop and J.D. Martinez on a fly to center. Nick Castellanos kept the inning alive with a single to center. Alex Avila followed with a single to right field that tied the score.
That was Kuroda’s last inning, so he was hung with a no-decision and is still without a career victory against Detroit. The Yanks have another series against the Tigers Aug. 26-28 at Comerica Park, which if his turn comes up would be Kuroda’s last chance to beat them.
Just for the record, the 13 pitchers who have defeated every club are former Yankees hurlers Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, Terry Mulholland, Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett, plus Curt Schilling, Woody Williams, Jamie Moyer, Barry Zito, Vicente Padilla and Dan Haren.
Another former Yankees pitcher made a return appearance at the Stadium Tuesday night. Joba Chamberlain, once a near cult figure with Yankees fans and now a setup man for the Tigers, relieved Price with two out in the ninth inning and a runner on first base to face Prado, whom he struck out as the game went into extra innings. Chamberlain was barely recognizable with a thick, black beard, which would have never passed muster with the Yankees’ grooming policy.