Results tagged ‘ Daniel Nava ’
And so it all comes down to the final day. The Yankees and the Rays are tied for first place in the American League East heading into Sunday’s 162nd game for each team – except they really aren’t.
The Yankees need to win today at Boston and have the Rays lose at Kansas City to win the division. If both teams win or if both teams lose, then Tampa Bay will be the division winner because the Rays won the season series with the Yankees, 10-8.
The Yankees split two 10-inning games at Fenway Park Saturday, spending 8 hours and 18 minutes on the field. The night game actually ended shortly before 1:30 a.m. Sunday when Eric Patterson got his first hit in seven at-bats in the two games, a single off Ivan Nova that scored Bill Hall, who had opened the Red Sox 10th with a double and was sacrificed to third.
It was a staggering day of wasted scoring opportunities for the Yankees, who were lucky to win the first game and nearly put away the second as well despite committing four errors. They suffered their poorest performance in the clutch all season by getting merely four hits in 37 at-bats (.108) with runners in scoring position and stranded 27 base runners combined in the two games.
Francisco Cervelli’s two-out single in the seventh inning was the Yankees’ only hit in 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the second game. The Yankees’ other five runs were scored on two sacrifice flies, a bases-loaded walk, an infield out and a wild pitch. They had a runner on second base with one out in the ninth and 10th innings and failed to push him across both times.
Fenway Park continued to be a house of horrors for A.J. Burnett, who actually left the game with a shot at a winning decision. Once again, however, he was all over the place. Only two of the four runs he allowed in six innings were earned, but one of the unearned runs he yielded was on his own throwing error. It followed a brain cramp in which Burnett argued with first base umpire Brian Runge without calling time with runners on base.
While Burnett was engaged in conversation with Runge on a bang-bang play at the bag in the fourth inning, Daniel Nava was running around the bases and scored when the pitcher’s hurried throw to the plate was wild. David Cone pulled such a rock once while pitching for the Mets at Atlanta, except that was even worse because while Coney was screeching at an umpire, two Braves runners crossed the plate.
Burnett gave up six hits, including a home run to light-hitting Felipe Lopez, and two walks with five strikeouts. He also hit two batters and threw a wild pitch. In five starts at Fenway Park the past two seasons for the Yankees, A.J. is 0-3 with a 10.61 ERA. He has been skewered for 33 earned runs, 44 hits and 16 walks in 28 innings.
And the lineup Red Sox manager Terry Francona sent out there against Burnett was far from daunting. No one in the order had a batting average above .256, and three players were hitting under .200. Victor Martinez, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell were on the bench, and Adrian Beltre was home with his wife, who gave birth this weekend. The Red Sox weren’t much better than the Yankees in the clutch: 6-for-30 (.200) with runners in scoring position, 23 runners left on base – but they didn’t have anything at stake.
For so long we heard about how the Yankees were playing not for the American League East title and not just to clinch a post-season berth, which seemed inevitable only four short days ago. Mariano Rivera was even quoted in the New York Post as saying that the players would not celebrate clinching a playoff spot but to wait until they had clinched the division title.
It is beginning to look as if they wait that long the Yankees would sip any champagne at all.
That was the situation they found themselves in Saturday night after a second straight loss to the Red Sox following two straight losses to the Rays, who have overtaken the Yankees for the AL East lead and are amid playing a string of games against last-place teams while the Bombers are matched against their hated rivals this weekend and next with a stop in unfriendly Toronto in between.
Saturday’s game followed the same pattern as Friday night’s. The Yankees fell behind by a lot early and had to claw back into the game while counting on the second tier of the bullpen to keep matters close. It didn’t work either time.
Not even a pep talk from Tony Dungy could help. I must say that I was a bit skeptical about that. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is a long-time admirer of Dungy and was gratified to have the former NFL coach and current TV analyst say a few words, which centered on the attributes of family, faith and sticking together as a team when the going gets rough.
I admit I don’t know all that much about pro football, but I seem to remember that Dungy was the coach of a Colts team that had a chance to run the table a few years ago but tanked the last game to have players fresh for the playoffs. Was that justified when they won it all? Not to me. Did the Colts win the Super Bowl because they had rested players or BECAUSE THEY HAD PEYTON MANNING?
At least Dungy’s Indianapolis football players had their playoff berth clinched before taking a blow in the final game. The Yankees haven’t clinched anything, although we all know it would take a miracle for the Red Sox to get back into the wild-card mix. Despite winning the past two nights, they are still 5 ½ games behind the Yankees with eight to play.
Yet the reason for that partially has been the Yankees’ lack of going for the jugular by using lineups minus resting veterans and not over-taxing bullpen arms. Sunday’s starting pitcher is Dustin Moseley, not Phil Hughes. Girardi defends his maneuvering by saying that he has managed the same way all season. On that score he is correct, and on that defense the Yankees’ case rests.
Yankees fans surely remember the September collapse the team had in 2000 when a pitching staff breakdown led to their losing 15 of their last 18 games and wheezing to the playoffs with 87 victories. That they ended up winning the World Series has been used as a sign of encouragement for the fans.
But this is a different team – older at many of the positions and a pitching staff with as many growing question marks. The wild card may not be the Yankees’ only ticket to the post-season, which would mean needing to have CC Sabathia win two games on the road rather than giving him the luxury of starting at Yankee Stadium where he has been mostly dazzling for two years.
CC won’t like this, by the way, but Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester improved his Cy Young Award credentials with seven shutout innings in improving his record to 19-8 with a 2.96 ERA.
What seems missing in this series from the Yankees is the passion and grit of a team trying to nail down a playoff spot.
Who knows? Maybe it’s contagious. In the seventh inning, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli leaned over the railing of the Red Sox dugout to try for a foul ball. Cervelli would have crashed to the floor but was held up by Boston pitching coach John Farrell, catcher Victor Martinez and outfielder Daniel Nava. Martinez then lifted Cervelli back onto the field unharmed.
Somehow, I don’t think the Red Sox of old would have done that for Thurman Munson.
The sixth inning Saturday was an adventurous one for Austin Kearns, who heard equal measures of cheers and boos from the sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium.
Back in the lineup after missing five games because of a bruised left elbow, Kearns played left field and had the crowd on its feet when he crashed into the auxiliary scoreboard in hauling down a drove by the Red Sox’ Lars Anderson. The play saved at least one run as Boston had runners on first and second at the time.
Following the old baseball cliché of a player who makes a dazzling play in the field leading off the next at-bat for his team, Kearns was first up in the bottom of the sixth against Jon Lester, who was still working on a no-hitter. Kearns drew a walk and moved across to second on Curtis Granderson’s slow grounder to the right side.
Francisco Cervelli then got the Yankees’ first hit, which put Kearns in a quandary. He was midway between second and third bases as Red Sox left fielder Daniel Nava raced in attempting to catch Cervelli’s dying quail. Nava slid on the grass trying for the catch, but the ball bounced off his glove for a single.
Kearns, fearing the ball might be caught, had headed back to second base so as not to get doubled up when the ball fell free. He had no time to make a U-turn and try to get to third as Nava got the ball back to the infield promptly.
Derek Jeter followed with another single, a hard grounder into left field. Nava again charged the ball quickly and made a strong throw to the plate to throw out Kearns by a wide margin. The same player who was embraced loudly by the crowd only a few minutes earlier was dissed as he headed back to the dugout.
There isn’t a major-league player who cannot remember everything about his first home run in the big leagues. In the case of Colin Curtis, he will have quite a story to tell years from now.
Okay, so it may not be as hard to believe as the Red Sox’ Daniel Nava hitting a grand slam on the first pitch he saw as a major leaguer June 12, but Curtis will be able to spin a pretty good yard and get his fair share of “I can’t believe it” looks.
There was the rookie outfielder sitting on the bench of the home dugout at Yankee Stadium wondering with the rest of his teammates just what Brett Gardner did to get ejected from the game for beefing to plate umpire Paul Emmel about a called strike in the seventh inning. Emmel was the same ump who threw manager Joe Girardi out of Tuesday night’s game, so this is not the Yankees’ favorite crew.
Curtis was snapped into action by the voice of bench coach Tony Pena, who chirped, “Ready to hit, CC!” I’m just surprised that CC Sabathia, who is always ready to swing a bat, didn’t get to his feet first and volunteer to celebrate his 30th birthday by taking some hacks.
A player sort of knows where he stands on the depth chart when he is the one chosen to pinch hit and inherit a count of no balls and two strikes. Curtis, a testicular cancer survivor, has been a feel-good story for the Yankees this year, but he is a rookie, and this was a situation for a rookie. Man, did he never make the most of it.
Curtis hung tough against Scot Shields and worked the count full before getting a fastball to his liking and driving the ball into the right field stands, a three-run blow that turned a 7-5 score into 10-5 on the way to a 10-6 Yankees victory.
This was a game that the Yankees should have put away but were on the verge of losing several times. Only some uncharacteristically strange base running by the Angels kept them from coming back completely from an early 6-0 deficit. The Halos closed to 6-5 against a withering Javier Vazquez in the sixth on a two-run homer by 2009 World Series hero Hideki Matsui, his second bomb of the series and third at the Stadium this year.
The Angels left the bases loaded that inning against David Robertson with Juan Rivera oddly held at third base on a single by Erick Aybar that should have tied the score. Aybar had pulled a rock on the bases in the fifth. At second base with one out and left-handed hitting Bobby Abreu, who owns Vazquez (.316, 10 homers) at bat, Aybar tried to steal third and was thrown out by a wide margin by Francisco Cervelli, who had a clear shot at the runner.
Los Angeles left the bags full again in the seventh before the Yankees took charge in the bottom half on Juan Miranda’s solo homer that preceded Curtis’ dramatics. And if you don’t think the Yankees wanted this game badly, consider that Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth in a non-save situation with a four-run lead.
Mo preserved the victory for Vazquez, who beat the Angels for his first time in his career to join lefthanders Jamie Moyer of the Phillies and Barry Zito of the Giants as the only active pitchers in the majors to have defeated all 30 clubs. Still, Vazquez lasted merely two batters into the sixth, forcing the bullpen to log four innings, raising its total to 20 over the past four games.
Each team had 15 hits and was 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position, but the Yankees had one more home run and did not do anything stupid on the basepaths. Robinson Cano was walked twice intentionally but also found time to hit his 18th home run. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira had three hits apiece. Tex also drove in three runs to keep up his scorching July pace. He is batting .383 with eight doubles, five home runs and 17 RBI in 16 games covering 60 at-bats this month and hiked his batting average 25 points to .256.
For all that, Wednesday’s game could easily have gone into the L column and was saved by a rookie down to his last strike the moment he stepped to the plate coming through and providing his team and himself a special memory.