Results tagged ‘ David Phelps ’
It is clear by now that the Yankees did not enjoy reading all spring about how they were on the downside and that the Blue Jays were gearing up after a busy off-season to take control of the American League East.
All the Yankees have done is to take out their ire on the Blue Jays. The Yankees have Toronto to thank mostly for their being perched atop the division, which has been a customary spot for them since 1996. But this year with all the injuries and the scouring of what some might call the scrap heap, the Yankees were expected to topple down the standings.
Except that they have just refused to do that.
The Yankees’ 7-2 victory Saturday raised their record against the Blue Jays this year to 8-1. The Yanks are 19-15 against all other teams combined, so their record against Toronto is essential to their place in the division. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are the only team in the AL East with a sub-.500 record (17-26) and have fallen 10 games out of first place, a far distance from where so many prognosticators forecast them.
Sure, the loss to injury of shortstop Jose Reyes and pitcher Josh Johnson has derailed Toronto some, but what club has had more devastating injuries than the Yankees? They have had 13 players on the disabled list, including seven regulars among position players and three of their starting pitchers.
That is how David Phelps, Saturday’s winning pitcher, got into the rotation and, who knows, he just might stay there. The righthander struggled with fastball command but found reinforcements in breaking pitches and posted his third straight quality start. Phelps allowed one run, six hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings to even his record at 2-2. His ERA has dropped from 5.56 to 3.83 over those three starts.
With Phelps’ fastball unpredictable, catcher Austin Romine said, “We had to mix things up.”
“I didn’t have a good curve and was not ahead in the count enough to use my changeup” Phelps said. “I had a good slider, which helped.”
Another huge help was a pickoff play in the first inning after Phelps walked two batters with one out. After striking out J.P. Arencibia, Phelps and shortstop Jayson Nix combined on a pickoff of Jose Bautista at second base for the third out of the inning.
“I knew we had a chance because I could see he was taking a big lead,” Phelps said. “That was a big play. It might have been a different inning without that the way I was stuggling, you never know.”
It looked as if it might be one of those days where the Yankees had to nickel-and-dime it for some runs when Brandon Morrow got them out in order in the first two innings. Robinson Cano had other ideas. He followed an RBI single by Brett Gardner in the third with a home run and supplied another two-run homer two innings later.
“You get the runs behind you and guys make plays behind you, and it gives you confidence that you can get the job done,” Phelps said.
One day after the middle of the lineup was nonexistent, the big bats came alive. In addition to Cano’s two bombs, Travis Hafner crushed a solo shot off Darren Oliver in the eighth.
The Yankees’ dominance of Toronto, particularly at the Stadium, goes back more than just this season. They have won nine straight home games over the Blue Jays dating to Sept. 19, 2012, 20 of the past 24 games and 23 of the past 28. The nine-game home winning streak ties their longest against the Jays of June 21, 1979 to Sept. 17, 1980. The Yanks have won the home season series against Toronto for the 10th consecutive year.
The Yankees are 18-0 when scoring first this season and remain the only team yet to lose when scoring the game’s first run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the streak is an AL record and the longest stretch of its kind by any club since the 1992 Mets started the year 18-0 when scoring the first run of the game. This is the Yanks’ longest such streak at any point in a season since 19 straight May 7 to June 6, 2011.
Sometimes it comes down to one simple play. A blown hit-and-run play turned into an important stolen base for the Yankees that turned the ninth inning Wednesday night into a melodrama that sent them toward a very satisfying, dugout-emptying victory.
Normally when you hear the phrase “dugout-emptying,” it is in reference to a brawl. This time it was literal for the Yankees. With Eduardo Nunez still unavailable due to an irritated left ribcage, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was forced to use all the available players in an inter-league game at a National League park where the designated hitter is forbidden. Thank heaven this one didn’t go extra innings or you might have seen some pitchers playing elsewhere on the field.
The Yanks’ 3-2 victory over the Rockies was truly a team effort. The deciding run that was set up by a stolen base that should have been an out scored thanks to the hustle of Brennan Boesch, the Yankees’ third pinch hitter of the night, who beat out an infield hit with a dash down the first base line while Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado took ever-so-slightly too long to get off a throw.
Vernon Wells, who crossed the plate for the tiebreaking run, then trotted out to third base with his oversized outfield glove, marking the first time he had played the infield in a major-league game. Sure enough, a ball was hit to him, but he handled Carlos Gonzalez’s grounder with ease and got the second out of the inning. Mariano Rivera withstood a two-out single and a steal of second base by Michael Cuddyer to make it 12-for-12 in saves when he retired Wilin Rosario on a fly to center.
Wells, whose three-hit game included his seventh home run that accounted for the Yanks’ other two runs, was asked to play third base because starter Chris Nelson had been lifted earlier in the ninth for pinch hitter Travis Hafner, who struck out. Without Nunez, Girardi had no infielders he could call on, a situation that the manager had explained to Wells even before the game started.
It was also Wells who benefit from a dropped throw by shortstop Jonathan Herrera from catcher Rosario on a busted hit-and-run play. Wells, who had left off the inning with an infield single, ended up with a gift of a stolen base. Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt in a non-save situation was not sharp and walked Lyle Overbay. After Ichiro Suzuki bunted the runners over, Jayson Nix was intentionally walked to load the bases. Girardi had his ace in the hole in Hafner, but the DH without a spot in the starting lineup at Coors Field struck out.
Boesch was Girardi’s last available player to use as a pinch hitter for catcher Austin Romine (Chris Stewart would have to catch the bottom of the ninth). Arenado made a terrific stop of a hard grounder to his left by Boesch, but the third baseman glanced momentarily to second base before throwing to first where Boesch beat the play by a hair.
Pitchers played major parts for the Yankees as well. Starter David Phelps went six innings and was hurt only by a two-run homer by Todd Helton. Recent Triple A call-up Preston Claiborne pitched a 1-2-3 seventh (the righthander has retired all nine hitters he has faced in his first two appearances for the Yankees) and David Robertson added a scoreless eighth.
This is not the sort of stuff fans are used to seeing at Coors Field. Tuesday night, it was 2-0 Rockies. Seven runs in two games in a yard where every night it seems that seven runs are scored every two innings is pretty rare. The Yankees ended a five-game losing streak at Coors dating to June 20, 2002 and are 29-9 in games following shutout losses since Girardi became manager in 2008, including 3-0 this year.
No shutout this time. After becoming the first team to get shut out in a game at Coors Field this year, the Yankees got on the board right away Wednesday night. Vernon Wells, who has been struggling lately with three hits in his previous 22 at-bats (.136) clubbed a 3-2 fastball from the Rockies’ Juan Nicasio in the first inning for a two-run home run.
The blow, Wells’ seventh homer of the season and his first ever at Coors, scored Brett Gardner, who had singled to lead off the game and stolen second base. It was the Yankees’ fifth steal in 10 innings at Denver.
Lyle Overbay put on a clinic at first base in the bottom of the first inning to save Yankees starter David Phelps from a potential rough beginning. Overbay took part in all three outs with a putout and two assists, both on sure-handed grabs of tough hops. The Yankees could have done a whole lot worse in finding a replacement for injured Mark Teixeira than the stylishly efficient Overbay.
The Rockies got even in the second inning with a two-run homer of their own. After a one-out double to right-center by Wilin Rosario, Todd Helton drove a 3-1 fastball to right field for his second home run of the season.
Come the sixth inning and both team’s pitchers were batting eighth in the order. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bat Phelps in the 8-hole to break up the left-handed hitters. It was the first time a Yanks starting pitcher batted in that spot since Aug. 28, 1957 when then manager Casey Stengel hit Don Larsen eighth and second baseman Bobby Richardson ninth against the White Sox.
Nicasio was in the usual ninth spot for pitchers to start the game, but when he came out after five innings Rockies manager Walt Weiss made a double switch and brought in Jonathan Herrera to play shortstop and put reliever Josh Outman in the 8-hole previously occupied by Reid Brignac.
The Yankees’ starting lineup Wednesday night at Denver’s Coors Field had an unusual look. Not only was a pitcher in the batting order in accordance with National League rules but also said pitcher, David Phelps, was in the eighth spot rather than the traditional 9-hole for pitchers.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s reasoning was pretty sound. With Robinson Cano batting second, someone other than the pitcher, in this case rookie catcher Austin Romine, gives the Yankees an additional hitter in front of Cano after the first time through the order. Girardi also wanted to avoid stacking left-handed batters near the bottom of the order because the Rockies have quality relievers from the left side.
It is not entirely uncommon for pitchers to bat somewhere in the lineup other than ninth. Good hitting pitchers such as Wes Ferrell, Warren Spahn, Bob Lemon, Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Don Larsen and Earl Wilson occasionally batted higher in the order than ninth. In more recent years, Tony La Russa often batted a pitcher eighth and a position player ninth in his time with the Cardinals.
That vulnerability the Yankees once showed against left-handed pitching appears to have worn away. Their 5-4 victory over the Astros Wednesday night improved the Yanks’ record to 8-3 in games started by left-handed opposing pitchers, including their past five at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have won six of the past eight games against left-handed starters.
Nevertheless, they continue to seek ways to bolster their lineup against lefties. After the game, the Yankees announced that they had acquired infielder Chris Nelson from the Rockies in a deal for cash considerations and/or a player to be named. Nelson, 27, was batting .242 in 66 at-bats for Colorado but apparently was available because Nolan Arenado was seeing more playing time at third base. Nelson was a .301 hitter with nine home runs and 53 RBI in 2012. He bats right-handed, can play third base and second base, although defense is not his strong suit. Nelson is expected to join the Yankees Friday night when they open a three-game series against Oakland.
The Yankees cleared space on the 40-man roster for Nelson by assigning catcher Francisco Cervelli (broken right hand) to the 60-day disabled list. They will have to make a move for the 25-man roster when Nelson is activated, most likely returning infielder Corban Joseph to Triple A Scranton.
With all their injuries, the Yankees have had to use left-handed batters against left-handed pitching, and it has worked out. Travis Hafner walked and scored in the second inning, and Robinson Cano belted his eighth home run in the third.
Lyle Overbay doubled, walked twice and made an alert base-running maneuver that led to the deciding run. In the sixth inning with the score 4-4, Overbay was on first base and Eduardo Nunez on third with one out when Ichiro Suzuki, another lefty swinger who had two hits, hit a grounder between first and second. Overbay stopped in the baseline and forced second baseman Jose Altuve to throw to first base while Nunez sprinted home before the Astros could complete the double play by throwing out Overbay in a rundown.
“It takes a heads-up play like that to prevent the double play from happening,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That is what veterans do. They don’t get frazzled by situations.”
Neither did the Yankees’ bullpen. David Phelps was okay in his start (four runs, eight hits, one walk, five strikeouts, two hit batters in 5 2/3 innings), but Boone Logan (2-1), David Robertson and Mariano Rivera (11-for-11 in saves) combined for 3 1/3 spotless, two-hit innings with four strikeouts.
It got a big scary for Mo in the ninth when rookie outfielder Brandon Barnes led off with a line single to right. Matt Dominguez hit the ball hard, too, but Cano made a back-handed stab and got an unassisted double play by tagging Barnes, who was running on the play. Rivera reared back and fired three strikes past Marwin Gonzalez to end a stretch of 16 consecutive dates of games in which the Yankees went 11-5 and won four of the five series.
With a lefthander, Eric Bedard, starting for the Astros Wednesday night, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to decide which left-handed hitting outfielder to give the night off. He chose Brett Gardner for two reasons: (1) Gardner could use the blow and (2) Ichiro Suzuki is hot.
Ichiro has really stepped it up this homestand. He entered the game on an 8-for-19 (.421) stretch that shot his batting average up to .268, which was 68 points higher than it was a week ago. With hits in each of his first two at-bats, Suzuki’s average just kept climbing nearer to the .300 level with which he was so familiar in his years with the Mariners.
Suzuki led off the game with a triple off the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center field. He scored moments later on a single to left by Jayson Nix. Bedard, who did not walk a batter in his prior start at Boston despite throwing 91 pitches in three innings, walked the bases loaded with none out in the second.
The first walk was to Travis Hafner, whom Girardi left in the batting order as the designated hitter while using righty-swinging Ben Francisco in right field. The Astros used an exaggerated shift against Hafner, who I think would be smart to consider bunting in those situations. After all, he was leading off the inning, so getting on base is the priority. The Astros were giving him the entire left side of the infield.
The Yankees got only one run out of the rally, on a sacrifice fly by Chris Stewart, who is doing a terrific job in making up for the loss to injury (fractured right hand) of Francisco Cervelli. The Yanks reloaded the bases with two out on an infield single by Suzuki when Bedard and first baseman Carlos Pena miscommunicated on a play at the bag while Ichiro sped to another hit. It proved inconsequential as Nix popped out.
The game was beginning to look like one of those runaways when Robinson Cano and Francisco homered in the fourth inning for a 4-0 Yankees lead. Cano’s homer was career No. 185 for 16th place on the Yankees’ all-time list. He also moved ahead of Elston Howard for 20th place on the Yankees’ career RBI list with 733.
Francisco’s homer was his first with the Yankees, and it must have felt wonderful. He entered the game batting .103 and may just be the odd man out whenever Curtis Granderson comes off the disabled list, which is likely sometime this month.
Making his first start of the season, David Phelps was certainly appreciative of the early run support. The righthander cruised through three innings in pitching to the minimum number of batters and allowing one hit before the wheels started to fall off in the fourth. Phelps was stung for four hits and didn’t help himself by hitting two batters, one of which forced in a run, as the Astros tied the score.
There was good news and bad news about the Yankees’ player transactions before Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays. The bad news was that catcher Francisco Cervelli was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a broken right hand and will be sideline for six weeks. The good news was that although pitcher Ivan Nova was also assigned to the DL his injury (inflammation of the right triceps) is not as serious as had been feared, a possible elbow strain.
So there were two new faces in the Yankees clubhouse. Catcher Austin Romine was recalled from Scranton and pitcher Vidal Nuno had his contract purchased from the Triple A affiliate. To create room on the 40-man roster for Nuno, the Yankees transferred Derek Jeter to the 60-day DL. The Captain is not due back for another three months anyway.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi sounded relieved that the injury to Nova was one that should heal in a short period of time. Nova pointed to a spot above the elbow where he felt tightness while pitching in the early innings of Friday night’s 6-4 Yankees victory over Toronto. He mentioned the stiffness to Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild after the second inning. When Nova hit the first batter he faced in the third and allowed a single to the next, Girardi did not hesitate to remove him and have an MRI done to check out the area.
Nova said the area stiffened up only when he threw curves, but that is his chief weapon, so the Yankees were wise to act quickly on his behalf. David Phelps, who had nine strikeouts in four innings of relief Friday night and earned the winning decision, will take Nova’s spot in the rotation for the time being.
Romine, who was assigned uniform No. 53, was not in the starting lineup as Girardi went with Chris Stewart, who had a good game Friday night by drawing two walks and throwing out two base runners. Romine was kept busy before the game, however, by working with Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte in bullpen sessions.
“I thought when we had him up here in 2011 that he could be a major-league catcher,” Girardi said. “But he hurt his back last year and missed a lot of time, so we felt he would be better served by playing regularly in the minors rather than being a backup here. He will get a chance to show what he can do.”
Romine batted .333 with one home run and four RBI in 14 games and 42 at-bats at Scranton. Nuno’s arrival gives Girardi a second lefthander out of the bullpen to go along with Boone Logan. Nono, who was assigned No. 34, was also off to a good start at Triple A with a 2-0 record and 1.54 ERA. He allowed 13 hits and only two walks with 26 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.
The Yankees are certainly going through some severe tests in the early part of the 2013 season. They opened the schedule without their regular shortstop, without their regular third baseman, without their regular first baseman and without their regular center fielder. One of their starting pitchers was also on the disabled list.
Now less than a full month into the season, they have lost their starting catcher and perhaps another starting pitcher. Yankees manager Joe Girardi never identified Francisco Cervelli as the Yankees’ regular catcher, preferring to say that he and Chris Stewart were sharing the position. Yet Cervelli played in twice as many games as Stewart, so you do the math.
Cervelli will be lost to the team for the next six weeks at least because of a fractured right hand that will require surgery, the result of being struck by a Rajai Davis foul ball in the first inning of Friday night’s 6-4 victory over the Blue Jays. That makes Stewart the regular with Triple A Scranton call-up Austin Romine serving as the backup.
“I know it is disappointing for all [Cervelli] has been through,” Girardi said of his catcher who spent most of 2012 in the minors before getting another big-league shot this year. “A lot of times when a catcher gets hit there you end up with a bad bruise. But it must have hit just perfect.”
Ivan Nova has struggled since the start of the season, and now we may know why. He came out of Friday night’s game in the third inning because of a right elbow that is barking. In four starts, Nova had yet to pitch one out into the sixth inning with his ERA an unbecoming 6.48. Opposing hitters are batting .354 in 56 at-bats against Nova, who has allowed 23 hits, eight walks and three hit batters in 16 2/3 innings.
Nova mentioned to Girardi after the second inning that the elbow had stiffened and that he would give it a try to get loose in the third. When it didn’t, Girardi did not hesitate to remove him. After the game, Girardi said that the Yankees would wait until the results of an MRI before deciding how to proceed with his rotation.
David Phelps is the likeliest candidate to take Nova’s place should he go on the disabled list. Phelps got the winning decision Friday with four strong innings that featured nine strikeouts. Mariano Rivera loaded the bases by yielding three singles, but he struck out Colby Rasmus to register his eighth save in eight tries.
The Yankees got a lot of help from Toronto pitchers in winning for the fourth time in five games against the Blue Jays this year. The Yankees had only six hits but took advantage of 10 walks, a hit batter, a wild pitch and a passed ball. Runs scored on the wild pitch and passed ball, which proved to be the margin of difference in the game.
Brett Gardner got a big home run in the eighth inning that created a two-run lead for Rivera to work with in the ninth.
“Guys keep stepping up, just like they did tonight,” Girardi said about the Yankees’ dealing with injuries. “They just keep finding ways. Injuries are part of the game. When you continue to win games, it is very satisfying.”
Two innings after losing their starting catcher, Francisco Cervelli, to injury, the Yankees also lost their starting pitcher. Ivan Nova left the game after giving up a single to Rajai Davis, the Toronto designated hitter who was also responsible for Cervelli’s departure with a foul ball that struck the catcher in his right hand.
It was not immediately clear just what was wrong with Nova. He began the third inning by hitting Munenori Kawasaki with a pitch and then gave up a single up the middle to Davis. The ball was hit behind Nova and did not appear to touch him. It did hit the second base bag and went into center field, allowing Kawasaki to reach third base.
Nova was limping noticeably as he returned to the mound, prompting a visit from trainer Steve Donohue. Manager Joe Girardi wasted no time in bringing in another pitcher, David Phelps, who gave up a hit to his first batter, Colby Rasmus, that gave Toronto a 2-1 lead.
Edwin Encarnacion had led off the second inning with a home run in front of the second deck in left field, his sixth homer of the season and his fourth in four consecutive games. The Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the second but made the least of a bases-loaded, none-out situation by getting just one run as Eduardo Nunez grounded into a fielder’s choice before Lyle Overbay hit into a double play.
There was a fear on the Yankees’ part that Cervelli may have suffered a fracture. Austin Romine was rumored to have been removed from Triple A Scranton’s game after one at-bat. He could be summoned to take Cervelli’s place on the roster. Romine is batting .333 with one home run and four RBI in 42 at-bats for the International League affiliate.