Results tagged ‘ Fenway Park ’

Shift this

I have worn myself out over the years complaining about sluggers not taking advantage of these exaggerated defensive shifts by crossing them up with bunt hits. Jason Giambi and Mark Teixeira ignored me so often I almost quit the campaign. I am not talking about doing it in RBI situations but certainly when the bases are empty to get something started.

So naturally I was deliriously happy to see what Robinson Cano did in the first inning Friday night at Fenway Park. With two out, no one on base and the infield shifted all the way around to the right, Cano pushed a bunt that rolled past third base far enough from any fielder that he ended up with a double.

Beautiful. It did not result in a run as Alfonso Soriano struck out, but what Cano did by getting on base sure beat making an out by hitting into the shift. Too many hitters have a macho attitude about bunting, that it is some sissy-Mary sort of thing. What is wrong with taking what the defense give you? Particularly in situations like two outs-none on or leading off an inning. Makes sense to me.

Soriano named AL Player of the Week

It should surprise no one that Yankees left fielder Alfonso Soriano was named American League Player of the Week for the period ending Aug. 18. Soriano went on one of the most amazing tears in one week in the game’s history.

Sori, who was acquired by the Yankees in a July 26 trade from the Cubs for minor-league relief pitcher Corey Black, batted .484 with nine runs, one double, five home runs and 18 RBI in seven games and 31 at-bats. The Yankees were 5-2 during that stretch as they fight to get into position for a playoff berth.

It marked Soriano’s seventh career weekly award. His previous honor was in the National League for the week ending May 18, 2008 with the Cubs. He won three AL Player of the Week Awards in his first stint with the Yankees, the last of which was for the week ending Sept. 21, 2003. Among Major League Baseball leaders for the past week, Soriano paced all hitters in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage (1.000), hits (15) and total bases (31), and was tied for first in runs scored.

Soriano went into the game of Aug. 13 against the Angels at Yankee Stadium battling a 1-for-16 slump and broke out of it with three hits, including two home runs and a career-best six RBI in a 14-7 Yankees victory. He topped himself the next day with a 3-for-3 game against the Angels that included two more homers and a new career-best seven RBI in an 11-3 Yankees victory.

Sori established career highs in RBI in two straight games and in the process became just the third player in major-league history to collect at least six RBI in consecutive games, joining the Rangers’ Rusty Greer in 1997 and the Brewers’ Geoff Jenkins in 2001. It was the third time in his career that Soriano had multi-homer games on back-to-back days.

After getting four more hits in an 8-4 loss to the Angels Aug. 15, Soriano took his hot streak to Boston’s Fenway Park where the night of Aug. 16 he went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI to lead the Yanks to a 10-3 victory over the Red Sox.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Soriano’s 18 RBI over the four-game stretch from Aug. 13-16 matched baseball’s all-time mark for the most RBI in a four-game period since it became an official statistic in 1920. The others to do so were the Cardinals’ Jim Bottomley in 1929, the Yankees’ Lou Gehrig in 1930, the Yankees’ Tony Lazzeri in 1936, the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio in 1939 and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa in 2002.

Other noteworthy performances last week included the Tigers’ Max Scherzer (18-1, 2.82 ERA), who became the fifth pitcher since 1912 to win 18 of his first 19 decisions in a season, and his teammate Miguel Cabrera (4 HR, 10 RBI); Twins pitcher Andrew Albers (two-hit shutout against the Indians Aug. 20); Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (.409, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 2 2B) and White Sox pitcher Chris Sale (2-0, 2.81 ERA, 1 BB, 14 K).

In recognition of his AL Player of the Week Award, Soriano will be awarded a watch courtesy of Game Time, the leader in licensed sports watches, available at MLB.com.

Big start for Yanks in AL East push

Friday night’s 10-3 victory at Fenway Park began a stretch of 15 consecutive games and 29 of 32 games for the Yankees against divisional opponents. If they are to make a move up the American League East standings, this is it.

Just a week ago, the Yankees were 11 ½ games out of first place. That number is down to 7 ½, and they are two games out of third place. The Red Sox’ loss shrunk their division lead to one games over the Rays. The teams in front of the Yankees have been wobbly lately while they have put up steam after an impressive, 5-2 homestand against the Tigers and Angels.

Clearly, the offensive muscle the Yankees have gotten from Alfonso Soriano is at the center of the resurgence after the dismal 2-5 trip through Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago. Soriano kept up his torrid hitting Friday night with a three-run home run in the third inning that gave him 18 RBI in four games, a feat accomplished by only five other players in history, including Yankees Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri and Lou Gehrig. The others were Sammy Sosa and Hall of Famer Jim Bottomley.

When the Yankees acquired Soriano July 26 from the Cubs, I looked at his 51 RBI and figured there was no way he could get to 100 this year. Shows you what I know. Sori is up to 77 now, so a 100-RBI season is by no means out of the question with six weeks remaining.

The Yankees opened the scoring against Red Sox lefthander Felix Doubront with another RBI by Soriano on an infield single in the first inning. This was good news for Andy Pettitte, who has had a penchant for allowing runs in the first frame. At least this time Pettitte could take the mound with the lead. And the runs just kept coming.

Mark Reynolds marked his Yankees debut with a two-run homer in the second inning. Plucked off waivers from the Indians to platoon at first base with Lyle Overbay, Reynolds is one of those feast-and-famine players with 196 career home runs and 1,245 strikeouts. Reynolds has led the league in strikeouts four times and topped 200 Ks three times in his career. He has a power cut, however, and the Yankees have been looking for pop from the right side all year and didn’t have much of it until Soriano and Alex Rodriguez arrived. Reynolds added an RBI single in the ninth.

Preston Claiborne, a victim of baseball paperwork, was optioned to Triple A Scranton to create roster space for Reynolds. Claiborne proved a useful righthander in relief (0-1, 2.88 ERA, 33 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings), but he was the one to go because he had options left, unlike Joba Chamberlain (4.83 ERA), who had trouble protecting a seven-run lead in the ninth inning and needed relief himself.

The best pitching news was the work of Pettitte (8-9), who might have had a shutout if not for two errors by shortstop Eduardo Nunez that caused all three runs off Pettitte to be unearned. The victory was career No. 253, which tied Pettitte with Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell for 43rd place on the all-time list. Next up at No. 42 with 254 victories each are Hall of Famer Red Faber and Hall candidate Jack Morris.

A long night’s journey into day

Sunday turned out to be a grim day for the Yankees. They found out before the game that Alex Rodriguez will not be joining them in Texas after all because of a left quadriceps strain. Then after battling back from a 7-3 deficit to tie the score against the Red Sox, they ended up losing in extra innings in a 4-hour, 46-minute marathon that would likely result in their reaching Arlington not until sometime around dawn.

Losing two of three to the Red Sox this weekend shoved the Yankee seven games out of first place in the American League East and 3 ½ out of the second wild-card spot. All the positive vibrations that came out of Saturday’s well-played victory featuring the oddity of a Yankees player, Mariano Rivera, accorded a standing ovation from the Fenway Park crowd fell by the wayside.

The Yankees nearly overcame a poor outing by CC Sabathia (five innings plus one batter, nine hits, seven earned runs, two walks, five strikeouts, two hit batters, two home runs) by taking advantage of three Boston errors and banging out 12 hits, all singles, to fight themselves back into the game.

Before Adam Warren gave up the game-winning home run in the 11th inning to Mike Napoli, his second dinger of the night for his fourth RBI, the Yankees’ bullpen had been splendid. Preston Claiborne, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Shawn Kelley had combined for five scoreless, one-hit innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts.

On the plus side, Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez had three-hit games. Gardner reached base five times in all, adding a pair of walks, one of which was the culmination of a 15-pitch at-bat. Nunez had his second straight three-hit game, a very good sign considering that the Yankees will be without A-Rod and Derek Jeter for a while more. In two games, Nunez had raised his season batting average from .206 to .240.

Cano extended his hitting streak to a club season-best 12 games, during which he has batted .415 with three runs, two doubles, one home run and 12 RBI in 41 at-bats and raised his average from .292 to .306.

By losing the series, the Yankees failed to put a serious dent into the Red Sox, who maintained a 1 ½-game lead over the red-hot Rays, who come to Fenway for the next four nights. Meanwhile, the Yankees over the same period will contend with a Rangers club that has fallen three games behind the first-place Athletics in the AL West and two games back of the Orioles for the second wild-card berth.

Sabathia suffers birthday blues

In the future, CC Sabathia might be better served if he took his birthday off. Sabathia, who turned 33 Sunday, has made four starts in his career on his birthday and has yet to win. As a birthday boy, Sabathia is 0-2 with two no-decisions and a 7.48 ERA in 21 2/3 innings.

The lefthander got an early birthday present from his teammates, who took a 3-0 lead off Ryan Dempster in the first two innings. Sabathia gave it back and more, however, when the Red Sox scored four runs in the third on an RBI single by Dustin Pedroia and a long, three-run home run by Mike Napoli off a 1-2 fastball.

An inning later, Sabathia hit the leadoff batter and gave up three straight singles that resulted in two more runs for Boston. Jonny Gomes led off the fifth with a towering home run, the career-high 23rd off CC this year. Sabathia lasted one batter into the sixth but got one more birthday gift from his teammates when they rallied to tie the score in the seventh and get him off the hook.

But Sabathia could not be pleased with having squandered the early lead and failing to post a winning decision for the third straight start, a stretch during which he has allowed 13 earned runs in 18 innings (6.50 ERA) with 24 hits allowed, including five home runs. Sabathia’s record stayed at 9-8, but his ERA rose to 4.37. His career record at Fenway Park is 3-4 with a 4.93 ERA.

Injuries continue to plague Yankees

The Yankees post-All-Star break were just as short-handed as before the break. The sad news came Friday night as the Yanks opened a three-game series at Fenway Park with a 4-2 loss in their first 2013 visit to the Hub that Derek Jeter was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a Grade 1 strain of his right quadriceps, the same injury that shortened his comeback from a twice-fractured left ankle to one game.

An MRI on the Captain revealed next to no healing over the past week so he goes on the DL retroactive to July 12 that will keep him away from the team at least until July 27. The Yanks dipped into the farm system to purchase the contract of utility man Brent Lillibridge from Triple A Scranton and made room for him on the 40-man roster with the release of outfielder Brennan Boesch.

Lillibridge got into the mix right away at third base and batting seventh in the order. He became the seventh different player to start at third for the Yankees this season, joining David Adams (29 games), Jayson Nix (24), Kevin Youkilis (20), Chris Nelson (9), Luis Cruz (8) and Alberto Gonzalez (5). And don’t forget, even Vernon Wells put in an inning at third base in one game as a reserve.

All of these guys have been trying to hold the position for Alex Rodriguez, who according to general manager Brian Cashman is on schedule to finish his injury-rehabilitation assignment at Scranton over the weekend and barring complications will join the Yankees in Arlington, Texas, their next stop on this trip either Monday or Tuesday. A-Rod is recuperating from offseason hip surgery.

Jeter’s second trip to the DL brought the total to four players who came off the DL only to go back on shortly after returning, following Curtis Granderson, Youkilis and Mark Teixeira.

As if the Yankees did not have enough trouble getting players on the field, Brett Gardner further hampered them in the fifth inning by getting ejected from the game for throwing a temper tantrum after being called out on strikes standing the potential tying run at second base. The Yankees had closed to 3-2 on doubles by Lyle Overbay and Chris Stewart.

With Stew on second and two out, Gardner disagreed with plate umpire Mike Everitt’s third-strike call and slammed his helmet to the angrily. Everitt tossed Gardner, whose ejection taxed a thin Yankees bench, particularly since outfielder Zoilo Almonte also left the game because of a left ankle sprain that will send him to the DL.

That will make 20 stints by 16 players for the Yankees on the DL this year. Will this ever end? Reports had outfielders Melky Mesa and Thomas Neal heading to Fenway from Scranton to replace Almonte and another player not yet identified.

Manager Joe Girardi was not happy with Gardner’s departure but was even more upset with Everitt, whom he thought pulled the trigger too quickly. Girardi saw it as a heat-of-the-moment situation that warranted a fine perhaps but not a bouncing.

Lillibridge moved from third base to right field with Luis Cruz taking over third. Ichiro Suzuki went from right to center and Gonzalez came in for Almonte in left. That left Girardi with only two players on the bench – backup catcher Austin Romine and designated hitter Travis Hafner, who does not play a position in the field.

Just the inning before he was kicked out of the game, Gardner had single-handedly manufactured a run as the Yankees scored before they had a hit off Felix Doubront, who won his third straight start. Gardner, who probably needed the four-day All-Star break more than any other Yankees player, walked, stole second and third and continued home on a wild throw to third by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Andy Pettitte had another outing that might best be described as so-so. He gave up a leadoff home run to Jacoby Ellsbury and was taken deep again in the second inning with a runner on by Jonny Gomes. Pettitte came back with four scoreless innings before leaving one out into the seventh with a runner on second his responsibility. That runner, Gomes, scored on a two-out single by Jose Iglesias off Shawn Kelley.

Pettitte (7-7) had a 4-3 record with a 3.83 ERA before he went on the DL because of a strained left trapezius muscle. In nine starts covering 55 1/3 innings since his return, Pettitte is 3-4 with a 5.04 ERA.

The Yankees tried to get Andy off the hook in the eighth when Suzuki singled and Robinson Cano doubled with one out off Craig Breslow, who rebounded to retire Wells on a soft pop to shortstop and Cruz on a ground ball. The Yanks went meekly in the ninth to the latest Red Sox closer, Koji Uehara.

The Yankees started the post-break period with a hard mission ahead and on the first night it got harder. Not only did the Red Sox win but also the second-place Rays and the third-place Orioles did as well, which leaves the Yanks seven games behind Boston, 4 ½ behind Tampa Bay and 2 ½ behind Baltimore.

Jeter back on the shelf at least through All-Star break

APJeet Derek Jeter (AP Photo)

Derek Jeter officially became a part of the Yankees’ 2013 season Thursday. And following in the gingerly footsteps of Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis, Jeter took a big step back after making a step forward off the disabled list.

The Captain hasn’t been put back on the DL yet. The Yankees have decided to wait out the All-Star break to see if the Grade 1 strain of Jeter’s left quadriceps improves with rest. The goal now is to have DJ back in harness by July 19 when the Yanks start the post-break schedule against the first-place Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Jeter will sit out this weekend’s three-game series against the Twins after which he will have four more days during the All-Star break to allow his condition to heal. General manager Brian Cashman said before Friday night’s game that the DL remains an option that the Yankees hope they will not have to use as they were forced to with the re-injuries of Granderson, Teixeira and Youkilis. In addition, catcher Francisco Cervelli had a setback during his rehabilitation from a fractured right hand.

Jeter missed 91 games while recovering from surgery to repair a fractured left ankle and a broken bone in another part of the same ankle. He was activated Thursday and went 1-for-4 in the 8-4 victory over the Royals at Yankee Stadium but had to come out of the game because of the quad injury sustained as he tried to beat out an infield single.

There is no idle gear in Jeter’s game, so such an injury is not all that surprising for a player who just turned 39 and has not played a game of nine innings in 10 months. Before wondering if the Yankees made a mistake in bringing Jeter up too early, be mindful that the injury could just as well have occurred if he had played that day at Triple A Scranton. Again, Jeter knows no other way to play but full throttle. Now he is forced to back off once more.

“It’s frustrating,” Jeter said. “I don’t know what else you want me to say. I worked hard to get to the point of rejoining the team. It’s not how you draw it up, but hopefully I’ll be back out there soon and help this team win some games.”

Boston Marathon tragedy close to home for Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis prepared to enjoy Monday’s open date for the Yankees. Instead, it became a busy day of making dozens of telephone calls to make sure friends and relatives of his in the Boston area were safe following the horrific events along the finish line of the Boston Marathon along Boylston Street.

“Sick to my stomach,” was Youkilis’ reaction to the two bombings that killed at least three people and injured hundreds of others. “It ate me up a lot.”

Youkilis played in Boston over nine seasons with the Red Sox and is married to a local girl, the former Julie Brady, sister of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Youkilis is quite familiar with the special feeling Massachusetts residents have for Patriots Day, a civic holiday that is unlike any other.

“I was on that finish line one year,” Youkilis said. “I would have been across the street and in plain view of where the first bomb went off. My father-in-law’s office is in that area. Luckily, he was not in his office.”

Few people are that day. Schools, post offices and most businesses are closed as the city fills up with people to cheer on the runners in the nation’s oldest marathon. The Red Sox were home for their 11 a.m. game against the Rays, which traditionally gets the day off to a festive start.

“It’s an amazing day,” Youkilis said. “Actually, players have a hard time getting to the park because they close off so many streets. It’s the most exciting day of the year in Boston. There is such a positive attitude. You see all those people cheering the people running whom they don’t even know. So many runners are out there for charity. My wife and her sister have run in the Marathon before. I texted everyone I knew up there just to make sure they were safe.”

The Yankees released a prepared statement, which read, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families who were affected by the bombings and our respect and admiration go out to the police, medical personnel and first responders who acted so heroically. We stand united with the participants, volunteers, staff and spectators of the Boston Marathon and the people of Boston. While we do not comment on safety and security measures at Yankee Stadium, this has always been our top priority and the public can be assured we are working with all levels of law enforcement and our own security personnel to ensure a safe environment.”

To honor the Boston community, the Yankees will stage a moment of silence prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Diamondbacks at the Stadium. The Fenway Park favorite, “Sweet Caroline,” will be played between the third and fourth innings. The song has a New York connection since it was written and performed by Brooklyn-bred Neil Diamond, but it has a special connotation in Boston as an eighth-inning anthem at Fenway. Diamond wrote the song in tribute to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, a Boston native.

“It is important that we recognize that we are behind the people of Boston,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The “Sweet Caroline” tribute will be similar to the “New York, New York” salute that Fenway Park fans stood for and sang when the Yankees first played there following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I remember how Joe Torre, then the manager, fought back tears when trying to describe his emotions of that night.

“Who would have ever thought you would hear people in Boston heartily singing that song in the Red Sox ballpark?” Joe told me later. “It shows that we really are a unified nation.”

Miss a pivotal game? Not Derek Jeter

Was anyone really surprised to see Derek Jeter in the Yankees’ lineup Thursday night? When last the Captain was seen Wednesday night he was hobbling off the Fenway Park diamond after aggravating a left ankle bone bruise trying to beat out a double play grounder. He practically had to be dragged into the dugout by manager Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue, so it was by no means at all stunning to see his name atop the batting order for the series finale.

Jeter had told reporters after Wednesday night’s game that he expected to play Thursday night. “Great,” he told Girardi when asked how the ankle felt before the game. Girardi may not have fully believed Jeter, but he sure wanted to. The manager played it safe and kept him off the field as Jeter got half a day off, sort of, as the designated hitter.

Good thing, too, because the Yankees needed the run-scoring hit he gave them in the seventh inning of a 2-0 victory that certainly fit into the must-win category of games. The Orioles had already won a 14-inning marathon against the Rays earlier in the day, so until the last out of the game at Fenway the Yankees were actually a half-game out of first place.

Jeter miss a must-win game? Not on your life. Fact is, Jeet thinks all games are must-win games.

The Yankees played .500 ball on the trip through Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Boston with a 5-5 record, which is only mediocre but since they lost three of the first four games on the trek they consider .500 acceptable. Another positive was that the Rays’ loss at Baltimore coupled with the Yankees’ victory dropped Tampa Bay four games out of first, which means the Yanks cannot fall behind the Rays in the standings in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium that begins Friday night with the marquee matchup of lefthanders CC Sabathia vs. David Price.

Phil Hughes pitched 7 1/3 terrific innings for his second victory on the trip and 15th of the season. With new daddy Dustin Pedroia unavailable, the Boston lineup was even weaker than normal, and Hughes made sure an upset was out of the question.

However, with the Yankees again struggling with runners in scoring position (1-for-9), Hughes did not have much margin for error. The Yankees got only one run out of a bases-loaded, none-out situation in the fourth against lefthander Felix Doubront on a sacrifice fly by Andruw Jones. Jeter’s RBI single three innings later was welcomed by Hughes, who walked one batter and struck out seven.

It was a brutal series for the Yankees in the clutch. They somehow won two of the three games despite getting only two hits in 34 at-bats (.059) with runners in scoring position in the series. Jeter had both hits. He also doubled in two runs Tuesday night. Thursday night’s hit was career No. 3,283, which tied DJ with Willie Mays for 10th place all-time. Think of it; with one more hit Jeter will knock the Say Hey Kid out of the top 10.

Yanks’ homers make up for lack of clutch

If the Yankees weren’t going to hit in the clutch – and once again they did not – they might as well hit the ball over the fence – and once again they did. The Yankees failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position Wednesday night but used three long balls to get a one-run victory over the Red Sox that was needed to keep their share of first place in the American League East.

When Boston kept biting off portions of the 5-1 lead the Yankees had by the seventh inning, a look back into the game showed the importance of David Phelps’ start. Yankees manager Joe Girardi used six relievers to navigate through the final 3 1/3 innings, but Phelps’ work was a major factor in a must-win situation for the Yankees.

Let’s face it; the rookie righthander had a pretty short leash at Fenway Park. With an 11-man bullpen, Girardi had plenty of arms at his disposal if Phelps faltered, except he didn’t. The key inning was the fifth. The Yankees were up, 3-1, when Jarrod Saltalmacchia, whom the Yankees could not get out, led off with a triple into the Fenway right-center triangle. He also homered, doubled and walked on a perfect night.

Phelps stiffened and got through the fifth without suffering any damage. He struck out Daniel Nava, retired Scott Podsednik on an infield pop and got Jose Iglesias looking at a third strike. In a game that eventually came down to one run, that inning loomed large. Girardi made the first move to pen with two out in the sixth, but Phelps had done his job by yielding one run, five hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in evening his record at 4-4.

Curtis Granderson showed more signs that he is coming out of a prolonged slump over a period of almost 50 at-bats. He got the Yankees started with a solo home run in the fourth and pushed the Yankees’ lead to 5-1 with a two-run homer in the seventh. Granderson has five hits in his past 11 at-bats (.455) with a double, three homers and eight RBI. He also raised his team-leading totals in home runs to 37 and RBI to 89.

With Mark Teixeira (left calf strain) out of the lineup, the Yankees need some firepower. They also got it from Robinson Cano with a two-run homer in the fourth. That was Cano’s 30th home run of the season, a career high.

That would be the Yankees’ offense as they went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. They are 1-for-25 in those situations in the series so are fortunate to have split the first two games.

Nick Swisher, who had also been slumping on the trip before arriving at Fenway, is getting back on track as well. Swish had two doubles and a single and is 6-for-11 (.545) since going hitless in 28 at-bats. Coming to Boston was just what Swisher needed. He is batting .452 with six doubles, three home runs and 12 RBI in 31 at-bats this year at Fenway.

A scare went up in the eighth when Derek Jeter came up lame trying to beat out a double-play grounder and was removed from the game. The Captain has played for a week with a bone bruise in his left ankle. He had two more hits – his 59th multi-hit game – which boosted his big-league leading total to 194 and career figure to 3,282, one behind 10th-place Willie Mays. DJ went past another Giants legend, Mel Ott, into 12th place on the all-time runs list with his 1,860th.

Jeet downplayed his sore ankle and vowed he would be back in the lineup Thursday night. That will be Girardi’s call, of course, but no Yankees fan wants to imagine how the team would fare without Jeter.

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