Results tagged ‘ Frank Francisco ’
No sooner had a I filed the previous blog about how the Yankees are the top fielding team in the majors this season that Derek Jeter booted a hard liner by Scott Hairston for an error that gave the Mets runners on first and third base with one out in the second inning of Saturday night’s Subway Series game at Citi Field.
Such misplays have a way of opening the door for teams, but Ivan Nova slammed it shut. The righthander got a big out when he struck out Omar Quintanilla on a nasty slider that the Mets shortstop foul-tipped into Russell Martin’s mitt.
Pitching carefully to Josh Thole with the pitcher on deck, Nova walked the Mets catcher on four pitches. Chris Young, who was batting for only the third time this year, went after the first pitch and hit a chopper up the middle that was gloved by Jeter, who stepped on second for the inning-ending force play that made his error insignificant.
The same could not be said of a muffed ground ball by Alex Rodriguez two innings later. A-Rod failed to grab a grounder by Hairston, and Quintanilla lined a double to left. With none out, Nova had to go after Thole and got him on a grounder to first as Hairston scored on the contact play. It increased the Mets’ lead to 2-0. They had gotten on the board in the third on Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ seventh home run of the season.
What was even weirder about the two errors is that the Yankees had not made an error with Nova on the mound this season, spanning a stretch of 86 1/3 innings.
Mets closer Frank Francisco’s pre-series reference to the Yankees as “chickens” continued to stir the pot of the latest match-up. Mets reliever Tim Byrdak went so far as to bring a live chicken into their clubhouse.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he could not remember hearing of a chicken being in a major-league clubhouse. But he did recall a time when Yankees teammates Wade Boggs and Jimmy Key went turkey hunting on an open date late one season but failed to catch anything. Girardi said the next day Key brought a frozen turkey from the supermarket to the clubhouse and gave it to Boggs, saying, “Here’s your turkey.”
For a while there, it looked as if Frank Francisco would not get into Friday night’s game. He is the Mets closer with the big mouth, the guy who before the Subway Series called the Yankees “chickens,” as quoted in the New York Post. Some of the Mets had fun with this, playing “The Chicken Dance” and other poultry-related tunes in the clubhouse before the game.
To their credit, the Yankees did not overreact to the charge, which Francisco based on his belief that the Yankee complain about everything. That’s rich. He plays for a team that tried to stick their own hero, third baseman David Wright, with an error on an official scoring change in an effort to get R.A. Dickey a no-hitter. Even Dickey was embarrassed by such a bush maneuver. Thank goodness Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s vice president for baseball operations, upheld the original ruling.
The chances that Francisco would get into the game looked pretty slim after the Mets broke out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning and were up, 6-2, through seven. But Robinson Cano’s two-run home run in the eighth off Miguel Batista made it a two-run game, creating a save opportunity for Francisco.
The righthander had also said that he looked forward to striking out the side against them, which he apparently he did once some years ago. Francisco did manage to chalk up his 18th save in the Mets’ 6-4 victory, but there was nothing chicken-livered about the Yankees’ at-bats that inning.
Francisco got a huge boost from his center fielder, Andres Torres, who made a sensational running catch to rob Russell Martin of a potential extra-base hit at the start of the inning. The play loomed large when Francisco walked pinch hitter Raul Ibanez and gave up a lightning bolt of a single to left by Derek Jeter.
The one strikeout Francisco got that inning was indeed impressive, locking up Curtis Granderson on a 95-mph fastball. Francisco hit 95 on the gun twice more against Mark Teixeira, who made the last out on a pop to shortstop.
The Yankees’ third straight inter-league loss this week was particularly bitter because of the opponent, but Yankees fans can come away with some satisfaction that their team did not go down quietly. Plenty of other clubs might have folded up after trailing by five runs in the first inning, especially when opposing pitcher Jonathan Niese was throwing so well.
They used their greatest ally – the long ball – to make a game of it. Solo shots by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth and Andruw Jones in the seventh plus Cano’s bomb in the eighth had the Mets reeling after they had failed to knock out Pettitte, who tagged on five shutout innings after the first.
Wright doubled in the Mets’ only run after that first inning, and he was doubled up after a diving catch by Jones off a Scott Hairston liner in the seventh. Yes, it was a tough loss for the Yankees, but they did not complain about it.
Not to make any excuses for CC Sabathia, but he sort of got dinked to death in the fourth inning Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium when the Blue Jays first-and-thirded their way to a three-run rally that at the time appeared to put the big lefthander in a ditch out of which the Yankees would be sore-pressed to emerge.
The Yankees managed to make the game close with some late-inning fire but were 1-18 in games in which they trailed after eight innings. Their track record suggested that despite his impressive get-back-on-the-bike performance Sabathia was destined for a tough-luck loss. Make that stat 2-18, which tells you all you need to know about how big that 5-4 Yankees victory was Tuesday night.
That Sabathia was still in the game and eligible for the winning decision as the Yankees scored two runs in each of the eighth and ninth innings was a credit to his ability and stamina. After being blooped into a 4-1 deficit, CC kept moving down the Blue Jays and ended up with the first complete game for a Yankees pitcher this season.
Of course, it would have been a complete game for Sabathia even if the Yankees hadn’t rallied in the ninth against Blue Jays closer Frank Francisco and gave A.J. Burnett the chance to smash a pie in Mark Teixeira’s face after his game-winning hit. Pitchers love those W’s even more than complete games.
And how terrific was it that Jorge Posada, on the bench because the Blue Jays had started Ricky Romero, a lefthander, made a huge contribution as a pinch hitter from the left side with a double off the right-handed Francisco. Curtis Dickerson, pinch running for Posada, took third on Derek Jeter’s grounder to shortstop for the second out and scored the tying run on Curtis Granderson’s fourth hit, a single to right.
Granderson’s home run hitting (16) this year has obscured the fact that he is a speedster on the bases, which he reminded everyone with a steal of second base that put him in position to score the winner on Teixeira’s hard single off first baseman Juan Rivera’s glove. The euphoric spirit of the victory was not wasted on Sabathia, who was as important to the outcome as anyone.
Go back to that fourth inning. Rivera’s double that began the inning was a legitimate blow, a well-struck liner to right-center that might have been a triple for a faster runner. Then the dinking began.
J.P. Arencibia’s single to left-center that scored Rivera was of the flare variety. So were the one-out singles to right by Edwin Encarnacion and Rajai Davis, the latter driving in the second run of the inning. The third run scored on a squeeze bunt by John McDonald, who had pulled the same maneuver against the Yankees April 19 at Toronto to tie the score in the ninth of a game that the Blue Jays won in extra innings.
The Yankees lost an out at first base as well when Robinson Cano dropped Sabathia’s throw to first base for an error. It was the fifth error this year by Cano, two more than he committed all of last season.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell liked the result so much that he had Yunel Escobar do the same thing, but his bunt went right to Sabathia, who held Davis at third before throwing out Escobar at first. Escobar had batted cleanup Monday night when he bunted for a sacrifice in a key spot, but he was the leadoff hitter Tuesday night so a bunt from him wasn’t as surprising.
What was surprising was Sabathia walking Corey Patterson, which loaded the bases for major-league home run leader Jose Bautista, who is by no means a dinker. The game was on the line at that point, which was decidedly a turning point for Sabathia. He got Bautista on a ground ball to shortstop that ended the inning and was the first of 16 consecutive outs by Sabathia that kept the Yankees in the game provided their offense would wake up.
Russell Martin’s home run (No. 9) in the second inning accounted for the Yanks’ only run until the eighth after Romero had departed. The Yankees got nowhere with the lefthander but made it a one-run game with two runs off the Toronto bullpen. Cano, who had driven in Granderson three times Monday night, made it a fourth with a two-out double. Martin’s second RBI hit, this time a single, got the Yankees to 4-3.
Sabathia went out for the ninth and set down the Blue Jays 1-2-3 for the fifth straight inning. He then sat back and watched his teammates construct a victory that he richly deserved.
Had the Rangers pulled off a two-game sweep of the Yankees in the intense heat of Texas, we would have been inundated with reports about how the American League West leaders were making a “statement” about their status as a threat to the Yankees in the post-season. Well, the Yankees made a statement of their own Wednesday night. It was along the lines of “You stole Cliff Lee from us, and now we’ll make you pay for it.”
The Yankees really had no business winning this game. They were down 6-1 through five innings with Lee dealing in his usual fashion showing off the ability that prompted the Yankees to trade for Lee only to be trumped by Texas in getting him from Seattle.
Lee’s superb walk-to-strikeout ratio improved even more on a night when he didn’t walk anyone and struck out 11. The Yankees had 17 strikeouts for the game, including Nick Swisher four times (the platinum sombrero) and Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada three times apiece.
For all that lack of contact, the Yankees came back slowly but surely. They finally got to Lee for a run in the sixth and two in the seventh as the lefthander failed to pitch at least eight innings for the first time in 11 starts. But when relievers Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver struck out Derek Jeter and Swisher respectively to leave two runners on base in the seventh, it appeared that getting to 6-4 would be the best they could do.
For the second night in a row, however, Frank Francisco gave up a home run to the leadoff batter in the eighth. Tuesday night it was A-Rod. Wednesday night it was Marcus Thames, who turned out to be a pretty effective 3-hole hitter for two days in the absence of new daddy Mark Teixeira. In a one-run game, anything can happen and in this one it did.
One night after the Rangers got to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, the Yankees did the same to Texas closer Neftali Feliz, who opened the door with a leadoff walk in the ninth to Lance Berkman. Brett Gardner fought off some tough pitches and battled for a single. A wild pitch by Feliz put two runners in scoring position. That brought the infield in, and Jeter exploited it with a single under second baseman Cristian Guzman’s glove to tie the score.
Next came a classic case of a reliever outsmarting himself. Alexi Oganda, throwing top-shelf gas, blew two fastballs past Thames, then decided to get cute and go breaking ball. All that did was speed up Thames’ bat. He singled for the go-ahead run. No decision for Lee. No save for Perez. No “statement” from the Rangers.
What are the odds of Rivera losing two games in a row? It might have happened. Elvis Andrus led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple. Other closers may think, “OK, let’s keep it to one run and take our chances in extra innings.”
Not Mo. He continued to pitch aggressively in the strike zone and worked out of trouble without Andrus advancing.
Rivera got a huge out with thanks to Austin Kearns, who had just shifted from left field to right field and made a snow-cone grab of a diving liner by Michael Young. Mo kept the ball in the infield after that on grounders by Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero.
The game featured major contributions from the three players the Yankees picked up at the trade deadline. Berkman doubled in a run and got that big walk to start the ninth-inning rally. Kearns singled and scored in the seventh and made that lead-saving grab. Kerry Wood pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth innings and earned his first winning decision for the Yankees.
Tuesday night’s game in Arlington, Texas, lived up to its billing as a showdown between division leaders and possible playoff foes. The Rangers showed why they are running away with the American League West with an extra-inning victory over the Yankees, whose lead in the AL East shrunk to half a game.
The Yankees’ scoreless string of 16 innings by their bullpen over the past week was ended surprisingly by Mariano Rivera, who thrives in the post-season atmosphere but gave up the winning run in the 10th. Texas loaded the bases on two singles and a one-out intentional walk. Rivera fell behind 3-0 in the count to David Murphy, who singled off a 3-2 cutter for the walk-off hit.
Rangers manager Ron Washington emptied his bullpen, using five relievers, all but one getting the job done. Alex Rodriguez nailed Frank Francisco for his 601st home run in the eighth to tie the score. The difference in the game may have been the way the teams ran the bases. The Yankees were somewhat tentative on one play. The Rangers’ aggressiveness on another play had dire consequences for the Yankees.
Rodriguez, who had a really nice game, pulled off the Yankees’ best move on the bases in the fourth when on the front end of a double-steal attempt threw his body into the left arm of Texas third baseman Michael Young and dislodged the ball from his glove. Young was charged with an error, and the Yankees had runners on second and third with one out, but they failed to capitalize as Lance Berkman struck out and Francisco Cervelli flied out. The Berkman at-bat was a killer because the Rangers were conceding a run by playing the infield back, but Berkman failed to make contact.
A.J. Burnett showed no ill effects of back spasms that pushed back his start and pitched seven serviceable innings. He gave up a run in the fourth on a two-out double by Nelson Cruz, but the Yankees came back with a two-out double of their own off C.J. Wilson in the fifth by Nick Swisher. Marcus Thames followed with a single to left, but Swisher was thrown out at the plate on a strong throw by Murphy, who was all over this game. Benjie Molina made a fine scoop of the short-hop throw and tagged out Swisher, who chose not to slam into the catcher but tried to vault over him, which didn’t work.
The Yankees regained the lead in the sixth but failed to pad it by stranding two runners. In the bottom half, Burnett made his only real mistake in the game, a first-pitch fastball to Murphy, who crushed it for a two-run home run. The Yankees’ failure to turn a double play on a ground ball by Vlad Guerrero gave Murphy the opportunity to bat with two outs. Credit Josh Hamilton with a hard, professional slide into second base that caused Derek Jeter to throw wildly past first base losing the DP.
Robinson Cano, who did not start because of a cold but stayed in the game after pinch hitting in the sixth, led off the ninth with a single. Jeter showed bunt on the first pitch from Neftali Feliz that caught the outside corner for a strike. He took another fastball for a ball. Then the Yankees took off the bunt. Swinging away, Jeter grounded into a double play.
After Rivera gave up singles to Young and Hamilton at the start of the 10th, Rodriguez made a dazzling play in snuffing a hard grounder by Guerrero and firing to first for the out. It appeared to be a game saver, but Mo could match the histrionics of his teammate.