Results tagged ‘ Jim Leyland ’

Cano knocked out of All-Star Game; Mo honored

How bad has the Yankees’ luck been this year? In terms of health, I mean. The disabled list has been almost as crowded as the dugout. Even in the All-Star Game, the Yankees could not stay healthy.

Robinson Cano, the American League second baseman and one of the few Yankees regulars to stay on the field all season, made an early exit Tuesday night from Citi Field. Cano, the second hitter in the AL order, came up after a leadoff double by the Angels’ Mike Trout and was struck on the side of his right knee by a 96-miles-per-hour fastball from Mets righthander Matt Harvey.

Cano winced in pain and tried to stay in the game. He went to first base but after Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera struck out Cano came off the field and was replaced by pinch runner Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox. As Cano walked off the field, he had a friendly exchange with Harvey.

“He said, ‘My bad,’ ” Cano said. “I said, ‘No problem.’ I know he don’t want to hit nobody. It’s part of the game, so what can you do?”

This is just what the Yankees did not need. Managers across baseball watch the All-Star Game with trepidation and hope one of their players does not get hurt. Harvey, the National League starting pitcher who pitched two scoreless innings, said, “I feel bad. I didn’t mean to hit Cano.”

X-rays on Cano’s knee were negative.

“It’s a little tight, but I’m walking good,” Cano said. “You want to play the game and enjoy the nice city in New York with the fans, but that’s part of life. Got to get it better and take it easy. Yeah, I’ll be good for Friday.”

“Obviously, the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and possibly injure somebody,” Harvey said. “As [Cano] was walking by, I was trying to get his attention as he was going to first. He then came off the field, and I apologized and made sure that he was okay. I think he understood that it wasn’t intentional.”

Cano had been enjoying himself at the All-Star Game as opposed to a year ago at Kansas City when he was the target of booing from local fans because as captain of the AL Home Run Derby squad he did not name the Royals’ Billy Butler to the team. Cano got revenge Monday night as a player he promoted for the Home Run Derby team even though he was not on the All-Star squad, Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, won the competition.

Not surprisingly considering the Yankees-Mets rivalry, Cano was booed by most people in the Citi Field crowd in pregame introductions. Conversely, Mariano Rivera was accorded a healthy ovation. In a lot of ways, Mo is his generation’s Yogi Berra, the one Yankee that even fans who hate the Yankees like.

The best was yet to come for Mo. To guarantee that Rivera would pitch in the game, AL manager Jim Leyland of the Tigers put him in the game in the eighth inning. After all, if the NL had gone ahead in the bottom of the eighth and held the lead then there would have been no bottom of the ninth.

Rivera was treated with another standing ovation as he trotted to the mound to his usual entrance song, “Enter Sandman,” by Metallica. When he reached the rubber, Rivera was the only player on the field as the players from both sides stood on the top steps of the dugouts and joined the crowd in showing their appreciation to the game’s all-time saves leader who is calling it a career at the end of this season at the age of 43.

It was quite a sight. Mo acknowledged the applause by removing his cap and waving to each portion of the crowd. Mariano retired the side in order and was given the game ball by first baseman Prince Fielder after the third out of the inning. It was a more pleasant final appearance at Citi Field than the May 28 Subway Series game when he sustained his first blown save of the season in a stunning loss to the Mets.

Mo Mariano Rivera (USA Today photo)

“I wanted to pitch in the game and in baseball anything can happen,” Rivera said of pitching in the eighth instead of the ninth. “The plan worked out perfectly. This was right up there with winning the World Series. To do this in New York with all the fans here and all the players and the coaches and the managers standing in the dugouts. . .that was priceless.”

There turned out to be a bottom of the ninth inning as the AL had a 3-0 lead. Rangers closer Joe Nathan worked the ninth and can always say he earned a save in a game after Mariano Rivera had pitched, which had not happened since 1996 when Mo was the setup man for Yanks closer John Wetteland.

Rivera was voted the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and was able to thank the fans and told them it was a “privilege” to pitch in front of them all these years. Let’s face it, fans, the privilege was ours to watch him.

CC, ensemble hitting end Yanks’ slide

The Yankees needed CC Sabathia to be a stopper Sunday, a losing streak stopper in the traditional sense, and that is what he was. Seven shutout innings against one of the toughest lineups in baseball tamed the Tigers and sent the Yankees off to Cleveland in a good frame of mind.

The 7-0 victory was an ensemble effort. Sabathia’s work was the centerpiece, but he had plenty of support. The Yankees knocked out 13 hits with all but one of the regulars (Lyle Overbay) contributing to the effort. Seven of the hits came off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who left with one out in the eighth inning trailing 3-0.

Jayson Nix out of the 9-hole had the big hit off Verlander, a two-run home run in the second inning off a 2-1 changeup from Verlander, who probably wished he had stayed with the gas. Nix, hitless in seven at-bats with five punchouts prior to Sunday, had a field day with two other hits and two runs scored while filling in at shortstop for injured Eduardo Nunez (bruised right bicep). Nunez cannot throw right now, but he came in handy as a pinch runner for Travis Hafner (two hits) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki (his first RBI of the season) in the eighth.

A run-scoring double in the second inning and a two-out, run-scoring single in the eighth for Francisco Cervelli gave the catcher the club lead in RBI with five.

Kevin Youkilis continued his hot start (.409) with a double off Verlander in the first inning and a two-run single off Octavio Dotel in the ninth. Are Yankees fans finally warming up to this guy? I know he annoyed fans this spring with that “I’ll always be a Red Sox” quote in reference to his time in Boston, but that just meant that he could not ignore what he had accomplished there. That was the opposite of what Wade Boggs said in his first spring training with the Yankees in 1993 that his 11 years with the Red Sox “never happened.” Really? Five batting titles did not count? We would all come to get used to Boggsy’s off-the-beam perspective on things.

Sabathia admitted to writers after the game that he did not have his best stuff, except for his changeup, which is becoming almost as important a weapon as his slider. CC was annoyed at himself for working in so many deep counts. The seventh inning, his last, was the only 1-2-3 inning for him, but he stranded seven Tigers runners over the first six innings and was especially effective against the 3-4-5 mashers Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, who were a combined 0-for-9 against him. Overall, CC limited the Tigers to four singles and three walks with four strikeouts.

David Robertson followed Sabathia with a scoreless eighth, and in a non-save situation Mariano Rivera gave up two hits in the ninth but no runs in what might have been his farewell appearance in front of a Detroit audience (unless the clubs match up in postseason play as they did last year). The Tigers showed class by honoring Mo before the game with Detroit manager Jim Leyland unveiling a plaque of Rivera pitching at Comerica Park and old Tiger Stadium and containers of dirt from each field.

The Yankees did not let themselves get bullied by Verlander, who for all his accomplishments is only a .500 pitcher in his career against them. His record against the Yankees fell to 5-5 with a 3.74 ERA in 84 1/3 innings, during which he has allowed 90 hits, including 11 home runs.

Hal thanks fans for support in 2012

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner issued the following statement to fans following the team’s loss to Detroit in the American League Championship Series:

“I want to thank our passionate fans for their support this season. We fell short of our singular and constant goal, which is a World Series championship.

“However, I am proud of the accomplishments of this year’s team. We earned the best record in the American League and were one of the four teams to advance to the League Championship Series, despite having to overcome and fight through a series of long-term injuries to a number of our key players.

“Make no mistake, this was a bitter end to our year, and we fully intend to examine our season in its totality, assess all of our strengths and weaknesses and take the necessary steps needed to maintain our sole focus of winning the World Series in 2013. Great teams – and organizations – use disappointment as a motivation for future improvements and success. In the days, weeks and months ahead, we plan to do what’s necessary to return this franchise to the World Series.

“Nothing has changed. Nothing will change. My family – and our organization – has a long-standing commitment to provide all of our fans a championship-caliber team year after year.

“We may have fallen short, but we never feel sorry for ourselves and never make excuses. We already are beginning the process to find a way to win our 28th World Championship.

“I want to congratulate Mike Ilitch, Dave Dombrowski, Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers. They certainly proved worthy of representing the American League in the World Series and are well deserving of this honor.”

Tigers push Yanks to 0-3 precipice in ALCS

Jose Valverde was not around to give the Yankees a helping hand Tuesday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series as he did in Game 1 when they came back from a 4-0 deficit to push it into extra innings.

The margin was half that this time, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland instead stayed with his starter, and who could blame him when the starter was Justin Verlander? After eight innings of getting nothing off the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner other than two singles by Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees actually chased Verlander from the game but could not shove it into extras against lefthander Phil Coke, who gave up a couple of two-out singles before ending the game with a dazzling 3-2 slider to strike out Raul Ibanez.

Cut Ibanez some slack. He cannot do it all, even though it seems that he must. The Yanks are the last place they want to be – down, three games to none to the Tigers in the ALCS. Only once in the history of best-of-seven postseason baseball has a club overcome that deficit. The Yankees do not need to be reminded about that. They were on the other side of that equation in 2004 when the Red Sox ran off four straight victories to get to the World Series where they won four more in a row to end the Curse of the Bambino.

Although it must pain the Yankees to rely on something the Red Sox did for inspiration, that is the dilemma they find themselves in now. Having ace CC Sabathia on the mound for Game 4 Wednesday night is a plus, but, frankly, to this point pitching has not been the Yanks’ problem. They have a staff ERA of 3.10, which should not result in a record of 0-3.

Despite the ninth-inning rally Tuesday night, the Yankees’ offense remains anemic. Their only run in Game 3 came on a leadoff homer in the ninth off Verlander by Eduardo Nunez, who was not even on the Yankees’ original roster for the ALCS. He was added when Derek Jeter had to be removed because of a left ankle fracture sustained in the final inning of Game 1.

Nunez’s homer ended a scoreless streak of 20 innings for the Yankees, who have scored in only two of 30 innings in this series and have not had the lead in any one of them. They are hitting a collective .182 with a .291 slugging percentage in the ALCS.

A single by Mark Teixeira in a gritty at-bat and an opposite-field knock by Robinson Cano to halt a hitless string of 29 at-bats, the longest in franchise history in postseason play, kicked the Yankees in gear with two down in the ninth, but it was awfully late. Ibanez did not have another miracle in his bat.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi altered his lineup somewhat, but the results except for Nunez were not all that favorable. Brett Gardner, who played left field and batted leadoff, was 0-for-4 at the plate and failed to get a ball out of the infield. Eric Chavez, who started at third base over Alex Rodriguez, was 0-for-3 and made an error that led to an unearned run that was the difference in the game.

A-Rod was not only benched but also buried on it. He was not even called on to bat as a pinch hitter against the left-handed Coke. Girardi reasoned that had he summoned Rodriguez to hit for Ibanez the Tigers would have countered with righthander Joaquin Benoit. The manager preferred the Ibanez-vs.-Coke matchup than Rodriguez-vs.-Benoit.

That may not have been vintage Verlander out there, but the Yankees did no real damage against him. He had only three strikeouts but did not walk anyone. Verlander may have fallen out of his rhythm in the lengthy fourth and fifth innings when the Yankees made several pitching changes, but he did not cave in.

And still, due in large part to outstanding ensemble work by five relievers, the Yankees were in the game. Verlander would have been pitching with a more comfortable margin had the Tigers not stranded 10 base runners – six in scoring position – over the first six innings. It was another example of Yankees pitchers doing their jobs and Yankees hitters not doing theirs.

For all the success in the Yankees’ storied history of 27 World Series titles and 40 AL pennants, the ALCS loss in 2004 remains a deep wound that would finally be healed if they could pull the same trick. The task begins with Game 4. They should not think of anything else but that until a victory leads to Game 5…and Game 6…and Game 7. Lord knows the Yanks know it is possible.

Nova 2nd rookie to start do-or-die playoff game

Ivan Nova’s victory in Game 1 of the American League Division Series was technically a relief appearance because of the rain suspension, so Thursday night he was becoming only the second rookie to start a winner-take-all postseason game.

The only other was Phillies righthander Marty Bystrom in Game 5 of the 1980 National League Championship Series at Houston. Bystrom was not involved in the decision, an 8-7, 10-inning Philadelphia victory. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed 2 runs (1 earned), 7 hits and 2 walks with 1 strikeout in 5 1/3 innings.

Frankly, Yankees manager Joe Girardi would take that from Nova, who held the Tigers to 2 runs and 4 hits with 4 walks and 5 strikeouts in Game 1, a 9-3 Yankees rout. Their bullpen is pretty fresh all things considered, thanks to the length they got from A.J. Burnett in Game 4 at Detroit.

Girardi also has the option of using CC Sabathia out of the pen against a left-handed batter who likely would not have seen him since most of the Tigers’ lefty hitters were in platoon situations. I would also not be surprised if Joe used either David Robertson or Mariano Rivera and perhaps even both to pitch two innings.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland remained adamant that Game 3 winner Justin Verlander, the AL Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player candidate, will not pitch in Game 5. Yankees fans may think that is a ruse, but I believe him. Verlander did his job, and Leyland doesn’t want to tax his ace who was still throwing 100 miles per hour in the eighth inning Tuesday night.

Besides, the Tigers have Game 2 winner Max Sherzer, who shut out the Yankees for six-plus innings at Yankee Stadium, available as a long man should Game 1 loser Doug Fister falter. That is not chopped liver.

The Yankees were playing a winner-take-all ALDS Game 5 for the seventh time and the first since they lost to the Angels in 2005. It was the Yanks’ ninth deciding game in the best-of-5 format, also including the AL Championship Series of 1976 and ’77, both against the Royals.

Thursday night was the Yankees’ fourth Game 5 in a best-of-5 series at home. They had won the previous three: 1976 ALCS against the Royals, 1981 ALDS against the Brewers and 2001 ALDS against the Athletics. Overall, the Bombers are 5-3 in Game 5 of best-of-5 series and 11-10 all time in winner-take-all games, including 6-7 in Game 7s. They are 8-6 in ALDS games when facing elimination.

Yanks come close but can’t ‘close’ it out

One of the characteristics of the Yankees over the past two decades has been their ability to get to another team’s closer while other teams rarely get to their closer. While Mariano Rivera has set the major league record for saves and pitched as superlatively in postseason play, teammates have regularly roughed up his counterparts on the other side.

Jose Valverde was almost the latest victim Sunday night in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, a 5-3 Detroit victory that evened the best-of-five series at one game apiece.

The hard-throwing righthander was 49-for-49 in save opportunities during the regular season, but the Yankees had him on the ropes in the ninth inning. There was even an indication that the ghosts who used to roam the old Yankee Stadium have indeed made the trek to the north side of 161st Street in the Bronx.

The game looked like a lost cause for the Yankees when the Tigers pushed across a run in the top of the ninth on a two-out single by Don Kelly, a defensive substitute for right fielder Magglio Ordonez. That bolstered Detroit’s lead to 5-1, and out of the pen came Valverde, who pitched to a 2.24 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings in the regular season.

Nick Swisher woke up the crowd with a leadoff home run. Jorge Posada followed with a drive to left-center and plodded around a field muddy with late-inning rain showers for a triple. How unusual was that? Posada has only 10 triples in 6,092 career at-bats and had none in his previous 407 at-bats in postseason play.

Russell Martin worked a walk, and the joint was really jumping. Andruw Jones hit the ball hard to right, but Kelly made a fine running catch. Jones had to settle for a sacrifice fly, which made the score 5-3.

Valverde struck out Derek Jeter on a 95-mph fastball. Then with Curtis Granderson batting, one of those ghosts that Jeter always used to talk about coming out in the late innings of games at the Stadium may have been at work. The game appeared over when Granderson hit a foul ball near the Tigers’ third base dugout. Catcher Alex Avila slipped on the wet dirt as the rain was falling, and the ball fell free. No play, official scorer Howie Karpin rightfully ruled.

But it continued the at-bat for Granderson, who walked. That brought up Robinson Cano, who had driven in six runs in Game 1. There was drama aplenty with each pitch as Cano fouled off three straight mid-90s fastballs before hitting a hard grounder to second base for the final out.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland admitted after the game that he actually considered walking Cano intentionally, which would have loaded the bases for Alex Rodriguez, who is having a brutal series (0-for-8, 1 walk).

“You know what; I thought about it,” Leyland told reporters. “But the other guy [Rodriguez] has been known for the dramatics, and I figured it’s wet, it’s slippery, one gets away, one run is in, something like that would happen, a ground ball, a ball slips I just couldn’t do it. Hit a ball in the infield, you get him over there and somebody throws it away, the game is tied. But it did cross my mind.”

That shows how much respect there is in the game now for Cano. The last time these teams met in the ALDS five years ago, Leyland called the Yankees, “Murderers Row plus Cano,” which he meant as a compliment to the second baseman who was off a .342 regular season in his second year in the big leagues but was batting seventh or eighth in the order. Now Cano is a 3-hole hitter who has a three-time Manager of the Year thinking about walking him to face a guy who has hit 629 career home runs.

Miguel Cabrera played the Cano role for the Tigers with a home run, two singles and three RBI, which was plenty of support for starter Max Scherzer, who held the Yankees to two hits in six-plus innings. The Yankees made a last stand against the Tigers’ closer, but not even a shove from one of the ghosts, be it the Babe, Lou, Joe D. or the Mick could create a different ending.

Rain invades ALDS, suspends Game 1

It was somehow fitting that following a regular season in which 22 Yankees games were affected by inclement weather that the postseason would, too. But the first game?

Game 1 of the American League Division Series between the Yankees and Tigers Friday night at Yankee Stadium was suspended because of rain in the middle of the second inning with the score 1-1 and will resume at the point of the suspension beginning at 8:37 Saturday night.

“We’ve been through this all year long,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s not what either club wanted. Both clubs have to deal with it. The one thing I probably learned as much as any other, you cannot fight Mother Nature.”

The dream matchup of the Yankees’ CC Sabathia against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander will have to wait, perhaps to Monday night at Detroit. Girardi said that Ivan Nova will pitch Saturday night and Freddy Garcia in Game 2 Sunday. Similarly, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he will stay in rotation with Doug Fister resuming Game 1 Saturday night and Max Scherzer to start Game 2 Sunday.

There is nothing definite about when Sabathia and Verlander will work again but if so it will probably be at Comerica Park, so Yankees fans lost the marquee pairing. The break for each team is that neither Sabathia nor Verlander will start more than one game in the best-of-5 ALDS.

Sabathia struck out the first two batters before giving up a home run to Delmon Young, but the Yankees figured out a way to get a run off Verlander without a hit in the bottom half. Derek Jeter struck out but got to first base on a wild pitch. A walk to Curtis Granderson and two groundouts sent Jeter around the bases.

The change in pitchers may affect the Tigers more than the Yankees because Leyland’s lineup was set for a lefthander in Sabathia and now will oppose a righthander in Nova. Both Detroit pitchers are righthanded, so the change doesn’t affect the Yankees.

“That’s the one little dilemma probably, but it will work out,” Leyland said. “I’m going to keep my lineup in there and see how the game plays out. I’m not going to start pulling guys out and change my lineup in the bottom of the second inning. My lineup will be the same when we take the field. I do feel bad for the national audience and the fans that were here tonight. Certainly, it was really a marquee matchup. That’s a little said, but that’s the way it is.”

The only tickets valid for Saturday night’s resumed game are tickets for ALDS Home Game 1. Fans holding tickets for ALDS Home Game 2 originally scheduled for Saturday night must use them for Sunday’s game. There will be no refunds or exchanges for tickets to ALDS Home Game 1 or ALDS Home Game 2.

‘Catching’ on at DH

The Yankees and the Tigers have a similar situation this year in that both clubs are going with veteran catchers as their designated hitters. Yet there is a difference in how Jorge Posada will be used by Yankees manager Joe Girardi and how Victor Martinez will be used by Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

The difference was evident Sunday. Posada was in the Yankees lineup as the DH for the third straight game, but Martinez, who was the Tigers’ DH in the first two games, was behind the plate for the series finale.

Whereas Girardi has no plans for Posada to wear catcher’s gear except in dire emergencies, Leyland plans to use Martinez in several capacities. After two days of watching rookie Alex Avila struggle at the plate (1-for-7, 4 strikeouts), Leyland decided to give Martinez a game back of the plate.

Martinez, who also played first base quite often in his years with the Indians and Red Sox, will not play there much for the Tigers except for the rare occasion when Miguel Cabrera “rests” as a DH.

“I’m not sure Jim will handle Victor the same way we will Jorge,” Girardi said. “I think he’ll catch a bit more and possible play some first base. For Jorge, we need him to get comfortable with the role of DH. The challenge will be what they do between at-bats. They have to find things to do with their minds away from the field.”

Martinez is also supplying some protection in the batting order for Cabrera, who belted a two-run home run off a 1-2 pitch from Phil Hughes in the first inning. Cabrera may have his off-field problems, but he is one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. Having Martinez bat behind him means that Cabrera won’t walk 150 times, which he might otherwise.

Posada’s mind sure seemed clear in the second inning when he hit a first-pitch fastball from Max Scherzer for his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to right. It was the first meaningful contribution from Posada, who has not been adept as a DH historically (.222, 9 home runs in 302 at-bats entering play Sunday).

The way Russell Martin has played behind the plate and next to it swinging a bat the first few days for the Yankees has quieted any possible talk that Posada might be out of position.

Seeing the unseen

Don’t think for a moment that umpires aren’t clued into what’s going on. Earlier Wednesday, the Tigers placed second baseman Carlos Guillen on the disabled list because of a bruised left knee. Guillen sustained the injury on the last play of Monday night’s game when he made the pivot on a double play as Brett Gardner crashed into him.

The view expressed from both managers was that it was a clean play. Detroit’s Jim Leyland said he thought it was a good, hard play, and Guillen said the same. The Yankees’ Joe Girardi brought up a good point that Gardner’s speed allowed him to get farther down the line than most normal players on such a play. “Most runners don’t get that close to the bag,” Girardi said.

But who knows what some of Guillen’s teammates thought? It is one thing to tip your cap in the press to a player for an aggressive play and another to harbor ill feelings for an act viewed as borderline dangerous. When Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman plugged Gardner above the right ankle with the first pitch Wednesday night, plate umpire Eric Cooper clearly felt intent played into it and issued a warning to both benches.

Girardi and Leyland immediately sought clarification from Cooper and departed the scene without rancor. Still, it was an act by an umpire who may have been reading between the lines. Cooper’s judgment might have been faulty, but better safe than sorry was his decision. In the end, Bonderman paid a price because Gardner scored on the home run by Mark Teixeira.

Anything you can do, I can do better

Curtis Granderson wasn’t going to let the player who went to Detroit in the trade that brought him to the Yankees show him up Tuesday night. Austin Jackson, the rookie who replaced Granderson as the Tigers’ center fielder, led off the game by hitting CC Sabathia’s first pitch into the left-center field bleachers.

The Tigers kept hitting Sabathia hard that inning, but Granderson prevented the line drives from becoming hits. He raced into right-center to take down Ramon Sanitago’s blast to the warning track in right-center. Granderson topped that with a diving catch in left-center to rob Johnny Damon.

Tigers starter Justin Verlander, who has a history of first-inning problems (opponents are batting .293 off him in the first and .222 thereafter), spit up the lead by allowing two runs in the bottom of the first on Nick Swisher’s bases-loaded single. Swisher was in the lineup despite suffering from right tennis elbow. He said before the game it most bothers him when he swings and misses. Batters do a lot of that against Verlander, but with Alex Rodriguez down with a left calf strain Swish was needed. He just made sure not to swing and miss.

Verlander’s problems continued into the second, which Granderson got started with a home run of his own to get even offensively with Jackson. Verlander’s shaky start (four hits and four walks through the first 11 batters) had Detroit manager Jim Leyland warming up a reliever in the bullpen as early as the second inning.

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