Results tagged ‘ Joe Girardi ’

Pineda rediscovers his elusive slider

One could certainly say that Michael Pineda cleaned up his act Wednesday. In his prior start, the righthander had a disastrous seven-run inning against the Rangers that included a couple of errors, including one by himself. Very sloppy indeed.

There was none of that in Wednesday’s outing as he pitched the Yankees to a 4-2 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the Royals, who have a much more tortuous lineup than that of Texas.

Pineda’s work was part of a complete turnaround by the Yankees in the homestand. As bad as they looked in losing three games to the Rangers, that is how good the Yankees looked in winning three games from the Royals and regaining sole possession of first place in the American League East and reminding Kansas City how much more comfortable it is in the AL Central.

“Baseball is a strange game,” Yanks manager Joe Girardi said in a major understatement. “Over the long haul things balance out, but over a short span things don’t always balance out. Everything begins for me with starting pitching.”

That is where Pineda comes in, following quality starts from Adam Warren Tuesday night and Nathan Eovaldi Monday. Pineda gave up a first-inning home run to Mike Moustakas on a changeup and then slammed the door two outs into the seventh inning before he was victimized by the pitch-count police.

“I wanted to keep pitching, but I don’t have control of that,” Pineda said. “I asked how many pitches I had, and [Girardi] told me 106. So I guess that was it. A starting pitcher goes out every five days so on your day you want to pitch as long as you can, but that is not up to me. We have a good bullpen, so I know they can do the job.”

Girardi is known to be cautious with pitchers, particularly someone like Pineda, who has had two major surgeries.

“Michael has never pitched more than 170 innings in a season,” Girardi noted. “He’s on a pace for 220, 230 innings this year. It’s a long season.”

The key for Pineda was a return of his slider, which was missing entirely from his prior outing. He worked on some mechanical adjustments in his between-starts bullpen sessions. The results were positive. He allowed five hits other than the Moustakas homer and only one walk with eight strikeouts. While Masahiro Tanaka was having a rough injury-rehabilitation start for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Pawtucket (3 innings, 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts), Pineda was pitching like a staff ace in improving his record to 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA.

Brian McCann got the Yankees even with a solo home run in the second off the other Chris Young, and Alex Rodriguez made it 4-1 the next inning with a three-run shot that raised his career RBI total to 1,995 to break Lou Gehrig’s AL career record. The long ball resurfaced for the Yankees in the series. They totaled six home runs in their six-game losing streak. They homered eight times in the three games against KC.

Pineda worked out of tight spots in the fourth and fifth innings and stranded two runners on base each time. He was particularly impressive in the fifth after Carlos Beltran misplayed a liner by Paulo Orlando into a double and Alcides Escobar singled. Pineda bore down and struck out Moustakas on a slider (no changeup this time) and Lorenzo Cain on an even nastier one.

An errant throw by shortstop Didi Gregorius led to an unearned run off Dellin Betances in the eighth (his stretch of unearned runs this season has reached 26 innings over 23 games), and Andrew Miller handled the ninth for his 14th save.

But as Girardi pointed out, it starts with the starter, and Pineda was every bit the good one.

Wounded Warriors walkathon completed

A group of Yankees players with manager Joe Girardi stood to the right of the plate at Yankee Stadium 10 minutes before the start of Tuesday night’s Yankees-Royals game to greet former U.S. Navy officer and educational professional Richard Albero, who concluded his 1,150-mile walk from George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., to the Stadium.

Albero began his journey March 2 to honor his nephew who passed away in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

The final leg of Albero’s trek brought him to “The Bat” by the site of the original Stadium, where he was joined by six Wounded Warriors from the United States Army — Sgt. First Class Shafeek Karamat, Capt. J.C. Brave, Sgt. First Class Jacob Weltsch, Capt. Gregory Backer, Sgt. Rafael Rodriguez and Specialist Anthony Gonzalez.

The group walked through Heritage Park, across East 161st Street and up Jerome Avenue toward Gate 2 of the current Stadium. Alberto and the Wounded Warriors entered the Stadium through the left-center field wall and made their way around the left field warning track all the way to the plate.

Yankees pitcher Adam Warren watches Richard Albero throw ceremonial first-pitch strike

Yankees pitcher Adam Warren watches Richard Albero throw ceremonial first-pitch strike

Albero had enough energy left to throw a strike to catcher John Ryan Murphy as the ceremonial first pitch of the game.

Aided by a number of support drivers by his side, Albero completed his trip in 86 days. He has already raised around $27,000. The Yankees nearly doubled that with a donation of $25,000. Presenting Albero with the check in the pre-game ceremony were Yankees managing partner and president of the New York Yankees Foundation Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and senior vice president of marketing and Yankees Foundation board member Deborah Tymon.

To make a donation, please visit richardsyankeeswalk.org.

Rockets’ red glare for Memorial Day victory

It looked as if the Yankees took a cue Monday from the Rangers — after Texas left town. The Rangers scored 30 runs in a three-game sweep of the Yankees that included third-inning rallies of seven runs Friday night and 10 Saturday afternoon. The Yanks put on such a show in the first inning Monday against the Royals, who came to town in first place in the American League Central.

Yankees hitters reacquainted themselves to the cozy right field porch at Yankee Stadium with four home runs in the first two innings off Kansas City righthander Jeremy Guthrie, who was absolutely dreadful to the Yanks’ delight.

The Memorial Day crowd of 36,031 had barely gotten comfortable in their seats when Brett Gardner led off the first inning with a double and Chase Headley drove the next pitch into the right field bleachers. A single by Alex Rodriguez and a walk to Mark Teixeira set the table for Brian McCann, who knocked a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall to make the score 5-0.

And the Yankees were not finished. Far from it. Two outs later, Guthrie hit Didi Gregorius with a pitch and allowed a single to Slade Heathcott. Gardner got his second extra-base hit of the inning and the Yankees’ third home with a three-run blast for 8-0. Another three-run homer, by Stephen Drew, ended Guthrie’s day before the first out of the second inning.

Guthrie faced 16 batters and let 13 of them reach base with 11 of them scoring. Now the Yankees know how the Rangers felt over the weekend.

“We have been through some tough and ugly losses lately, so that early lead was important,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That is why baseball is more unpredictable than any other sport. We have been through this from both sides.”

This one was as upside as it gets. Nathan Eovaldi pitched into the eighth and limited the Royals to one run, and the Yankees kept pouring it on toward a 14-1 final. Headley got his third RBI of the game in the fifth inning, and Heathcott added two more runs in the seventh with his first career home run, the fifth of the game for the Yanks, all of which were hit to right field. Heathcott’s dinger came off Greg Holland, one of the toughest relievers in the majors.

“We needed this,” Heathcott said. “We hit a bit of a bumpy patch the last week or so. It was nice that we kept scoring and putting together good at-bats the rest of the game.”

Heathcott, just up this week from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to help the Yankees get through the loss to the disabled list of Jacoby Ellsbury, has been the rare scent of fresh air lately. He is batting .455 (5-for-11) with a double, a homer and three RBI and has fared well defensively in center field.

His Yankees teammates did not play any games after his first major-league homer, perhaps cognizant of his hard-scrabble road to the majors following off-field issues of substance abuse. The former top prospect was dropped from the 40-man roster by the Yankees, drew no interest elsewhere, re-signed a minor-league deal with them and was returned to the roster last week.

“Guys were giving me high-fives,” Heathcott said about the reaction in the dugout. “It was great to see the veteran players — McCann, CC [Sabathia] — congratulating me. It was an awesome feeling. I was thinking, ‘Is this real?’ It’s a blessing just for me to be here.”

Heathcott was even able to get the milestone ball from a group of fans in the right field stands.

“It’s something my son [Eddie] will enjoy some day,” he said. “I thanked the fans for bringing me the ball. I gave them some balls and t-shirts. I have thought about this ever since I was six. I was just thrilled. I am thankful to everyone who had a part to helping me get to this point.”

It was also an eventful day for Jacob Lindgren, a lefthander who made his big-league pitching debut with two scoreless innings of relief (no hits, two walks, two strikeouts).

“What noticed when Lindy came into the game was that all the bullpen guys were on the outside bench,” Girardi said. “I liked seeing them pulling for him.”

Every player in the majors recalls vividly similar experiences they had to connect themselves with what Heathcott and Lindgren did Monday.

This was indeed a Memorial Day to remember.

Bernie thanks fans for the memories

Bernie Williams, a man of few words in his playing career, was downright eloquent in his remarks Sunday night in response to the Yankees’ presenting him with a plaque in his honor in Monument Park and retiring his uniform No. 51.

Williams, whose last season with the Yankees was in 2005, was joined on the field by his mother, Rufina, his brother and his children as well as former Yankees executive Gene Michael, former manager Joe Torre, former coaches Roy White and Willie Randolph and former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Williams thanked Michael “for not trading me” when he was a younger player. He thanked White for helping him with his left-handed stance that made him more effective as a switch hitter and Randolph for the advice never to be afraid of success. He also thanked his old teammates for all their support during his 16-season career, all with the Yankees.

Manager Joe Girardi, another former teammate of Williams, presented Bernie’s mom with a bouquet of flowers. Stephen Swindal Jr., grandson of the late Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner, presented Williams a replica of his plaque. Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner present Bernie a milestone, diamond ring embossed with No. 51.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought as a 17-year-old in Puerto Rico that I could be here this day,” Bernie said. “I am overwhelmed. I remember something Joe Torre told me once. ‘God does not give you the ability — he just lets you borrow it.’ I want to thank God for letting me borrow the ability to play for this franchise all those years.”

The years were filled with great memories on teams that won four World Series titles and was on the losing end of two other World Series, of exciting Division Series and League Championship Series games.

“I am frequently asked what my greatest memory as a player was,” he said. “There were so many. I will say this: all those memories you fans were involved in every one of them.”

Sunday night was yet one more.

Ellsbury forced to leave game with knee injury

Hold your breath, Yankees fans.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been the Yankees’ most dependable hitter this season, had to come out of Tuesday night’s inter-league game at Washington, D.C. Word from the clubhouse was that the Yanks’ center fielder had an injury to his right knee.

Ellsbury led off the fourth inning with a walk, but during the at-bat he reacted in pain after swinging at a pitch and walked gingerly before returning to the batter’s box. After Ellsbury advanced to second base on an infield out, manager Joe Girardi and assistant trainer Mark Littlefield ran out of the dugout to talk to the player. Ellsbury remained in the game and scored on a one-out single by Chris Young for the first run of a four-run rally that gave the Yanks the lead momentarily.

But when the Yankees took the field in the bottom of the fourth, Carlos Beltran was inserted in Ellsbury’s spot in the batting order and playing right field with Young moving to center.

Ellsbury leads the Yankees in batting with a .324 average and stolen bases with 14 in 19 attempts. In 23 games since April 22, Ellsbury is hitting .367 in 90 at-bats with 18 runs, three doubles, one home run, six RBI, 11 walks, 3 hit by pitches and 11 steals

Pitch count halts Pineda’s record chase

Michael Pineda had a chance to make history Sunday, but the pitch count police did him in. Rather than rant on like an old man about how pitchers are being babied to death these days, let me just say quickly what they can do with pitch counts. Shove ’em.

Here was Pineda using high fastballs, swirling sliders and freeze-frame changeups to embarrass one Baltimore hitter after another before a Mothers Day crowd of 39,059 at Yankee Stadium. Five of his first six outs were by strikeout. Over the fifth and sixth innings, he punched out six hitters in a row. The righthander added two more Ks in the seventh to bring his total to 16.

The fans, naturally, were loving it with their typical hand-clapping reaction to every two-strike pitch, a tradition that began at the Stadium June 17, 1978 when Ron Guidry set the franchise record with 18 strikeouts against the Angels. Pineda had a very good chance at breaking that mark or at least tying it. His pitch count, however, stood at 111. That was enough for manager Joe Girardi, who by the way was the catcher in the only other two games in which a Yankees pitcher struck out 16 batters — David Wells and David Cone, both in 1997.

So out came Pineda, depriving the crowd of an opportunity for an historic moment. Quite a few headed for the exits what with the Yankees comfortably in front at that point by five runs. The drama had exited the game with Pineda.

Girardi said he was unaware wha the club record was and that even if he did it would not have mattered. Considering how early in the season it is and that Pineda has a history of arm miseries in his brief career the call to the bullpen was the choice to make.

“Maybe if he was coming off a serious injury, it might have been a different story,” Girardi said.

A manager cannot worry about records. I get that. The idea is to win the game, which the Yankees did, 6-2, to take the series and boost their lead in the American League East to three games over second-place Tampa Bay where they will open a four-game set Monday night.

Personally, I could not help but be disappointed. When a pitcher is on the way Pineda was Sunday, one cannot help but want to see more, particularly if he is in range of a major achievement. After all, he was within four strikeouts of the all-time mark for a nine-inning game by Roger Clemens (twice) and Kerry Wood.

I was reminded of a game I watched on television one night early in the 2007 season. Jake Peavy, then with the Padres, had 16 Ks through seven innings against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. I was all prepared to watch him go for the record when Bud Black, then in his first year as San Diego’s manager, yanked him. Black, a former pitcher, yet!

Later that year when Peavy was named the National League Cy Young Award, I chatted with him by phone as the representative of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and asked him about that game.

“I’m with you, man,” Peavy told me. “I argued like crazy to stay in the game, but Skip hit me with that ‘It’s too early in the year’ stuff.”

That game was played April 25. Sunday was May 10. But another big difference is eight years. Major League Baseball is married to the pitch count these days and challenging it only marks you as a dinosaur.

Still, there is no evidence I see that holding pitchers back protects them from arm problems. There are more pitchers on the disabled list and lining up for Tommy John surgery than every before. In his 18-strikeout game, Guidry threw 138 pitches. He went on to win the American League Cy Young Award that year, pitched for 10 more years and nearly won a second Cy in 1985 but was runner-up to the Royals’ Bret Saberhagen.

Pineda was no more aware of the record than was Girardi and made no argument to stay in the game. He must have used the word “happy” two dozen times after the game to describe how he felt. Think of how often he might have said it if he were allowed to take a shot at the Yankees’ record book.

The way Pineda was pitching it is hard to remember that he was actually behind in the score early on. He hung a 2-2 slider to J.J. Hardy, who drove it to left field for his first home run this season. That was in the second inning when Pineda also struck out the side, which he did again in the fifth. By then, the Yankees had moved in front after a four-run fourth inning against Bud Norris.

Carlos Beltran, who is starting to swing the bat better, got the Yankees even with his first home run of the year coming in his 100th at-bat. A walk to Chase Headley and singles by Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury extended the advantage with a two-run double.

There was no stopping Pineda now. Fortified by more offense later on — a home run by Brian McCann in the fifth and an RBI double by Gregorius in the seventh — Pineda just proceeded to attack Orioles hitters.

“I felt great; everything was working,” Pineda said. “I was happy to do this on Mothers Day because I know my Mom was watching in the Dominican.”

She is not the only person watching. Pineda has become one of the dominant pitchers in the league with a 5-0 record and 2.72 ERA. He has stepped up big-time to help the rotation deal with the loss to injury of Masahiro Tanaka. Pineda was asked if he feels that he is now the Yankees’ ace.

“I’m not focusing on that,” he said. “I just want to keep helping this team win.”

Dellin Betances struck out one batter in the seventh and one in the eighth. It maked only the third time Yankees pitchers had 18 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. In addition to the Guidry game, they did it July 26, 2011 at Seattle.

Pineda tied Cone’s club mark for strikeouts in a game by a righthander, but I sure would have liked to see him try to go for the all-time record.

Yanks’ starters picking up slack since Tanaka loss

All this talk warranted that it may be about the Yankees’ bullpen has obscured somewhat the work of the rotation. That sense of doom a lot of fans may have felt when Masahiro Tanaka went on the disabled list a week ago must be eased by the work since by the starting unit.

Yankees starters have not lost a game since Tanaka’s departure. Michael Pineda pitched eight brilliant shutout innings at Toronto Tuesday night and in retrospect it might have been better if the righthander had been allowed to go for the compete game. It was a rare blowup by the bullpen that presented unwanted drama for the Yankees.

Manager Joe Girardi had to call on closer Andrew Miller to get his 11th save after David Carpenter allowed the Blue Jays to halve a 6-0 deficit. Former Yankees catcher Russell Martin, who had the game-winning hit Monday night and two doubles earlier Tuesday night, led off the ninth with a home run, and Carpenter gave up two-out, RBI hits to Chris Colabello and Ryan Goins. The Blue Jays eventually brought the potential tying run to the plate before Miller ended it by getting Devon Travis on a fly ball.

The Blue Jays did nothing dramatic against Pineda, who raised his record to 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.97. Can you spell ace? Pineda gave up five hits and one walk with six strikeouts in eight innings and held Toronto hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position.

It was yet another first-rate effort by a Yankees starter since the bad news on Tanaka was announced. Over the past seven games the Yankees’ rotation has compiled a 4-0 record with a 2.25 ERA in 44 innings and is averaging 6 1/3 innings per start. Yankees starters have not allowed a run over 15 innings in the first two games of the series against the Jays that concludes Wednesday night.

The Yankees provided Pineda a two-run lead before he took the mound from the first three batters, a single by Jacoby Ellsbury and doubles by Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez. Ellsbury, who had three hits and is batting .358, added a two-out, RBI single in the second inning. Mark Teixeira made it 5-0 in the fifth with his 10th home run of the season, and the Yankees got another two-out run in the eighth on a single by Didi Gregorius.

All that offense did not seem necessary when Pineda was on the mound but was very welcome when Carpenter struggled to get through the ninth. Girardi would have preferred not to use Miller on a night when Dellin Betances was also unavailable but events dictated otherwise.

Ellsbury & Gardner ideal table setters

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner both reached base to begin the Yankees’ game against the Blue Jays Tuesday night, and they both scored. So what else is new? Ellsbury and Gardner have been the most effective top-of-the-order hitters in the majors.

Remember last year when manager Joe Girardi tried numerous lineups to figure out the best way to utilize each’s skills? For quite a spell, Girardi used Gardner in the leadoff spot and Ellsbury in the 3-hole with since-retired Derek Jeter positioned between them. That gave Ellsbury RBI opportunities but was a deterrent to his stealing bases with the meat of the order right behind him.

For the times Ellsbury batted leadoff, Girard put Gardner at the bottom of the order. Almost never did the two of them together. Part of that was the resistance to moving Jeter lower in the order, but the major factor was that Girardi was uncomfortable having two left-handed hitters back to back.

One of the best 1-2 combos at the top of the order that I recall was that of Vince Coleman and Willie McGee with the Cardinals in the 1980s. What made it easy for Whitey Herzog to leave them where they were each game is that they were both switch hitters.

Yet Ellsbury and Gardner have proved not to be the sort of left-handed batters that are overly vulnerable to left-handed pitching. Ellsbury entered this season with a .294 career batting average overall and .292 against lefties and Gardner .266 overall and .260 against lefties.

So there was not a great risk in experimenting with the two side by side atop the order. If anything, it has worked perfectly. Let managers bring in lefties late in the game against them. Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Ellsbury was hitting .419 in 31 at-bats against lefthanders and Gardner .400 in 25 at-bats vs. lefties.

Tuesday night’s starter for the Blue Jays was righthander Marco Estrada, a reliever getting a shot in the rotation, and Ellsbury and Gardner wasted no time in driving the pitcher crazy. Ellsbury ran his hitting streak to eight games with a single through the middle. He got a workout on several hit-and-run trots as Gardner fouled off Estrada offerings to extend the at-bat to 11 pitches. Brett’s last swing of the at-bat produced a liner to right-center on another hit-and-run play that got Ellsbury to third base with Gardner hustling all the way into second for a double.

The Yanks’ table setters did their job for Alex Rodriguez, who responded in kind with a double to left field for a 2-0 lead. A-Rod was caught off second on a tapper to the mound by Mark Teixeira that thwarted any continued scoring that inning.

Betances slams door shut at Fenway Park

Remember all those reports during spring training about Dellin Betances, that his velocity and location had abandoned him and that just perhaps despite his lights-out rookie season last year he may not be able to help the Yankees survive after the departure of David Robertson?

All that is now a matter of ancient history.

Betances finished off the Yankees’ 4-2 victory over the Red Sox Saturday with a flourish. He entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning with the potential tying run on first base and struck out Mike Napoli. In the ninth, after Chris Young’s sixth home run of the season had boosted the Yankees’ lead to 4-2, Betances proceeded to strike out the side.

Four batters, four strikeouts, and with all that Betances’ first save of the season. The performance may also have a carryover effect in that it spared the use of closer Andrew Miller (nine saves), who is now eligible to come out of the pen Sunday night as the Yanks hope to complete a three-game sweep at Fenway Park.

As it is, the Yankees have won five straight series after coming out of the game and losing their first three series. Since that 3-6 start, the Yankees have won 12 of 15 games since April 17 and sit along atop the American League East.

Saturday’s victory also included yet another quality start from a rotation that suffered a huge blow earlier in the week with Masahiro Tanaka being placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a right forearm strain that is expected to keep him sidelined for at least a month.

Nathan Eovaldi stepped up Saturday and pitched two outs into the seventh inning in raising his record to 2-0. He gave up two runs and seven hits but only one walk with two strikeouts. Brett Gardner supplied the run support for Eovaldi with an RBI double in the third inning and a two-out, two-run single in the fifth off Wade Miley (1-3).

Young’s home run in the ninth was off reliever Alexi Ogando. Young keeps pushing himself into the Yankees’ mix. With a homer and a double Saturday, Young lifted his slugging percentage to .698. His OPS (a combination of slugging percentage and on-base percentage) is over 1.000.

Wanting to stay away from Miller despite the tightness of the score, Yankees manager Joe Girardi used Chris Martin and Justin Wilson in the seventh and eighth before calling on Betances, who could not have done better than to punch out the four batters he faced.

The 6-foot-8 righthander has not allowed an earned run this year in 14 2/3 innings, the most among relievers with ERAs of 0.00. Miller is right behind him with 12 1/3 innings. Betances, who has given up six hits and eight walks with 25 strikeouts, has struck out 14 of the past 20 batters to face him and 17 of the past 25.

Thanks to Betances’ efficiency, Miller is poised to be ready if need be to close the door Sunday night in the finale of a series in which Yankees pitching has held Boston to four runs in 18 innings in its hitters’ paradise.

Yanks’ lineup leaning left at Fenway Park

Red Sox fans dying to boo Alex Rodriguez out of Boston will have to wait until late in the game Friday night if Yankees manager Joe Girardi should use A-Rod as a pinch hitter.

The skipper rolled out an all-left-handed batting order against Red Sox righthander Justin Masterson for the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park. Girardi decided to use Garrett Jones as the DH over Rodriguez, who bats right-handed and has two hits in his past 17 at-bats, a .118 stretch that has lowered his season batting average to .232.

Switch hitters Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley will be batting from the left side along with teammates Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius and Jones. Even the Yankees’ starting pitcher, CC Sabathia, is left-handed, although he will not bat.

The computer got Rodriguez. Left-handed batters are hitting .275 in 51 at-bats against Masterson while righties are hitting .194 in 36 at-bats off him. Rodriguez is a career .250 hitter (3-for-12) with three strikeouts against Masterson.

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