Results tagged ‘ Joe Girardi ’

Sometimes it’s easy being Greene

The Yankees’ rotation has had an overhaul this season with four-fifths of the Opening Day starting unit gone to the disabled list. The situation has afforded opportunities to some pitchers. Shane Greene is one who has given the Yankees reason to believe they just might get through this crisis.

The Floridian righthander earned his first major-league victory earlier in the week at Cleveland and followed it up Saturday with an even more impressive performance at Baltimore. Greene’s 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball in the Yankees’ 3-0 victory was quite a showing in the hitting paradise that is Camden Yards.

Just as he did last Monday night against the Indians, Greene had his sinker working as few balls hit by the Orioles made their way to the outfield. Other than their four hits, all singles, only two other batted balls by the Birds were outfield flies. Green got 10 outs on infield grounders and another on an infield popup. Oh, yeah, he also totaled nine strikeouts. Nelson Cruz, who entered the game tied for the major league lead in home runs (28) and RBI (74), went down on strikes three times.

This was an outing similar to what we have seen this year from another rookie righthander, Masahiro Tanaka. There will be no suggestion here that Greene is the equivalent of the Japanese phenom, but the Triple A Scranton call-up has proved a worthy substitute trying to work his way into the Yankees’ plans.

Greene did not allow a hit until two outs in the fifth inning. Manny Machado broke up the no-hit bid with a single to left, and Ryan Flaherty followed with a single to center that sent Machado to third base.

The score was 1-0 at that point, so it was a juncture when Greene might have wavered. Instead, he kept the Orioles off the board with a strikeout of Nick Hundley, the same guy whose 10th-inning single Friday night did in the Yankees.

The Orioles threatened again in the sixth when Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce began the inning with well-struck singles. If Greene ever needed a ground ball, this was the time. He got it, too, in the direction of Brian Roberts, who gloved it near second base, got to the bag for the force and made an off-balanced throw to first base for a rally-injuring double play. Greene supplied the killing blow by striking out Cruz.

The Yankees then supported their young pitcher in a way they have not been doing in recent games in which they have often taken early leads but have not tacked on runs later on. Orioles starter Chris Tillman kept pace with Greene for six innings. The Yankees scored a run in the third on a double by Mark Teixeira but lost another run when Derek Jeter was thrown out at the plate.

In the seventh, a pair of two-out hits, a single by Jeter off Tillman and a double by Jacoby Ellsbury off reliever T.J. McFarland, gave the Yanks two key insurance run. Brian McCann’s third hit of the game almost got another run in, but a strong throw to the plate by center fielder Adam Jones nailed Ellsbury.

It was encouraging to see the Yankees put together a sustained attack in the late innings, but as it turned out one run was all Greene needed. After he got the first out of the eighth, Greene was removed for lefthander David Huff, who gave up a single to Nick Markakis. Shawn Kelley got the final two outs of the inning before David Robertson finished it off with a perfect ninth for his 23rd save.

So after two brilliant starts, Greene is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA and has given the Yankees hope that there may be more good stuff to come.

“He’s stepping up; that’s for sure,” Girardi told reporters. “He’s earning starts is what he’s doing.”

Weary bullpen costly to Phelps and Yanks

With a spent bullpen from Wednesday night’s 14-inning marathon, the Yankees did not have much fortification for Thursday night’s starter, David Phelps. Looking at the 9-3 Indians final, it may be hard to believe that it was a 3-0 game through six innings and all Yankees at that.

Phelps sustained his fourth straight no-decision, and this one really hurt. He pitched very well in spots, wiggled out of danger at other times and was working on a five-hit shutout going into the seventh inning. But when the first two Cleveland batters singled, Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to make a change. Three batters later, the Yankees’ lead was gone.

Lefthander Matt Thornton gave up an infield single to Jason Kipnis that loaded the bases. Asdrubal followed with a drive into the right field corner for a bases-clearing triple that tied the score and left Phelps with yet another ND. Jacoby Ellsbury’s dazzling catch of a Michael Brantley prevented another Indians hit, but it was a sacrifice fly that gave the Tribe the lead.

Righthander Jim Miller could not stop the bleeding in the eighth when the Indians struck for five more runs on five hits, including two-run home runs by catcher Roberto Perez, who had a strong major-league debut (3-for-4, 1 walk, 2 RBI) and Carlos Santana.

The turnaround was a real shame for Phelps, who has not had much to show for an impressive string of starts. Over his past six outings, Phelps is 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA. Considering the state of the Yankees’ rotation, four-fifths of which have landed on the disabled list, Phelps has proved a real boon for the Yankees.

The Indians’ late outburst only served to illuminate early missed opportunities by the Yankees to pile on to their lead. They left 11 runners on base over the first six innings, twice standing the bags loaded.

A couple of Triple A call-ups were responsible for the Yankees’ offense. Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run home run in the fourth. One inning later, Yangervis Solarte, just back from Scranton with Carlos Beltran on the 7-day concussion list, singled in a run. Derek Jeter had two hits for his 1,000th career multi-hit game, only the sixth major-leaguer since 1900 to reach that plateau. Ichiro Suzuki’s pinch single in the eighth inning was his 2,800th hit in the majors on top of the 1,278 he had in Japan. Suzuki might have been called on to pitch if Miller had been unable to get the third out of the eighth inning.

The loss was a blow to the Yankees going into a three-game set at Baltimore. The Orioles beat Washington to move four games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East standings, which means the Yankees cannot move into first place even with a series sweep the weekend before the All-Star break.

Solarte kept playing hard, earned recall

One of the dangers of a player being sent down to the minor leagues during a season is that he may pout and fall into a funk after he leaves the major league club. A manager always tells a player not to let that happen and that whatever he does down in the minors is watched closely so that he always has the chance of coming back.

Yangvervis Solarte obviously took that message from Yankees manager Joe Girardi to heart last week when he was farmed out to Triple A Scranton. Solarte is no stranger to the minor leagues, of course. He spent eight years there before making it with the Yankees out of spring training camp back in April.

In five games at Scranton, Solarte batted .600 with three doubles, a triple and five RBI in 20 at-bats. That’s right; he went 12-for-20 and had a 1.469 OPS in his brief time with the RailRiders. That earned him a recall Thursday and a return to the lineup at third base for the series finale at Cleveland.

Solarte was added to the roster because outfielder-designated hitter Carlos Beltran was placed on the seven-day concussion list after he suffered a broken nose during batting practice before Wednesday night’s game when a batted ball ricocheted off the side of the cage and struck him in the face.

“You don’t expect that to happen when you’re practicing,” Beltran said on. “I had a headache for the whole day. Now it’s getting better. Hopefully tomorrow it will get better and I could be back soon.”

Girardi said Beltran will not return until the Friday after the All-Star break, July 18, when the Yankees open an inter-league, weekend series against the Reds.

There was no update on the condition of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who is on the 15-day disabled list because of right elbow inflammation. Tanaka underwent an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and traveled to Seattle where Dr. Chris Ahmad, the Yankees’ team physician, is attending an orthopedist convention.

McCann unhappy with start, happy with New York

As if he did not have enough to deal with, Brian McCann had to respond Tuesday to a New York Post article in which his former hitting coach, Terry Pendleton of the Braves, questioned the catcher’s decision to leave his home-state team to sign as a free agent with the Yankees.

“New York is not Brian,” Pendleton said during an interview at Citi Field where the Braves were scheduled against the Mets. “That’s my opinion. I knew if he chose New York, there would be more than he expected or knew about. He’ll never be comfortable with that. Going from Atlanta to New York is a different animal. Brian McCann is going to put more heat on himself and for him, trying to do more is the worst thing for him. I’ve learned that. That money is hanging over his head. A lot of guys say, ‘I’ve got to live up to that,’ instead of, ‘They signed you to play your game.’ “

McCann took the high road, which is consistent with his nature. He praised Pendleton for his past help during his time in Atlanta and then gently disputed his opinion. In the article, Pendleton, a former National League Most Valuable Player (1991 with the Braves), added that McCann would have been better off if he was leaving Atlanta to go to Texas rather than New York.

“I read the article; I disagree,” McCann told reporters in Cleveland where the Yankees are amid a four-game set against the Indians. “I absolutely love it here [New York]. I’ve got off to a slow start, but I absolutely love it here. It’s his opinion. That’s all I can say, it’s his opinion on it.”

McCann has struggled in the first half with a batting average some 40 points below his career mark, but there have been signs lately that despite a sore left foot he is coming around offensively. He returned to the lineup Monday and had three hits. His third-inning single Tuesday night was his ninth hit in his past 22 at-bats, a .409 pace.

“I really haven’t noticed a big difference,” he said. “It’s still baseball. It’s still you put a uniform on, you go out and put your best foot forward. That’s what I’m doing. It just hasn’t gone quite like I wish it would, but at the same time, we’ve got a whole half of baseball left. We’re in a pennant race and those are the things that I’m focused on.”

“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes it takes people a little time to adjust. I think people are just looking at his average when they’re talking about his numbers. From a production standpoint he has been pretty decent. He has done a great job behind home plate with our pitching staff. You put all those things together and yeah, he’s not hitting .280, but he’s played pretty well. I think he’ll be fine. I don’t think it will be an issue. I think he loves it here. I think he enjoys playing here. And I think Brian expects a lot from himself. So people expecting a lot from him is not going to bother him.”

Yanks fall below .500, latest in season since ’07

South of .500 went the Yankees Wednesday on what should have been a feel-good day with a special ceremony commemorating Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech of 75 years ago. A moving video before the game featured Derek Jeter and baseball’s 30 current first baseman reading the entire text of the Iron Horse’s impromptu address in which he essentially bid farewell to the sport because of his illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that now bears his name.

The 6-3 loss to the Rays before a crowd of 42,343 at Yankee Stadium was a dismal end to a very disappointing homestand as well as a 15-game stretch against American League East foes in which they could have made some real headway.

“It started off good and ended badly,” Girardi said of the stretch in which the Yankees swept a three-game set from the Blue Jays and proceeded to lose nine of the next 12 games, including the past five in a row, their longest losing steak of the season. “We lost every series after sweeping Toronto and had chances to win a number of games.”

You probably keep reading media accounts of how the Yankees are in the market to improve their pitching. Well, during the past homestand, pitching was the least of their problems. The Yanks’ staff pitched to a 3.16 ERA in the six games. That is good enough to win a lot more than one game usually.

A greater problem for the Yankees is their offense. They averaged 3.17 runs per game in the homestand while hitting .222 as a team and slugging .362, appalling numbers. They batted .146 in 41 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees were without two of their most productive hitters, Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury, in Wednesday’s game due to minor ailments. Tex had fluid drained from his right knee while Ellsbury, in manager Joe Girardi’s words, was “banged up.”

Yet a lineup in which the 3-through-6 hitters were all batting under .230 managed to get 10 hits, including home runs by Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, but were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

“We swung the bat better, but in a couple of rallies we couldn’t get the big hit,” Girardi said. “We’re being outscored and out-hit at home.”

The Yankees’ record at the Stadium is 18-23. Overall, it is 41-42, the first time they have been under .500 since April 11 when they were 5-6 after the 11th game of the season. It is the latest point in a season that the Yankees have been under .500 since 2007 when they were 42-43 July 7. The Yankees went on to a 94-68 record that season and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card entry, so there is still hope.

“I don’t see confidence as a problem,” Girardi said. “I still believe in this team because there is talent in that room. We need to play better.”

Yanks barely over .500 at halfway point

There was a point Monday night when it seemed like Joe Girardi was managing as if this was Game 7 of the World Series instead of a game in late June.

The score was 2-2 in the eighth inning. Dellin Betances, the third of six Yankees pitchers in the game, had just walked two batters after two were out. Girardi hopped out of the dugout and made the call to David Robertson. Using his closer in the eighth inning of a tie game was certainly an indication that Girardi wanted to win this game badly.

Robertson and Betances have been the Yankees’ best relievers, but on this night neither got the job done. Robertson gave up a single to Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan that gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.

You cannot fault Girardi. After losing two of three games to American League East rivals in each of their previous three series, the skipper wanted very much to get a victory at the start of this series, the fifth straight against division foes.

Brian Roberts gave the Yankees that opportunity with his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to right with one out in the ninth off Joel Peralta, whose blown save cost Yankee killer Chris Archer a winning decision.

Archer gave the Yankees his usual hard time, although he did blow a 2-0 lead on solo homers by Matt Joyce and Kevin Kiermaier by giving up two runs in the bottom of the third. Archer asked for trouble by hitting Ichiro Suzuki with a 1-2 pitch to start the inning. He came around to score on a triple to right by Brett Gardner. The Rays conceded a run by playing the infield back against Derek Jeter, who obliged with one of his four ground balls to second base in the game that scored Gardner.

And there it stood until the eighth when the Rays scratched that run off Betances and Robertson. David Phelps had started for the Yankees and gave up the two long balls but otherwise was solid. Roberts’ homer hung a no-decision on Archer, who is 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA against the Yankees in his career, including 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Whatever lift Roberts’ shot gave the Yankees was short-lived. The Rays scored a run with two out in the 12th to send the Yankees to their third straight loss and put their record at 41-40 at the halfway mark of the season.

“It has been up and down,” Girardi said. “We have had our share of issues in the first half, but we’re still in the thick of it.”

Rookie Jose Ramirez walked Brandon Guyer with two out in the 12th. Guyer’s steal of second base was crucial, putting him in position to score on a single to center by Logan Forsythe. Rays reliever Brad Boxberger retired the Yankees in order in both the 11th and the 12th and was the winning pitcher.

Tampa Bay has been hit hardest in the division by injuries but still presented a problem for the Yankees Monday night.

There’s that word again

That word is back.

Idiot.

Remember, that was the phrase popularized by Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar in 2004 when the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought and won the World Series. The Boston players referred to themselves as “idiots.”

So what to make of Mike Napoli’s use of the word Saturday night when he was caught on FOX microphones in the dugout saying “What an idiot!” in reference to Masahiro Tanaka for throwing him a fastball on a 1-2 count that the first baseman hit over the right field fence for what proved a game-winning home run.

Clearly, it was one of those heat-of-the-moment things that can often get blown up, particularly in a rivalry as historically volatile as Yankees-Red Sox.

Tanaka shook off catcher Brian McCann twice before throwing the fateful heater that Napoli tagged to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth that held up. Tanaka had made Napolo look foolish swinging at two split-fingered fastballs during the at-bat. On 1-2, McCann called for another splitter. Tanaka shook his head. McCann put down fingers for a slider, which was a very effective pitch for Tanaka. Again, a head shake. Tanaka wanted to come upstairs with gas, and Napoli was delighted to get a pitch he could handle.

Managers Joe Girardi of the Yankees and John Farrell of the Red Sox downplayed the situation before Sunday night’s game, which was also nationally televised, this time on ESPN. I agreed with Girardi’s assessment, that Napoli did not mean to insult Tanaka and that he was just happy not to have gotten another splitter or one of those devastating sliders.

“I haven’t seen anything in Mike Napoli that he is a guy that shows people up or he is a guy that degrades people,” Girardi said. “I don’t make too much of it. I think we might be making too much out of one pitch. If you score three runs, it really doesn’t matter. If you win 3-2, you are going to say, ‘Man, he pitched another great game.’ Since we lost it, 2-1, the focus is on that one pitch.”

“I know we have the utmost respect for Tanaka,” Farrell added, “and I know Mike Napoli does.”

Some columnists were writing before the series that the rivalry may be losing some of its juice now with a new cast of characters that have not yet made the same impact. Major League Baseball would only have itself to blame if things get ugly between the clubs over this. MLB allows FOX to put mikes in the dugout, supposedly to “enhance” the viewers’ enjoyment of the game.

It could have been worse. Napoli at least did not use the players’ favorite adjective, which cannot be printed here.

Tanaka bested by Lester in classic pitching duel

Does anyone actually think Masahiro Tanaka should not have pitched the ninth inning for the Yankees Saturday night? I mean, really? Talk about severe second guessing. Yankees manager Joe Girardi was asked why he did not have David Robertson pitch the ninth instead of Tanaka.

Look, if Girardi knew that Tanaka was going to give up a solo home run to Mike Napoli on a ball that barely cleared the right field wall on a 1-2 pitch, then, sure, he would rather have D-Rob out there. But, come on, Tanaka was pitching a gem, deserved a better fate and certainly did not deserve his manager having to be grilled for staying with his best pitcher.

Yes, this one hurt, a 2-1 loss to the Red Sox for the Yankees, who failed to take advantage of Toronto and Baltimore both losing earlier in the day. But as good as Tanaka was, Red Sox starter Jon Lester was slightly better.

For one thing, Lester kept the ball in the yard. Both the runs off Tanaka were on solo homers. The other was by catcher David Ross in the third inning. If a pitcher is going to give up home runs, let them be with nobody on base. You hear that all the time, so cut Tanaka some slack.

Look at what he did in the fourth inning when Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz scorched him for a single and double, respectively. Strikeout, strikeout, groundout to the next three batters, slamming the door.

The Yankees’ only run off Lester was unearned due to an error by Boston shortstop Stephen Drew in the bottom of the third. Lester took a no-hitter into the sixth, withstood three singles that inning and continued to keep the Yankees off balance.

For a wild moment there in the eighth, it appeared as if the Yanks had taken the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury seemed to have stolen second base, continued to third on an errant throw by Ross and then headed for the plate that was uncovered. What Ellsbury and most of the people in the Yankee Stadium sellout crowd of 48,433 did not know was that the pitch Ellsbury stole on was a called third strike by plate umpire Andy Fletcher on Mark Teixeira.

The Red Sox did hit Tanaka hard in the ninth. Pedroia led off the inning with his third hit, a line single to center. Ortiz hit a blistering one-hopper gloved by third baseman Yangervis Solarte on the overshift that became a double play. Tanaka got two strikes on Napoli only to lose the battle when the Boston first baseman hit an opposite-field homer. Koji Uehara closed it out for the Red Sox with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 17th save.

Tanaka has lost consecutive starts for the first time this season. His three complete games are the most for a Yankees rookie since 1998 when Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez had the same total. It was a tough loss for Tanaka, but I for one applaud the manager for leaving him in the game.

Girardi awarded for sticking with Nuno

It would not have surprised anyone if Yankees manager Joe Girardi used Thursday’s open date to skip over Vidal Nuno in the rotation. The lefthander has struggled over the past six weeks as an emergency starter in the Yankees’ injury-riddled rotation. With Thursday’s open date, the Yanks’ first off day in 24 days, Girardi could have sat down Nuno and kept the rest of the rotation on schedule.

Fans of Masahiro Tanaka would not have minded that, either, because by starting Friday night the Japanese righthander would have put himself in position to pitch in the All-Star Game. As it is now, while he may be named to the American League squad Tanaka is doubtful to be able to pitch in the July 15 All-Star Game at Minneapolis’ Target Field because barring rainouts his final start before the break would be Sunday, July 13, at Baltimore.

Despite fielding many questions about Nuno’s place in the starting unit, Girardi reiterated that his rotation will have no change, at least not for now. So Nuno took the mound Friday night against the Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series in front of a full-house crowd of 48,522 at Yankee Stadium and came up with his best start of the season.

Nuno pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed two hits and two walks with five strikeouts to earn his first winning decision in nine starts since May 7 and end a personal four-game losing streak. As recently as two starts ago at Oakland, Nuno was pounded for eight earned runs in three innings as his ERA skied to 5.90. He dropped it to 5.42 Friday night with all the zeroes he put up on the scoreboard.

There is still much room for improvement for Nuno, but this was a positive start toward that end. He limited the defending World Series champions to a single by Jonny Gomes in the second and a double by Brock Holt in the third. When he walked David Ortiz with two out in the sixth, Nuno was replaced by Dellin Betances, who along with Adam Warren and Matt Thornton preserved the shutout.

Mark Teixeira gave Nuno a 1-0 lead in the first inning against righthander Brandon Workman on a sacrifice fly. The Yankees broke open the game in fourth with a pair of home runs, a two-run blast by Kelly Johnson and a solo shot by Brett Gardner back-to-back. They pushed the score to 6-0 with another homer in the eighth, a two-run bomb into the second deck in right field by Brian McCann off lefthander Craig Breslow.

It was a great way to start the weekend. And by not toying with the rotation, Girardi created a dream matchup Saturday night at the Stadium with Tanaka opposing Jon Lester.

D-Rob called on to avoid sweep at Toronto

Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances Wednesday night. The manager wanted to avoid being swept in Toronto as the Yankees had done to the Blue Jays last week at Yankee Stadium. Toward that effort, Girardi did not hesitate to have David Robertson work a five-out save to salvage at least one victory in the three-game series.

The Yankees came back from Tuesday night’s sloppy loss to turn back the Blue Jays, 5-3, and end a four-game losing streak. The Jays jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Jose Reyes hit the first pitch from Hiroki Kuroda for a home run, but the Yankees attacked Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison for four runs in the third and held the lead with solid ensemble work from the bullpen.

Kuroda earned his first victory in five starts since May 28, although he had not pitched that poorly (3.33 ERA) during the four-game stretch in which he had two losses and two no-decisions. The Japanese righthander gave up two runs on a two-out single by Melky Cabrera in the fifth that made it a one-run game but worked out of trouble in the sixth and departed with one out and a runner on first base in the seventh with the Yankees up by two runs.

Shawn Kelley gave up a single to Reyes but then got Cabrera on a fly to right. Girardi brought in lefthander Matt Thornton to face lefty-swinging Adam Lind. During the at-bat, Anthony Gose and Reyes, two of the fastest players in the major leagues, pulled off a gutsy double steal. Thornton got the job done, however, as Lind hit the ball right back to the pitcher for the third out.

Adam Warren started the eighth, but when he gave up a one-out single to Dioner Navarro Girardi summoned Robertson. D-Rob had not pitched in a week and was plenty strong. He finished off the eighth with two strikeouts, then got another punchout to start the ninth before inducing two ground balls for his 18th save.

The Yankees were only 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and had two runners thrown out trying to steal but got key hits when it mattered. Getting a rare start behind the plate, Francisco Cervelli doubled home the Yanks’ first run in the third inning. The first of Jacoby Ellsbury’s three hits was a two-out single that sent home Cervelli. Mark Teixeira followed with his 14th home run to make the score 4-1.

After the Jays closed to 4-3, the Yankees scored a run without a hit in the seventh on two walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly by Teixeira.

The Yankees can now exhale Thursday, their first day off after playing for 23 straight days. It is also Derek Jeter’s 40th birthday. He and his teammates could surely use the rest.

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