Results tagged ‘ Joe Torre ’
Zoilo Almonte may not have realized it, but his single with two out in the sixth inning Thursday night off Chris Sale took pressure off opposing manager Robin Ventura. Before that at-bat, Sale was working on a perfect game as the 6-foot-6 lefthander continued his dominance over the Yankees.
Where Ventura comes in is that Sale was on a strict pitch count. He was making his first start after coming off the disabled list and a left arm flexor injury. The White Sox skipper was likely relieved when Almonte poked his single into center field. Sale kept the shutout in place by striking out Jacoby Ellsbury to end the inning and as it turned out his outing.
Any temptation Ventura might have had in sending Sale out there to keep a perfecto in place went out the window at that point. It reminded me of that game in Oakland in 1996 when David Cone had a no-hitter through seven innings in his first start after coming back from an aneurysm.
Manager Joe Torre refused to risk Cone’s health to let him continue the no-no and took him out. The Athletics broke up the no-hitter in the eighth, but the Yankees held on to win the game. Torre did the right thing, and I think Ventura would have done the same but did not have to face the question.
Chris Sale (naplenews.com)
Sale was as unhittable as a pitcher can be. While on rehab at Triple A, he faced 12 batters and struck out 11. Sale treated the Yankees pretty much the same. Other than Almonte’s hit, only one other batted ball off him went to the outfield, not that there were all that many batted balls. Sale had 10 strikeouts and got seven other outs in the infield.
Sadly, the Yankees are getting used to this type of treatment from Sale. His earned run average in eight career appearances against them is 0.85 with a 3-0 record and 40 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings. Sale has been even tougher in his five games against them at U.S. Cellular Field where he is 3-0 with a 0.38 ERA and 33 K’s in 23 2/3 innings while holding them to a .125 batting average in 80 at-bats.
For the second straight game, the Yankees came up with a two-run rally in the ninth after being scoreless for eight innings, but this time it only cut the deficit to one run instead of tying the game and sending it into extra innings where they won in the 13th.
A two-out, two-run single by Mark Teixeira off Chicago closer Ronald Belisario got the Yanks on the board finally, but Alfonso Soriano was called out on strikes to leave them one run short.
It was a tough loss for David Phelps to absorb. The righthander gave the weary bullpen a break by going seven innings in an efficient 104 pitches. He gave up two runs in the second after two out on successive doubles by Paul Konerko and Alejandro De Aza and a single by Adam Eaton. Phelps retired the final 10 batters he faced from the fourth through the seventh.
Alfredo Aceves pitched the eighth and gave up what proved an important run for the White Sox. After getting two infield outs following a leadoff double by Gordon Beckham, Aceves yielded a single to Adam Dunn for that valuable third run.
The Yankees have now gone 25 innings without an extra-base hit, a power outage of epidemic proportion.
Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park will continue to expand this year with plaques commemorating the careers of Hall of Fame relief pitcher Goose Gossage, Hall of Fame-elect manager Joe Torre and two of the most popular Yankees players of recent vintage, right fielder Paul O’Neill and first baseman Tino Martinez. The ceremonies are part of a recognition series that will include center fielder Bernie Williams in 2015.
Martinez and Gossage will be celebrated during Old-Timers’ Day weekend – Tino Saturday, June 21, and the Goose Sunday, June 22. O’Neill’s ceremony will take place Saturday, Aug. 9. The ceremony for Torre that will include the retiring of his uniform No. 6 will be Saturday, Aug. 23, in Monument Park.
Acquired by the Yankees in a trade with Seattle prior to the 1996 season, Martinez went on to play in seven seasons with New York (1996-2001, ’05), helping to lead the team to four World Series victories during that time (1996, ’98-2000). He combined to hit .276 with 192 home runs and 739 RBI in his pinstriped career. He is probably best known for his grand slam off the Padres’ Mark Langston in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series at the Stadium that gave the Yanks the lead and helped propel them to their 24th Series title in franchise history.
Gossage, who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, played in parts of seven seasons with the Yankees (1978-83, ’89), winning a World Series with the team in 1978. The nine-time All-Star compiled a 42-28 record with a 2.14 ERA with the Yankees, including 151 saves and 512 strikeouts in 319 games. He allowed just 390 hits in 533 innings pitched during his time in pinstripes. Gossage trails only Mariano Rivera (652) and Dave Righetti (224) on the all-time Yankees saves list.
O’Neill, who currently serves as a game analyst for the YES Network, spent the final nine seasons of his 17-year Major League career in the Bronx (1993-2001), winning four world titles in the Bronx (1996, ’98-2000). He concluded his Yankees career with a .303 batting average, 304 doubles, 185 home runs and 858 RBI. O’Neill won the American League batting title in 1994 with a .359 average. Affectionately known as a “warrior” to many of his fans, Paulie played in 235 consecutive games in right field without making an error from July 1995 to May 1997. In 2001, at the age of 38, O’Neill became the oldest player in history to steal 20 bases and hit 20 home runs in the same season.
Currently serving as Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations, Torre spent 12 seasons as Yankees manager (1996-2007). He steered the team to six pennants (1996, ’98-2001, ’03) and four World Series championships (1996, ’98-2000). Torre compiled a 1,173-767 (.605) regular season record and a 76-47 (.618) postseason mark during his Yankees tenure, leading the club to the playoffs in each year that he managed the team. While with the organization, he went 21-11 in the World Series, 27-14 in the ALCS and 28-22 in the ALDS. His regular season wins total is second in club history to only Joe McCarthy, who went 1,460-867 (.627) over 16 seasons.
Torre, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July, will become only the third manager to have his number retired by the team. The others are Casey Stengel (37) and Billy Martin (1). The No. 8 retired for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra, both of whom also had stints as Yankees manager, was based on their playing careers as catchers.
Friday night’s opener of a three-game series against the Rays marked the 1,000th career game as Yankees manager for Joe Girardi. He became the seventh active manager to manage 1,000 games with his current team and the sixth Yankees skipper to go into four figures.
Girardi’s .580 winning percentage based on a 579-420 record entering play Friday night was the highest among the 1,000-game managers, ahead of the Angels’ Mike Scioscia (.543 on 1,247-1,048), the Rangers’ Ron Washington (.538 on 626-537), the Rays’ Joe Maddon (.520 on 690-636), the Giants’ Bruce Bochy (.513 on 596-566) the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire (.512 on 1,010-961) and the Padres’ Buddy Black (.475 on 533-611).
Girardi’s winning percentage ranks fifth on the Yankees’ list of 1,000-plus game managers, behind Joe McCarthy (.627 on 1,460-867), Casey Stengel (.623 on 1,149-696), Joe Torre (.605 on 1,173-767) and Miller Huggins (.597 on 1,067-719) and ahead of Ralph Houk (.539 on 944-806).
Friday also was the 75th anniversary of the end of Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games. Gehrig took himself out of the lineup May 2, 1939 at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, a 22-2 Yankees victory over the Tigers. Babe Dahlgren played first base and had a double and a home run.
Gehrig, who was later diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral schleroris (ALS), did not play another game in the majors and died in 1941, two years after the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by acclamation.
Future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. eventually broke Gehrig’s mark in 1995 and continued the streak to 2,632 before he ended it Sept. 19, 1998 in a game between the Orioles and the Yankees at Baltimore’s Camden Yards.
Yankees fans coming to see Derek Jeter play Sunday night at Yankee Stadium were disappointed again. For the second straight game, Jeter was on the bench as rookie back-up infielder Dean Anna was the shortstop for the Yankees in the four-game series finale against the Red Sox on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi intended to play Jeter Sunday night but decided to be caution because the Captain has a strained right quad. The area tightened up on him Friday night. Jeter did not play Saturday. Girardi reasoned that with an open date Monday Jeter will have sufficient time for the injury to heal and be ready to play Tuesday night against the Cubs in an inter-league game at the Stadium.
“He’s not real happy,” Girardi said of Jeter, who is batting .286 in 35 at-bats. “I told him missing one game is better than missing four to six weeks, if something were to happen.”
Jeter has a history of hating the bench, and with this being his final season following an injury-riddled 2013 season that reduced his output to 17 games he is all the more anxious to play.
“He has been that way since Day 1,’ Girardi said. “He used to fight Joe [Torre]. ‘How am I going to break Cal’s [Ripken Jr.'s] record if you keep doing this to me?’ he would say. It is never a real comfortable situation when you tell him you are going to give him a day. I think he understands what I’m trying to do. In his heart he just wants to be out there. He’s 39 years old. I think you have to be smart about it. There are times where you are going to have to give him a day off.”
What a way for Andy Pettitte to end his major-league career. The lefthander gave Yankees fans one more brilliant performance before a crowd of 37,199 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, some 20 miles from his hometown of Deer Park, Texas. Pettitte completed his 18-season career with a complete game, his first in seven years.
The 2-1 victory over the Astros brought Pettitte’s season record to 11-11, which means that he never had a losing record, the first pitcher to do so in a career of 15 years or more. Andy had one other .500 season – 2008 when he was 14-14 – otherwise it was nothing but winning campaigns.
“It’s a shame you have to grow old,” Pettitte said immediately after the game.
Yes, it happens to all players, even his teammate, Mariano Rivera, who is also finally stepping away from the game at season’s end. Pettitte hated walking away from the game so much once before that he came back out of retirement to pitch another two years for the Yankees.
The finish was a momentous way to go out. It reminded me of how it all began. The day I arrived at what was the last spring training camp the Yankees had at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1995, then manager Buck Showalter drove up to me in a golf cart on the sidelines of the main field and said, “Hop in; I want you to see someone.”
He drove to me to one of the back fields where two pitchers were warming up. I have long forgotten who one of them was, but the one I remember was Andy Pettitte. He wasn’t as cut as he would later become; he still had some love handles, but one pitch after the other sunk with stinging action.
Showalter, who grew up in the Florida panhandle and attended Mississippi State University, had an affinity for Southern players. Still does, probably, so I said to him, “Okay, which is it? Louisiana or Arkansas?”
“Texas,” Buck said. “You can’t quote me on this, but this guy might win 15 games for us this year.”
“Pretty tall order for a rookie,” I said.
Showalter missed on his prediction. Pettitte won 12 games, not 15, but he helped stabilize a rotation snagged by an injury to Jimmy Key, who finished second to David Cone, then with the Royals, in the previous year’s American League Cy Young Award race, and was a key ingredient in the Yankees’ reaching post-season play for the first time in 15 years, as the newfangled wild card.
Pettitte’s victory total was second on the staff only to another former Cy Young Award winner, Jack McDowell, who was 15-10. Pettitte’s 12-9 record and 4.17 ERA was not overwhelming, but it was good enough for him to finish third in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award voting behind winner Marty Cordova of the Twins and runner-up Garret Anderson of the Angels, a couple of outfielders.
The lefthander started Game 2 of the Division Series against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium and was not involved in the decision, a 7-5 Yankees victory on a two-run home run in the 15th inning by Jim Leyritz that gave them a 2-0 lead in the series before they went 0-for-Seattle.
With Showalter gone after turning down a two-year contract offer from George Steinbrenner, Pettitte had to prove himself all over again to a new manager, Joe Torre, in 1996. It wasn’t easy, either. Torre at first thought the deeply-religious Pettitte was a bit soft. Yet start after start, Pettitte kept the Yankees in games and ended up winning 21 of them and becoming a Cy Young Award candidate, although he finished second in the voting to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen.
Pettitte never came closer to winning that award, but even better he won over Torre with 8 1/3 gutty innings of shutout ball in Game 5 of the World Series at Atlanta in the last game played at Fulton County Stadium, a 1-0 Yankees victory that put them up 3-2 and in position to take the Series two nights later, which they did. From that point on, Torre never questioned Pettitte’s toughness again.
Pettitte pitched that night with the authority he showed during his 21-8 regular season as well as Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Baltimore that clinched the Yankees’ first World Series appearance in 15 years. The key inning for Pettitte in Game of the ’96 Series was the sixth when he got himself in and out of trouble.
He gave up singles to opposing pitcher John Smoltz and center field Marquis Grissom, whose fourth-inning error accounted for the game’s only run. Pettitte pounced on a sacrifice attempt by Mark Lemke and forced Smoltz at third base, which prompted Braves manager Bobby Cox to say later, “He was a cat on that bunt; it took a lot of guts to throw that ball to third base.”
On Pettitte’s next pitch, Chipper Jones hit a one-hopper to the mound. Pettitte was a cat again, starting an inning-ending double play.
“Andy took the ball every five days, and if he had it his way, he’d get it more often than that,” Torre recalled. “What’s really unusual about him is that a lot of times pitchers are more consumed with themselves. Andy was probably the consummate team player, especially for a pitcher. He was so concerned not only about the day he pitched but he always had his arm around a young guy in between starts.
“He has been a huge favorite of mine because he’s such a standup guy, and he hasn’t changed from day one. He was a great teammate, and I think that’s why he won so many games. The guys that play behind him understand how intense he is, and it becomes contagious.
“I think the impact he had on the teams we had in the mid-to-late 1990’s was enormous even though he was never the guy in the spotlight. He liked the fact that he wasn’t the No. 1 guy even though I trusted him like a No. 1 guy. But he didn’t have an ego that dictated he needed all that attention.
“He did a great job of channeling his energy into competing, and he was about as consistent a performer as anybody in terms of getting your money’s worth. He glued our staff together. When you’re performing with the same people year-in and year-out, it’s always nice to have that security blanket. He was certainly that guy on the pitching staff.”
For other managers, the Astros’ Jimy Williams and Phil Garner and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi, Pettitte proved just as reliable in a career he brought to a halt this week.
That Game 5 of the 1996 World Series four nights after the Braves handed his head to him in Game 1 (seven runs, six hits in 2 1/3 innings) remains the centerpiece of Pettitte’s career, but there were plenty of other times when he gave the Yankees everything needed from a pitcher.
He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 ALCS when he won both his starts and held a Seattle team that had won 116 games during the regular season to four runs in 14 1/3 innings. Even in defeat, Pettitte could be magnificent, such as the Game 6 showdown with the Marlins’ Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series, Andy’s last start for the Yankees before signing as a free agent with his hometown Houston club.
Three years later, Pettitte was back with the Yankees reunited with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and helped ring in the new Yankee Stadium by winning the clinching games of all three post-season series in 2009 as the team achieved its 27th championship. In 2010, he was a Cy Young Award candidate for half the season before a groin injury cost him at least a dozen starts. That sent him into his first retirement, but he was lured back in 2012. Pettitte dealt with health issues each of the past two seasons yet was no less competitive
“Andy was a great teammate and a wonderful guy,” Rivera said. “He was a fighter and all about winning, and he was respected by every person in the clubhouse.”
“It has been a pleasure to play with Andy for all these years,” Jeter said. “The Yankees have been fortunate to have him representing the organization both on and off the field. More importantly, it has been an honor to get to know him as a person, and I consider him family. I wish for nothing but happiness for him and his family, as I know how important they are to him.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for Hall of Fame talk about Pettitte to sprout. Let’s give it the five-year wait before getting serious about that. Pettitte has a lot going for him – a won-loss record more than 100 games over .500 at 256-153, a postseason-record 19 victories and winning five rings in eight World Series overall. He also has some things going against him – allowing more hits than innings pitched, a rather high ERA (3.85) and three more dangerous capital letters, HGH, which he admitted to using after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report.
His path to Cooperstown won’t be smooth. Over the next few years, the ballot will contain the names of starting pitchers superior to him in terms of statistics – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, even Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.
“I don’t think about the Hall of Fame unless I’m asked about it,” Pettitte said. “I feel blessed that people will bring my name into that conversation. Have I been a pitcher who dominated? Every game has been a grind for me. I’d continue to pitch if [the Hall of Fame] was a desire of mine. I wouldn’t have retired in the first place.”
The writers who vote will be talking about him for a while. But to Yankees fans, Pettitte will always be in their personal Halls of Fame for his competitiveness and remarkable consistency.
The Angels team that arrived at Yankee Stadium to open a four-game series Monday night was not the team everybody expected to challenge for the American League West title. Expectations were high after the Angels signed free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract for $125 million to be a bookend with three-time Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols.
Like the Yankees, the Angels are a fourth-place team in their division. Unlike the Yankees, who are still above .500 and a have a shot at a wild-card playoff spot, the Angels are somewhat buried at 10 games under .500. Pujols is lost for the season to injury. Hamilton, the AL MVP just three years ago, has had a subpar season (.221, 17 home runs, 55 RBI) yet was in the cleanup spot in manager Mike Scioscia’s lineup.
The Angels traditionally have given the Yankees a hard time. They were the only club against whom Joe Torre had a losing record in his 12 years as Yankees manager. Recent years have been a bit different.
Last year, the Yankees were 5-4 against Los Angeles in winning their second straight season series and their fourth straight non-losing season series against the Angels since 2009. That came on the heels of five straight losing season series from 2004-08. The Yanks’ 56-64 record against the Angels since 2000 is their only losing mark against any AL team over the span. The Yanks are 7-6 in the past 13 games between the clubs and 11-9 over the past 20.
The Angels won two of three games June 14-16 at Anaheim. At Yankee Stadium, the Yankees have won three of their past four games and six of their past eight against the Angels. The Yanks have won each of their past four home season series against L.A. Their 12-6 record over that span coincides with the move to the current Stadium (2009-12). It follows a stretch from 2003-08 of going 0-3-3 in home season series against the Angels.
Despite the Angels’ 53-63 record, the Yankees cannot take them lightly. Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have played the AL’s current top four teams (Tigers, 69-47; Red Sox, 71-49; Rangers, 68-50; Rays, 66-50) along with the Dodgers (67-50), who are tied for the third best record in the National League. The Yankees went 7-8 in those games but were 1-5 in games against the Padres (53-64) and the White Sox (44-72).
The Angels have significance in the career of Mariano Rivera, who made his major league debut May 23, 1995 at Anaheim. He started the game and allowed five earned runs, eight hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings. Mo also recorded his first career save against the Angels May 17, 1996 in an 8-5 victory at the original Stadium. In his one inning, Rivera struck out Randy Velarde looking, gave up a single to Mike Aldrete and retired Garrett Anderson on a double play for the first of 643 career saves.
Vernon Wells played two seasons with the Angels (2011-12) and batted .222 with 24 doubles, four triples, 36 home runs and 95 RBI in 208 games and 748 at-bats. . .Alex Rodriguez has 70 career home runs against the Angels, his most against any opponent and the most by any opposing hitter against the Angels. . . Curtis Granderson has homered in nine of his past 15 games against the Angels. . .Since the start of the 2009 season, Robinson Cano has hit .333 (51-for-153) in 39 games and 153 at-bats against the Angels with 15 multi-hit games and 21 extra-base hits (10 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs).
If only the weather had cooperated. Tuesday night was supposed to be special for Don Mattingly, who would have made his first appearance on the field at Yankee Stadium since he retired as a player after the 1995 season. He came back along with former manager Joe Torre in September 2010 for the unveiling of the plaque for the late owner George Steinbrenner but not in uniform.
“Donnie Baseball” was expected to receive a very warm welcome from Yankees fans even if he was wearing Dodgers blue as their manager in the club’s first regular-season game in the Bronx. A persistent rain forced the postponement of the game, however, which will be made up as part of a split-admission doubleheader Wednesday. It is hoped that a good sized crowd is on hand for that first game, so Mattingly can receive the ovation he richly deserves.
He is that rarity (think Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera) as a Yankees player than even Yankees haters liked. Mattingly wore the pinstripes proudly for 14 seasons as a player and was a loyal coach as well. He was a candidate for the managerial position after Torre left but lost the job to current skipper Joe Girardi, a situation Mattingly now considers a “blessing.”
“They treated me fairly, I thought,” Mattingly said of the Yankees’ front office. “Things work out for a reason. That would have been really bad timing for me. Terrible. I was going through some personal stuff that would have been miserable trying to manage for the first time and have that going on. So, that was a blessing in disguise. Coming to L.A. has been great, and obviously there’s been a lot of turmoil this year, but I love what I’m doing and I like being in L.A.”
Mattingly was going through a divorce at the time and ended up joining Torre with the Dodgers as bench coach. When Joe stepped down from the manager’s job two years ago, Mattingly succeeded him. Unfortunately, injuries have played a huge part in the Dodgers’ disappointing season, a situation for which his Yankees counterpart can relate. Girardi has had 13 players do 16 stints on the disabled list. Mattingly has had 15 players on the DL.
About coming back to New York, Mattingly said, “It’s not just the building, it’s the people. Seeing the guys in the clubhouse and around the Stadium, it’s a good feeling.”
Mattingly feels fortunate that he has been involved with two clubs with storied histories. He grew up in Evansville, Ind., where the Cardinals and the Reds were the clubs people listed to mostly on the radio. The Yankees were a dynasty from long ago to Mattingly until he finally arrived at the Stadium as a player.
“I’m always excited when we come back to New York,” he said. “I don’t quite understand the relationship [with the fans], to be honest. I came from a small town and just played. They seemed to appreciate that. That was nice for me because all I had to do was play.”
Mattingly had hoped to be a part of a Yankees-Dodgers World Series (they have opposed each other in October a record 11 times) in 2009, but Los Angeles lost to Philadelphia in the NL Championship Series.
“I didn’t really know much about the Yankees until I got here,” he said. “It starts in spring training. Mickey [Mantle] was still alive and came to camp. You’d see Whitey [Ford] and Yogi. You don’t understand the history until you get here. Now I’m in another place that it steeped in history, going back to Jackie [Robinson] breaking the color line, bringing baseball to the West Coast and having strong ties to the community. All the Rookie of the Year winners over the years that shows the commitment to players coming through the system, fighting for a championship year after year, it is very similar to the Yankees.”
“Donnie is one of the greatest Yankees that’s ever played,” Girardi said. “He’s one of the greatest teammates that has ever put on that uniform. I know I’ve always loved him and appreciated what he has done, and I know the fans have seen a lot more than I have. I think it’ll be a great day for him.”
It will just have to wait for one more day.
The only tickets valid for the 1:05 p.m. game Wednesday are tickets dated June 18. The game originally scheduled for June 19 remains scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. start. YES will cablecast the 1:05 p.m. game. Channel 9 will telecast the 7:05 p.m. game.
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Kevin Youkilis prepared to enjoy Monday’s open date for the Yankees. Instead, it became a busy day of making dozens of telephone calls to make sure friends and relatives of his in the Boston area were safe following the horrific events along the finish line of the Boston Marathon along Boylston Street.
“Sick to my stomach,” was Youkilis’ reaction to the two bombings that killed at least three people and injured hundreds of others. “It ate me up a lot.”
Youkilis played in Boston over nine seasons with the Red Sox and is married to a local girl, the former Julie Brady, sister of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Youkilis is quite familiar with the special feeling Massachusetts residents have for Patriots Day, a civic holiday that is unlike any other.
“I was on that finish line one year,” Youkilis said. “I would have been across the street and in plain view of where the first bomb went off. My father-in-law’s office is in that area. Luckily, he was not in his office.”
Few people are that day. Schools, post offices and most businesses are closed as the city fills up with people to cheer on the runners in the nation’s oldest marathon. The Red Sox were home for their 11 a.m. game against the Rays, which traditionally gets the day off to a festive start.
“It’s an amazing day,” Youkilis said. “Actually, players have a hard time getting to the park because they close off so many streets. It’s the most exciting day of the year in Boston. There is such a positive attitude. You see all those people cheering the people running whom they don’t even know. So many runners are out there for charity. My wife and her sister have run in the Marathon before. I texted everyone I knew up there just to make sure they were safe.”
The Yankees released a prepared statement, which read, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families who were affected by the bombings and our respect and admiration go out to the police, medical personnel and first responders who acted so heroically. We stand united with the participants, volunteers, staff and spectators of the Boston Marathon and the people of Boston. While we do not comment on safety and security measures at Yankee Stadium, this has always been our top priority and the public can be assured we are working with all levels of law enforcement and our own security personnel to ensure a safe environment.”
To honor the Boston community, the Yankees will stage a moment of silence prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Diamondbacks at the Stadium. The Fenway Park favorite, “Sweet Caroline,” will be played between the third and fourth innings. The song has a New York connection since it was written and performed by Brooklyn-bred Neil Diamond, but it has a special connotation in Boston as an eighth-inning anthem at Fenway. Diamond wrote the song in tribute to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, a Boston native.
“It is important that we recognize that we are behind the people of Boston,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The “Sweet Caroline” tribute will be similar to the “New York, New York” salute that Fenway Park fans stood for and sang when the Yankees first played there following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I remember how Joe Torre, then the manager, fought back tears when trying to describe his emotions of that night.
“Who would have ever thought you would hear people in Boston heartily singing that song in the Red Sox ballpark?” Joe told me later. “It shows that we really are a unified nation.”
Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Staring at a possible postseason elimination game Friday at Yankee Stadium in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles, Yankees manager Joe Girardi constructed a lineup without Alex Rodriguez. The die was cast in the previous two games when Girardi lifted Rodriguez in the late innings for pinch hitters Raul Ibanez in Game 3 and Eric Chavez in Game 4. For Game 5, A-Rod will be one of Girardi’s potential pinch hitters.
There is no getting around the fact that this is a major comedown for someone who won three American League Most Valuable Player Awards and is among the career leaders in home runs (fifth with 647), RBI (seventh with 1,950), extra-base hits (ninth with 1,189), total bases (ninth with 5,414) and runs scored (10th with 1,898).
This is hardly unprecedented in Yankees history. In Game 5 of the 1996 World Series at Atlanta, then Yankees manager Joe Torre had right-handed batting Cecil Fielder at first base and Charlie Hayes at third base against right-handed pitcher John Smoltz, over left-swinging Tino Martinez and Wade Boggs, respectively. The move paid off as Fielder had three hits and drove in the only run of the game as the Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the Series that they won in Game 6 back home.
As affectionately as Yankees fans feel about Martinez and fully acknowledging that Boggs was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, neither player was of the stature of Rodriguez. Girardi is managing the A-Rod of today, however, and not the one who won MVP Awards in pinstripes in 2005 and 2007 or the one who was a postseason star when the Yankees last won a World Series three years ago.
The reality of the 2012 ALDS is that Rodriguez has 2-for-16 (.125) with nine strikeouts. All of the Ks are against right-handed pitching, against whom A-Rod is hitless in 11 at-bats. So it can hardly have come as a surprise to anyone that such a decision was made. That said, A-Rod is not the only culprit in this series.
Curtis Granderson (.063, nine strikeouts), Nick Swisher (.133) and Robinson Cano (.111) have not lit up the skies, either.
The Yankees’ Game 4 loss also hurt in that with a Game 5 of the ALDS they have to use CC Sabathia and not have him ready to start Game 1 of the ALCS if they had won Thursday night. If the Yankees should win Game 5, they would not be able to use Sabathia in the ALCS until Game 3 Tuesday night at Detroit against Justin Verlander, who would be starting on regular rest while CC would be on short rest.
All that concern before Game 3 of the American League Division Series about where Alex Rodriguez was batting in the order obscured the fact that Raul Ibanez was not in the lineup against a right-handed starter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to have Eric Chavez play third base and use Rodriguez at designated hitter and keep Ibanez on the bench.
Oh, man, did that hunch pay off for Girardi and the Yankees. Ibanez, who only eight days earlier became the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and a walk-off RBI in extra innings in the same game, trumped that Wednesday night. This time, he not only homered to tie the score in the ninth but also in the 12th to win it.
This one will have the Elias Sports Bureau researchers up all night in their Fifth Avenue office trying to determine if what Ibanez did in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory over the Orioles was unprecedented in the history of postseason play. My guess is they will discover that the answer is yes. We already know that Ibanez is the first player to hit two home runs in a postseason game that he did not start.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter had identified Ibanez as a threat off the bench he had hoped to avoid when discussing his late-inning pitching maneuvers in Game 2. Ibanez’s performance in Game 3 justified Showalter’s concern. Ibanez, pinch hitting for A-Rod yet, sent the game into extras with a ninth-inning home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, whom the Yankees continue to rough up.
The Yankees mugged Johnson for five runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 at Baltimore in a non-save situation. This time it was a blown save for Johnson, the major-league leader in saves with 51 in the regular season.
Ibanez’s drive into the right field stands off a 1-0 fastball (at 94 miles per hour, no less) took a potential losing decision away from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who deserved a better fate after allowing only two runs (on solo homers by Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado, the O’s 8-and 9-hole hitters) in 8 1/3 strong innings. Ibanez was the Yankees’ best pinch hitter this season with a .320 average, two home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats and kept that distinction intact with Wednesday night’s feat.
Not even having to face a lefthander, Brian Matusz, fazed Ibanez in the 12th. He didn’t even wait as he swung at the first pitch – a 91-mph cut fastball – and thrust the Yankees into a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 series.
Pinch hitting for Rodriguez was a gutty decision for Girardi, although one that could hardly have been second-guessed. A-Rod was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game and is 1-for-12 (.083) with seven punchouts in the series. Ibanez is now 3-for-5 (.600) with two home runs in the ALDS.
Girardi looked at Ibanez the way Casey Stengel once did at Johnny Mize and Joe Torre once did at Darryl Strawberry. Mize and Strawberry were left-handed sluggers whose aim at the cozy right-field porch at Yankee Stadium gave many opposing managers cause for alarm, the same feeling Showalter had when thinking about Ibanez.
As unusual as it was to see Derek Jeter sitting in the Yankees dugout as his teammates took the field in the ninth inning, the more amazing aspect was that he was able to play at all after the third inning. The Captain aggravated a nagging bone bruise in his left ankle running out a triple in the bottom of that inning.
He gutted his way through the eighth before Girardi decided to keep a hobbling player on the field was too great a risk in what was then a one-run game. In his eighth-inning at-bat, Jeter nearly fell down when landing on his left ankle on the follow-through of a swing and miss.
The startling finish was something the Orioles are not accustomed to. Extra innings have been joyful ones for the Orioles, who had won 16 consecutive such games before Wednesday night. The only two extra-inning games Baltimore lost in the regular season were against the Yankees on back-to-back nights April 10 and 11 at Camden Yards.
In the April 10 game, the deciding hit was a two-run double by Raul Ibanez.