Results tagged ‘ Jorge Posada ’
Prior to Wednesday’s conclusion of the Yankees’ Grapefruit League schedule with their victory over the Mets at Tampa’s Steinbrenner Field, the Yanks honored pitcher David Phelps with the 2012 James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding rookie in camp as voted on by writers covering the team.
Phelps, 25, had a 0-1 record with one save and a 2.08 ERA in seven spring appearances, including one start. The righthander pitched 17 1/3 innings and allowed six runs (four earned), 16 hits, including one home run, and four walks with 14 strikeouts.
In 2011, Phelps led all minor-league pitchers in the Yankees organization in ERA at 2.99 in his 7-7 season at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he made 20 starts and pitched 114 1/3 innings. Phelps was also the 2010 recipient of the Kevin Lawn Award as the organization’s minor-league pitcher of the year for compiling a combined 10-2 record with a 2.50 ERA in 26 outings, all but one as a starter, for Scranton and Double A Trenton.
The Missouri native attended Notre Dame and was the Yankees’ choice in the 14th round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft.
The award was established in honor of James P. Dawson (1896-1953), who began a 45-year career with The New York Times as a copy boy in 1908. Eight years later, he became boxing editor and covered boxing and baseball until his death during spring training in 1953. In conjunction with the award, Phelps received an Elysee watch from Manfredi Jewelers.
The first Dawson Award winner was Norm Siebern in 1956. Tony Kubek won the next year and went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award that season. Another future AL Rookie of the Year Award winner who had also won the Dawson Award was Tom Tresh in 1962. Other prominent Dawson Award winners over the years include Roy White (1966), Willie Randolph (1976), Don Mattingly (1983), Al Leiter (1988), Jorge Posada (1997), Alfonso Soriano (2001), Hideki Matsui (2003) and Brett Gardner (2009).
Here is how some of the people who crossed Jorge Posada’s path feel about the former Yankees catcher who made his retirement as a baseball player official Tuesday:
Bernie Williams: “I want to congratulate ‘Jorgito’ on an outstanding career. He was one of the greatest catchers of his era, and one of the best Puerto Rican players to ever play the game. He was a great teammate, is a great friend and human being, and will always be a great Yankee. I was honored to take the field with him every day for so many years, and I cherish all the memories we have together, topped off by those World Series championships. Frankly, I can’t believe that ‘Jorgito’ is actually announcing his retirement before I do. Seriously, I wish him, Laura, and the kids happiness and success in their future. He will be missed by the Yankees family, all of his teammates, coaches, and most of all, the great Yankee fans.”
Andy Pettitte: “Jorge was obviously one of the heart and soul pieces of all those championships with us. Everyone brings their own style to the table but Jorge played with so much fire and intensity, and you have to have all the different mixes of personalities on a team to be able to win the way we did. The intensity that he brought on a daily basis to the field was just amazing to watch. He was one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever played with and a great friend and a great person. The fans loved Jorge because of the passion he played with. He didn’t try to hide it, and he didn’t make up excuses. He’s a stand-up guy, and if he wasn’t able to get it done, he would say ‘I didn’t get it done.’ He handled all the victories and all the success with class and never made excuses for anything. Fans love that. They love to see you be real and passionate. When you’re like that in New York, you’re going to be loved, that’s for sure.”
Tino Martinez: “Jorge was one of the cornerstones of all those championship teams, handling the pitching staff all those years. The way he prepared every single day assured that he became the best player he could possibly be. He’s going to go down as one of the greatest all-time Yankees. It’s very rare that somebody comes up through the minor league system with the Yankees and plays 17 years with the club. He did it the right way as a true professional, a great teammate and a great baseball player.”
Yogi Berra: “Jorge is a good kid, and he had a wonderful career. He has always been one of the toughest and most passionate guys on the club. The Yankees don’t win those championships without him.”
Alex Rodriguez: “Jorge has bled the pinstripes for a long, long time, and he played with a passion that certainly rubbed off on his teammates. To play the number of games that he did, at the level he did, year in and year out, at the toughest position on the field, is a credit to his commitment to his craft. He left everything out on the field, and that’s what made him special.”
Gene Michael: “I remember when we switched Jorge in the minors from second base to catcher. I always got reports of his improvement. Jorge was a worker – someone who was always in shape and who you didn’t have to worry about. Even from the beginning, I loved how selective he was at the plate, his power, his strong arm and the fact that he was a switch-hitter. In my tenure as general manager [from Aug. 1990 through Oct. 1995], I never talked about him in a trade. In the big leagues, he provided big time offensive production, and you never had to platoon him. He was tough, durable and the little things just didn’t bother him. He was a lot like Thurman [Munson] in that way.”
Gene Monahan: “Jorge Posada is far beyond your true, loyal Yankee. Jorge lives this team, organization and city. A family man unmatched, his love for family and team is shown every single day, and I’ve been there every step of the way to witness and testify to it. Jorgie’s sense of humor with his teammates and especially with me, in spite of countless painful days, has always been refreshing and energizing. He always helped us to excel, succeed and enjoy the game the way it’s supposed to be. His career blessed us. On Opening Day 2010, it was Jorge Posada who singlehandedly took his team and the entire Yankee Stadium crowd to a place that was humbling beyond expression, when he lovingly honored me. Every day for the remainder of my life, I will remember and reflect on his love, as he brought it out from our team and our fans. There is no real way to adequately express the emotion of that moment and what it meant to me.”
Joe Torre: “Jorge Posada has been a winner during the season, the postseason and in the clubhouse. He is a loyal and devoted Yankee and is a champion in the game of life. I will always treasure the time I spent with him.”
David Wells: “Jorge was exceptional behind the plate. He gave you so much in terms of his target, working the umpires, and with the level of communication that he had. To me, the pitcher has to be comfortable and in-sync with the catcher. He fought with me, worked with me, and knew the counts. If I didn’t see something that he did, I would shake off his sign, and he would just put down the same sign again. Whenever that happened, I realized that he knew something I didn’t. It speaks to the trust I had in him. He always wanted the pitcher to feel as comfortable as he could. That’s why in my mind, he was the greatest catcher.”
Mike Piazza: “I’d like to congratulate Jorge on a fantastic career. As two catchers playing in New York at the same time, I was able to get to know him over the years and appreciate everything he brought to the table. He was a general behind the plate and delivered in the clutch when it mattered most. I wish him well on his retirement.”
Jason Varitek: “After hundreds of head-to-head games during the regular season and the postseason, I can’t say I respect and admire anyone at our position more than I do Jorge. The hard work and preparation he put into catching is a huge reason he has five championships on his resume. He is a true grinder.”
Arlene Howard (widow of Elston): “Jorge has carried on the tradition of great Yankees catchers most notably Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson. Jorge has lived up to the tradition of great Yankees catchers.”
Paul O’Neill: “Jorge was one of my most favorite teammates of all time. He was into winning. He was mentally tough, physically tough, and he was never scared. It means a lot that he is retiring as a Yankee. As the seasons go on, I think people will realize how important he was to the team, and how big a role he played in the Yankees’ success over the years. He was a great teammate and a fun guy off the field. I had a lot of fun with Jorge. I have all the respect in the world for him. He is going to be considered for the Hall of Fame, and any time people talk about you that way, it tells you what type of player you are.”
Al Leiter: “Jorge was an unbelievable competitor, one of the fiercest competitors I’ve seen in a long time. He was always tough to face when I was pitching. He made me work hard, like when he drew a leadoff walk against me in the 2000 World Series [I still think I got him on that 3-2 pitch!]. On the flip side, I loved having him as a teammate in 2005. He had a special drive and a special will to win, which is a throwback to the old days. You always knew what to expect with Jorge. He wasn’t flashy. He was just immensely talented and a great leader.”
John Flaherty: “Jorge was the ultimate teammate, someone who always put the team before himself. He wasn’t a vocal leader; rather, he let his actions speak for themselves. It was an honor sharing the Yankees clubhouse with him, and my time with him was made even more special since we were both catchers. He handled himself with such class on the field and in the clubhouse. When I think of what the New York Yankees represent, I think of Jorge. Class. Humility. Tough as nails. Fierce competitor. That’s Jorge Posada.”
Derek Jeter: “I know how he feels, I know how much he cares. That’s what people are going to miss. I think that’s what the fans are going to miss. You can’t fake it. The fans appreciated him so much because he cared about winning, he cared about doing his job.”
Mariano Rivera: “It’s hard, playing with teammates like that and they’re retiring. That’s telling you one thing: your time will come. Bernie and Andy and now Jorge. . .it was a blessing to me to play with all these men that I love.”
The trade 11 days ago that took Jesus Montero out of the Yankees’ picture and off to Seattle created the idea that just maybe Jorge Posada’s career with the Yankees might not indeed be over. Perhaps the five-time All-Star catcher could just be what they needed to platoon with Andruw Jones at designated hitter, a role that Montero might have filled before he was dealt for pitcher Michael Pineda.
It was all just wishful thinking. Jorge Posada had made up his mind that 2011 would be his last season. He admitted Tuesday in a moving retirement announcement at Yankee Stadium that he made that decision during last season and shared it only with his wife, Laura, and his longtime teammate and friend, Derek Jeter.
“I knew this would be the end,” Posada said.
So all that talk about the possibility of his signing with the Rays or some other club was just that – a lot of talk. In the end, Posada wanted no part of any other organization than the Yankees, even if his final season in pinstripes was hardly warm and fuzzy. He struggled to get used to not catching on a regular basis, had an invisible year batting from the right side and endured some embarrassing moments as being dropped to ninth in the batting order or lifted for pinch hitters in pressure spots.
Yet through it all, Posada persevered and put a nice finish on his season with some clutch hits in September to help the Yankees clinch the American League East title and a .429 effort against some tough Detroit pitching in the AL Division Series.
“It is a very emotional day for me,” Posada said, fighting back tears. “Since I was a kid all I ever wanted to do was be a major leaguer. The Yankees were my family away from home. I am so proud of the hard work I put in. I could never wear another uniform. I will forever be a Yankee.”
Posada was all about work. Signed originally out of Puerto Rico as a shortstop, Posada was moved to second base and then behind the plate. He recalled leading the league in passed balls his first season as a catcher but was encouraged when the Yankees jumped him to Triple A in 1994 where he continued to improve with the aid of manager Stump Merrill, a former catcher.
Along the way, Posada made connections to the players with whom he would eventually team as the “Core Four,” playing alongside Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera in 1991 at Oneonta, N.Y., and with Jeter in 1992 at Greensboro, N.C. The quartet would all make it to the Yankees in 1995.
Mo and DJ were in attendance Tuesday as well as another teammate, CC Sabathia, and a host of dignitaries: managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost, general manager Brian Cashman, assistant general manager Jean Afterman, manager Joe Girardi and special advisor Gene Michael. A nice touch was the appearance of former second baseman and coach Willie Randolph, who drove in from his New Jersey home.
“My dad loved warriors, and Jorge was a warrior,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “He loved guys that worked hard and were good role models. Those are the things to be a great Yankee that my dad felt were absolutely essential.”
There were other touching moments from guests who flew in from the Midwest. Diana Munson, Thurman’s widow, came in from Ohio. Lisa Nederer, who works for the Jorge Posada Foundation in Wisconsin, attended with her son, Brett, who suffers from Craniosynostosis, the same disease that Posada’s son has and which inspired Jorge and Laura to form the foundation.
As Posada sat on the podium with Laura, their daughter Paulina and son Jorge Luis, Diana Munson addressed the audience and explained how coming to know Posada renewed her interest in baseball after she had turned away from it following the death of her husband Aug. 2, 1979 in a single-engine airplane accident.
She talked about meeting Jorge in the dugout before a game and his telling her that he kept a quote of Thurman’s in his locker. Jorge left he briefly, then returned to the dugout to show her the newspaper clipping he had saved in which Munson had said batting fourth in the lineup was all right but what he did behind the plate working with the pitching staff was more important.
“I actually got to the point where I couldn’t wait to get the newspaper to read the box scores,” Diana Munson said. “That’s unusual. The only box scores I ever read in my life were Thurman’s, but Jorge stayed very close to my heart. I think he and Thurman would have been best buds. I’m honored to have loved two Yankees catchers in my life.”
Not surprising but when it came to singling out the highlights of a playing career in which he batted .273 with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI, Posada settled on team-oriented moments. In chronological order, they were his major-league debut in 1995, catching David Wells’ perfect game in 1998 and hugging Rivera on the mound at the Stadium after the final out of the 1999 World Series. He added that his worst memory was from an inter-league game in Philadelphia when he committed three passed balls.
Of course, there are so many other moments than fans will remember, such as Posada hitting the first home run at the new Stadium in 2009. I think the one fans treasure the most is the two-run, game-tying double he hit off Red Sox nemesis Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series. It brought the Yankees even after entering the inning with a three-run deficit and kept the game alive so that Aaron Boone could push the Yankees into the World Series with his walk-off home run off Tim Wakefield in the 11th.
“I thought [Martinez] was going to come out of the game,” Posada recalled. “After [manager] Grady Little left him in, I thought about how he had pitched me inside all game, so I looked for something inside. Sure enough, he jammed me, and it found a lot of grass.”
For all the hard liners Posada hit that were caught, he was happy to accept a bloop hit that broke the Red Sox’ backs.
Posada said he would miss his teammates the most, but he also had a special message to his fans.
“I thank the fans for all their years of support, the cheering and the ovations,” he said. “You kept me going when I needed it the most.”
As I type this, I am looking up at a photograph of Jorgie and me that was taken before a game during spring training at Tampa in 1997. I was presenting to Posada on behalf of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America the James P. Dawson Award that Yankees beat writers vote on for the top rookie in camp. The award itself is an engraved watch.
I remember that after the game Jorgie came over to me and said that the box was empty. I told him that the watch was being engraved, and we would get it to him soon. The engravers had misspelled his name by using the anglicized George instead of Jorge. Well, the replacement seemed to take forever, which became a running joke between the two of us. Every day for the first month of the season, he’d come up me and ask what time it was.
After Tuesday’s proceedings, I kidded Jorge and asked him what time it was. He smiled and said, “You know. It’s time to go.”
And so it all came down to the guy who boasted after the Tigers took a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 American League Division Series that it would not return to New York. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Jose Valverde put his money where his big mouth was and remained spotless in save situations.
Valverde is a real three-ring-circus act as a closer constantly walking the high wire with none of the cool effectiveness of Mariano Rivera. He had Detroit in the AL Championship Series before this series was over, and the Yankees hoped they could make him pay for his putting the cart in front of the horse.
Facing the taunts of those in a record crowd of 50,960 at Yankee Stadium Thursday night, Valverde navigated himself through the ninth inning against three of the Yankees’ best hitters. The closer who converted all 49 of his save opportunities in the regular season made it 2-for-2 in the ALDS by sending Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez back to the bench, as it turned out for good in 2011.
One of the ironies in how the season ended for the Yankees in the 3-2 loss was that the fault lay more with the hitters than the pitchers. The Yankees were an offensive juggernaut for most of the season, and they did have 10 hits in Game 5, but only two came in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, neither of which produced a run.
The Yankees stranded 11 base runners – six in scoring position – and left the bases loaded twice. The killer inning as the seventh when infield hits by Derek Jeter and Cano surrounding a single by Granderson filled the bags with one out for Rodriguez, who had a huge chance to overcome an injury-riddled regular season and atone for a dismal postseason.
Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit, who had to remove a huge bandage on his face that covered a big cut on his left cheek, seemed distracted in trying to protect a 3-1 Detroit lead. The inning was getting away from the Tigers and moving in the Yankees’ direction.
A-Rod didn’t have to be a big hero. All he had to was make contact, get a fly ball deep enough or even a ground ball slow enough to stay out of a double play and get a runner home. Instead, he swung through a 2-2 changeup – a pretty gutty pitch when you think of it – for the second out.
The Yanks got to 3-2 when Benoit walked Mark Teixeira to force in a run, but Benoit struck out Nick Swisher, and you could feel the air suck out of the Stadium. With two out in the eighth, Brett Gardner, who had a splendid series, gave the Yankees hope with a two-out single to left off a two-strike fastball. Jeter brought the crowd to its feet with a drive that right fielder Don Kelly caught right in front of the wall.
That was as close as the Yankees got. The ninth was all Valverde, who struck out A-Rod for the final out.
Another irony is that CC Sabathia, the ace in the hole who made the first relief appearance of his major league career, gave up the run that proved the difference on a two-out single in the fifth by Victor Martinez, who used to be his catcher in Cleveland years ago. Sabathia and five relievers were used by Girardi, who felt forced to pull Ivan Nova after two innings because of stiffness in his right forearm.
Nova gave up successive home runs to Kelly, who started the game at second base, and Delmon Young (No. 3 of the ALDS) in the first inning, but it was the way the ball came out of Nova’s hand in the second inning that disturbed Girardi. Nova overcame a leadoff double that inning but was replaced by Phil Hughes at the start of the third. Sabathia’s run was the only one allowed in seven innings by Nova’s successors.
“Our pitchers threw as well as they could all year,” Girardi said. “They pitched their hearts out. They have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Pitching, particularly the rotation, was supposed to be the Yankees’ Achilles heel, but the staff was fourth in the AL in ERA and the bullpen was first. The Yankees batted a decent .260 and outscored Detroit, 28-17, in the ALDS, but their situational hitting left something to be desired — .229 with runners in scoring position. Their victories were in 9-3 and 10-1 blowouts. Their losses were in two 1-run games and one 2-run game.
Jorge Posada, who just might have played in his last game for the Yankees, was their leading hitter in the series with a .429 average. Gardner hit .412 with 5 RBI, but other than Cano (.318) no other Yankees player batted above .300. It was a particularly rough series for Rodriguez and Teixeira, who were a combined 5-for-36 (.139) with 2 extra-base hits (both doubles by Tex) and 4 RBI.
Posada could not contain his emotions after the game and excused himself from a crowd of reporters with tears covering his face. Girardi also choked up when speaking of Posada.
“What he went through this year and what he gave us in the postseason, I don’t think there’s a prouder moment I have had of Jorgie,” Girardi said. “You can go back to when he came up in ’96, how proud of him I was when he caught the perfect game [by David Wells in 1998] and all the championships that he has won. The heart that he showed during the series; that’s why Jorgie has been a great player.”
The only hit that produced a run for the Yankees in the finale was Cano’s second home run and ninth RBI of the ALDS off Tigers starter Doug Fister, who made up for his Game 1 loss with five innings of 1-run, 5-hit pitching.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland kept his promise to keep Justin Verlander out of the game and has him fresh to start Game 1 of the ALCS Saturday night at Arlington, Texas, the place the Yankees had hoped to visit and take revenge for being eliminated by the Rangers last year.
“It’s an empty feeling for everyone in that room,” Girardi said. “It hurts.”
You must have heard the expression dozens of times over the past 24 hours that A.J. Burnett would be on a short leash as the starter for the Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. No surprise there, of course, considering how erratic and unreliable Burnett has been the past two seasons.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave an indication of just how short that rope was Tuesday night by having Cory Wade warm up in the bullpen in the first inning. Burnett walked the bases loaded (one walk was intentional), which made the skipper nervous enough to be prepared for an early hook.
A.J. was visited on the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild but got an even bigger boost from center fielder Curtis Granderson, who made a sensational running catch of a drive by Don Kelly for the third out of the inning. That was the beginning of the Yankees’ support for their teammate.
They gave Burnett a 2-0 lead in the third on Derek Jeter’s double to center off Tigers starter Rick Porcello that scored Jorge Posada, who was hit by a pitch, and Russell Martin, who singled up the middle. Those were the first two RBI in the series for the Captain, who had come to bat with 14 runners on base before he knocked anyone in.
Jeter came up with two runners aboard again in the fifth and attempted a sacrifice, a good play since there were no outs. A remarkable play by third baseman Wilson Betemit ruined it all. He broke back to third on the bunt and had to reach across his body to glove Porcello’s throw that was to Betemit’s left and somehow he tagged the bag before Martin arrived with a head-first slide. Let’s hope Eduardo Nunez was paying attention. The rookie had problems several times in that situation when he filled in for Alex Rodriguez at third base.
Even though Jeter didn’t advance the runners, they came around to score anyway on a double by Curtis Granderson and a sacrifice fly by Rodriguez, who still does not have a hit in the series but has driven in three runs.
Burnett has a history of not shutting down opponents the inning after the Yankees score, and when Austin Jackson led off the fifth with a single it seemed a here-we-go-again moment. But the Yankees turned a double play behind A.J. on a grounder by Ramon Santiago, and Burnett got Delmon Young on a pepper shot to come away unscathed.
Girardi let Burnett start the sixth, a questionable move considering Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, Detroit’s two most productive hitters, were the first two batters, but Burnett retired both on balls hit in the infield. After Kelly singled, Burnett was relieved by Rafael Soriano. One run in 5 2/3 innings for Burnett, find me a Yankees fan who would not settle for that.
I wrote after the Yankees’ Game 1 victory in the American League Division Series that the rain suspension may have worked in their favor. I based that on the fact that they would not have to face Justin Verlander more than once in the series. That is still a plus, but after losing Games 2 and 3, whatever edge I envisioned is long gone.
The Tigers have taken control of the series, and the Yankees are in a position of having to rely on the patently unreliable A.J. Burnett Tuesday night to get the ALDS back to Yankee Stadium for a possible Game 5 Thursday night. That Burnett, who was not going to be in the rotation in this series initially, gets this start is also due to Game 1 going into a second night. It is an opportunity for A.J. to turn around an erratic season.
Delmon Young’s second home run of the series, an opposite-field drive to right off a first-pitch cutter from Rafael Soriano in the seventh inning, was the difference in the 5-4 victory. It would have been terrific if the Yankees could have come back in the ninth against closer Jose Valverde, who had boasted after Detroit won Game 2 that the series was over and would not return to New York. Walks to Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner gave the Yanks hope, but Valverde closed it out by striking out Derek Jeter.
The hyped pairing of Verlander and CC Sabathia turned out pretty one-sided. Verlander spotted the Yankees two first-inning runs, but he pitched through the eighth, ringing 100 or more mph with his fastball occasionally and striking out 11 batters. Sabathia lasted one out into the sixth and was lucky to be only two runs behind considering he walked six (one intentionally).
Yankees manager Joe Girardi implied after the game that plate umpire Gerry Davis squeezed his pitcher somewhat, but Verlander didn’t seem to have trouble, so it sounded like sour grapes. In regular season play, Sabathia is 6-0 with a 2.19 ERA in games with Davis behind the plate, so there is certainly no bad history between them. CC was hurt not so much by the walks but by the unlikely hitting of 9-hole hitter Brandon Inge and platoon second baseman Ramon Santiago, who combined for four hits, two runs and two RBI.
The Yankees’ offense came from the top and bottom of the lineup. Verlander was touched for a single by Jeter and a triple by Curtis Granderson in the two-run first. The Yankees rallied with two outs in the seventh. After Posada, who is having a fine series, walked and Russell Martin was hit by a pitch, Gardner doubled to left-center off a 3-2 fastball that was clocked at 100 mph to tie the score.
As for the middle of the Yankees’ order, Verlander handled it adroitly. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher combined to go 0-for-14 with six strikeouts. A-Rod did drive in a run with an infield out and walked twice. These guys need to do some damage in Game 4 against Detroit’s Rick Porcello if the Yankees want to create a reason to play Thursday.
One of the characteristics of the Yankees over the past two decades has been their ability to get to another team’s closer while other teams rarely get to their closer. While Mariano Rivera has set the major league record for saves and pitched as superlatively in postseason play, teammates have regularly roughed up his counterparts on the other side.
Jose Valverde was almost the latest victim Sunday night in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, a 5-3 Detroit victory that evened the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
The hard-throwing righthander was 49-for-49 in save opportunities during the regular season, but the Yankees had him on the ropes in the ninth inning. There was even an indication that the ghosts who used to roam the old Yankee Stadium have indeed made the trek to the north side of 161st Street in the Bronx.
The game looked like a lost cause for the Yankees when the Tigers pushed across a run in the top of the ninth on a two-out single by Don Kelly, a defensive substitute for right fielder Magglio Ordonez. That bolstered Detroit’s lead to 5-1, and out of the pen came Valverde, who pitched to a 2.24 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings in the regular season.
Nick Swisher woke up the crowd with a leadoff home run. Jorge Posada followed with a drive to left-center and plodded around a field muddy with late-inning rain showers for a triple. How unusual was that? Posada has only 10 triples in 6,092 career at-bats and had none in his previous 407 at-bats in postseason play.
Russell Martin worked a walk, and the joint was really jumping. Andruw Jones hit the ball hard to right, but Kelly made a fine running catch. Jones had to settle for a sacrifice fly, which made the score 5-3.
Valverde struck out Derek Jeter on a 95-mph fastball. Then with Curtis Granderson batting, one of those ghosts that Jeter always used to talk about coming out in the late innings of games at the Stadium may have been at work. The game appeared over when Granderson hit a foul ball near the Tigers’ third base dugout. Catcher Alex Avila slipped on the wet dirt as the rain was falling, and the ball fell free. No play, official scorer Howie Karpin rightfully ruled.
But it continued the at-bat for Granderson, who walked. That brought up Robinson Cano, who had driven in six runs in Game 1. There was drama aplenty with each pitch as Cano fouled off three straight mid-90s fastballs before hitting a hard grounder to second base for the final out.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland admitted after the game that he actually considered walking Cano intentionally, which would have loaded the bases for Alex Rodriguez, who is having a brutal series (0-for-8, 1 walk).
“You know what; I thought about it,” Leyland told reporters. “But the other guy [Rodriguez] has been known for the dramatics, and I figured it’s wet, it’s slippery, one gets away, one run is in, something like that would happen, a ground ball, a ball slips I just couldn’t do it. Hit a ball in the infield, you get him over there and somebody throws it away, the game is tied. But it did cross my mind.”
That shows how much respect there is in the game now for Cano. The last time these teams met in the ALDS five years ago, Leyland called the Yankees, “Murderers Row plus Cano,” which he meant as a compliment to the second baseman who was off a .342 regular season in his second year in the big leagues but was batting seventh or eighth in the order. Now Cano is a 3-hole hitter who has a three-time Manager of the Year thinking about walking him to face a guy who has hit 629 career home runs.
Miguel Cabrera played the Cano role for the Tigers with a home run, two singles and three RBI, which was plenty of support for starter Max Scherzer, who held the Yankees to two hits in six-plus innings. The Yankees made a last stand against the Tigers’ closer, but not even a shove from one of the ghosts, be it the Babe, Lou, Joe D. or the Mick could create a different ending.
Andy Pettitte made another postseason start Sunday – sort of. The all-time leader in postseason starts with 42 ran to the mound before Game 2 of the American League Division Series wearing a blue sweat suit and threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a strike to his old battery mate, Jorge Posada, who was in the lineup as the designated hitter. Jorgie’s catching duties now are relegated to pregame activities. He handled the chores before Game 1 as well with Mariano Rivera.
Andy’s wife, Laura, also did a nice job singing the National Anthem.
Following Andy to the hill was Freddy Garcia for Game 2 as the long-debated third starter. Who would follow CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova in the rotation for the playoffs was a subject of debate around the Yankees for months. Sabathia and Nova both pitched in Game 1 because rain Friday night caused the game to be suspended and resumed Saturday night.
Yankees fans would probably have been elated if told they would get five innings from Garcia and allow only two runs over that period. That is what they got. After Miguel Cabrera homered off a 2-0 pitch to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead, Garcia gave up no runs and one hit over the next four innings. Freddy even pitched decently in the sixth, but a rare error by Derek Jeter began a Detroit rally.
Jeter had made the key fielding play in Game 1, taking a throw from center fielder Curtis Granderson and relaying the ball to the plate to get Alex Avila trying to score in the fifth inning. Avila did not slide, which sort of helped matters. It was a 1-1 game at that point, so the play was huge. It got obscured when the Yankees scored six runs the next inning to pull away.
Here’s a funny thing about that play. Granderson was not thinking about a play at the plate when he threw the ball in. He got the ball to the infield as quickly as he could because he wanted to keep the double play in order. Jhonny Peralta’s hit was of the dying quail variety, and Curtis didn’t want him to get beyond first base. Avila had to hold up to see if the ball would fall, which Jeter noticed so when he got Granderson’s relay he did not hesitate and threw home for what at the time was a vital out.
That is what makes Jeter such a great shortstop despite all the crap you may read about with all these boutique fielding statistics that are no more revealing than fielding percentage. The Captain is human, however, and therefore capable of making mistakes. DJ’s errors are usually on throws, which was the case in the sixth as leadoff hitter Austin Jackson reached first base.
The Tigers began sitting on Garcia’s off-speed stuff, which had been effective for five innings. Magglio Ordonez singled on a splitter that stayed up. Cabrera singled home a run off a changeup and Victor Martinez did likewise off a curve before Boone Logan came in to stop the bleeding with two strikeouts.
The 4-0 spread looked pretty secure in the hard-throwing right arm of Max Scherzer, who took a no-hitter into the sixth. Robinson Cano broke the string by dunking a one-out single to left off a 97-mph fastball. Scherzer gave up only one other hit.
And so the visiting team takes the field. What a strange way to start a ballgame. No singing of the National Anthem, either. Of course not; the game had already started. In addition, the game time temperature dropped about 20 degrees in one inning, but that was almost 24 hours later.
Such were the sights and sounds of the resumption of Game 1 of the American League Division Series between the Yankees and the Tigers Saturday night at Yankee Stadium. And when was the last time Jorge Posada was the first batter of the night. The unusual circumstances were due to Game 1 being suspended because of rain Friday night. Pitching lines of the starters, Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, were read by official scorer Jordan Sprechman. They were replaced by Doug Fister and Ivan Nova, respectively.
Fans who had to drive home disappointedly in the rain Friday night were back in their chillier seats for the first pitch Saturday night. The weather forecast had been similar to that of the night before, which brought to mind horrendous scenarios had there been another stoppage. It rained much of the afternoon. The Yankees were able to take batting practice but not the Tigers. The mercury kept dipping until it fell to 55 degrees by the time Posada led off the second inning with a single. It was October baseball all right.
The Stadium crowd warmed up when Russell Martin doubled. Things quieted down when Posada was caught in a rundown on a grounder to third by Brett Gardner. After balking the runners to second and third, Fister struck out Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson. Nova retired the Tigers in order in his first inning as everyone seemed ready to settle in for some postseason ball.
Think of all the distinguished players, many of them Hall of Famers, who have thrown out ceremonial first pitches before postseason games at Yankee Stadium and the list has run the gamut from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle to Yogi Berra to Whitey Ford to Reggie Jackson to Bernie Williams and scores of others in between.
Leave it to the Yankees to come up with something a bit different Friday night as the Yankees opened their 50th postseason. Prior to Game 1 of the American League Division Series, active players handled the assignment as Mariano Rivera, who became baseball’s all-time saves leader this year, performed the duty throwing to long-time catcher Jorge Posada, who took the position behind the plate in full gear, chest protector, shin guards and all.
As Mo stood on the front of the mound, Jorgie motioned for him to move back on to the rubber. Rivera then threw his usual strike to the delight of the sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium. How odd it was to see the man who usually closes games to get one started.