Results tagged ‘ Juan Miranda ’

Jeter is all about winning

Sunday night’s victory, one of the biggest of the season for the Yankees, provided Derek Jeter yet another milestone in his remarkable career. The captain was hitless in four at-bats as his season-high, 14-game hitting streak came to an end.

But when Brett Gardner touched the plate on the bases-loaded walk to Juan Miranda in the 10th inning to give the Yankees a 4-3 decision over the Red Sox, Jeter became the winningest player in the history of the winningest team in baseball.

Jeter, who already has the distinction of having the most hits for a player in a Yankees uniform, the most hits of any player at the old Yankee Stadium and the most hits of a player on any of the New York City teams, has been on the winning side of 1,377 games with the Yankees. That broke the tie he had shared with Mickey Mantle, who went to the World Series in 12 of his 18 seasons with the Yankees.

In 1968, his final season in the majors, Mantle broke the previous mark of 1,323 winning games with the Yankees by Lou Gehrig, who had held the record for nearly 30 years. The Mick ended up holding it for almost 42 years.

I did a lengthy interview in 1982 with Mantle, who told me that he considered his greatest achievement was playing in more games than anyone in Yankees history: 2,401. Monday night’s game at Toronto was Jeter’s 2,291st. There is an excellent chance that he will overtake Mickey in that category sometime next season.

 

Tampa Bay closing in

There is nothing a visiting team in a major matchup likes to do more than take the home fans out of the game early. The Yankees seemed to have done that Friday night when Derek Jeter led off the opener of a three-game showdown against the Rays with a single and Nick Swisher drove a first-pitch fastball from Wade Davis for his 19th home run.

Two batters into the game, the Yankees were up 2-0, and Rays fans had to take pause. Tampa Bay had been on a roll lately but unable to get any closer to the first-place Yankees in the American League East than two games. For five innings, Phil Hughes made the two-run spread seem enormous as he held the Rays to two hits and a walk with one of his strongest outings of the season.

Hughes’ fastball appeared particularly muscular, more so than has been evident in recent starts. Ironically, it was the heat that did Hughes in when the Rays awoke their fans in the sixth inning. Matt Joyce turned around a 2-2 blazer for a three-run home run that made the Yankees take pause. They did precious little against Davis after Swisher’s bomb, and the only drama left came in the ninth when Alex Rodriguez made one more shot at career homer No. 600.

A-Rod could not have asked for a better setting. A leadoff home run in the ninth would have not only made history but also gotten the Yankees back in a game that had they won would have guaranteed they would leave Tropicana Field in first place. That is not the case now. A-Rod fouled out to finish a 0-for-4 night and the Rays prevailed for their seventh straight victory to close to one game of the Yankees.

Davis, a rookie righthander, displayed poise and stuff after the first-inning shock and allowed only one hit after that through the seventh. He is on a roll of his own with four straight winning decisions and a 2.22 ERA in that period. Davis mixed in curves and changeups with his fastball to keep the Yankees off balance most of the night.

For Hughes, that one bad inning proved costly. Joyce’s blow was the 16th home run yielded by Hughes, the first on the road, and the fifth in his past three starts. He is 1-2 with a 6.61 ERA since the All-Star break and 2-3 with a 6.17 ERA in his past six starts. Despite those stats, Hughes’ first five innings indicated he will remain a positive factor for the Yankees.

Another positive sign – and the first for the pitcher in question for a while – was the work of Joba Chamberlain, who pitched a perfect seventh and eighth innings with three strikeouts and not a ball leaving the infield. Here was a stint out of 2007. What remains to be seen is whether he can do that consistently.

The signs Rodriguez showed were quite different. So long as the Yankees were winning and he was contributing in some way with run-scoring hits and alert fielding plays, A-Rod has been able to deal with a home run drought that has now reached 34 at-bats since No. 599. His familiar smile was missing most of Friday night, and he snapped at plate umpire Tim Welke twice over strike calls on borderline pitches.

Behind the scenes, the Yankees announced the completion of one trade and were holding off until Saturday the probable announcement of another. The Yankees got outfielder Austin Kearns from the Indians and are rumored to be adding first baseman Lance Berkman from the Astros as well. Kearns will provide depth in the outfield and is much better defensively than Marcus Thames.

Berkman, who is having an off year, is a switch hitter with power who will likely become the full-time designated hitter, except for those days when A-Rod or catcher Jorge Posada needs a blow. The Yankees have been getting by with rookies Colin Curtis and Juan Miranda on the bench, but as Friday night suggested they need reinforcements to deal with an opponent as potent as Tampa Bay.

How potent? Well, the Rays’ starting pitcher Saturday night will be Matt Garza, who threw a no-hitter in his past start and will become the umpteenth hurler to chase Johnny Vander Meer’s record of back-to-back no-no’s in 1938.

A home run to savor

There isn’t a major-league player who cannot remember everything about his first home run in the big leagues. In the case of Colin Curtis, he will have quite a story to tell years from now.

Okay, so it may not be as hard to believe as the Red Sox’ Daniel Nava hitting a grand slam on the first pitch he saw as a major leaguer June 12, but Curtis will be able to spin a pretty good yard and get his fair share of “I can’t believe it” looks.

There was the rookie outfielder sitting on the bench of the home dugout at Yankee Stadium wondering with the rest of his teammates just what Brett Gardner did to get ejected from the game for beefing to plate umpire Paul Emmel about a called strike in the seventh inning. Emmel was the same ump who threw manager Joe Girardi out of Tuesday night’s game, so this is not the Yankees’ favorite crew.

Curtis was snapped into action by the voice of bench coach Tony Pena, who chirped, “Ready to hit, CC!” I’m just surprised that CC Sabathia, who is always ready to swing a bat, didn’t get to his feet first and volunteer to celebrate his 30th birthday by taking some hacks.

A player sort of knows where he stands on the depth chart when he is the one chosen to pinch hit and inherit a count of no balls and two strikes. Curtis, a testicular cancer survivor, has been a feel-good story for the Yankees this year, but he is a rookie, and this was a situation for a rookie. Man, did he never make the most of it.

Curtis hung tough against Scot Shields and worked the count full before getting a fastball to his liking and driving the ball into the right field stands, a three-run blow that turned a 7-5 score into 10-5 on the way to a 10-6 Yankees victory.

This was a game that the Yankees should have put away but were on the verge of losing several times. Only some uncharacteristically strange base running by the Angels kept them from coming back completely from an early 6-0 deficit. The Halos closed to 6-5 against a withering Javier Vazquez in the sixth on a two-run homer by 2009 World Series hero Hideki Matsui, his second bomb of the series and third at the Stadium this year.

The Angels left the bases loaded that inning against David Robertson with Juan Rivera oddly held at third base on a single by Erick Aybar that should have tied the score. Aybar had pulled a rock on the bases in the fifth. At second base with one out and left-handed hitting Bobby Abreu, who owns Vazquez (.316, 10 homers) at bat, Aybar tried to steal third and was thrown out by a wide margin by Francisco Cervelli, who had a clear shot at the runner.

Los Angeles left the bags full again in the seventh before the Yankees took charge in the bottom half on Juan Miranda’s solo homer that preceded Curtis’ dramatics. And if you don’t think the Yankees wanted this game badly, consider that Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth in a non-save situation with a four-run lead.

Mo preserved the victory for Vazquez, who beat the Angels for his first time in his career to join lefthanders Jamie Moyer of the Phillies and Barry Zito of the Giants as the only active pitchers in the majors to have defeated all 30 clubs. Still, Vazquez lasted merely two batters into the sixth, forcing the bullpen to log four innings, raising its total to 20 over the past four games.

Each team had 15 hits and was 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position, but the Yankees had one more home run and did not do anything stupid on the basepaths. Robinson Cano was walked twice intentionally but also found time to hit his 18th home run. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira had three hits apiece. Tex also drove in three runs to keep up his scorching July pace. He is batting .383 with eight doubles, five home runs and 17 RBI in 16 games covering 60 at-bats this month and hiked his batting average 25 points to .256.

For all that, Wednesday’s game could easily have gone into the L column and was saved by a rookie down to his last strike the moment he stepped to the plate coming through and providing his team and himself a special memory.

Hughes keeping pace with Andy

It made a nice story Monday when Andy Pettitte improved his record to 7-1 leading to speculation that he may be the choice of his manager and former battery mate, Joe Girardi, as the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star Game July 13 at Anaheim. That’s a real feel-good piece right there.

There are still five weeks to go, but Girardi, who will be the AL manager as his reward for winning the World Series last year, may find himself having to choose between two of his starters because Phil Hughes is right up there as a candidate for the assignment.

Hughes has become every bit of a feel-good story for the Yankees this year as Pettitte. The righthander returned to the rotation this year after serving as the setup reliever for Mariano Rivera in 2009 and has answered every question about making the transition in a positive manner.

Additional affirmative reports were furnished by Hughes in Wednesday night’s 9-1 victory over the Orioles. He gave up one run and six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings to equal Pettitte’s 7-1 mark. And a tale of the tape shows that Hughes and Pettitte are neck and neck in the fight for rotation supremacy.

Pettitte has the edge in ERA, 2.48 to Hughes’ 2.54. Each has allowed 18 earned runs, but Pettitte has pitched 1 2/3 more innings with 65 1/3. Everything else belongs to Hughes, who has allowed 10 fewer hits, 47-57, one less home run, 4-5 and has struck out 23 more batters, 64-41.

Sentiment would favor Pettitte, naturally, who despite a long and exemplary career has been to the All-Star Game merely twice and has never started one. Hughes would be making his first trip to the Midsummer Classic but would be no less deserving.

“If it were today . . .,” Girardi said, diplomatically not completing the sentence.

That’s a headache he will have to deal with down the line. If Pettitte and Hughes keep pitching the way they have, the manager won’t mind popping the aspirin.

And if Robinson Cano keeps this up, he just might be batting cleanup in Anaheim. Robbie hit his 12th home run and had two singles in extending his hitting streak to 16 games, during which he is batting .471 with eight doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI in 68 at-bats. Cano’s improved discipline at the plate is not reflected so much in walks (13), but swinging regularly at strikes and making excellent contact, to the tune of .373 with a .632 slugging percentage.

Jorge Posada came off the disabled list and was the designated hitter. Girardi had been concerned about Posada’s running ability coming off a hairline fracture of the right foot. That was satisfied by the way Jorgie ran around the bases to score from first on a double by Curtis Granderson in the Yankees’ four-run second inning. Posada had 1-for-3 with a walk.

The roster move for Posada of optioning DH-first baseman Juan Miranda to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was an indication that Posada will be used more often as a DH, at least for the time being. The Yankees are keeping Chad Moeller as the third catcher, another indication that they will ease Posada back into action behind the plate. Posada will also wear an additional protective device on the front of his cleats.

 

Strange doings

There were several examples Thursday night at Yankee Stadium that fall under the category of “there’s something you don’t see every day.” How about a 5-6-3 double play, around-the-horn style? Or a center fielder losing a fly ball in the lights? Or a left fielder doing a Sandy Amoros impersonation? Or a 4-1 putout?

The DP was turned by the Yankees in a very busy Tampa Bay first inning. The Rays struck for three runs against Andy Pettitte with the first three batters, a double by Jason Bartlett, a single by Carl Crawford and a home run by Ben Zobrist. Pettitte then walked Evan Longoria, increasing the crowd’s restlessness.

On a hit-and-run, Longoria broke off first, and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter went to the bag to cover. Carlos Pena hit a hard grounder to Alex Rodriguez, who threw to second where Jeter was stationed. Derek stepped on the bag and pegged to first for the unusual DP.

The center fielder who lost the ball was Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton, one of the game’s top fly hawks. From the moment the ball came off Juan Miranda’s bat in the fourth inning with the sky just past twilight, Upton extended his arms, baseball’s traditional signal for “I ain’t got it.” The ball landed about 10 feet behind him, and Miranda wound up on third base with a triple, which put him half-way toward the cycle. Miranda homered in his first at-bat.

Randy Winn scored Miranda with a sacrifice fly, but this was no ordinary play. Crawford was playing almost as shallow in left field as Winn was the other night against the Red Sox and put on the jets to go after the ball. Just outrunning the ball, Crawford reached out and gloved it in full stride on the warning track. The play was reminiscent of Amoros’ great catch to rob Yogi Berra of a potential, two-run, extra-base hit in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series in the Dodgers’ clinching victory.

A footnote: Amoros had just entered the game as part of a double-switch. Junior Gilliam started the game in left field but moved in to play second base after Dodgers manager Walt Alston pinch-hit for his second baseman the previous inning. That infielder was in the park Thursday night in his role as a special advisor for the Rays, the one and only Don Zimmer.

The putout was executed against Mark Teixeira in the fifth. The Rays utilized a shift against Tex with three fielders to the right of second base. Zobrist, the second baseman, fielded a grounder by Teixeira in shallow right field. Pena had come off first trying for the ball and was nowhere near the bag. Pitcher James Shields had it covered, however.

                                                                                                                                        
 

Worthwhile protest

The Red Sox emphasized improving their defense in the off-season, but Boston’s fielders displayed a lot of uncertainty in the two-game series against the Yankees. One night after outfielders Jeremy Hermida and Darnell McDonald had trouble tracking fly balls, shortstop Marco Scutaro booted a ground ball that eventually cost the Red Sox two runs.

With Alex Rodriguez at first base after a leadoff single in the second inning, Robinson Cano hit a grounder to the left of second base. It appeared that Scutaro would pick up the ball, tag the bag and throw to first for a double play. He failed to catch the ball, which dribbled behind him. So instead of two out and the bases empty, the Yankees had two runners on and none out. Both runners subsequently scored on a single by Juan Miranda and an infield out by Randy Winn.

As brutal as Boston’s pitching has been, the Red Sox cannot afford to give up outs in the field. They entered the game with the worst ERA in the league at 4.99. The two runs in the second were not earned, but Josh Beckett was touched for three more runs on a home run by Miranda in the fourth and a two-run double by Cano in the fifth and left the game with a 7.29 ERA.

Beckett’s departure caused some controversy. After Cano’s double, Red Sox manager Terry Francona removed Beckett claiming an injury, and reliever Manny Delcarmen was permitted as many warmup pitches as necessary. Yankees manager Joe Girardi disputed this and after discussing the situation with the umpires lodged an official protest, even though the Yankees had a five-run lead at the time.

Protests are usually withdrawn if the protesting team wins the game, but the Yankees just might pursue this one on principle. After all, who is to say Beckett was hurt? The righthander does have a history of back trouble. He missed his previous start due to back spasms. But what is to prevent any manager from claiming a pitcher is hurt and being allowed to have a reliever take as long as he needs to warm up? If Beckett’s back acted up that inning, why didn’t Francona have someone up in the bullpen? It was sort of strange that Beckett’s back hurt at the same time he gave up a run-scoring hit.

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