Results tagged ‘ Junior Griffey ’
I still cannot get over the idea that Willie Mays is no longer in the top10 of hit makers in major-league history. Derek Jeter nudged the Say Hey Kid out of the group with an infield single in the fifth inning Friday night for career hit No. 3,284. Next on the list in ninth place is Eddie Collins at 3,313. With only 18 games remaining, Jeter may have to wait until next year to catch the Hall of Fame second baseman.
But Mays is certainly a big one. People of my generation tend to think of Mays as the greatest player they have ever seen. That is my opinion. It was also Joe Torre’s. Jeter has something in common with Mays, and that is he plays the game with the same sense of joy that Willie did. They are entirely different types of players in other regards, but in enthusiasm for the game they are equal.
Jeter has met Mays on several occasions, most prominently during the 2007 All-Star Game at San Francisco’s AT&T Park when he and Junior Griffey interviewed the center field legend as part of that week’s festivities. Jeter has been passing Hall of Famers left and right in his march up the hits path, but going past Willie Mays is one he won’t forget.
The Yankee Stadium crowd of 45,200 treated Jeter to a deserved standing ovation.
What happened Monday night at Detroit’s Comerica Park fell into that “How Times Flies” category. Could it have possibly been 20 years ago that I sat in the press box at Yankee Stadium and watched a rookie named Jim Thome hit his first home run in the major leagues? The answer, of course, is yes, and I thought a lot about that when he slugged two balls over the left field fence to bring his career total to 600.
Back on Oct. 4, 1991, Thome made his very first big-league homer memorable. It was a two-run shot in the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium off righthander Steve Farr and wiped out a 2-1 Yankees lead and pushed the Indians toward a 3-2 victory before a meager crowd of 14,627. Farr, then the Yankees closer (he was 5-5 with 23 saves that year), entered the game with one out and a runner on first base in relief of lefthander Lee Guetterman.
Despite the fact that Thome was a left-handed batter, Yankees manager Stump Merrill brought in Farr because he preferred the gutsy veteran against the raw kid. Over the years, the Yankees would see a lot of Thome’s swing. He has hit 26 home runs in his career against the Yankees, plus another four against them in the 1998 American League Championship Series.
I was supposed to meet up with Thome in the winter of 2008 when he was scheduled to go to Cooperstown, N.Y., to present the ball he hit during the 2007 season for his 500th home run to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I had been assigned to cover the event, but it was twice canceled because of blizzards. I think he finally got to the Hall on an off-day during the season, but I was off covering something else.
Thome is only the eighth player in history to reach 600 home runs in a career. This is a special group that also has Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Junior Griffey, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa.
A-Rod, who is on an injury-rehabilitation assignment at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, probably summed up the consensus opinion about the latest member of the 600 Club by saying, “Jim is one of the easiest players of our generation to root for. It’s hard to overshadow 600 home runs, because it is a tremendous accomplishment and an exclamation point on a career bound for the Hall of Fame. But to me, the way he has treated the game – and the people in and around it – will always be the first thing that I think of when I think of Jim Thome. In so many ways, he is a legend of our game.”
The pitchers’ duel expected Saturday night from the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and the Red Sox’ Josh Beckett played out for six innings. Boston scored two runs in the fifth on a bases-loaded double by Jacoby Ellsbury, but this was still a ballgame. It became less so when the Sox poured across four runs in the seventh.
The crushing blow against CC was a three-run home run by Adrian Gonzalez, who also homered Friday night and has now gone deep in four consecutive games, half way toward the record that is shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Junior Griffey.
From the Yankees’ standpoint, the pitch that really ruined the inning was a 2-2 slider to Jason Varitek that plate umpire Mike Winters called a ball. It was one of those borderline pitches that could have gone either way. It went the Red Sox’ way. Sabathia was clearly annoyed by it and perhaps had enough of a lapse in concentration that he gave up a single to Varitek on the next pitch that scored the third run.
CC retired Ellsbury on an infield pop for the second out, but Dustin Pedroia singled sharply past Mark Teixeira at first base and Gonzalez followed with his ninth homer of the season. A 2-0 game had suddenly become 6-0. Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave Winters a piece of his mind after removing Sabathia and was ejected.
“Mike called a lot of pitches low in the zone for strikes,” Girardi said. “The pitch to Varitek turned out to be a pivotal pitch in the game.”
It was a tough night for the manager, who had one of his players, designated hitter Jorge Posada, pull himself from the starting lineup before a national television audience on Fox. The whole country gets to watch these two teams again Sunday night on ESPN.
Buckett held the Yankees to four hits, all singles, and two walks with nine strikeouts through six innings and has not yielded a run in 14 innings against them this year. The Yanks’ failure in the clutch continues to haunt them. They had 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position Saturday night and are 1-for-17 (.059) for the series and 5-for-39 (.128) in their first four-game losing streak of the season.
The Yankees have lost four of five games this year against Boston. They trail the Rays by two games in the American League East and are only two games ahead of the third-place Red Sox, who after that 2-10 start are now within a game of .500. The Yankees’ chances of running away and hiding in the division have run away and hid.
Concern continues to grow around Phil Hughes as well it should. The pitcher who won 10 of his first 11 decisions in 2010 is winless after two starts in 2011 and continues to perplex the Yankees for the curious falloff in the speed of his fastball.
Hughes lasted merely two innings Friday at Fenway Park in the Red Sox’ home opener and blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1. The Yankees were able to take him off the hook by coming back to tie the score off equally erratic John Lackey, but Hughes’ ineffectiveness remained the most negative aspect of the 9-6 loss.
Hughes faced 14 batters, nine of whom reached base, six of whom scored and none of whom struck out. His ERA is an unsightly 16.50. Perhaps the dip in velocity is the result of Hughes falling in love with the cut fastball. Two-thirds of his offerings Friday were cutters. A couple of Yankees pitchers in the past I can remember who lost muscle in their fastball through overuse of the cutter were Jim Abbott and Andy Pettitte.
As Pettitte proved when velocity falls off, a pitcher can remain a winner by mixing pitches and locating. Yankee manager Joe Girardi is convinced that location is Hughes’ main problem.
Right from the beginning, Hughes was in trouble. He hung a slider to the second hitter, Dustin Pedroia, who hit his first home run of the season. A Boston lineup that entered the game batting .181 was able to bat around in the order against Hughes in the second inning and put up a five-spot on six hits with two of the outs made on the bases.
Girardi had seen enough at that point and brought in Bartolo Colon, who provided 4 1/3 decent innings but was stuck with the loss because of an unearned run. A rare error by first baseman Mark Teixeira gave the Red Sox runners on first and third with one out in the fifth, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamaccchia doubled off the Green Monster to drive in the go-ahead run.
Boone Logan was right up there with Hughes as a disappointment. He came into the game in the seventh with one out and a runner on first base to face left-handed hitters David Ortiz and J.D. Drew. Ortiz doubled, and Drew followed with a two-run single. With Jose Feliciano, the free agent pickup, on the disabled list, Logan is the only lefty in the Yanks’ bullpen. His job is to get out left-handed hitters, which he has not done yet. Logan has faced five of them and given up three hits and two walks.
On the plus side for the Yankees, there was a lot of activity at the top of the lineup with Brett Gardner reaching base four times (triple, double, two walks, stolen base) and Derek Jeter driving in a run with his 2,932nd career hit. Alex Rodriguez tied Junior Griffey for 13th place on the all-time RBI list with his 1,836th on his 616th home run. Robinson Cano doubled twice and drove in two runs.
On the negative side for the Yankees, they managed only one hit combined in four innings off Red Sox relievers Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.