Results tagged ‘ Justin Verlander ’

Gardner back to catalyst form on homestand

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner were a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the batting order for the Yankees the first month of the season. But since Ellsbury went on the 15-day disabled list May 20 because of a right knee strain, Gardner seemed lost without his partner.

Going into this homestand, Gardner was in a 94 at-bat stretch in which he hit .223 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 12 RBI while watching his season batting average slide from .291 to .262. He has turned it around the past three nights at Yankee Stadium, however, climaxed by a 4-for-5, three-RBI performance Friday night that has pushed his average back up to .277. And not surprisingly, the Yankees won all three games with Gardner back in catalyst mode.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was at a loss before the game to explain the club’s seesaw season during which they have had seemingly equal stretches of good and bad play. One thing the skipper did say that what the Yankees do when things are going good is “not giving extra outs and hitting home runs.”

They adhered to that axiom in the 7-2 victory over the Tigers. Three home runs, including Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit, against former American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander powered the Yankees to their third straight victory and kept the Detroit righthander winless at Yankee Stadium in four career regular-season decisions. As for not giving extra outs, well, they came close to that but were able to rectify their lone error with a snappy play at the plate to defuse a potentially productive sixth inning for the Tigers.

The Yankees had just taken a 4-2 lead on a two-run home run by Gardner (No. 7) in the bottom of the fifth. The Yanks’ two prior homers were solo shots by Rodriguez (No. 13, career No. 667) in the first and Didi Gregorius (No. 3) in the second. In only his second start of the season after coming back from a right triceps injury, Verlander was not of Cy Young vintage.

Ian Kinsler started the sixth against Adam Warren (5-4), who had yet another strong night as a starter (8 IP, 7 H, 2R-ER, 0 BB, 7 K), with an infield single. Miguel Cabrera, who had struck out in his first two at-bats against Warren, lined a single to right field, sending Kinsler to third.

Yankees third baseman Chase Headley failed to handle right fielder Carlos Beltran’s relay for an error, but he atoned for that immediately when he retrieved the ball behind the bag and threw home to nail Kinsler at the plate on a fine tag by catcher John Ryan Murphy. Cabrera took second on the play but died there as Victor Martinez fouled out to Headley and Yoenis Cespedes grounded out.

The Yankees then pulled away with two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Gardner was a significant part of both rallies. He got the seventh inning started by bunting for a single with one out and eventually scored on a wild pitch. In the eighth, Gardner’s two-out single to left scored Chris Young, who had doubled.

Young entered the game as a defensive replacement in center field for rookie Mason Williams, who jammed his right shoulder sliding back into first base on a pickoff attempt by Verlander in the fifth inning. Williams was examined by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad, but no further tests were ordered.

A-Rod’s 3,000th hit also his 667th home run

In his previous quests for landmark hits such as his 500th and 600th home runs, Alex Rodriguez went days without achieving them as at-bat after at-bat piled up. Not so with his 3,000th hit, however.

A-Rod wasted no time in becoming the 29th member of the major leagues’ 3,000 Hit Club Friday night when he hit the first pitch he saw from Detroit’s Justin Verlander for an opposite-field home run with two out in the bottom of the first inning. Rodriguez’s first big-league hit was 21 years ago as a rookie with the Mariners.

His 3,000th hit was also his 667th career home run. The only players other than A-Rod with 3,000 hits and more than 600 home runs are Hall of Famers Henry Aaron and Willie Mays.

Rodriguez joined former teammate Derek Jeter as the only players to reach the 3,000-hit plateau wearing Yankees uniforms. Four other 3,000 Hit Club members played for the Yankees during their careers: Paul Waner, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs.

A-Rod also became the third player whose 3,000th hit was a home run. The others were Boggs with Tampa Bay in 1999 and Jeter against the Rays at Yankee Stadium in 2011. Rodriguez acknowledged the fans’ applause with a curtain call.

That A-Rod’s 3,000th hit came against a pitcher the caliber of Verlander, a former American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, was not a surprise. Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP, entered the game with a .357 batting average and four home runs in 28 career at-bats against Verlander.

Yanks pitchers outshine Tigers’ vaunted rotation

When the Yankees-Tigers series began, all the talk was about Detroit’s rotation. The Tigers had lined up against the Yankees three former American League Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander and a 13-game winner in Rick Porcello.

Guess what? None of them notched a victory.

Talk centered on the Yankees’ staff after it limited one of the AL’s top offensive clubs to merely six runs over 39 innings in winning three of the four games. The only game Detroit won, a 4-3, 12-inning matchup, did not provide a victory for their starting pitcher, Price, who was out of the game in the ninth.

Yankees starters, meanwhile, were 2-0 with an ERA of 0.99 as the rotation gave up only three earned runs in 27 1/3 innings. Not that the Tigers’ crew was bad. The Detroit starters combined for a 2.42 ERA, which any manager will take over a four-game set, but it was just not a match for the Yankees.

Thursday’s 1-0 victory behind rookie Shane Greene and in front of a sellout Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,013 was a nice finishing touch. Greene pitched one batter into the ninth and scattered five hits and three walks with five strikeouts to improve his record to 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA. He as yanked in the fifth inning of his prior start at Boston but this time came close to his first complete game in the majors. Maybe next time.

“We won” is the best thing Greene took from the game. He is a man of few words and at times seems overwhelmed by his surroundings in the majors — except when he is on the mound. The righthander utilized an effective sinker-slider mix with an occasional four-seam fastball that was never more valuable than in the sixth when it produced a pivotal double play against Victor Martinez, the second half of the Tigers’ 1-2 punch behind two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera, who was rested until the ninth inning Thursday when he batted as a pinch hitter in the ninth against David Robertson (31st save) with a chance to do damage and ruin Greene’s effort.

Cabrera batted with runners on first and second with none out. He hit a hard grounder past Robertson, but it was gobbled up in front of second base by Brendan Ryan, who stepped on the bag and threw the ball to first base for another crucial double play. Fans gasped when Don Kelly lofted a fly ball in shallow center before Stephen Drew, starting at shortstop for a resting Derek Jeter, put it away for a satisfying final out. Also bailing out Robertson in the Kelly at-bat was catcher Francisco Cervelli, who made two terrific stops of balls in the dirt to keep the potential tying run at third.

Drew was also responsible for the game’s only run with an opposite-field double to left in the fourth off Porcello. The new mix of players up from the minors and the result of trades has given the Yankees a burst of freshness.

“It has changed the complexion of the team,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We have gotten better defensively, and pitchers are giving us more innings.”

Greene’s work allowed over-loaded Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances a needed day off. The Yankees had been sputtering at home this year but have turned that around since the All-Star break with 10 victories in 14 games.

“We have talked about needing to play better at home,” Girardi said. “We are doing all the little things. These are the best four starts in a row that we have had all season. Their pitchers were the guys being talked about, but our pitchers did a great job.”

Yanks finish 2-1 vs. Cy Young pitchers

Those of us in the press box had to be on the alert Wednesday night. I cannot recall a time when so many foul balls were hit in our direction. That’s usually a sign of hitters being unable to get around with the bat against a pitcher with exceptional stuff.

It came as no surprise because the pitcher was Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner who has had something of a star-crossed season this year. Verlander entered the game with a surprisingly high ERA (4.66), but he seemed the ace of recent vintage this night.

When not fouling pitches back on a regular basis, the Yankees were making out after out against Verlander until Jacoby Ellsbury broke up his no-hit bid with a two-out single to center field in the fourth inning.

Chase Headley, who has been a fine addition to the Yankees, finally got through to Verlander with one out in the fifth with a drive into the second deck in right field for the third baseman’s second home run since joining the Yankees and ninth of the season.

That made the score 1-1. The Tigers had touched Chris Capuano for a gift run in the first inning. Rajai Davis reached first base on an error by Derek Jeter and second on a wild pitch by Capuano before there was an out. Davis crossed to third on an infield out and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s flyout to the warning track in right field.

Capuano got help from Ellsbury to keep the game tied in the sixth. The center fielder leaped high to glove J.D. Martinez’s drive to right-center at the top of the wall in front of the Yankees’ bullpen for the third out of the inning.

Capuano more than held his own against Verlander. The lefthander had eight strikeouts, twice as many as his opponent into the seventh inning, and only one walk. He came out of the game after giving up two-out singles by Andrew Romine and Ezequiel Carrera in the seventh. Adam Warren retired Davis on a grounder to the right side for the third out. Capuano has pitched to a 2.48 ERA in 19 inning since joining the Yankees.

It was a shame he was out of the game when Brian McCann’s 13th home run gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Capuano had pitched well enough to earn a victory, but the run put Warren in place for the winning decision instead.

Warren’s shining moment came in the eighth when the game nearly came unglued for the Yanks after a dual error by second baseman Stephen Drew on a ground ball by Victor Martinez gave the Tigers runners on first and third with one out. Warren fell behind 3-0 in the count to the next two hitters but came back to set down both of them. He used a pair of 96-mph fastballs to strike out J.D. Martinez and finished off Nick Castellanos on a routine fly ball to right field.

Verlander was gone after seven, and the Yankees pushed their lead to 5-1 in the eighth against lefthander Blaine Hardy. Mark Teixeira drove in a run with a single and was the second runner to score on an errant throw to first base by Romine, the shortstop, on a call overturned after a video replay.

Teixeira turned out a casualty. He cut his right pinky on catcher Bryan Holaday’s spikes and required stitches. Tex will not play Thursday’s series finale and could be lost for even more time.

That was the one negative drawback in an otherwise positive night for the Yankees, whose string of games decided by two runs or fewer ended at 16.

The Yankees came out on the plus side (2-1) of their three match-ups against former Cy Young Award winners, and they now have a winning career record (6-5) against Verlander, who has not beaten them in two years.

Yankees pitching has been particularly good in this series against the Tigers, who lead the AL in batting but have scored only six runs in 30 innings the past three games.

Yanks go Cy, Cy, Cy for third time

The Yankees are amid a stretch of facing three former Cy Young Award winners in a row. They faced the Tigers’ Max Scherzer Monday night (and beat him, 2-1), were paired against David Price Tuesday night and are scheduled against Justin Verlander Wednesday night.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marks third time in franchise history that the Yankees have faced former Cy Young-winning starting pitchers in three consecutive games. The most recent period was June 8-10, 2001 when they went 1-2 against the Braves’ Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux. They also went 1-2 spanning the All-Star break in 1999, losing July 11 at Shea Stadium to the Mets’ Orel Hershiser, then going 1-1 July 15-16 against Atlanta’s Glavine and Maddux at Yankee Stadium.

Each of the Yankees’ last 15 games has been decided by two or fewer runs. They are 9-6 over that stretch. According to Elias, it is the club’s longest such streak of games with a final margin of no more than two runs. The previous high was 12 straight games by the old Highlanders from Sept. 10-20, 1904. Elias also noted that it is the longest such streak in the majors since a 16-game run by the 1975 Orioles in 1975. At 37-25 (.597), the Yankees have the majors’ best record in games decided by two or fewer runs.

The Nationals claimed left-handed reliever Matt Thornton off waivers from the Yankees. Thornton, who was 0-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 46 games totaling 24 2/3 innings, could have been taken back by the Yankees, but by letting him go they free up some $4 million for next year’s payroll. The Yankees recalled lefthander Rich Hill from Triple A Scranton to take Thornton’s place. Manager Joe Girardi said that lefthander David Huff and Hill will inherit Thornton’s lefty specialist role.

Yanks’ clubhouse revolving door keeps spinning

The door keeps revolving in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Pitcher Dellin Betances was the latest arrival from Triple A Scranton for Thursday night’s series finale against the Mariners. The righthander was 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA in six starts and two relief appearances totaling 28 1/3 innings.

Heading back to Scranton was pitcher Brett Marshall, who made his major-league debut in Wednesday night’s 12-2 loss to Seattle. The righthander threw 108 pitches and allowed five earned runs, nine hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings but was praised by manager Joe Girardi for saving the bullpen. Marshall deserves credit for taking one for the team in taking punishment to keep the relief corps from having to toil in a lopsided loss.

Betances was the choice for promotion because Marshall would not be available to pitch for at least four days. Adam Warren pitched four innings only three days ago, so the Yankees need a middle-innings reliever who can give them some length. Girardi said that Betances was the most stretched-out of the pitchers at Scranton.

Marshall was one of five players to make their major-league debuts for the Yankees in the first 40 games. The others were pitchers Preston Claiborne and Vidal Nuno and infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph. The Elias Sports Bureau points out that the previous time as many as five players made their big-league debuts with the Yankees within the club’s first 40 games was in 1995 – pitchers Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Brian Boehringer and Jeff Patterson and shortstop Derek Jeter.

Adams, who also played in his first major-league game Wednesday night on his 26th birthday, was only the fourth player in 95 seasons to get a hit in his first game on his birthday. The others were the Cleveland Indians’ Dave Clark Sept. 3, 1986 at Toronto, the Atlanta Braves’ Bruce Benedict Aug. 18, 1978 at St. Louis and the Washington Senators’ Sept. 13, 1939 in the second game of a doubleheader at Chicago, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Another familiar face Thursday night was that of Mariners starter Hector Noesi, who pitched for the Yankees in 2011 and was traded with catcher Jesus Montero to Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda, who has yet to pitch for the Yankees. Montero was Noesi’s catcher Thursday night.

The Blue Jays come to Yankee Stadium Friday night to open a three-game series. Probable starting pitchers: Hiroki Kuroda (5-2, 2.31) vs. Mark Buehrle (1-2, 6.19) at 7:05 p.m. Friday on Channel 9, David Phelps (1-2, 4.33) vs. Brandon Morrow (1-2, 4.69) at 1:05 p.m. Saturday on YES and CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.19) vs. R.A. Dickey (3-5, 4.83) at 1:05 p.m. on YES. All games are on WCBS Radio (880 AM).

Sunday’s matchup will mark the third time this season that Sabathia, the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, will be paired against a fellow recipient of that honor. The other games were April 7 against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander (2011), a 7-0 Yankees victory at Detroit, and May 14 (Tuesday night) against the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez (2010), a 4-3 Yanks victory at the Stadium. CC got the victory over Detroit and a no-decision against Seattle. Dickey was the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner with the Mets and was traded to the Blue Jays.

CC, ensemble hitting end Yanks’ slide

The Yankees needed CC Sabathia to be a stopper Sunday, a losing streak stopper in the traditional sense, and that is what he was. Seven shutout innings against one of the toughest lineups in baseball tamed the Tigers and sent the Yankees off to Cleveland in a good frame of mind.

The 7-0 victory was an ensemble effort. Sabathia’s work was the centerpiece, but he had plenty of support. The Yankees knocked out 13 hits with all but one of the regulars (Lyle Overbay) contributing to the effort. Seven of the hits came off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who left with one out in the eighth inning trailing 3-0.

Jayson Nix out of the 9-hole had the big hit off Verlander, a two-run home run in the second inning off a 2-1 changeup from Verlander, who probably wished he had stayed with the gas. Nix, hitless in seven at-bats with five punchouts prior to Sunday, had a field day with two other hits and two runs scored while filling in at shortstop for injured Eduardo Nunez (bruised right bicep). Nunez cannot throw right now, but he came in handy as a pinch runner for Travis Hafner (two hits) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki (his first RBI of the season) in the eighth.

A run-scoring double in the second inning and a two-out, run-scoring single in the eighth for Francisco Cervelli gave the catcher the club lead in RBI with five.

Kevin Youkilis continued his hot start (.409) with a double off Verlander in the first inning and a two-run single off Octavio Dotel in the ninth. Are Yankees fans finally warming up to this guy? I know he annoyed fans this spring with that “I’ll always be a Red Sox” quote in reference to his time in Boston, but that just meant that he could not ignore what he had accomplished there. That was the opposite of what Wade Boggs said in his first spring training with the Yankees in 1993 that his 11 years with the Red Sox “never happened.” Really? Five batting titles did not count? We would all come to get used to Boggsy’s off-the-beam perspective on things.

Sabathia admitted to writers after the game that he did not have his best stuff, except for his changeup, which is becoming almost as important a weapon as his slider. CC was annoyed at himself for working in so many deep counts. The seventh inning, his last, was the only 1-2-3 inning for him, but he stranded seven Tigers runners over the first six innings and was especially effective against the 3-4-5 mashers Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, who were a combined 0-for-9 against him. Overall, CC limited the Tigers to four singles and three walks with four strikeouts.

David Robertson followed Sabathia with a scoreless eighth, and in a non-save situation Mariano Rivera gave up two hits in the ninth but no runs in what might have been his farewell appearance in front of a Detroit audience (unless the clubs match up in postseason play as they did last year). The Tigers showed class by honoring Mo before the game with Detroit manager Jim Leyland unveiling a plaque of Rivera pitching at Comerica Park and old Tiger Stadium and containers of dirt from each field.

The Yankees did not let themselves get bullied by Verlander, who for all his accomplishments is only a .500 pitcher in his career against them. His record against the Yankees fell to 5-5 with a 3.74 ERA in 84 1/3 innings, during which he has allowed 90 hits, including 11 home runs.

Youkilis draws Verlander’s ire

It looked as if there might be some fireworks early on in Sunday’s game when Tigers starter Justin Verlander had words with the Yankees’ Kevin Youkilis as the third baseman stood on second base after whacking a double in the first inning.

Lip readers could detect Verlander saying to Youkilis, “Did you say something?” a couple of times. Youk just responded, “What?” Yankees first base coach Mick Kelleher and Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder trotted to the bag to make sure anything between Verlander and Youkilis didn’t get any more heated.

A replay of Youkilis running to first base after the hit showed that he may have said something. At least his mouth was open at one point. Why that bothered Verlander is anyone’s guess. The issue did not carry over into Youkilis’ next at-bat, however. No close pitches by Verlander, who ended up walking Youk in the third inning.

As great a pitcher as Verlander is, he has not been invincible against the Yankees. He entered Sunday’s game with a 5-4 career record against them with a 3.74 ERA and 83 hits allowed, 10 of them home runs, in 77 innings. The Yankees struck for three runs against the righthander in the second inning on an RBI double by Francisco Cervelli and a two-run home run by Jayson Nix. The bomb was good to see from Nix, who had been 0-for-7 with five strikeouts this season. He was starting again at shortstop because Eduardo Nunez still cannot throw with his bruised right bicep.

Yanks’ pitchers stumbling out of gate

Much of the concern about the 2013 Yankees has centered on the offense, what with the loss of 194 home runs in players gone from the 2012 team and the season-opening injuries to four key position players – Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson. What the Yankees were counting on to offset the lineup changes was quality pitching. Yet it is the pitching that has been a main culprit in the club’s 1-4 start.

Saturday’s 8-4 loss to the Tigers was the latest example of shabby pitching. The Yankees were hoping for a boost from Phil Hughes, removed from the disabled list and thrust into the rotation over David Phelps, who returned to long relief. Well, Phelps got into the game anyway because Hughes lasted only three batters into the fifth inning and was hit hard – four runs (three earned) and eight hits.

Boone Logan, the Yankees’ lone lefthander in the bullpen, had another troublesome outing against Detroit’s left-handed hitters. Friday, he yielded a three-run home run to Prince Fielder, who was the first batter Logan faced again in the fifth inning Saturday. Logan kept Fielder in the park this time, but a single gave the Detroit first baseman his sixth RBI of the series. Logan gave up an RBI single later in the inning to another left-handed hitter, Andy Dirks.

The Yankees came back from a 5-1 deficit to make it a one-run game by scoring three runs in the sixth. A tiring Max Scherzer walked Robinson Cano and Kevin Youkilis to start the inning and yielded a single to Travis Hafner that resulted in the righthander’s departure. Al Alburquerque walked Vernon Wells to load the bases, but Brennan Boesch lined into a double play. After another walk, Alburquerque gave up a two-run single to Lyle Overbay.

Just when the Yankees got back into the game, Phelps failed to produce a shut-down inning and allowed two runs in the bottom of the sixth as the Tigers began to pull away again. Joba Chamberlain, whose ERA is a glaring 21.60, was wild (two walks, one wild pitch) in allowing a run in the eighth.

The Tigers finished with 17 hits, including four by Miguel Cabrera and three apiece by Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter. It could have been worse for the Yankees, but Detroit had 4-for-15 (.267) with runners in scoring position.

The amount of hits Yankees pitchers have allowed is alarming – 61 in five games, an average of 12.2 knocks per game. Opponents are batting .339 in 180 at-bats against the Yanks. Meanwhile, Yankees hitters are batting only .219 in 160 at-bats. They do have six home runs (Wells got his second of the season Saturday), so the power outage expected has not actually materialized, but the offense has been unable to compensate for the pitching problems. The Yankees have been outscored, 33-17. Detroit relievers have combined for seven scoreless innings against the Yanks the past two games.

Staff ace CC Sabathia gets the opportunity to be a stopper Sunday in the series finale at Comerica Park. One major hurdle, however, is that the Tigers’ scheduled starter is Justin Verlander. It is a dream matchup of former American League Cy Young Award winners, and the pressure is on CC to turn the staff in a positive direction.

Sore fingers crossed, Kuroda still in rotation

There appeared to be no lingering effects to pitcher Hiroki Kuroda’s right middle finger that was struck by a line drive and ultimately was responsible for his early departure from Wednesday night’s game. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Kuroda remained on schedule to make his next start Monday night at Cleveland.

Prior to facing the Indians in a four-game series at Progressive Field, the Yankees have a hurdle with a three-game set this weekend at Detroit’s Comerica Field. Probable starters for the Yanks in the matchup against the Tigers are Ivan Nova at 1:05 p.m. Friday against Doug Fister in the defending American League pennant winners’ home opener, David Phelps at 4:05 p.m. Saturday against Max Scherzer and CC Sabathia at 1:05 p.m. Sunday against Justin Verlander in a pairing of former AL Cy Young Award winners.

Thursday night’s lineup for the Yankees had Robinson Cano in the 2-hole with Ichiro Suzuki dropping to sixth. Girardi said he wanted to separate his left-handed hitters now that he no longer has switch hitters in the order, but I suspect giving Cano an extra at-bat perhaps was also part of the decision.

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