Results tagged ‘ Kevin Brown ’

Yanks’ 4th & 5th starters pitching like aces

It would be hard to get better starting pitching on a long, chilly day at the park than what the Yankees got Wednesday in the split-admission doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

Granted, those were who-are-they? lineups the Cubs rolled out in each game, but by the same token Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda are the fourth and fifth starters in the Yankees’ rotation. However, if they can keep up this type of performance moving up the food chain is definitely possible.

After Tanaka pitched eight scoreless innings of two-hit, 10-strikeout ball in the matinee game, Pineda followed with six more zeroes of work in the nightcap. The combined effort by the two newcomers: 14 innings, 6 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts.

Referring to Pineda as a newcomer is in terms of pitching. He has been in the Yankees organization since 2012 but did not pitch at the major-league level for them until this month while recovering from shoulder surgery.

The 6-foot-7 righthander has gone to a strong start in his first long look with the Yankees. Three starts into the season, Pineda is 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings. He has walked only three batters and struck out 15. Wednesday night he became the first Yankees pitcher to allow one or fewer runs in each of his first three starts with the team since Kevin Brown in 2004. The last pitcher to do that in his first four starts with the Yankees was Tommy John in 1979.

It was not the kind of weather that serves hitters well. That much must be said. How Carlos Beltran homered on a blustery day when the ball did not carry at all was astonishing. The Yankees had only four other hits and were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. They touched up Cubs pitching for 12 hits in the night game but scored only two runs.

But with the type of pitching the Yankees got, not much offense was needed to produce a sweep.

Kuroda overpowered by Rays

Hiroki Kuroda has picked up the Yankees all season. Now his teammates can pay him back by picking up the rest of this series for him. Kuroda simply was not himself Friday night in a 7-2 loss to the Rays that stifled the momentum the Yankees were thriving on after sweeping a four-game series from Toronto that alerted other contenders that they intend to be in the thick of the race for a postseason berth.

The Yankees came from behind in all four games against the Blue Jays, but there would be no heroics at Tropicana Field as the Rays kept hitting balls over the fences to push the Yankees further behind over the first five innings.

Kuroda gave the Yankees innings – six – and little else. The seven runs and the four home runs were the most allowed in a game this year by Kuroda, who has yielded 20 hits in his past 11 2/3 innings. The Yanks gave Kuroda a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out, RBI single by Alfonso Soriano crossing up Rays manager Joe Maddon’s over-shift, but in the second the righthander was jolted by a three-run home run by Rays catcher Jose Lobaton that ended Kuroda’s homerless streak of 58 1/3 innings.

Tampa Bay kept it up with solo shots by Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce back-to-back in the third inning and Ben Zobrist leading off the fifth. Along the way, Lobaton picked up a fourth RBI on a single in the fourth. Kuroda entered the game leading the American League in earned run average but dropped into fifth place and surrendered the lead to the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez.

The offensive surge was more than enough support for Chris Archer, another impressive young pitcher in the Rays’ corral who has been murder on the Yankees this year. The righthander held the Yankees to two runs, four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in seven innings to run his record against them this season to 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Archer, who pitched a two-hit shutout against the Yankees in his previous start against them July 27 at Yankee Stadium, became the first rookie pitcher to win three games against them in one season since 1989 by Kevin Brown, then with the Rangers.

The Yankees’ big bats were awfully quiet. Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Soriano and Alex Rodriguez combined for that one hit by Soriano in 16 at-bats with three strikeouts. Leadoff man Brett Gardner had a hand – rather, legs – in scoring both the Yankees’ runs.

He led off the game with a walk, stole second, crossed to third on a deep flyout by Granderson and scored on the hit by Soriano. Gardner tripled leading off the fifth and scored on an infield out by Cano. Gardner suffered an embarrassing moment in the eighth, which he led off with an infield single, by getting picked off first base by reliever Jamey Wright.

So the five-game winning streak is over, but the Yankees still have a chance to win the series, which they have done in each of their past four series. Saturday night’s second game of the set pairs former AL Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia and David Price. It will mark the ninth matchup between the two lefthanders. Price has had the upper hand in the rivalry with a 4-2 record and 2.52 ERA with the Rays winning six of the eight games.

Yanks can’t handle Garza this time

The Rangers got an immediate dividend in their trade for Matt Garza Wednesday night at the expense of the Yankees. Garza had trouble with the Yankees (1-4, 4.48 ERA) in his years with the Rays, but in his first start against the Bombers in four years the only one who hurt him was himself.

The run off Garza in Texas’ 3-1 victory was not earned, although it was his two-base error with a bad throw to first base on an infield single by Brett Gardner in the sixth inning that led to the run that scored on a single by Robinson Cano. But that would be it for the Yankees, who were back to hitting only singles – five of them – as they got only two runners past first base after the first inning. It was back in the first inning that the Yankees had a chance to go some damage against Garza. Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki each singled, but Garza came back to strike out Cano and Lyle Overbay and get Vernon Wells on a ground ball.

The momentum the Yankees felt after Tuesday night’s somewhat miraculous victory ebbed quickly, which can happen when a pitcher is on his game as was Garza (7-1), who pitched into the eighth inning with no walks and five strikeouts.

Andy Pettitte (7-8) took the loss, a tough one. He gave up eight hits but only two runs, both driven in by A.J. Pierzynski on a two-out single in the first inning and his 10th home run in the sixth. Give Pettitte credit. It was not a fat pitch to Pierzynski for the homer but a 1-2 slider that the Rangers’ designated hitter caught just above his shoelaces and got up into the humid Texas air.

Pettitte had two strikeouts with both coming in succession in the second inning that pushed him past Sandy Koufax and tied him with former teammate Kevin Brown for 39th place on the career list with 2,397. For the fifth consecutive game, Pettitte was scored upon in the first inning, but he pitched well enough to win.

David Murphy provided an insurance run with a home run off Shawn Kelley in the eighth. Texas manager Ron Washington elected to have lefthander Neal Cotts, who had gotten the last two outs of the Yankees eighth, to face the left-handed Cano and Overbay in the ninth. Cotts retired both before Washington brought in his closer Joe Nathan, who blew Tuesday night’s game.

The move looked questionable when Wells greeted Nathan with a single that brought the potential tying run to the plate in Eduardo Nunez, who hit a game-tying triple off Nathan the night before. No such luck this time as Nunez made the final out on a soft liner to shortstop.

Gardner had two hits and a stolen base, the 154th of his career, which shot him past Mickey Mantle into eighth place on the Yankees’ all-time list.

I’ll be heading for Cooperstown, N.Y., Thursday for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend and will file reports on the induction of former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and the ceremonies honoring former Yankees pitcher Tommy John and Dr. Frank Jobe and Lou Gehrig, who will finally officially be part of an induction ceremony. More on that in my next report.

Yanks got in draft duels with NFL

The National Football League began its amateur draft Thursday in Manhattan. The Yankees made two first-round selections in Major League Baseball’s first-year-player draft that went on to play pro football.

John Elway, who won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, was the Yankees’ first pick of the 1981 draft and the 26th choice overall. Two years earlier, he had been drafted by the Royals but decided to attend Stanford. Elway played one season in the Yankees’ organization at Class A Oneonta and returned to Stanford where he played both football and baseball. In 1983, Elway was taken in the NFL draft by the Colts, then based in Baltimore. He was eventually traded to Denver where he became one of the city’s greatest sports legends.

Another first-round choice was Brandon Weeden, now the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. The Yankees made him the 71st overall pick in 2002. Weeden pitched in the minors for several seasons both before and after the Yankees included him in the 2003 trade with the Dodgers that brought Kevin Brown to the Bronx. Weeden left baseball for good in 2006.

Also picked by the Yankees in lower rounds of the draft were two future football stars who also spent some time in the major leagues.

They chose Bo Jackson in 1982 with their second pick of the second round. He later played for the Royals and made the All-Star team. The Yankees took Deion Sanders in the 30th round in 1988. “Neon Deion” got into 71 games for the Yankees in 1989 and ’90 and batted .178 with 31 runs, four doubles, two triples, five home runs, 16 RI and nine stolen bases in 11 attempts in 180 at-bats. Sanders played in the World Series for the Braves in 1992 and on Super Bowl champion teams with the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys.

Tough Hall ballot for former Yankees

Last week’s Hall of Fame election was a tough one for those players with ties to the Yankees. Of the eight players on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees, five failed to get the five percent required to remain in consideration and were dropped. The three players who will remain on the ballot next year did nothing to improve their chances of election anytime soon, if ever.

With a record total of 581 ballots submitted by Baseball Writers’ Association of America members with 10 or more consecutive years of service, 436 votes were needed for election to satisfy the 75-percent requirement. Second baseman Roberto Alomar with 523 (90.0 percent) and pitcher Bert Blyleven with 463 (79.7) were the only ones to make the grade; Alomar in his second time on the ballot and Blyleven in his 14th and next to last time.

Kevin Brown, who pitched for the Yankees in his later years after having been a Yankees Killer with the Rangers early in his career, did the best of those who wore the pinstripes that failed to make the cut, with 12 votes, which reflected only 2.1 percent of the ballots cast. First baseman Tino Martinez, one of the franchise’s most popular players, got 6 votes (1.0 percent), and pitcher Al Leiter and first baseman John Olerud received 4 apiece (0.7). Shut out entirely was outfielder Raul Mondesi.

Brown has become sort of a darling of the SABR (Society of Baseball Research) set, who love his statistics. I admit Brown had a better career than a lot of people may think (211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 2 ERA and WHIP titles, 6 All-Star appearances), but the Hall of Fame is for the great, not just the very good. Brown’s time with the Yankees was one of the areas that worked against him. His impact was less than minimal; it was non-existent. Martinez also falls into the very good category, as did his old buddy Paul O’Neill, who was a one-and-done candidate four years ago.

The others had their moments in the sun, which is why they were on the ballot in the first place, but Cooperstown just was not to be their destination.

As for those who remain, the outlook is not good, since each lost ground in the voting. Reliever Lee Smith, who pitched in eight games for the Yankees in 1993, is stuck below 50 percent. He might have been expected to get to the half-way point in this year’s election but instead fell to 45.3 percent – two percent below his 2010 showing. He has up to six more years for consideration (players may stay on the ballot up to 15 years provided they get 5 percent of the vote each year), but he appears to be going backward.

The same holds true for outfielder Tim Raines, whose candidacy is based more on his high-profile years with the Expos and White Sox rather than his role-playing time with the Yankees. I would have thought that appreciation for Raines’ record as a leadoff hitter would have heightened after Rickey Henderson’s election in 2009, but Rock is also moving in reverse. He went from receiving 37.5 percent of the vote last year to 30.4 percent this year. Time at least is on Raines’ side; this was only his fourth year on the ballot.

Very much like Smith, time is running out on Don Mattingly, the Dodgers’ new manager whose entire playing career was spent with the Yankees. The 2011 election was Donnie Baseball’s 11th year on the ballot. He fell from 16.1 percent last year to 13.6 percent this year. Mattingly has never done better than the 28.2 percent he got in his first ballot year of 2001. He is down to less than half of that now and has only four years possibly remaining for consideration.

The 2012 ballot will feature another Yankees favorite, Bernie Williams, the switch-hitting center fielder and cleanup hitter on four World Series championship teams. This is just a hunch, but he is bound to do better than the first-year candidates with Yankees pedigrees this time around.

Another holiday list

As each year comes to a close, baseball writers center on their annual responsibility of voting for the Hall of Fame. Ballots are mailed out to writers Dec. 1 and due back in the hands to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America by a Dec. 31 postmark.

So it is not just Santa Claus who makes a list and checks it twice come the Christmas season.

As secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, I have conducted the election since 1995, the year Mike Schmidt was elected. I will be busy with Hall of Fame business the next few days but will find time to share some thoughts with Yankees fans about the election. Results will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday on bbwaa.com, baseballhall.org, MLB.com and the MLB Network.

The ballot contains 33 names this year, eight of whom spent a portion of their careers with the Yankees, including two of the most popular figures in the franchise’s history, first basemen Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez. Others on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees are pitchers Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Lee Smith, outfielders Tim Raines and Raul Mondesi and first baseman John Olerud.

Mattingly has been on the ballot for 10 years and has never done better than 28 percent of the vote going back to his first year. To gain entry into Cooperstown, 75 percent is required. Mattingly was at 16.1 percent last year. Martinez, his successor at first base for the Yankees, is a first-time candidate this year. It is doubtful writers will find Tino’s candidacy all that compelling, any more than they did another Yankees fan favorite Paul O’Neill two years ago. Martinez’s goal should be to get five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot, which players must do to stay in contention for the full 15 years of eligibility. O’Neill failed to do that and was dropped after one year.

Brown, whose time with the Yankees was filled with controversy, had a fine career, but New York fans rarely saw him at his best except when he pitched against the Yankees for the Rangers. Yankees fans know Brown for breaking his pitching hand in anger and his implosion on the mound in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship, the franchise’s worst moment.

Leiter started and ended his career with the Yankees but had his best seasons with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets. His 162-132 record and 3.80 ERA does not spell immortality.

Raines, on the other hand, is an interesting case. He came to the Yankees after years with the Expos and White Sox and was a key role player on the World Series title teams of 1996, ’98 and ’99. With 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases, Raines has some Hall of Fame numbers, but after three years on the ballot he has done no better than 30 percent.

Smith, Olerud and Mondesi had limited time in pinstripes. Olerud and Mondesi are on the ballot for the first time and are not likely to get the five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot. Smith, who pitched in only eight games for the Yankees in 1993, once held the major-record for saves with 478 but has yet to attract even half the vote in eight previous elections.

The favorites this time around are second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven, each of whom came close last year. Blyleven was on 74.2 percent of the ballots cast and missed by five votes. Alomar missed by eight votes at 397, or 73.7 percent.

The only player not to get elected when eligible the year after getting more than 70 percent in the vote was pitcher Jim Bunning. He was on 74 percent of the ballots in 1988 and missed by four votes. The next year, however, with a thicker ballot consisting of first-year inductees Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski and fellow pitching greats Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins, Bunning lost 34 votes and dropped 11 percent in his final year on the ballot. He was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
 
The most accomplished of the new names are first basemen Jeff Bagwell and Rafael Palmeiro and outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Larry Walker. Palmeiro and Gonzalez will have a rough time.

Despite being only the fourth player in history to get more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro is a long shot because of his positive test for anabolic steroids in 2005, the same year he testified before Congress that he had never taken them. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, the only other members of both the 3,000 Hit and 500 Home Run Clubs were elected in their first years of eligibility.

Gonzales, a two-time AL Most Valuable Player, showed up in the Mitchell Report as a steroids user, which could hurt his chances for a big vote. After all, Mark McGwire with his 587 home runs has been on the ballot for four years and is hovering at 23 percent.

Bagwell, who had an amazing career (.297, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 runs, .408 on-base percentage, .540 slugging percentage), never failed a drug test but faced suspicions of possible performance-enhancing aid after he felt in love with the weight room in the mid-1990s. Walker, like Bagwell a National League MVP, had some very good years in Montreal and then some monster years in Colorado. Will the Coors Field effect hurt his chances?

See, this voting stuff isn’t easy. After thorough study, I finally filled out my ballot.

Checks went to Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Walker, Mattingly, Raines, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff and Jack Morris.

My take on Bagwell was that he is innocent until proved guilty. Larkin is following a path not dissimilar to another NL MVP middle infielder who took a few years to get to Cooperstown, Ryne Sandberg. Ask any Yankees fan who watched the 1995 Division Series about Edgar Martinez, who was simply one of the greatest right-handed hitters I ever saw. McGriff, who came through the Yankees system but was traded away, slugged 493 homers the clean way and made a major difference on the only Atlanta Braves team to win a World Series. Morris was the ace of every staff for which he pitched, including three teams that won the World Series – the 1984 Tigers, ’91 Twins and ’92 Blue Jays.

Let the arguments begin. I’ll be back after the election.

Burned-up Burnett

Joe Girardi is an understanding man, a lot more understanding that I would be if I were managing the Yankees and A.J. Burnett pulled the deal on me that he pulled on Girardi Saturday before a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium on an Old Timers’ Day devoted to the memory of George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard.

Forget for a minute how Boss George would have reacted to the news that one of his start pitchers averaging over $16 million a year in contract money punched himself out of the game before getting an out in the third inning. How about having to wait until the end of a brutal 10-5 loss to a Rays team on the heels of the Yankees in the American League East race to find out just what the heck happened?

Not only that. Girardi talked to the Fox broadcasters Kenny Albert and Tim McCarver during the game and said he would find out what happened to Burnett and send word back to them. The word that came later was that Burnett had fallen down the steps in the dugout, which turned out to be a lie.

This is not a politician’s blog, so I won’t say that Burnett misspoke. He lied. The tall tale he told was to the trainers so he could continue pitching even with lacerations on both of his hands. Girardi had his doubts, naturally, since he figured the only way someone could get cuts on their hands falling down steps would have been to dive down them.

Girardi still had a game to try to win. The Yankees were in a bad way for sure, but a 4-2 deficit in the third is not insurmountable. That the manager had to rely on the soft underbelly of his bullpen (Dustin Moseley, Chad Gaudin) is what took the game out of control, and that is Burnett’s fault. At least he pleaded guilty to that.

“I told Joe after the game that I was embarrassed and what really happened,” Burnett said. “I’ll apologize to all my teammates [Sunday].”

They deserve to hear that from Burnett, who finally admitted to Girardi after the game that his wounds were due to counter-punching the double doors leading to the clubhouse, which loosened some Plexiglas that sliced the fleshy portion of his palms just below the wrists. Never mind the suicide jokes. This is no laughing matter. Burnett did a stupid thing and then compounded it by trying to pitch after injuring his hands.

Yankees fans surely remember similar stupidity from Kevin Brown in September 2005 when he broke his pitching hand by venting his frustration in the same fashion, although he took on a brick wall. When will players realize that a wall or a door always wins that fight?

What Burnett did no matter how much his frustration may have seemed justified was to jeopardize the division chances of everyone in that clubhouse. That Girardi was not more upset than he let on was frankly a surprise to me.

Burnett is not some green kid but a 33-year-old veteran in his 12th big-league season. He should know better.

“It’s not something I want my players to do,” he said. “Mr. Steinbrenner called Paul O’Neill a warrior, and he hit more things than anybody.”

That almost sounds like justification. I was around for O’Neill’s entire time with the Yankees, and he never missed a game because of an injury related to his famous encounters with water coolers and light bulbs. Girardi said he does not expect Burnett to miss a start and that he’ll get an extra day because of Monday’s open date. That just means the Yankees got lucky. Burnett should know that, too, which is why an apology to his teammates is in order.

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