Results tagged ‘ Kevin Long ’
It was a tale of two teams in the first inning Wednesday night at Tropicana Field. The Yankees and the Rays each got their leadoff hitter on base. The Yankees did not score. The Rays did. The difference was something as simple as a sacrifice. The Yankees eschewed the notion. The Rays executed one and got a run out of it.
The funny thing about the situation is that Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long following Tuesday night’s loss suggested that the team may have to change its approach with runners on base and give more consideration to the bunt. Yet after Derek Jeter led off the game with a single to right off Matt Moore, Nick Swisher did not attempt a bunt and eventually was called out on strikes. Robinson Cano followed that by grounding into a double play to end the inning.
“We’re not the Bronx Bunters, and we really never have been,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters before the game. “That’s not really our approach. The one thing you can concentrate on is really good at-bats and making sure you grind out your at-bats. If you have to move a runner over, make sure you hit the ball to the other side or pull it or try to drive the ball. Take the extra base when you can. We’re not going to change our philosophy.”
Sam Fuld, getting a rare start as Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon gave B.J. Upton the night off, led off the bottom of the first with a single to left off Hiroki Kuroda. Desmond Jennings dropped a bunt to the right side that moved Fuld into scoring position. After Ben Zobrist struck out, Evan Longoria bounced a single through the right side that got Tampa Bay the run it bunted for.
Bunting did not work out as well for the Rays in the second inning. A single by Jeff Keppinger and a double by Jose Lobaton gave Tampa Bay runners on second and third with one out. Elliot Johnson, the Rays’ 9-hole hitter, tried a safety squeeze, but he bunted the ball right at Kuroda, who held Keppinger at third base and got the second out at first base. Fuld grounded out to end the threat.
The Yanks caught a break that inning. Lobaton’s double over the outstretched glove of Curtis Granderson in center field was on a hit-and-run play, but Keppinger had to hold up around second base to make sure the ball got past Granderson, who got the ball back to the infield too quickly for Keppinger to attempt to score.
Maddon is known to be unconventional. Not having Upton in the lineup fits into that category. Upton was 3-for-7 (.429) with one double, two home runs, three runs and three RBI in the first two games. It had nothing to do with how Upton has fared in his career against Kuroda. They have never faced each other. Maddon told writers he was just giving his center fielder a day off. Still, that’s strange.
For a while there Saturday night at Detroit, it appeared that the Yankees would win a game this year without hitting a home run. In fact, it was the element of base running that seemed to be in the Yankees’ favor. In the end, though, their lack of coming up with hits in critical situations had them looking at their 12th winless homerless game.
I know you are tired of reading this (no more than I am tired of writing it), but the Yankees’ troubles with runners in scoring position and with the bases loaded continued in the 4-3 loss. They left 12 runners on base – nine in scoring position. Nick Swisher’s two-out, RBI single in the eighth inning was the Yankees’ only hit in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position, which dropped their season average in clutch situations to .222.
In the ninth inning, Jose Valverde blew a save opportunity and seemed to be handing the Yanks the game in a bizarre performance. Valverde threw 29 pitches, only 13 of which were in the strike zone. He walked two batters, hit two and was lucky to get away with yielding only one run on a bases-loaded walk to Mark Teixeira. The Yankees were 0-for-2 with the bases loaded that inning and are now 9-for-57 (.158) in those spots for the season.
The Yankees used their legs to score. Robinson Cano alertly took third base on a single to center by Teixeira in the sixth and was able to score on an infield out by birthday boy Raul Ibanez, who turned 40. Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel bobbled a pepper shot by Ibanez in the eighth that cost him a shot at the lead runner as Teixeira went to second with two out. Swisher’s hit followed to tie the score.
Meanwhile, the Tigers hurt themselves on the bases. Prince Fielder, on second base with none out in the third inning, failed to advance to third on a grounder to his left and ended up getting stranded. Miguel Cabrera, also on second with none out an inning later, was thrown out at third foolishly trying to advance on a ball in the dirt that Yanks catcher Russell Martin retrieved quickly.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland probably absolved Cabrera since the third baseman hit two titanic home runs to center field, one off Hiroki Kuroda in the fourth and another off Cory Wade in the eighth. The closest the Yankees got to a home run was an opposite-field drive by Teixeira in the fourth that was gloved over the wall by left fielder Don Kelly.
A Yankees bullpen that has done yeoman’s work since the injuries to Mariano Rivera and David Robertson last month let this one get away. David Phelps gave up two singles and Boone Logan a sacrifice fly to Omir Santos that won it for Detroit the night before Justin Verlander will take the mound against Phil Hughes in the rubber game of the series.
A disturbing episode in Saturday night’s game was an exchange between Yankees manager Joe Girardi and plate umpire Bob Davidson. The skipper got the thumb right after Davidson tossed hitting coach Kevin Long for griping about a called strike to Curtis Granderson in the seventh. The Yankees’ brass seemed to have a point since replays indicated the pitch was low. It came in a critical at-bat with one out and runners on second and third and the Yankees trailing, 2-1. Granderson eventually struck out.
Girardi was ejected for the second time this season and 12th time as Yanks manager, so this was nothing new. However, I have rarely seen Girardi as ferocious as he was in the argument with Davidson, whose fuse seemed awfully short. It was decidedly a sign of frustration on Girardi’s part.
Robinson Cano may be slow out of the gate this season, but his fielding remains solid. He had a big hand in helping Ivan Nova out of a jam in the first inning Wednesday night.
After a single by J.J. Hardy and a double by Nick Markakis gave the Orioles runners at second and third with one out, Adam Jones hit a flare into shallow right field. Running with his back to the infield, Cano gloved the ball, turned quickly and held Hardy at third base. Base runners have learned not to test Cano’s gun of a throwing arm.
The Yankees obviously decided to have Nova pitch carefully to Matt Wieters, who walked to fill the bases, and go after Chris Davis, who ended the threat by striking out on a 2-2 curve.
Cano was on the field for an early batting practice session with hitting coach Kevin Long pitching balls to the second baseman, who took part in a drill in which a screen is placed perpendicular to the plate so that the hitter concentrates on pulling the inside pitch.
“Robbie works hard at his game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We are used to him being successful that when he struggles, we are a little shocked, maybe not quite to the effect of a Mo [Mariano Rivera]. We are looking for reasons. What is it? I think sometimes we all want to take the human element out. These are human beings. The other guys are actually paid to get him out. They are supposed to throw pitches that he is not supposed to hit hard. The ones that he has hit hard, a lot of them have been caught. I even went out to the mound the other day to talk to the pitcher and I said, ‘Look, Robbie, you just lined out. Look at all the green out there. You just happened to hit it to right where the guy is standing. How do you do that?’ I tried to make a little light of it because it is frustrating when you do make outs. That will change, I guarantee you.”
HOPE Week brought the Yankees to the NBC television studios of The Today Show Friday where John Lahutsky, 21, and Andrei Sullivan, 19, two survivors of Russia’s harsh orphanage system, were reunited backstage after 14 years. Yankees manager Joe Girardi and director of communications and media relations Jason Zillo were also featured in a segment detailing the events of the third annual HOPE Week.
Following their reunion, John and Andrei and their families took an hour-long NBC studio tour before joining Yankees players Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner and coaches Kevin Long and Larry Rothschild in touring the Central Park Zoo and enjoying an outdoor lunch on the grounds. John and Andrei were also guests of the team for its game Friday night against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
This reunion would not have been possible without the support of Delta Air Lines, which provided complimentary air transportation for the entire Sullivan family, including Andrei, his parents, Tom and Roslyn, his brother and sister, John and Sarah, and two teenage Russian orphans, Mikhail and Alexander, whom the family is hosting in their Michigan home this summer.
John Lahutsky was born prematurely at six months and weighing two pounds. At 18 months, he was placed by his birth mother in the Russian orphanage system, which considered him an “incurable” due to cerebral palsy. John’s “Baby House” offered him no education or physical therapy. Until he was five years old, John was never taken outside the walls of the building.
Despite the horrendous treatment he received, John always looked after his best friend in the unit, Andrei. John even taught Andrei how to talk after picking up Russian from the few nurses that treated him decently.
Andrei was adopted in 1997, but John had to wait until 1999 before being adopted by a woman from Bethlehem Township, Pa., named Paula Lahutsky, who read about him in a church newsletter. John recently wrote a book, The Boy from Baby House 10, which details his experiences in the Russian orphanage system. His hope is that by telling his story, he can prevent the abuses he suffered from happening to others.
Running Nick Swisher out there game after game hasn’t done much to get him out of a month-long slump, so Yankees manager Joe Girardi is giving the right fielder a couple of days to take stock in his situation and work on his swing. Swisher did not play Sunday against the Mets and was not in the starting lineup Monday night against the Blue Jays.
Girardi took the same approach last August to Curtis Granderson, who made a major turnaround after working closely with hitting coach Kevin Long. Granderson is still reaping the benefits of that period by leading the Yankees in home runs and runs batted in 45 games into the season.
Swisher was out early Monday taking extra batting practice. The availability of Chris Dickerson is one of the factors that allowed Girardi to make the move with Swisher now. The Yankees had opened the season with only one extra outfielder, Andruw Jones, who bats right-handed. Swisher is a switch hitter who has had more problems batting from the left side. Having Dickerson, who bats left-handed, afforded Girardi the option of giving Swisher time off without losing a lefty in the lineup against a right-handed starting pitcher.
“I’m trying to get him going,” Girardi said of Swisher, who is batting .214 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 145 at-bats. “I told him to take a couple of days – to take a deep breath and try something a little bit different. Players don’t like sitting down, but in the end this is the best for him at this time.”
In 26 games since April 20 when he was batting a respectable .273, Swisher has hit .178 in 90 at-bats as his season average has fallen 59 points.
“His leg kick has been off,” Girardi said about Swisher’s approach at the plate. “When that’s off, your timing is off and you don’t pick up the ball as well. That has been the case with Swish, especially left-handed.”
As a left-handed hitter, Swisher is batting .170 in 106 at-bats. He is a .333 hitter in 39 at-bats from the right side but with not much power (no home runs, .385 slugging percentage). Swisher hit 29 home runs in each of his previous two seasons with the Yankees but is on a pace this year to hit only eight. He made the All-Star team for the first time in 2010. That seems like a real long shot this year.
Swisher evened up his home-away totals last year (.287, 15 HR, 47 RBI at home; .289, 14 HR, 42 RBI on the road) after a lop-sided 2009 when he batted .268 with 21 homers and 55 RBI on the road but only .226 with 8 homers and 27 RBI in the first year of the new Yankee Stadium.
His numbers this year are the other way around. Swisher is batting .231 at home and .185 on the road, although the power numbers are about even (1 homer and 9 RBI away; 1 homer and 10 RBI at home). The Yankees go on a 10-day, 9-game trip to the three West Coast cities after this homestand ends Wednesday afternoon.
“Sometimes other people know what’s best for you,” Swisher said. “I’m a competitor. I expect a lot out of myself.”
Maybe the time away is what Swisher needs. In the meantime, the Yankees will go with a hot hand in Dickerson, the Triple A call-up who entered play Monday night batting .500 (4-for-8) with three RBI.
With the Yankees-Rays game Tuesday night at Tropicana Field starting at 6:40 p.m., there is a good chance the game will be over in time for viewers with the HBO cable service to watch its Real Sports program at 10 p.m. that features several prominent Yankees.
The story centers on a situation last year in which the Yankees and the Red Sox set aside their intense rivalry and came together to raise funds to help the daughter of Boston first base coach Ron Johnson, a longtime friend of Yankees batting coach Kevin Long.
You may recall that as a favor to his old pal Long asked Yankees players to contribute to a fund to help Johnson with medical bills for his daughter, Bridget, who had a leg severed after a horse she was riding was struck by a vehicle. Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada were interviewed as well as Long for the feature.
The Yankees’ current trip to Detroit and Texas is something of a nostalgic trek for center fielder Curtis Granderson. He spent the first six seasons of his career with the Tigers and revamped his swing last August with the Yankees in a series of sessions with hitting coach Kevin Long on a swing through Arlington.
Granderson was on the disabled list last year when the Yankees visited Detroit, so this week’s four-game series at Comerica Park was his first time back to the Motor City since the trade that sent him to the Yankees after the 2009 season. It proved a less than satisfying stop for him as Granderson had only two hits, both singles, in 14 at-bats (.143) with three walks and two runs.
But good old Rangers Ballpark, where Granderson started to turn around his 2010 season, was a welcome sight. He didn’t waste any time, either, as he leaned into a 1-1 fastball from lefthander Matt Harrison in the first inning for a two-run home run. Once close to an automatic out against lefties, Granderson has homered four times in 29 at-bats against southpaws this year.
In the seventh inning, it was righthander Ryan Tucker’s turn to be victimized as Granderson turned around a 2-0 fastball and homered into the right field upper deck that resembles old Tiger Stadium, which used to be in Detroit, so Granderson sort of went full circle. The turnaround in Granderson’s hitting since last August has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Prior to that series in Texas, Granderson was batting .239 with 11 doubles, 5 triples, 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 301 at-bats. Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not start him for the first two games in the series allowing Granderson to digest fully the work with Long, who said they worked on “calming” his swing and relying on his hands.
In 272 at-bats since the Texas sessions, Granderson has batted .265 with 10 doubles, 3 triples, 24 home runs and 55 RBI. That’s a .588 slugging percentage and a 44-homer pace over a 500-at-bat season. The pace is even higher (46 homers) based on Granderson’s league-leading 10 homers in 107 at-bats in this season alone in which he is slugging .626.
After losing the last three games in Detroit, the Yankees needed an offensive lift on yet another night when they struggled in the clutch (0-for-4 with runners in scoring position), and they got it from Granderson, who gave Ivan Nova all the support he needed from the get-go in a 4-1 victory over the Rangers.
Nova, who improved his record to 3-2 and lowered his ERA from 5.14 to 4.08, had a terrific mixture of sinking fastballs and curves in pitching into the eighth inning as a starter for the first time in the majors and still shy of 100 pitches (98).
Of the 22 outs Nova recorded, 17 were in the infield (16 on ground balls). He pitched to contact with only two hits allowed, one walk and one strikeout, which helped keep his pitch down. The only run off Nova was unearned due to an error by first baseman Mark Teixeira. In his past three starts, Nova has yielded three earned runs and 13 hits in 20 innings and is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA.
His effort was a continuation of sterling work by Yankees starters, who over the past 18 games have pitched to a 2.69 ERA in 120 1/3 innings as the question marks about the rotation seem to have turned into exclamation points.
It’s official. The Yankees are in a funk. Until Thursday, they had been the only team in the major leagues that had not lost three games in a row. Now they are not. Their first three-game losing streak came at the hands of the Tigers, who had lost seven straight games after dropping the first game of the series Monday night.
The Yankees threw away Thursday’s game, a 6-3 loss, literally. Two of the three errors they committed led directly to three runs, the deficit in the game. The Yankees’ offense was pretty active with 10 hits, including 3-for-8 (.375) with runners in scoring position, but were overtaken by a Detroit club that had only four hits.
A.J. Burnett continued the run of Yankees starting pitchers going deep into games with a seven-inning outing, and only two of the five runs off him were earned. However, one of the errors was his errant pickoff throw in the first inning that put Don Kelly, who reached base because Burnett hit him with a pitch on a count of 0-2, at third base from where he scored on Brennan Boesch’s sacrifice fly.
The Yankees took the lead in the fourth inning on RBI hits by Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez, who started as subs for resting Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Chavez had to leave the game, however, after suffering a bone fracture in the small toe of his left foot running out his first triple in four years. Chavez was headed back to New York to see club physician Chris Ahmad and may have to go on the disabled list.
That meant Rodriguez had to come into the game as a pinch runner, the first time he had such an assignment since his rookie season of 1995 with the Mariners when he spelled Tino Martinez. A-Rod, who had been on the bench not only resting his body but also a 7-for-50 (.140) slide, wound up with two hits and scored two runs, so maybe he is working himself back to form.
Detroit played some small ball in the sixth inning and tied the score after Ramon Santiago bunted Kelly to second base on a two-out single through the middle by Boesch, who topped off a big game in the eighth with a solo home run off lefthander Boone Logan.
The critical play came in the three-run seventh when the Tigers took control of the game. Burnett lost a 9-pitch duel with Victor Martinez, who singled to center leading off, then walked Magglio Ordonez and hit Ryan Raburn with a pitch to load the bases with none out. Brandon Inge broke the tie with a sacrifice fly, but Burnett should have been out of the inning after getting Santiago out on a bouncer to second baseman Robinson Cano playing in and Kelly on a grounder to short.
Nunez had all the time in the world to throw out Kelly but sailed his peg over first baseman Mark Teixeira. Two runs scored on the error, the second of the game for Nunez and his fifth in 22 innings in the field. For a backup infielder who is supposed to supply solid defense, this is unacceptable. Expect infield coach Mick Kelleher to work with Nunez to correct this part of his game.
Another coach with his work cut out for him is hitting coach Kevin Long. It is not a good sign when two of the three .300 hitters on the club are bench players – Nunez (.385) and Chavez (.303). Cano had two hits Thursday to get back over .300 (.303), but the Yankees had 6-for-32 (.188) with runners in scoring position and left 30 runners on base in the series.
Do you have a question for Kevin Long or Russell Martin? As an exclusive benefit for Yankees Universe members, the Yankees are providing an opportunity to converse with the hitting coach and catcher.
The Yankees will select at random questions and conduct interviews with Long and Martin. The answers will be posted on the members-only section of yankees.com the week of May 16. Please submit your question by 5 p.m. Friday, May 6.
The Yankees are on the cusp of advancing to the American League Championship Series by putting the Twins on the ropes in Game 2 of the ALDS, a 5-2 victory that was fashioned by the Core Four and the guru work of hitting coach Kevin Long.
Andy Pettitte corrected some mechanical sloppiness early and retired the side in order in five of his seven innings. His efficient 88-pitch outing belied the fact that Pettitte had worked only 13 1/3 innings since mid-July and gave up 19 hits in his previous 7 1/3 innings. Andy improved his remarkable post-season record to 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA.
His catcher, Jorge Posada, did not get a hit, but he worked out a walk on a full count leading off the seventh against the Twins’ Carl Pavano that began a two-run rally as the Yankees regained the lead.
Derek Jeter, still waiting to score his 100th post-season run, collected his 56th post-season RBI by poking a single to right in that seventh for a run and chasing Pavano. Jeter also sparkled in the field, especially in the first inning with an acrobatic maneuver at second base to complete a double play on the speedy Orlando Hudson.
Finishing it off was Mariano Rivera for the second straight night with his 41st career post-season save and No. 600 including his regular-season work.
How many times have we seen this over the years? The Yankees dust up another team’s closer but nobody gets to theirs. It happened again in the ninth inning. The Yanks picked up an insurance run against Matt Capps while the Twins did little against Mo in the bottom half other than the teasing leadoff single by Joe Mauer, who was erased on a double play.
Where Long’s handiwork comes in are the offensive contributions of reclamation projects Curtis Granderson and Lance Berkman. Both struggled this year and worked closely with Long to correct their swings.
Granderson quieted his hands which allowed him to get to the ball quicker. While he hit only .251 in 171 at-bats since Long began working with him intensely in August, Granderson displayed more power, slugging .544 with six doubles, one triple and 14 home runs. He tripled in two big runs in Game 1 and scored the Yankees’ first run in the second game. Granderson doubled off the right field wall and scored on a fly ball by Alex Rodriguez.
A leadoff single in the sixth was wasted as the Yankees failed to get him home, but Granderson got that insurance run in the ninth with a single to center that scored Brett Gardner, who had singled, crossed to second on an infield out and stole third.
Berkman, obtained from Houston at the trading deadline, was engulfed in a season-long slump and heard choruses of boos instead of welcoming cheers at Yankee Stadium. During a stint on the disabled list, Berkman worked with Long on his stride and hit .299 over the last month of the season although with not much power – one home run and five RBI in 67 at-bats.
Berkman, in his first post-season game since the 2005 World Series for the Astros, got his power back with two extra-base hits. He uncoupled a 1-1 score with a home run in the fifth, an impressive blow to left-center in homer-stingy Target Field. Two innings later, he unlocked a 2-2 score with a double that scored Posada. Jeter got Berkman home with his hit.
It all added up to the Yankees heading home with a chance to close the series out Saturday night at the Stadium. So who’s the underdog now?