Results tagged ‘ Michael Saunders ’
The only good thing the Yankees could say about the top of the first inning Wednesday night is that they still had 27 outs to try and get back into the game. Man, was that one ugly frame.
Many folks were still walking to the seats while the Mariners were running all around the bases on the way to a 7-0 lead that they gave to starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, the former Japanese Olympics and Pacific League star who has gotten off to a great start here in the U.S. (4-1, 1.74 ERA).
Yankees starter Phil Hughes could not get into a rhythm and was gone before the lengthy inning was over. Seven consecutive Seattle batters reached base at one point, four of whom scored on one swing, a familiar swing at that, by Raul Ibanez, who crushed a 0-1 fastball to right-center for his fifth home run of the season and second in this series. In his first five at-bats in his return to Yankee Stadium since last October’s postseason heroics, Ibanez has wounded his former team with two home runs and six RBI.
Hughes had no command of his breaking pitches and was forced to rely on his fastball, which the Seattle hitters knew was coming since nothing else was working for the righthander. A one-out walk to Dustin Ackley got the rally started and was followed by three singles that produced two runs and another walk before Ibanez lowered the boom.
Home runs tend to be rally killers, but not this time. Former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero joined Ibanez in haunting the Yankees with a single. After a fielder’s choice, Michael Saunders chased Hughes with a run-scoring double. Fans were none too kind to Hughes, whose ERA rose to 5.88, as he walked to the dugout. The fans’ attitude improved when reliever Preston Claiborne ended the inning with a strikeout.
This was a stunning development considering that the Mariners rank next to last in the American League in team batting average and runs scored. Seven runs are often the most they can score in a whole series let alone one inning.
It was also a wild start in a major-league debut of David Adams, the starting third baseman who was called up by the Yankees from Scranton. Chris Nelson was optioned to the Triple A affiliate to make room on the 25-man roster for Adams, who turned 26 Wednesday. That’s some birthday present.
Six of the Yankees’ eight All-Star selections showed a Safeco Field crowd of 37,442 in Seattle Friday night why they will be going to Anaheim after this series. The 3-1 victory extended the Yankees’ winning streak to six games and marked the 19th time this year that the Mariners lost in an opponents’ last at-bat.
On the 16th anniversary of his major-league debut with the Mariners, Alex Rodriguez spoiled the game for the home crowd with a two-run single in the ninth that scored fellow All-Stars Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher. A-Rod also had a hand in the Yankees’ tying the score in the eighth when he took third base on a wild pitch by Brian Sweeney, which enabled him to score on a double play.
The Yankees were hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position before Rodriguez’s hit in the ninth and had stranded 10 base runners through the first eight innings. Mariners lefthander Jason Vargas, who lost his previous two starts, gave up nine hits but kept the Yankees from touching the plate until the eighth.
That left All-Star pitcher Andy Pettitte next to no margin for error, and he responded with eight strong innings (one run, five hits, nine strikeouts). Seattle’s run scored on a wild throw to first base by Pettitte, his third error this year, season, but he worked out of a bases-loaded jam that inning with two strikeouts.
Mariano Rivera, who was named to the All-Star staff but has decided to take time off to nurse some aching muscles, pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 20th save in preserving Pettitte’s 11th victory in 13 decisions. All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano snapped out of a mild slump with two hits and a walk. The other two Yankees All-Stars, pitchers CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, watched appreciably from the bench, as did All-Star manager Joe Girardi.
Rodriguez was again booed by fans that had once cheered him but have never forgiven him for leaving Seattle as a free agent after the 2000 season and signing with the Rangers. He derived satisfaction with his 83rd and 84th RBI in 109 games at Safeco Field as a visiting player.
Seattle has not been one of Pettitte’s favorite places. He got to .500 Friday night at 11-11 for his career against the Mariners, but he is 3-7 at Seattle and 2-5 at Safeco. This year, however, the road everywhere has been kind to the lefthander. Pettitte is 4-0 with a 2.36 ERA away from Yankee Stadium.
The leadoff batter reached base against Pettitte in five innings, but only one scored, and it was his fault. After Josh Wilson and Michael Saunders singled in the sixth inning of a scoreless game, Ichiro Suzuki dropped a bunt in front of the plate. Pettitte fielded it, spun around and fired to first, but the ball sailed past first baseman Mark Teixeira.
“I just panicked,” Pettitte said later.
Ichiro was credited with a hit, which was a gift from the official scorer. He was, after all, sacrificing. He didn’t beat the play at first base. It was an errant throw. Where’s the hit? Forgive me. Some official scoring decisions just drive me nuts.
And is there any doubt that Swisher belongs on the All-Star team? He was perfect Friday night with two doubles, two singles and a walk, has seven hits in his past eight at-bats and has raised his average to .307. Swisher is batting .469 with five doubles and a home run in July, as hot as the weather.
This is what Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik envisioned the past off-season when he acquired Cliff Lee from the Phillies in the three-team deal that also involved the Blue Jays and Roy Halladay. Lee would team with Felix Hernandez for a lefty-righty, 1-2 punch in the rotation that would thrust Seattle back into contention in the American League West.
It hasn’t exactly turned out that way, although the Mariners’ fall into last place has been due mostly to an anemic offense. Seattle bats have come alive the past two nights against Yankees pitching. The Mariners had 12 hits the previous night and followed that with a four-homer game in a 7-0 rout, the first complete-game shutout against the Yankees in the new Yankee Stadium.
Javier Vazquez gave up solo shots to Milton Bradley and Michael Saunders and yielded a run in the third after hitting Russ Branyan with a pitch with two out. Bradley beat out a hit to third base, and Jose Lopez singled to drive in Branyan.
Vazquez worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with a strikeout of Ryan Langerhans, a late replacement for ailing center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, and had three perfect innings. It was a decent if unspectacular performance from Javy, what is known as a quality start (three runs, six innings), but not a start that could match Hernandez, who is merely 6-5 despite a 3.03 ERA because of lousy run support.
The Seattle righthander was so dominant that Yankees fans cheered when Ramiro Pena, a ninth-inning substitute for Derek Jeter, worked out a walk to become their first base runner after 12 consecutive outs. The Yankees had not lost back-to-back complete games to opposing pitchers in 10 years, by Toronto’s Chris Carpenter and Kelvim Escobar.
“That’s as good as we have seen from a pitcher all year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He was throwing his sinker 93 miles an hour with a great changeup and curve.”
The killer blows came after Vazquez left the game. Damaso Marte gave up a two-run home run to Branyan after Chone Figgins had singled in a nine-pitch at-bat with one out and stole second. Branyan was sitting on Marte’s slider. He let a 2-1 fastball go over the heart of the plate for strike two, but Marte came back with a slider on 2-2, and the ball ended up in the Yankees’ bullpen beyond the fence in right-center.
Saunders hit another homer in the eighth off Chad Gaudin, although second baseman Robinson Cano had a hand in extending the inning. On a foul pop down the right field line by Rob Johnson, Cano called off first baseman Mark Teixeira and reached for the ball, but it tipped off his glove. Official scorer Howie Karpin ruled no play rather than charging Cano with an error.
No play or not, Johnson remained at the plate and eventually walked and scored on Saunders’ blast to right. It was a terrific game all around for Saunders, who made an excellent, leaping catch on the dead run in left field in the first inning to rob Cano of a potential, run-scoring extra-base hit.
“That was about the end of our chances,” Girardi noted.
It was a tough defensive night for second basemen. Figgins lost two fly balls in the moon, I guess, one of which was one of the two hits the Yankees got off Hernandez, a double in the fifth by Colin Curtis. Francisco Cervelli followed with a fly to shallow right-center that Figgins didn’t see, either, but right fielder Ichiro Suzuki did and caught it.
A lot of balls hit by the Yankees are landing in fielders’ gloves. Teixeira has an 11-game hitting streak but with only 12 hits in 44 at-bats (.273). Cano is eight for his last 33 (.242). Francisco Cervelli is 0-for-13 and 1-for-17. Kevin Russo is 4-for-31 (.129). Jorge Posada is batting .195 in 24 games since coming off the disabled list. Alex Rodriguez is hitless in his past 18 at-bats at Yankee Stadium, dropping his season average at home from .351 to .295.
Who would have thought the Mariners would put the Yankees in a funk? Maybe only Jack Zduriencik.
The Yankees caught something of a break in the second inning Wednesday night when Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was lifted for a pinch hitter, Ryan Langerhans. It may not have seemed that way at first because Langerhans got a hit. In the long run, though, no Gutierrez in the lineup was good for the Yankees. He has been wearing out Yankees pitching since he came to the majors five years ago.
Gutierrez had 2-for-3 with a home run in Seattle’s victory Tuesday night and had hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games against the Yankees with a .429 average. In 80 career at-bats against the Yankees, Gutierrez has hit .363 with four doubles, three home runs and eight RBI.
There were plenty of quizzical faces in the press box when Langerhans came to the plate. Gutierrez had been in center field in the first inning when the Yankees batted. Mariners publicist Tim Hevly checked downstairs with the Seattle dugout and found out that Gutierrez left the game because of an upset stomach. Swallowing tobacco causes that, but I don’t know if Gutierrez is a tobacco chewer.
It was to the Yankees’ advantage in the third inning that Langerhans batted and not Gutierrez with runners on first and third and two out. Langerhans struck out. Seattle already had scored twice in that inning on a home run by Michael Saunders, who replaced Gutierrez in center field by moving over from left, and a two-out, RBI single by Jose Lopez off a Javier Vazquez changeup.
The Yankees were also minus a productive player. Brett Gardner, who was hit by a pitch Sunday in Los Angeles and suffered a bruised right forearm, was out of the lineup for the second straight game. Wednesday was the last day in June, and Gardner was the Yankees’ best hitter that month, batting .383 with two doubles, one triples, one home run, seven RBI, 13 runs scored and a .472 on-base percentage in 60 at-bats.
Gardner was available to the Yankees as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, but manager Joe Girardi said he would not use him as a pinch hitter. Gardner took batting practice and remained day-to-day.
Were the Yankees the victims of the “Hughes Rules” Tuesday night? Maybe. The Yankees’ idea of skipping Phil Hughes a turn in the rotation was designed to conserve innings and not overtax his arm, following a theory that a young pitcher should not throw more than 30 innings than his previous high workload per year.
To have Hughes able to pitch in significant games in September, the Yankees will need to hold him out of the rotation on occasion or limit his innings in starts because they want to avoid his pitching more than 175 to 180 innings. Rest does not hurt a pitcher, but it can interrupt his rhythm. Hughes appeared rusty Tuesday night and lost to a Seattle club with the worst offense in the league.
It didn’t help that it came against Mariners lefthander Cliff Lee, who showed that he hasn’t forgotten how to handle the Yankees. The 2008 Cy Young Award winner won both of the Phillies’ victories over the Yankees in the World Series last year and was every bit as effective this time with his fifth complete game in 12 starts.
Lee held the Yankees to two runs on Nick Swisher home runs until the ninth when the Yankees tried to stage their second straight last-inning rally. They pushed across two runs, but 7-4 was as close as the Yankees could get.
A bevy of scouts were on hand at Yankee Stadium to watch Lee, who could be trade bait next month. He recorded his third consecutive complete game in 2 hours, 30 minutes, which must have delighted plate umpire Joe West. Lee was slightly off his game. He actually walked a batter. The free pass to Jorge Posada in the second was only the fifth walk yielded this year by Lee and ended a stretch of 38 innings and 144 batters without a base on balls.
Hughes’ velocity was noticeably low, his fastball topping off at 91 mph as he failed to show off that occasionally 95-mph heat. He gave back the 1-0, first-inning lead provided by the first of Swisher’s bombs in the second as .206-hitting 9-hole batter Michael Saunders doubled and scored on a single by Ichiro Suzuki.
The Mariners took the lead in the fourth on Franklin Gutierrez’s seventh home run. Seattle scored in five straight innings against Hughes, who lost for the first time in six starts and the first time in eight starts at Yankee Stadium. He had season highs in runs allowed (7), earned runs allowed (6) and hits (10) and watched his ERA swell to 3.58. Hughes’ ERA at the Stadium is 4.38; he is 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA on the road.
Seattle entered the game with a .239 team batting average and was averaging 3.4 runs per game (conversely, the Yankees were averaging 5.5 runs per game), but banged out 12 hits with every member of the lineup contributing. Catcher Rob Johnson, a .208 hitter, had two doubles and two RBI.
Except for Swisher, the Yankees did nothing against Lee until the ninth. The threat ended with a runner on second as Curtis Granderson, who had two earlier hits off Lee, and Chad Huffman both popped out. The Yankees are unlikely to get involved in the Lee sweepstakes but will surely pay close attention. His destination could have consequences for them come post-season time, particularly if he should end up in Minnesota.
Michael R. Teevan