Results tagged ‘ Mickey Mantle ’
And then there was one, which is actually two.
The discussion is about uniform numbers. The Yankees retired No. 6 for Joe Torre Saturday. It occurred to the popular former manager that the shortstop he brought to the major leagues and nurtured through his early career has another distinction besides being the Yankees’ all-time leader in games played and hits.
Looking into the dugout where Derek Jeter was leaning against the railing from the top step, Torre said to the sellout crowd of 47,594 in the pregame ceremony, “There’s one single digit left out there.”
That would be Jeter’s No. 2, the only single digit not yet retired by the Yankees but definitely will be at some point, perhaps as early as next year following his retirement. Yogi Berra, one of the two No. 8’s retired (fellow catcher Bill Dickey is the other) took part in the ceremony, along with several former players, including two others who have had their uniform numbers retired, Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).
Berra and Dickey are in that group of single-digit retired numbers that also features Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7) and Roger Maris (9). So DJ now stands alone.
Torre, his wife Ali and other members of the family began the ceremony in Monument Park where he unveiled his number and plaque alongside Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. They eventually made their way to the center of the field for the ceremony amid former players David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte; former coaches Guidry, Willie Randolph, Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli; longtime managers Tony La Russa (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year with Torre) and Jim Leyland; former trainer Gene Monahan and Jackson.
An especially nice touch was Jeter escorting Jean Zimmer from the dugout to the field. Known by her nickname, “Soot,” she is the widow of the late Don Zimmer, Joe’s longtime bench coach. There was also a touching video message from former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was unable to travel to the event.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who served for Torre both as a catcher and a bench coach, presented his old boss with a framed version of his Monument Park plaque. Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina, presented a framed version of No. 6. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal on behalf of the organization gave Torre a diamond ring with No. 6 embossed in the center.
Observing all this from the visitor’s dugout was another of Torre’s former players, White Sox manager Robinb Ventura.
“It feels like the World Series all over again,” Torre told the crowd. “To have a number retired for any team is something special, but when you’re talking about the history and tradition of the New York Yankees, it is a feeling you can’t describe. There wouldn’t have been a Cooperstown without Yankee Stadium. I want to thank Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman and the woman behind the scenes, Debbie Tymon, who does so much for this organization. Arthur Richman mentioned my name to George, but it was Stick Michael who recommended me for the job.”
And what a job Torre did. The Yankees reached postseason play in all 12 of his managerial seasons and won six pennants and four World Series, including three in a row from 1998-2000.
Torre acknowledged his gratitude to the late owner George Steinbrenner for taking Gene Michael’s advice and hiring him despite a resume that included mediocre results as a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, the same three clubs for whom he had played during a 16-season career. The kid from Brooklyn who grew up a New York Giants fan clearly fell in love with the pinstripes.
“George gave me the greatest opportunity in my professional life,” Torre said, “I played in the majors for 16 years, but they could never match my 12 years in Yankees pinstripes. I will be forever grateful to the Steinbrenner family for trusting me with this team.
“One thing you never forget or lose feeling for are you people, all of you people, and it continues. I walk around and people thank me. They don’t realize what a good time i had. New York fans make this city a small town. When you get to this ballpark you feel the heartbeat, and it’s something that does not go away.
“It’s a short distance from the old Stadium to here but a long, long way from the field to Monument Park. I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”
In his previous managerial stops, Torre had worn No. 9, but he could not get that with the Yankees because it had been retired for Maris. Early in his playing career with the Braves, Torre wore No. 15 (his brother, Frank, had No. 14), but that was also not available with the Yankees since it was retired in honor of the late Thurman Munson.
Actually, Torre is one of four Hall of Famers who have worn No. 6 for the Yankees. Some fans may not know that Mickey Mantle wore No. 6 as a rookie in 1951 before switching to 7 the next year. Tony Lazzeri was the Yankees’ first No. 6, followed by his successor at second base, Joe Gordon.
Perhaps some karma was in the air because the Yankees second baseman Saturday, Martin Prado, was a huge factor in their 5-3 victory over the White Sox that was a fitting accompaniment to the afternoon.
Prado, who won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single in the ninth inning, had a part in four of the Yankees’ runs Saturday. His bunt single in the second helped build a run that subsequently scored on a double play. He drove in two runs in the fourth with the first of his two doubles in the game. He also doubled in the sixth and scored on a fly ball by Stephen Drew. Carlos Beltran drove in the other Yanks’ run in the sixth with his 15th home run.
Perhaps the only thing more appropriate would have been if the Yankees had scored six runs. What is definitely appropriate is that the number was retired for the person who wore it the longest, one more year than the player who had it for 11 seasons, Roy White (1969-79).
Now all that awaits is the day when Jeter, who got a rare day off Saturday, completes the single-digit retirement.
Derek Jeter’s election as the American League’s starting shortstop in next week’s All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis marks the ninth time in his career that he has been voted in the fan balloting to start the game. He received 3,928,422 votes, which raised his career total to 47,433,242, second only to Ken Griffey Jr., the all-time leader with 50,045,065 total votes.
This year will mark the 14th All-Star appearance for Jeter as he passed former teammate Mariano Rivera and Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio into third place on the franchise list behind two other Hall of Famers, Mickey Mantle (20) and Yogi Berra (18).
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jeter is the only active player to be named to the All-Star Game with his current team at least 14 times. The record for All-Star Games by a player for only one team is 24 by Hall of Famer Stan Musial with the Cardinals. Hank Aaron was on 25 All-Star Game rosters — 24 with the Braves and one with the Brewers. Willie Mays played in 23 All-Star Games with the Giants and one with the Mets. The AL record is 19 games by Ted Williams with the Red Sox and Cal Ripken Jr. with the Orioles.
The other two Yankees on the AL squad are newcomers to the process, pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances. This will be the first time the Yankees have had two rookies attending the All-Star Game.
These are all good choices, but I think more consideration should have been given to David Robertson and Brett Gardner. Rivera used to be an automatic choice. D-Rob isn’t at Mo’s level yet, but he has easily been one of the best closers in the league and leads AL pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings. Gardner got lost in the abundance of outfielders, but he has been the Yankees’ steadiest offensive player and remains the league’s top defensive left fielder.
Gardner got hits in his first two at-bats Monday night at Cleveland and has reached base safely in 22 straight games with a plate appearance since June 13. It is the longest such streak for the Yankees since Robinson Cano reached base safely in 26 straight games in 2012 from June 20 to July 20. It also matches Gardner’s longest such streak from 2009. He has hit safely in 18 of those 22 games.
Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki with three singles apiece Sunday at Minnesota became the third pair of teammates each in their 40s in major-league history to get at least three hits in the same game, joining the 1928 Philadelphia Athletics’ Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker and the 2006 San Francisco Giants’ Barry Bonds and Moises Alou. Elias also pointed out that notes Saturda, Jeter and Suzuki became the first pair of 40-year-old teammates with a stolen base in the same game since Bonds and Omar Vizquel for the Giants in 2007.
Prior to Monday night’s game at Progressive Field, the Indians organization paid tribute to the team’s late TV/radio personality Mike Hegan, who died last Christmas Day of a heart condition at the age of 71. Hegan was originally signed by the Yankees in 1961 and played for them in two separate stints. He was the son of former Indians All-Star catcher Jim Hegan, who later was a bullpen coach with the Yankees.
Mike Hegan spent 12 seasons in the majors and had some distinctions. With the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, he hit the first home run for that franchise and made the AL All-Star team. The Pilots lasted only one season in Seattle and moved in 1970 to Milwaukee and became the Brewers.
Hegan was a member of the Oakland A’s team that won the first of three straight World Series in 1972 before returning to the Yankees. Mike was the last player to bat in the original Yankee Stadium Sept. 30, 1973 in a loss to the Tigers. By the time the Yankees opened the renovated Stadium, Hegan was back in Milwaukee. I was working in Detroit in the 1970s and was at Tiger Stadium covering the Sept. 3, 1976 game when Hegan hit for the cycle.
After his playing days, Hegan went into the broadcast booth with the Brewers for 12 seasons before returning to his hometown Cleveland and working Indians games for 23 seasons. A heart ailment forced him into retirement after the 2012 season.
Bob Wolff’s status as the Guinness World Records holder for the longest career as a broadcaster will be certified in a special pregame ceremony Thursday at Yankee Stadium before the game against the Mariners. This is Wolff’s second Guinness World Records He was recognized for the longest career as a sportscaster March 21, 2012.
Along with his Guinness World Records recognition, Wolff has also received many other honors, ranging from being one of two broadcasters (with Curt Gowdy) to be enshrined in both the National Basketball and National Baseball Halls of Fame to his induction into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame. Wolff also received a TV Ace Award and multiple Emmy Awards for his on-camera work.
Wolff, 93, is in his 75th year as a broadcaster and his 28th year at News 12 Long Island. His career began Oct. 23, 1939 on WDNC, a CBS radio station in Durham, N.C., while was attending Duke University. Bob later branched into television and cable. Before his current run on News 12, Wolff had been seen and heard on Madison Square Garden programming for 59 years. His 50th year at the Garden was saluted with a special “Bob Wolff’s Golden Garden Anniversary.”
The New York native is renowned for his knack of coming up with appealing content and for his ability to ad lib in news stories. Along with his sense of humor and engaging interviews, Wolff has the talent to entertain in offbeat ways such as when he was the host and commentator at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which he enlivened with his singing and “dog show lyrics.”
Wolff called two of the greatest sports events in Yankee Stadium history – Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series and the Baltimore Colts’ overtime victory over the football Giants in the 1958 National Football League Championship game, which became known as “the greatest football game ever played.”
He also handled the television play-by-play for both championship seasons for the Knicks (1969-70 and 1972-1973) and called two of Mickey Mantle’s longest home runs, including the famed “rising shot” at Yankee Stadium that crashed into the old Stadium’s façade.
On a national level, Wolff is the only broadcaster to handle play-by-play in the championships of all four major professional sports: the World Series, the NFL Championship, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals.
“Bob Wolff is a true broadcasting pioneer,” Guinness World Records official Mike Janela said. “His career embodies longevity and versatility, and we’re honored to recognize this special achievement in the Bronx, where he called some of his most amazing moments.”
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.
One of the nice things about Sunday’s annual reunion known around Yankee Stadium as Old-Timers’ Day was watching Mariano Rivera, 43 but not yet an old-timer, connect with so many of the veterans who took part in the event. This is Mo’s final season in the majors and he is taking a stop-and-smell-the-roses approach to every day of the year.
So as the collection of former Yankees standouts from different eras made their way onto the field for practice before the three-inning exhibition game, Rivera made the rounds and talked to nearly every one of them. There were stars from the 1950s (Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Dr. Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman, Don Larsen), the 1960s (Bobby Richardson, Joe Pepitone, Hector Lopez, Mel Stottlemyre, Gene Michael), 1970s (Reggie Jackson, Lou Piniella, Roy White, Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers), 1980s (Willie Randolph, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Steve Balboni, Lee Mazzilli) and 1990s (Paul O’Neill, David Cone, David Wells, Bernie Williams, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez). Each and every one received a handshake and a kind word from Rivera.
I was chatting in the Yankees dugout with former manager Stump Merrill when Mo sauntered over. Stump is on the mend from surgery for prostate cancer and was in great spirits. Mo got into the conversation and talked about his rehab from knee surgery last year. I kidded him about his being on the field with all the old-timers and that he was really a year early.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, you won’t be eligible for this game until next year when you’re officially retired,” I said.
“Oh, I won’t be coming back next year,” Rivera said.
“How come?” I wanted to know.
“That will be too soon,” he said. “That is why I am doing all these things at the different parks all year. This is the time for that. Next year will be all my time, time for my family, time to do many things I could not do because I was playing all summer. Maybe in two or three years I would like to come back. I have always enjoyed this day.”
It is a special day to savor and, frankly, it is now unique. When I first started covering baseball in the 1970s, most clubs held Old-Timers’ Days. The Yankees started the tradition in 1947 with a salute to Babe Ruth the year before he died. His memorable speech cemented the event as something to do on an annual basis. Joe DiMaggio’s relatively early retirement (he was 37 when he called it quits) helped keep the day special because so many Yankees fans looked forward to seeing him come back each year, put on a uniform and swat line drives. The same thing occurred for the next generation with Mickey Mantle and so on to the present.
Old-Timers’ Day is now strictly a Yankees event. Even the appearance of widows is a Yankees tradition, beginning originally with Claire Ruth and Eleanor (Lou) and continuing with Arlene (Elston) Howard, Jill (Billy) Martin, Diana (Thurman) Munson, Helen (Catfish) Hunter and Kay (Bobby) Murcer.
Other clubs such as the Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants and Cubs occasionally bring back old favorites for some special celebration but not as an annual exercise.
Nobody does it better than the Yankees.
If only the weather had cooperated. Tuesday night was supposed to be special for Don Mattingly, who would have made his first appearance on the field at Yankee Stadium since he retired as a player after the 1995 season. He came back along with former manager Joe Torre in September 2010 for the unveiling of the plaque for the late owner George Steinbrenner but not in uniform.
“Donnie Baseball” was expected to receive a very warm welcome from Yankees fans even if he was wearing Dodgers blue as their manager in the club’s first regular-season game in the Bronx. A persistent rain forced the postponement of the game, however, which will be made up as part of a split-admission doubleheader Wednesday. It is hoped that a good sized crowd is on hand for that first game, so Mattingly can receive the ovation he richly deserves.
He is that rarity (think Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera) as a Yankees player than even Yankees haters liked. Mattingly wore the pinstripes proudly for 14 seasons as a player and was a loyal coach as well. He was a candidate for the managerial position after Torre left but lost the job to current skipper Joe Girardi, a situation Mattingly now considers a “blessing.”
“They treated me fairly, I thought,” Mattingly said of the Yankees’ front office. “Things work out for a reason. That would have been really bad timing for me. Terrible. I was going through some personal stuff that would have been miserable trying to manage for the first time and have that going on. So, that was a blessing in disguise. Coming to L.A. has been great, and obviously there’s been a lot of turmoil this year, but I love what I’m doing and I like being in L.A.”
Mattingly was going through a divorce at the time and ended up joining Torre with the Dodgers as bench coach. When Joe stepped down from the manager’s job two years ago, Mattingly succeeded him. Unfortunately, injuries have played a huge part in the Dodgers’ disappointing season, a situation for which his Yankees counterpart can relate. Girardi has had 13 players do 16 stints on the disabled list. Mattingly has had 15 players on the DL.
About coming back to New York, Mattingly said, “It’s not just the building, it’s the people. Seeing the guys in the clubhouse and around the Stadium, it’s a good feeling.”
Mattingly feels fortunate that he has been involved with two clubs with storied histories. He grew up in Evansville, Ind., where the Cardinals and the Reds were the clubs people listed to mostly on the radio. The Yankees were a dynasty from long ago to Mattingly until he finally arrived at the Stadium as a player.
“I’m always excited when we come back to New York,” he said. “I don’t quite understand the relationship [with the fans], to be honest. I came from a small town and just played. They seemed to appreciate that. That was nice for me because all I had to do was play.”
Mattingly had hoped to be a part of a Yankees-Dodgers World Series (they have opposed each other in October a record 11 times) in 2009, but Los Angeles lost to Philadelphia in the NL Championship Series.
“I didn’t really know much about the Yankees until I got here,” he said. “It starts in spring training. Mickey [Mantle] was still alive and came to camp. You’d see Whitey [Ford] and Yogi. You don’t understand the history until you get here. Now I’m in another place that it steeped in history, going back to Jackie [Robinson] breaking the color line, bringing baseball to the West Coast and having strong ties to the community. All the Rookie of the Year winners over the years that shows the commitment to players coming through the system, fighting for a championship year after year, it is very similar to the Yankees.”
“Donnie is one of the greatest Yankees that’s ever played,” Girardi said. “He’s one of the greatest teammates that has ever put on that uniform. I know I’ve always loved him and appreciated what he has done, and I know the fans have seen a lot more than I have. I think it’ll be a great day for him.”
It will just have to wait for one more day.
The only tickets valid for the 1:05 p.m. game Wednesday are tickets dated June 18. The game originally scheduled for June 19 remains scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. start. YES will cablecast the 1:05 p.m. game. Channel 9 will telecast the 7:05 p.m. game.
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The Yankees went into Sunday night’s finale of the three-game series against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium with Hiroki Kuroda paired with Clay Buchholz. The Boston righthander took a 7-0 record into the game against Kuroda, who was 6-3.
This is the third time the Yankees have faced a pitcher with a record of 5-0 or better. They split the previous two such games by winning May 25 at Tropicana Field against the Rays’ Matt Moore, who was 8-0, and by losing May 28 at Citi Field against the Mets’ Matt Harvey, who was 5-0. Both starters had no-decisions.
Mark Teixeira was in Sunday night’s lineup for the 1,500th game of his major-league career. The first baseman ranks among switch hitters prior to their 1,500th game first in RBI (1,101) and second in home runs (338) only to Mickey Mantle (359).
When Teixeira returned to the lineup Friday night after missing the first 53 games of the season because of a right wrist injury, it marked the first time this year the Yankee had a switch hitter in the lineup. The 53 games were the longest without a switch hitter in the Yankees’ batting order at any time during a season since 1992 when they went 100 straight games without one.
The Yankees have yet to lose more than two consecutive home games, a distinction they share in the American League with the Tigers and the Rangers. The Yanks last lost more than two home games in a row July 28-31 last year when they dropped four straight games.
Yankees batters have combined for seven walks in their past two games, which ended a stretch of three straight games in which the team had no walks against the Mets. As for Yanks pitchers, they have allowed a major-league-low 133 bases on balls, including 17 over the past 10 games dating to May 22 and not issuing a walk in four of those games. Yankees hurlers are averaging 2.43 walks per nine innings, the lowest in the majors and their lowest mark since 2003 (2.31).
With a victory Friday night, CC Sabathia improved his record in career starts in which his team was on a losing streak of five or more games to 3-2 with a 2.84 ERA in 50 2/3 innings with his third consecutive victory in such situations.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sabathia became the first Yankees pitcher to end a streak of at least five team losses with a 10-strikeout, no-walk performance since 1910 by Russ Ford, who pitched a complete-game shutout with 10 Ks and no walks against the St. Louis Browns to stop a seven-game losing streak by the old Highlanders.
I remember the first time I walked out on the field at Citi Field the year it opened in 2009 and looked at the left field wall and thought what a mistake the Mets made. Instead of an eight-foot high fence such as the one at old Shea Stadium, the same area at Citi Field had a 16-foot wall that resembled the old San Diego Stadium, later known as Jack Murphy Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium.
Whatever name the San Diego yard had, it was a lousy idea to have such a wall around the outfield because it took away the possibility of an outfielder making a home run-robbing catch. I remember Dave Winfield making a fence-climbing grab in left field at Yankee Stadium during a playoff game in 1981 and telling me afterwards, “I couldn’t have done that in San Diego.”
In the same vein, one of the Mets’ greatest postseason moments at Shea could not have occurred at Citi Field in its first three seasons. Left fielder Endy Chavez’s leaping, glove-extending grab of a drive by Scott Rolen denied the Cardinals third baseman a two-run home run in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series.
I covered that game for MLB.com and recall writing a story that rated Chavez’s play with those of other New York outfielders in postseason play, such as the World Series catches by the Dodgers’ Al Gionfriddo off the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio in 1947, the Giants’ Willie Mays off the Indians’ Vic Wertz in 1954, the Dodgers’ Sandy Amoros off the Yankees’ Yogi Berra in 1955, the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle off the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges in 1956, the two beauties by the Mets’ Tommie Agee off the Orioles’ Elrod Hendricks and Paul Blair in 1969 and the Yankees’ Paul O’Neill’s hamstring-straining, game-ending rundown of a drive by the Braves’ Luis Polonia in 1996.
Although the Mets eventually lost the game and the series, Chavez’s catch has been defined as the greatest defensive play in Shea’s history, with only Ron Swoboda’s belly-flop snaring of a Brooks Robinson liner in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series qualifying as a rival, another play to which I referred in the 2006 NLCS story.
All of this came to mind Monday night when Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner took away a potential two-run home run by Daniel Murphy in the sixth inning that preserved at the time a 1-0 lead for the Bombers. Gardner was able to make such a smashing play because the Mets had the good sense to change the dimensions prior to the 2012 season.
Part of the reason for the change was that Mets right-handed hitters, particularly David Wright, the face of the franchise, were getting psyched out by the unfriendly distances. Wright and his pals would continually watch well-struck drives turn into 400-foot outs. But the best part may have been the erection of an eight-foot fence in front of the previous one. It created a party deck that has been a featured seating section and has allowed the outfielders to have a chance to act like Jesse James once in a while.
“Thank goodness it’s a part of the park where it’s a fence, not a wall,” Gardner said after the game. “The poles out there have got some pretty good pads in front of them, so I’m fine. It wouldn’t be as difficult if I was a little taller [5-foot-10]. You’ve just got to hope that you’re able to get a good clean jump. You want to get back there close to the fence as possible, but you don’t want to run into the fence or hit the fence on the way up. I was able to time it just right.”
It was a gem of a play, one that pitcher Phil Hughes called the best catch he ever saw from the mound. It certainly was reminiscent of the play Chavez made. Unfortunately for the Yankees, it was also similar to Chavez’s play in that the opposition came back to win the game.
Vernon Wells lost a stolen base when an official scorer’s ruling was changed from Wednesday night’s game at Coors Field. Rockies shortstop Jonathan Herrera has instead been charged with an error for dropping the throw from catcher Wilin Rosario that allowed Wells to be safe at second base. Wells eventually scored on an infield hit by Brennan Boesch. Due to the error that run is now unearned on the record of Colorado reliever Rafael Betancourt. This was the correct call. Wells was running on a hit-and-run play and would have been out at second if Herrera had hung on to Rosario’s accurate throw.
ESPN has grabbed the Yankees-Red Sox game of June 2 for Sunday Night Baseball. That makes it an 8:05 p.m. start. The game is scheduled to air on ESPN2. It will move to ESPN if the NBA Western Conference finals playoff series goes less than seven games.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Robinson Cano reached the 1,500-hit mark Thursday at Denver eight years and six days after his major league debut (May 3, 2005), the shortest span from a player’s first big-league game to 1,500 hits for the Yankees. Derek Jeter had the previous mark of eight years and 79 days. The only active players who made it to the milestone quicker than Cano in terms of days after their major-league debut are Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols and Juan Pierre. Elias also noted that Cano (30 years, 199 days old) became the fifth Yankees player to reach 1,500 hits before his 31st birthday, joining Mickey Mantle (28 years, 305 days) in 1960, Jeter (29 years, 51 days) in 2003, Lou Gehrig (29 years, 52 days) in 1932 and Don Mattingly (30 years, 94 days) in 1991. . .Cano’s 186th career home run Thursday put him in 17th place on the Yankees’ all-time list, one ahead of Paul O’Neill. Next up in 16th place is Tino Martinez at 192.
Through five innings Saturday, Phil Hughes had thrown 86 pitches. I thought here’s another situation in which the righthander cannot moderate his pitch count and that Yankees manager Joe Girardi would have to get his bullpen in gear early.
But lo and behold, Hughes got more efficient with his pitches and came up with three straight 1-2-3 innings to be in good position to get his first winning decision of the season. Phil certainly earned it with eight shutout innings in which he allowed four hits and two walks with a season-high nine strikeouts.
Things got a bit hairy in the ninth when Shawn Kelley gave up a leadoff single, and Girardi did not hesitate to call on Mariano Rivera in a non-save situation. Mo gave up a walk and a hit with a couple of runs scoring, but the 4-2 Yankees final gave Hughes that long-awaited first victory of the season.
“I knew my pitch count was pretty high the first five innings,” Hughes said. “It all starts with the fastball. I got more aggressive with it on both sides of the plate and then I could mix in off-speed stuff.”
Hughes’ 117-pitch effort included an unusually high number of strikes – 82 – and marked his fourth consecutive outing of six or more innings in which he allowed two or fewer runs. He has held opponents to a .223 batting average in that stretch. Over those starts, Hughes had brought his ERA down from 10.29 to 3.60. “I feel like I’m clicking now,” he said.
For the second straight outing at Yankee Stadium, Hughes kept the ball in the yard, something he had not done before his previous start since last August. The long ball will always be a nemesis for Hughes, a fly-ball pitcher (10 of his 24 outs Saturday were in the air), but it is worth noting that all five homers he has allowed this year have come with the bases empty.
Ichiro Suzuki saved Hughes from yielding a home run to the first batter of the game, catcher John Jaso, with a fence-climbing catch in right field. A couple of other drives reached the warning track but stayed out of the stands.
“The consistency of his pitches every inning” was Girardi’s explanation for the turnaround in Hughes since his first two poor starts to open the season. “He mixed in all his stuff the second and third time through the order.”
Hughes’ offensive support came mainly from the bottom of the order – home runs from 9-hole hitter Chris Stewart in the third and 7-hole hitter Lyle Overbay in the fifth off Athletics starter Bartolo Colon and a triple by 8-hole hitter Eduardo Nunez, who scored on a two-out single by Brett Gardner in the seventh. The other run came from cleanup hitter Travis Hafner with a single in the sixth that scored Robinson Cano, who had doubled to lead off the inning against Colon.
That double was career No. 344 for Cano, who broke a tie with Hall of Famers Bill Dickey and Mickey Mantle to take over eighth place on the franchise’s all-time list.
Colon, who was 8-10 for the Yankees in 2011, lost for the first time in four decisions this year despite another good outing (three runs, six hits, no walks, three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings). A control freak of a power pitcher, Colon has tossed 37 1/3 innings in 2013 and walked one batter.
The Yankees are 28-9 in games immediately following shutout losses since the start of the 2008 season (all under Girardi) with victories in both cases this year and 11 of the past 13. . .Hughes, with a 1.93 ERA and 30 strikeouts over his past four starts covering 28 innings, became the first right-handed starter for the Yankees to pitch at least eight shutout innings and strike out at least nine batters in a game since Mike Mussina Sept. 14, 2004 at Kansas City and the first to do so at the Stadium since Roger Clemens June 18, 2003 against the Rays. . .Hafner has at least one RBI in nine of the Yankees’ 10 series this season. . .Stewart entered 2013 with four homers in 351 career at-bats. He has two in 40 at-bats this season. . .Rivera’s 1,064th career appearance tied him with Dan Plesac for sixth place on the all-time games list. . .The Yankees are 17-2 when holding opponents to four or fewer runs and 16-3 when scoring four or more runs.