Results tagged ‘ Mike Mussina ’

Notes from a walk-off victory

The Yankees’ 4-3, 10-inning victory Friday night was their fourth walk-off triumph of the season. The others were June 25 against the Orioles and July 28 against the Rays. The Yanks have won consecutive home games in walk-off fashion for the first time since Sept. 21 and 22 last year against the Athletics.

The walk-off hit for Brett Gardner, a single to left field, was the fourth of his career and his first since June 16, 2011 against the Rangers. In the fifth inning, Gardner got his 20th stolen base of the season to reach that plateau for the fourth time. He also had 26 steals in 2009, 47 in 2010 and 49 in 2011.

The Yankees’ victory ended Detroit’s 12-game winning streak. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last previous time the Yankees defeated an opponent on a winning streak of at least 12 games was in August 1995 against the Red Sox.

Yankees starter Ivan Nova, who was in position for the victory until Mariano Rivera blew the save in the ninth inning, gave up one run, eight hits, two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch with seven strikeouts in seven innings. The righthander became the first Yankees pitcher to toss at least seven innings and allow no more than three earned runs in six straight starts since CC Sabathia did so in eight straight starts June 15-Aug. 1, 2011 and the first right-handed Yankees starter to do so since Mike Mussina in six consecutive starts April 9-May 7, 2003. Nova has held opponents scoreless in 19 of his past 21 innings.

Rivera sustained his second consecutive blown save after allowing a game-tying two-run home run to Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera with two outs in the ninth (also Wednesday night at Chicago). Mo has blown back-to-back save opportunities for the first time since April 19 and 24, 2011 and had a streak of 23 consecutive converted save opportunities against Detroit dating to July 8, 1999 ended.

Disabled first baseman Mark Teixeira will ring the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange Monday.

Finally a ‘W’ for much more consistent Hughes

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.

Yankees’ memorable games at Fenway Park

Friday marked the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, so it was appropriate that the Yankees were the visitors as they were a century go in the last season in which they were known as the Highlanders. The Yankees’ public relations staff with the assistance of the Elias Sports Bureau put together the following list of memorable games at Fenway in the American League’s most heated rivalry. Which is your favorite? It is pretty tough to top that 1978 playoff game. On the downside, those losses in Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 AL Championship Series were the Yanks’ worst moments.

January 3, 1920: The Yankees purchase the contract of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox for $125,000 and a $350,000 loan against the mortgage on Fenway Park.
September 28, 1923: The Yankees get 30 hits in a 24-4 victory. The hit total remains the most in a nine-inning game in Yankees franchise history. The run total marks the second highest by the club in a road game and the Yanks’ most at Fenway.
September 8, 1925: Babe Ruth hits his 300th career home run, off Buster Ross in a 7-4 Yankees victory.
June 23, 1927: In an 11-4 Yankees victory, Lou Gehrig becomes the first player in franchise history to hit three home runs in one game against the Red Sox. The feat was matched by Mark Teixeira May 8, 2010 at Fenway.
September 5, 1927: The Yankees lose, 12-11, in 18 innings in the second longest road game in franchise history (in terms of innings played). It was the first game of a doubleheader. The Yanks score two runs in the top of the ninth to send it to extra innings. Both teams score three runs in the 17th. Red Sox starter Red Ruffing pitches 15 innings.
September 24, 1929: On Babe Ruth Day, the Yankees win, 5-3. Ruth has 2-for-3 with a double.
July 3, 1932: The Yankees defeat the Red Sox, 13-2, in the first Sunday game at Fenway. Due to the park’s proximity to a church, the Red Sox had played Sunday games at nearby Braves Field until the law was changed.
June 6, 1934: Myril Hoag becomes the first Yankees player to go 6-for-6 in a 15-3 victory in the opener of a doubleheader. The feat was matched by Johnny Damon June 7, 2008 against the Royals.
September 22, 1935: The Yankees sweep a doubleheader from the Red Sox, 6-4 and 9-0, in front of 47,267 fans – the largest crowd ever to see a baseball game at Fenway Park.
April 20, 1939: The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 2-0, on Opening Day. Red Ruffing throws a complete game shutout, allowing seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts. Bill Dickey hits a solo home run. An ailing Lou Gehrig goes 0-for-4 in his final Fenway appearance. Ted Williams has 1-for-4 in his major league debut in the only game to feature both players.
July 9, 1946: In the All-Star Game, Yankees right fielder Charlie Keller hits a two-run home run in the first inning of the American League’s 12-0 victory.
April 18, 1950: On Opening Day, the Yankees overcome a 9-0 deficit to win, 15-10. They score 11 runs (without any home runs) over the final two innings.
April 14, 1955: Elston Howard becomes the first black player in Yankees history, making his major-league debut in an 8-4 loss. Ellie has an RBI single in his only plate appearance.
September 21, 1956: In a 13-7 Yankees loss, Mickey Mantle hits what is considered the longest known homer to straightaway center field in Fenway Park history. The second-inning blow off Frank Sullivan carries approximately 480 feet before striking one foot below the top brick barrier located behind Section 36.
July 21, 1961: The Yankees score five runs in the top of the ninth for an 11-8 victory. Johnny Blanchard’s pinch-hit grand slam off Mike Fornieles seals the game.
September 11, 1966: Johnny Miller makes his major league debut, homering in his first plate appearance in the second inning off Lee Stange. Bobby Richardson’s two-run homer in the 10th gives the Yankees the 4-2 victory.
April 6, 1973: The Yankees’ Ron Blomberg becomes the major league’s first designated hitter, batting in the top of the first inning. He walks with the bases loaded off Luis Tiant and finishes the day 1-for-3 with 1RBI in a 15-5 loss.
October 2, 1978: The Yankees defeat the Red Sox, 5-4, in only the second one-game playoff in AL history. Trailing by 14 games in mid-July, Bucky Dent caps the Yankees’ comeback with a three-run, seventh-inning home run.
June 19, 2000: The Yankees defeat the Red Sox, 22-1. Five different Yankees homer in the game, including Jorge Posada, who also scored four runs. The Yankees score 16 runs over the final two innings, including seven in the ninth off Tim Wakefield.
September 2, 2001: Mike Mussina comes within one out of a perfect game before Carl Everett singles with two outs in the ninth.
October 16-18, 2004: The Yankees win Game 3 of the AL Championship Series, 19-8, to go up three games to none. Boston wins the next two nights at Fenway Park with consecutive extra-inning, walk-off victories and goes on to become the first baseball team to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-7 series.
August 18, 2006: The Yankees and Red Sox play their signature marathon game with the Yanks winning, 14-11, in 4 hours, 45 minutes in the second game of a doubleheader. It marks the longest nine-inning game in baseball history in terms of time.
April 22, 2007: In a 7-6 loss, Yankees starter Chase Wright yields four consecutive home runs in the third inning (to Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek). The lefthander becomes only the second pitcher in major league history to allow four consecutive home runs in an inning, joining Paul Foytak, who did so July 1, 1963 for the Angels against the Indians.
September 28, 2009: On the final day of the season – and what turns out to be his final career outing – the Yankees’ Mike Mussina becomes a 20-game winner for the only time in his 18-season career, in a 6-2 victory in the first game of a doubleheader.

March madness

Baseball in March. What a concept. The powers that be in Major League Baseball cannot seem to figure out a way to condense the regular-season schedule so that World Series games do not dip into November, so the season now starts at a time that used to be reserved for the winding down of spring training.

The weather was less than ideal for the Yankees’ season opener Thursday at Yankee Stadium. The first-pitch temperature was 42 degrees, and the wind was whipping the flags on the roof. Mike Mussina, who someone joked could probably still make the Yankees’ rotation, handled the duties of tossing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Not surprisingly, Derek Jeter received the loudest ovation from the crowd in pre-game introductions. The captain batted second in manager Joe Girardi’s first lineup of the season with center fielder Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot. This will be the look at the top of the order when the opposing starting pitcher is right-handed, as is Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Jeter will go back to leadoff and Gardner to ninth against left-handed starters. Nick Swisher will likely hit No. 2 vs. lefties.

Girardi made it clear before the game that Jorge Posada’s days as a catcher are all but over. Now a full-time designated hitter who batted seventh Thursday, Posada won’t be counted on to work behind the plate. Girardi, himself a former catcher, was asked if Posada would be considered an “emergency” catcher in the event that newcomer Russ Martin and backup Gustavo Molina get hurt in the same game.

“Well, we might put Jorgie out there before someone like [Eduardo] Nunez,” Girardi said, referring to the backup infielder.

Well, that’s pretty plain. It sounds as if Posada can throw his old shin guards away.

Wednesday night, the Yankees held their annual Welcome Home Dinner at the New York Sheraton, a splendid affair that was attended by all the members of the team as well as club executives and employees.

In the VIP cocktail hour before the game, Hall of Famer Goose Gossage signed autographs with fellow former Yankees Tino Martinez, Lee Mazzilli, Oscar Gamble and Rick Cerone.

Deborah Tymon, the Yankees’ vice president of marketing and the dinner’s organizer, was given a special award from managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. Debbie said that the late George Steinbrenner told her when she began running the dinner to make sure the food and service was first rate but, most importantly, that the players get out early so they can get plenty of rest before the home opener.

The special moment of the night was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who was also at the Stadium bright and early Thursday to tour the clubhouse and wish the Yankees luck.

Also on hand was another Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, looking very fit after having undergone spinal surgery last September. Reggie suffered from spinal stenosis from straining his back while tiling an area in his home and last fall found it difficult to walk more than a few yards on his own power.

“I’m still having regular physical therapy, but I’m making progress,” he said. “It feels good to be back at Yankee Stadium.”

Andy Pettitte: He always took the ball

The day I arrived at what was the last spring training the Yankees had at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1995, then manager Buck Showalter drove up to me in a golf cart on the sidelines of the main field and said, “Hop in; I want you to see someone.”

He drove to me to one of the back fields where two pitchers were warming up. I have long forgotten who one of them was, but the one I remember was Andy Pettitte. He wasn’t as cut as he would later become; he still had some love handles, but one pitch after the other sunk with stinging action.

Showalter, who grew up in the Florida panhandle and attended Mississippi State University, had an affinity for Southern players. Still does, probably, so I said to him, “Okay, which is it? Louisiana or Arkansas?”

“Texas,” Buck said. “You can’t quote me on this, but this guy might win 15 games for us this year.”

“Pretty tall order for a rookie,” I said.

Showalter missed on his prediction. Pettitte won 12 games, not 15, but he helped stabilize a rotation snagged by an injury to Jimmy Key, who finished second to David Cone, then with the Royals, in the previous year’s American League Cy Young Award race, and was a key ingredient in the Yankees’ reaching post-season play for the first time in 15 years, as the newfangled wild card.

Pettitte’s victory total was second on the staff only to another former Cy Young Award winner, Jack McDowell, who was 15-10. Pettitte’s 12-9 record and 4.17 ERA was not overwhelming, but it was good enough for him to finish third in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award voting behind winner Marty Cordova of the Twins and runner-up Garret Anderson of the Angels, a couple of outfielders.

The lefthander started Game 2 of the Division Series against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium and was not involved in the decision, a 7-5 Yankees victory on a two-run home run in the 15th inning by Jim Leyritz that gave them a 2-0 lead in the series before they went 0-for-Seattle.

With Showalter gone after turning down a two-year contract offer from George Steinbrenner, Pettitte had to prove himself all over again to a new manager, Joe Torre, in 1996. It wasn’t easy, either. Torre at first thought Pettitte, a deeply religious person, was a bit soft. Yet start after start, Pettitte kept the Yankees in games, and he ended up winning 21 of them and becoming a Cy Young Award candidate, although he finished second in the voting to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen.

Pettitte never came closer to winning that award, but even better he won over Torre with 8 1/3 gutty innings of shutout ball in Game 5 of the World Series at Atlanta, a 1-0 Yankees victory that put them up 3-2 and in position to take the Series two nights later, which they did. From that point on, Torre never questioned Pettitte’s toughness again.

Here is what Joe said about Andy the other day:

“Andy took the ball every five days, and if he had it his way, he’d get it more often than that. What’s really unusual about him is that a lot of times pitchers are more consumed with themselves. Andy was probably the consummate team player, especially for a pitcher. He was so concerned not only about the day he pitched but he always had his arm around a young guy in between starts.
 
“He has been a huge favorite of mine because he’s such a stand up guy, and he hasn’t changed from day one. He was a great teammate, and I think that’s why he won so many games. The guys that play behind him understand how intense he is, and it becomes contagious.
 
“I think the impact he had on the teams we had in the mid-to-late 1990’s was enormous even though he was never the guy in the spotlight. He liked the fact that he wasn’t the No. 1 guy even though I trusted him like a No. 1 guy. But he didn’t have an ego that dictated he needed all that attention.
 
“He did a great job of channeling his energy into competing, and he was about as consistent a performer as anybody in terms of getting your money’s worth. He glued our staff together. When you’re performing with the same people year-in and year-out, it’s always nice to have that security blanket. He was certainly that guy on the pitching staff.”

For other managers, the Astros’ Jimy Williams and Phil Garner and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi, Pettitte proved just as reliable in a career he brought to a halt this week. There were no tears at Friday’s announcement. Pettitte thought long and hard about this decision, and when he said “My heart isn’t in it anymore,” that’s all he needed to say. Once a player no longer has the stomach for the game, it is time to go.

That Game 5 of the 1996 World Series four nights after the Braves handed his head to him in Game 1 remains the centerpiece of Pettitte’s Yankees career, but there were plenty of other times when he gave the Yankees everything they needed from a pitcher.

He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 AL Championship Series when he won both his starts and held a Seattle team that had won 116 games during the regular season to four runs in 14 1/3 innings. Even in defeat, Pettitte could be magnificent, such as the Game 6 showdown with the Marlins’ Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series, Andy’s last start for the Yankees before signing as a free agent with his hometown Houston club.

Three years later, Pettitte was back with the Yankees reunited with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and helped ring in the new Yankee Stadium by winning the clinching games of all three post-season series in 2009 as the team achieved its 27th championship. Last year, he was a Cy Young Award candidate for half the season before a groin injury cost him at least a dozen starts. Now he is the first of the “Core Four” to call it quits.

“Andy was a great teammate and a wonderful guy,” Rivera said. “He was a fighter and all about winning, and he was respected by every person in the clubhouse.”

“I’m really sad that Andy is going to retire,” Posada said.”He was so much more than a teammate to me; he was one of my closest friends.  I admire everything that he has accomplished as a Yankee, but Andy was someone who always put the team first.  I’m going to miss him deeply.”

Added Jeter: “It has been a pleasure to play with Andy for all these years, and the Yankees have been fortunate to have him representing the organization both on and off the field. More importantly, it has been an honor to get to know him as a person, and I consider him family. I wish for nothing but happiness for him and his family, as I know how important they are to him.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for Hall of Fame talk about Pettitte to sprout. Let’s give it the five-year wait before getting serious about that. Pettitte has a lot going for him – a won-loss record more than 100 games over .500 at 240-138, a post-season record 19 victories, and winning five rings in eight World Series overall. He also has some things going against him – allowing more hits than innings pitched, a rather high ERA (3.88) and three more dangerous capital letters, HGH, which he admitted to using after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report.

His path to Cooperstown won’t be smooth. Over the next few years, the ballot will contain the names of starting pitchers superior to him in terms of statistics – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, even Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

“I’ve never considered myself a Hall of Famer,” Pettitte said. “I guess I’ve gotten close to having those kinds of credentials or guys wouldn’t be talking about it.”

The writers who do the voting will be talking about him for a while. But to Yankees fans, Pettitte will always be in their personal Halls of Fame for his competitiveness and remarkable consistency.

 

Mo is clutch; oh, really?

Not that he needed any further verification of his status as a player who can be counted on when a game is on the line, Mariano Rivera was the June winner of the 2010 Major League Baseball Clutch Performer of the Month Award. The only question is: why did it take four years for the Yankees closer to win the monthly award presented by Pepsi?

Mo’s credentials were impeccable last month. He was 2-0 with seven saves in 11 appearances covering 13 innings in which the righthander allowed only four hits with 16 strikeouts. Rivera retired 24 consecutive batters from June 3-23. Twice in a five-day stretch he pitched two innings to preserve victories in Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Although he had never won the monthly award, Rivera was a finalist for the MLB Clutch Performer of the Year in 2009 but lost out to Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier. At the conclusion of the 2010 regular season, fans will have the opportunity to vote on the Clutch Performer of the Year from among six finalists selected by a special MLB.com editorial panel.

The Yankees have dominated this competition since its 2007 inception, with eight winners. Rivera joins current teammates Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez and former teammates Melky Cabrera, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang. Only the Cubs and White Sox have had as many as two winners.

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