Results tagged ‘ Nelson Cruz ’
Pitchers with the best pickoff moves tend to be left-handed. Think Andy Pettitte or Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. Since the lefthander faces first base when in the stretch, he has a better view of what type of lead a runner is taking.
David Phelps, who started Monday night’s game for the Yankees against the Rangers, is a right-handed pitcher, but his determination to keep base runners close was the equal of Pettitte in the early going. Phelps got himself out of trouble spots in the second and third innings by picking runners off base.
Fans sometimes get on a pitcher if he throws over to first base too often. Such behavior can get on the nerves of managers and pitching coaches as well. They prefer the pitcher concentrate on the batter. But what manager or pitching coach is not happy when that determination results in an out?
Phelps concentrated so much on Elvis Andrus at first base in the first inning that he lost Josh Hamilton to a base on balls. A two-out single by Nelson Cruz created the first run of the game. In the second inning, Phelps hit Ian Kinsler with a pitch. Again, peering off at first base Phelps nailed Kinsler trying to slide back into the bag.
In the third with Andrus and Adrian Beltre on first and second, respectively, with one out after singles, Phelps seemed to have eyes in the back of his head as he detected Andrus wandering too far off second base. Robinson Cano, playing near the bag with the right-handed Cruz at bat, was in perfect position to field Phelps’ pickoff throw that trapped Andrus and gutted the rally.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he hoped to get five innings or 80 pitches from Phelps, whichever came first. Actually, Phelps gave his skipper the numbers simultaneously, pretty much. Phelps threw 78 pitches over five innings before Derek Lowe was called on to make his Yankees debut.
It didn’t take long for the Yankees’ new lineup altered by Derek Jeter’s assignment to the 15-day disabled list to do something positive to offset the Captain’s loss. New shortstop Eduardo Nunez and new leadoff hitter Brett Gardner contributed RBI hits in the Yanks’ six-run second inning that drove previously unbeaten Rangers starter Alexi Ogandov from the game.
In compiling a 7-0 record, Ogando had joined Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven (1976 and ’77) as the only Texas righthanders to begin a season by pitching at least six innings in their first 12 starts. Well, that streak sure ended as Ogando was gone after 1 2/3 innings having yielded six runs and six hits.
Nunez started the Yankees’ scoring with a bases-loaded single to left that scored one run. After Francisco Cervelli struck out for the second out, Gardner got another run in with an excuse-me swing that resulted in a single inside third base.
That was the first of three straight two-out hits for the Yankees. Curtis Granderson, who has pounded Texas pitching this year (10-for-21) singled in two runs, and Mark Teixeira doubled home two more. The Yankees nearly added another two runs when Alex Rodriguez greeted reliever Michael Kirkman with a drive to the warning track in right-center that was caught by Nelson Cruz. Rodriguez had started the rally with a leadoff single.
The Yankees are catching a major break this weekend against the Rangers. Texas has played without 2010 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton since April 13 because of a broken right arm. Right fielder Nelson Cruz joined Hamilton on the disabled list Saturday.
The move was made retroactive to May 4, the day after Cruz came out of the lineup due to a stiff right quadriceps. Cruz had been expected to return to duty for the Rangers as early as Saturday night, but an MRI revealed a strain in the muscle, and on to the DL he went. The Yankees do not mind his absence. Cruz beat them up in last year’s AL Championship Series, batting .350 with two home runs and five RBI after putting up three home runs and six RBI against them in eight games during the regular season.
The Elias Sports Bureau pointed out that with his victory Friday night over the Rangers Ivan Nova became only the second Yankees rookie over the past 25 years to get a winning decision while holding an opponent to no runs and two hits pitching more than seven innings in a road start. Got any idea who the other guy was?
Try Mariano Rivera, who held the White Sox scoreless with two hits through eight innings July 4, 1995 in a 4-1 Yankees victory at Chicago. The White Sox’ run in that game was scored off John Wetteland in the ninth. That was one of 10 starts that year for Rivera, who moved into the bullpen full-time in mid-September and hasn’t looked back since.
Mo’s 12th save Friday night, which leads the AL, came in the Yankees’ 30th game, equaling the earliest in a season that he reached the dozen mark, which he also did in 2000 when he finished with 36.
Did Cliff Lee hurt his bargaining power with his two losses in the World Series? Although he pitched brilliantly for six innings Monday night, the three-run home run Lee allowed to Edgar Renteria in the seventh essentially lost the World Series for the Rangers, who will have to dig deep into their pockets, which aren’t exactly Texas size, to retain the lefthander bound for free agency.
The Yankees haven’t made any secret of their interest in Lee, who beat them twice in the 2009 World Series and again in Game 3 of this year’s American League Championship Series. General manager Brian Cashman tried to trade for Lee in July and almost had a deal in place before the Rangers swooped in and grabbed him from Seattle.
Lee was not exactly lights out for Texas during the regular season (4-6, 3.98 ERA) after a terrific start with the Mariners (8-3, 2.34 ERA). That’s a combined record of 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA, which is not all that imposing. Lee is looking for CC Sabathia-type money, but those statistics aren’t CC Sabathia-type numbers.
Speaking of numbers, Lee went from 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the 2009 World Series to 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in the 2010 World Series. Now I’m not forgetting his two victories over the Rays on the road in the Division Series or his Game 3 gem against the Yankees in the ALCS, also on the road. In fact, Lee did not lose on the road or win in Texas in the post-season, so maybe Rangers Ballpark In Arlington is not the place for him.
One thing the Yankees have to be careful about is how they look at a pitcher who has been successful against them (9-4, 3.81 ERA, including post-season play). Not to pick on A.J. Burnett, but his attractiveness to the Yankees two off-seasons ago was based a lot on how he pitched against them. The problem is that if a player goes to his “cousin,” then he doesn’t have that “cousin” anymore.
Don’t get the idea that I’m ranking on Lee. He would be a great addition to the Yankees. I’m just saying his price tag may have to be re-arranged a bit.
For old-time Giants fans, the ones still sore at their leaving the Polo Grounds for San Francisco in 1958, you will have to admit that the Curse of Coogan’s Bluff is over now that the Giants have their first championship in the Bay Area. The 1962 Giants of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal couldn’t do it. The 1989 Giants of Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Matt Williams couldn’t do it. The 2002 Giants of Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Robb Nen couldn’t do it. Managers as talented as Alvin Dark, Roger Craig and Dusty Baker couldn’t do it.
It came down to the Bruce Bochy-directed Giants of Renteria, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross, plus a string of excellent young pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, plus an exceptional rookie catcher Buster Posey, plus a paint-it-black bearded closer Brian Wilson, not to be confused with the Beach Boy.
Lincecum outpitched Lee in Game 5, which was also characterized by Bochy out-managing Ron Washington. In the sixth inning, Mitch Moreland led off with a single for the Rangers in what was then a scoreless game. Instead of playing for one run against the overpowering Lincecum, Washington eschewed the sacrifice and had Elvis Andrus swing away on a hit-and-run play, but he lined out to center and Moreland had to scurry back to first base. Again, no bunt with one out, and Michael Young flied out to center as well.
In the seventh, when the Giants put their first two runners on with singles by Ross and Uribe on two-strike pitches, Bochy ordered the bunt from Huff, who did not have a sacrifice in a 13-season career. A pro, Huff got the ball down and put the runners in scoring position. Lee got the second out by punching out Pat Burrell, who had a brutal Series (0-for13, 11 strikeouts).
Again, Washington blundered by not ordering Renteria walked intentionally and let Lee go after Aaron Rowand. Lee appeared to be pitching around Renteria, but why take the risk of a pitch going awry, such as the 2-0 cutter that the Giants shortstop clubbed for a three-run homer? Never mind that Lee didn’t want to walk Renteria; who’s running the club, the pitcher of the manager?
It was the second game-winning hit in a World Series clinching game for Renteria, who won the 1997 Series for the Marlins against the Indians with an 11th-inning single. Only two other players have done that in Series history, both Yankees – Lou Gehrig (Game 4 in 1928 against the Cardinals and Game 6 in 1936 against the Giants) and Yogi Berra (Game 4 in 1950 against the Phillies and Game 7 in 1956 against the Dodgers). Joe DiMaggio also had two game-winning RBI in Series clinching games (Game 4 in 1939 against the Reds and Game 5 in 1949 against the Dodgers), but the latter was not on a hit but a sacrifice fly.
Renteria’s were far more dramatic than the others because in each case the hits broke ties from the seventh inning on. The Giants simply shut down the Rangers after Texas got back into the Series by winning Game 3. The Rangers scored one run (on Nelson Cruz’s seventh inning solo homer off Lincecum) in the last 21 innings and did not get a single runner in scoring position in Game 5.
It was hard to believe this was the same team that had, in Cashman’s word, “manhandled” the Yankees.
Thunderstorms threatened to hold up the start of Game 6 of the American League Championship Series Friday night at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington, but skies cleared to get the game under way. That was good news for the Yankees. A rainout would have allowed the Rangers to start Cliff Lee in Game 6 Saturday night.
Tired of hearing about Lee? So are the Yankees, especially Nick Swisher, whose profanity-laden response to queries about Lee from reporters was fodder for talk radio in Texas. It was kind of silly, really. Who can blame Swisher for getting hot when asked about Texas’ Game 7 starter when they hadn’t even played Game 6 yet.
It was odd to view CC Sabathia sitting in the bullpen. Counting post-season play, Sabathia has pitched in 335 major-league games, all of them starts. Friday was CC’s throw day between starts, but he didn’t have his usual session and was available to Yankees manager Joe Girardi for around 50 pitches if needed.
Help was needed in the fifth inning as Girardi had to replace Phil Hughes after Vlad Guerrero’s two-run double unlocked a 1-1 score, but it was David Robertson, not Sabathia, who came into the game and was greeted by a two-run home run by Nelson Cruz.
Hughes seemed to have settled down after a shaky first inning when the Rangers broke through for the first run and did not allow another hit until Guerrero’s game breaker. The Texas designated hitter got his first RBI of the series in the first inning with an infield out, but the Yankees continued to challenge him.
They walked Josh Hamilton intentionally with two down in the third to face Guerrero, and it worked as he popped out. The purposeful walk had a glitch as Hughes threw a wild pitch on one of the throws. With two out in the fifth and a runner on second, the Yankees walked Hamilton again. This time it backfired as Guerrero crushed a hanging breaking ball for a double to left-center.
Hughes’ outing was the latest sub-par one in the series for a Yankees starter. The rotation has a 7.11 ERA in the series, having allowed 25 earned runs and 42 hits in 31 2/3 innings. Speaking of unsightly ERAs, there is the 20.25 belonging to Robertson.
The Yankees were lucky to have the run they did against Texas starter Colby Lewis. It came on a wild pitch that video replays revealed had actually hit Swisher in the shin at the plate and should have been a dead ball. Shortly after that, Swisher was probably hoping and praying that the Yankees would get one more shot at Cliff Lee.
We have still yet to see in the post-season the CC Sabathia who was a Cy Young Award candidate during the regular season. Despite that, the lefthander is undefeated in three starts and played a major role Wednesday in keeping the American League Championship Series alive for the Yankees.
Just as a late-inning rally by the Yankees in Game 1 took him off the hook in a lackluster outing, Sabathia took the Yankees off a hook in Game 5 that might have ended their season with a serviceable performance that was still good enough to prevent the Rangers from clinching their first invitation to the World Series.
The Yankees’ climb in the ALCS remains uphill, but they at least earned a return trip to Texas, which is all they could hope for after having lost three of the first four games in the series. Who would have thought they would look forward to another date with Cliff Lee? That would come in Game 7, another victory away.
Sabathia was far from dominant. The Rangers reached him for 11 hits, but only one – a home run by catcher Matt Treanor in the sixth – did any tangible damage. The other run off him came on an infield out. In many ways, Texas let Sabathia off the hook. The Rangers stranded eight runners – six in scoring position – in his six innings. A pair of double plays served as part of the rescue party for Sabathia.
“He made key pitches when he had to,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Sabathia. “That’s why he’s the pitcher that he is and won all the games that he won this year.”
“I felt more prepared than I was in Game 1,” CC said. “I wanted to keep us in it and make the pitches I needed to.”
The bug guy didn’t hurt himself with walks (none). He had seven strikeouts, including a big one on Mitch Moreland looking at a slider with runners on second and third with his 112th and last pitch. Sabathia has allowed 22 hits in 16 innings and has a 5.63 ERA in his three post-season starts, but his record is 2-0 and the Yankees 3-0 in those games.
That the Yankees won behind Sabathia will only lend credence to the critics of manager Joe Girardi’s decision not to have CC start Game 4 instead of A.J. Burnett. It is too late for all that. One more time: the Yankees needed a fourth starter in the ALCS – who else you got? Whether Burnett should have pitched beyond five innings in Game 4, well, that is another argument and one that does the Yankees no good in rehashing now.
The Game 5 victory had the Yankees looking ahead, not behind. Their bats were noisier with home runs by Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano (four in the ALCS) and Curtis Granderson and doubles by Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Granderson, pretty good amplification without Mark Teixeira, out for the rest of the series with a strained right hamstring.
Texas lost left fielder Nelson Cruz to a tight hamstring in the fifth, but the injury may not be as serious as that of Teixeira.
The extra-base hits were important for the Yankees because they still were anemic in the clutch. They had two hits in 11 at-bats (.182) with runners in scoring position and are 8-for-51 (.157) in the series in those situations.
The Rangers, who could have closed out the series with a victory, displayed a sloppiness not previously seen in the series. They threw the ball over the lot in the Yankees’ three-run third inning. In the seventh, Elvis Andrus, who had three hits and a stolen base, got himself picked off second base by Kerry Wood, who also picked Ian Kinsler off first base in Game 1.
The Yankees’ play in the field was flawless.
“There was determination on our part,” Girardi said. “We haven’t played our best in this series. But I saw the mood during batting practice, and the guys knew what we had to do.”
So the Yankees are on their way to Texas, and Yankees fans hope there will still be more games at Yankee Stadium this year. That would mean there would be another World Series in the Bronx.
Give A.J. Burnett a D. I think that is fair. I know it is kind.
He was working on a C Tuesday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series before his outing came apart in the sixth inning when he lost the sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium that had been supporting him from the first pitch.
Fans knew the importance of this game and decided to get behind the righthander who had pitched so erratically during the regular season.
In the end, Burnett’s performance was a microcosm of his season. He blew both leads the Yankees gave him and was cascaded with boos as he walked off the mound in the sixth only moments after giving up a three-run home run to Bengie Molina. Last year, another of the Molina brothers, Jose, had been an ally of Burnett’s as his regular catcher.
But not this Molina, whose drive into the left field lower stands was on the pitch after an intentional walk to David Murphy and gave the Rangers a 5-3 lead. Setting up the situation was heads-up base running by Nelson Cruz, who advanced from first to second base tagging up after a flyout to deep center by Ian Kinsler. That opened first base for the intentional walk to Murphy.
Burnett’s line: 6 innings, 6 hits, 5 runs, 5 earned runs, 3 bases on balls (1 intentional), 4 strikeouts, 1 wild pitch, 1 hit batter, 1 home run, 1 stolen base allowed. Doesn’t that all look familiar?
The crowd’s anger toward Burnett seemed to spill over to manager Joe Girardi, whose unrewarded faith in the pitcher put him in the fans’ crosshairs. It didn’t help that he brought in lefthander Boone Logan to pitch to left-swinging Josh Hamilton, who slugged his third home run of the ALCS. His fourth of the series and second of the game would come in the ninth when Texas piled on three more runs off Sergio Mitre in the 10-3 victory that has pushed the Rangers within one victory of the World Series.
Before then, the Yankees came close to having an opening in the eighth inning against the same four pitchers they staged that five-run, eighth-inning rally in Game 1. They loaded the bases on walks, but once again could not come up with the big hit. Nick Swisher popped out behind second base, and Lance Berkman hit a scorching grounder to third baseman Michael Young, who picked it in a way that he did not against Alex Rodriguez in Game 1.
Derek Holland got a well-deserved victory with 3 2/3 innings of impressive relief. He stopped the bleeding in the fourth inning when the Yankees regained the lead against starter Tommy Hunter, pitched out of jam in the fifth and retired the side in order the next two innings before departing after a leadoff walk of Curtis Granderson in the eighth.
The Yankees need CC Sabathia Wednesday in Game 5 to pitch them to Texas. The loss not only puts the Yankees on the brink of elimination from the post-season but also guarantees that the only way they can return to the World Series is to win three straight games, including Game 7 against Cliff Lee.
On top of that, the Yankees will have to proceed through this minefield without Mark Teixeira, who was forced out of the game in the fifth inning due to a pulled right hamstring while running to first base. Tex told Girardi he felt a “pop” in the hamstring. That’s not a good sound. The Yankees can only hope the next sound they hear is not that of a pennant dropping.
For the first time in the American League Championship Series, the Rangers did not score in the first inning, which was an encouraging early sign for A.J. Burnett. The Yankees also took an early lead for the first time in the series, which was an encouraging sign, period.
It was a busy second inning for umpire Jim Reynolds, who was working the right field line. Robinson Cano got the first hit of the game, his third home run of the series, which featured a scene out of Yankees post-season history. As Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz jumped at the wall and reached for the ball, the outstretched hands of two fans in the front row came into view as the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced into the stands.
Cruz claimed interference, and Rangers manager Ron Washington exited the dugout to talk to Reynolds. The exchange was not heated, so Washington apparently accepted the ruling. The situation brought to mind Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between the Yankees and the Orioles when a New Jersey schoolboy named Jeffrey Maier interfered with a drive by Derek Jeter for a home run. The difference that night was that after the game right field ump Richie Garcia admitted he made the wrong call.
The umpires may now use televised replays on questionable home runs but did not in that case. Two batters later, they did, however. Lance Berkman’s high drive to right kept hooking and from my seat in the press box where the right field foul pole is directly in my view the ball veered foul into the second deck.
I was astonished to see Reynolds signal a home run. The crowd loved it. Pitcher Tommy Hunter and catcher Bengie Molina did not. Washington was out of the dugout again, but he was taking nobody’s word for it until the play was reviewed. The call was correctly reversed to a foul ball. Now Yankees fans were upset, but as the replay plainly revealed the ball hooked in front of the pole and landed in foul territory.
Burnett could have used that extra run, too, because the Rangers came back to score two runs in the third without a ball leaving the infield. After two perfect innings, Burnett had his first burst of wildness. He walked David Murphy and hit Molina with a pitch. Molina was attempting to sacrifice, so Burnett hit a guy who was giving him an out.
After Mitch Moreland bunted the runners over, Mark Teixeira made an excellent, short-hop pickup of a grounder by Elvis Andrus but could not set himself for a throw home. Tex tossed to Burnett covering first instead as Andrus scored the tying run. Michael Young followed with a slow roller to third that Alex Rodriguez had trouble getting out of his glove and beat the throw at first for a single that scored Molina for a 2-1 Texas lead.
The Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the inning with the run also coming on an infield hit. With two out, Jeter missed a home run by inches as the ball hit near the top of the center field fence next to the 408-foot sign. The ball caromed back toward the infield, and Jeter hustled it into a triple.
Curtis Granderson followed with a hard, one-bouncer that ate up second baseman for a single as Jeter crossed the plate with his 32nd run scored in ALCS play. It broke the record he had shared with former teammate Bernie Williams, who just happened to have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch.
The nine-day layoff did no good for CC Sabathia, who took too long to get into any rhythm Friday night and put the Yankees in a hole before Game 1 of the American League Championship Series was 10 minutes old.
This was an outing out of some of those post-season appearances Sabathia had with the Indians and Brewers when he was compiling a 2-3 record with a 7.92 ERA before coming to the Yankees and making so many things right last year when he was 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA.
Sabathia went to three-ball counts on eight of the 21 batters he faced. He walked four batters, threw a wild pitch and even balked in one of the weirdest starts he has had for the Yankees. CC walked Elvis Andrus to start the game and gave up a well-struck single to left-center by Michael Young.
Even better struck was Josh Hamilton’s laser beam of a liner into the right field corner off a hanging slider on 0-2. Just like that, it was 3-0 Texas, and Sabathia’s sweat was well earned. The Rangers weren’t through. They loaded the bases later in the inning, and only a good tag play at the plate by CC to prevent Nelson Cruz from scoring on a wild pitch kept the inning from getting uglier. Props to catcher Jorge Posada for an alert retrieve of the ball off the brick wall backdrop and Derek Jeter-like shuffle throw for an assist on the third out of the inning.
Sabathia rebounded with a perfect second. He added another scoreless inning in the third after Texas got a runner to third base with one out, thanks to the balk. CC was not as fortunate to wiggle out of trouble in the fourth as Young nailed a two-out double to right-center for two runs. Sabathia’s best pitch of the game was his last – a nasty slider to strike out Hamilton.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided that 93 pitches (only 51 strikes) was enough for Sabathia, who gave up five runs and six hits and now has a 7.20 ERA in this post-season. The Yankees were able to come from behind against the Twins in the ALDS to make a winner of Sabathia, but the best he could hope for in this one was a no-decision.
It is known among managers as the search for beneficial matchups. It is often known in the press box as the constant search for the guy who doesn’t have it. This almost never pertains to Mariano Rivera, who failed to protect the lead the Yankees had acquired when Texas manager Ron Washington, who must have two dozen pitchers in his bullpen these days, out-smarted himself.
With a runner on first base and one out in the eighth inning and his team ahead, 5-3, Washington made the move to lefthander Matt Harrison, the fifth of seven Rangers pitchers in the game, to turn switch hitters Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to the right side. Harrison gave up a single to Swisher on a first-pitch fastball and walked Teixeira on four pitches as the Yankees loaded the bases.
Plenty of heads in the Yankees’ dugout must have been scratching when Washington left Harrison in the game to face Alex Rodriguez when there were right-handed relievers in the Texas pen. Rodriguez smoked a 1-0 down the left field line for a double that cleared the bases and gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead.
So it was all set up for Rivera in the ninth, but it turned into a nightmare inning for the game’s most reliable closer of all time. An early sign that Mo was not himself was a leadoff walk to Vlad Guerrero, which is not easy to do. It was only the 32nd walk drawn by the free-swinging designated hitter this year in 570 plate appearances. Esteban German, who stole a base Friday night, ran for Guerrero, and Mo admitted he rushed his pitches to Nelson Cruz because of the speed at first.
Cruz, who beat the Yankees Friday night with two home runs, muscled a single to right that put runners on first and third with none out. Yankees manager Joe Girardi brought the infield in, which didn’t matter much because Ian Kinsler hit a hard grounder directly over third base and down the left field line for a double that scored the tying run.
That forced Girardi to order an intentional walk to load the bases to create a force everywhere. Pinch hitter Andres Blanco had the Yankees breathing easier by swinging at the first pitch and popping out to Teixeira. The next batter, Jeff Francoeur, didn’t get the chance to swing at the first pitch because it hit him, forcing home the winning run.
Rivera had thrown 23 pitches in a two-inning stint in Friday night’s 13-inning loss, but it would be unfair to drop the dime solely on Mo for Saturday night’s defeat. Except for A-Rod’s three-run double and an earlier, two-out single by Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees had another poor game hitting in the clutch. They were 3-for-13 (.231) with runners in scoring position and left 14 runners on base. That’s 32 runners stranded in two games and 5-for-30 (.167) in clutch at-bats.
Mo was not the only guy who didn’t have it.