Results tagged ‘ Nick Johnson ’
The disease of ineffectiveness that has infected the Yankees’ rotation all season finally hit on Ivan Nova. The righthander’s 15-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt Wednesday night as the Orioles won the rubber game of the series, 5-0.
Nova did his usual dance act for six innings by allowing a couple of runs but preventing really big innings by limiting Baltimore hitters to two hits in 11 at-bats (.182) with runners in scoring position. His luck ran out in the seventh inning, however, as the Orioles poured across three runs to pull away.
After Nick Markakis led off with a home run to right, Nova hit Adam Jones with a pitch and moments later watched him score on a double off the top of the fence in right-center by Matt Wieters, who had homered earlier. Nick Johnson’s single up the middle off reliever Clay Rapada brought in the third run of the inning.
Nova, whose record fell to 3-1 and ERA rose to 5.58, had a little bit of everything in this one. He allowed five earned runs and nine hits, struck a batter and threw a wild pitch in 6 1/3 innings. The loss was his first since June 3, 2011 and kept intact Roger Clemens’ franchise record of 16 consecutive victories in 2001.
The loss also dipped the rotation’s winning percentage below .500 for the first time this year at 9-10 with a 5.89 ERA. Yankees starters have allowed 161 hits, including 25 home runs, in 133 innings. A lot of those numbers belong to Freddy Garcia, who made his first relief appearance of the season in the eighth and ninth innings and perhaps for the first time all year was the Yankees’ most effective pitcher in a game.
The Yankees’ offense could not rescue Nova this time as they were shut down by Orioles righthander Jake Arietta, who had allowed nine runs in 10 innings over his previous two starts. The Yankees managed five singles off Arietta, who walked none and struck out nine in eight innings. They were limited to three runs in 26 innings against Baltimore pitchers in the series. The Yankees had only five runners in scoring position in the three games, none in the finale.
Already hurting with Brett Gardner disabled because of a bruised right wrist and Nick Swisher nursing a tender left hamstring, the Yankees lost infielder Eric Chavez to whiplash and a possible concussion. He was forced from the game amid an at-bat in the fifth inning because of dizziness. In the top of that inning, Chavez at third base dived for a ball that became a double by J.J. Hardy and may have injured his neck.
The Orioles gave the Yankees a collective pain in the neck, which will need some soothing in the upcoming series in Kansas City.
It wasn’t too long ago when the Yankees struggled to find a No. 2 hitter after Johnny Damon departed for free agency after the 2009 World Series. Remember how the Yankees tried to count on injury-prone Nick Johnson in 2010?
Derek Jeter has batted second in the order the majority of his career (54 percent) but has been the Yankees’ leadoff hitter quite a bit as well (36 percent), especially the past two seasons. DJ is off to a .400 start at the top of the order, but the 2-hole has turned out to be the most productive thus far in 2012 for the Yankees.
The combination of Curtis Granderson against right-handed starters and Nick Swisher against left-handed starters batting second has been devastating. Entering play Wednesday night, they have combined to bat .286 with 4 doubles, 12 home runs and 25 RBI I 91 at-bats. As a 2-hole hitter, Granderson has hit .281 with 8 homers and 13 RBI and Swisher .294 with 4 homers and 12 RBI.
Compare that with the cleanup spot, which is the traditional productivity position in the lineup. The Yankees are struggling in the 4-hole, which has been manned primarily by Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. Cleanup hitters are batting a combined .221 with 5 doubles, 2 homers and 6 RBI in 86 at-bats. The Yanks are slugging .349 at cleanup and .725 in the 2-hole, which seems a bit backwards.
Granderson is tied with Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton for the American League lead in home runs with nine, trailing only Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who has 12. Grandy leads the majors in home runs at home with eight. Since the start of the 2011 season, Granderson has hit 18 home runs off left-handed pitching, the most in the majors over that stretch. Hamilton is next with 13.
Travel difficulties Sunday spoiled my chance to see one of the best World Series games pitched by a rookie as Madison Bumgarner put the Giants on the verge of winning their first championship in San Francisco.
I was flying home from Dallas where I attended the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual meeting and blogged off Game 3. My original plan was to get back to New York to catch Game 4 on television, but the plane I was supposed to board was put out of service because of mechanical problems. We were finally given clearance to board another plane about three hours later. By the time I got back home, the game was over.
I had envisioned the 2010 post-season being one in which the Phillies would take revenge for last year’s loss in the World Series to the Yankees. The trade for Roy Halladay, the likely National League Cy Young Award winner, was part of that plan, along with the mid-season acquisition of Roy Oswalt of the Astros. With Cole Hamels, the Phillies created their H2O rotation that to me seemed head and shoulders over everyone else.
Two things happened that the Phillies didn’t count on, however. The big one was that the Giants stayed hot on the Padres’ tail and ended up winning the NL West. San Francisco’s rotation of Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez was so good that former American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito wasn’t even placed on the post-season roster.
The Giants out-pitched the Phillies to win the NL Championship Series in six games, holding slugger Ryan Howard without a run batted in.
And out of the AL emerged the Texas Rangers, who reached the World Series for the first time in the franchise’s 50th season and had in their holster one of the most impressive post-season pitchers of all time, Cliff Lee. He was the same guy who beat the Yankees twice in the Series last year for the Phillies, who traded him to Seattle after they got Halladay.
Lee helped Texas get to the Series with three victories in the first two playoff rounds but got roughed up in Game 1 by the Giants. The lefthander stood in their way in Game 5. Lee just could be making his last start for the Rangers if the Series ends Monday night and he bolts Arlington for free agency. A Texas victory Monday night may not be much more than a bump in the road for the Giants, who would return to San Francisco still with the upper hand.
Bumgarner saw to that with eight innings of shutout pitching, limiting the Rangers to three singles and two walks. Only one player, Josh Hamilton, got as far as second base, and he reached base initially on an error. The Giants got all the offense they needed in the third inning on a two-run home run by Aubrey Huff, who has the Yankees to thank for where he is today. Well, sort of.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean mentioned the other day that during the previous off-season the club was in need of a left-handed hitter, preferably a first baseman, and had targeted Nick Johnson, late of the Nationals. But Johnson signed instead with the Yankees, so the Giants decided to go after Huff, who grew up about 50 miles from Arlington as a Rangers fan and is now in position to end their dream of a title and help the Giants to their first since 1954 when they still played at the Polo Grounds.
The look of the Yankees will be altered somewhat by the player transactions of Friday night and Saturday. The additions did not figure in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory over the Rays Saturday night at Tropicana Field that was yet another tight, well-played game between the teams with the two best records in the majors. It ensured that the Yankees with a two-game lead will be in first place in the American League East when they leave St. Pete after Sunday’s series finale.
The trades were designed to improve the club, of course. Some are good, and some may not be. I won’t mind being proved wrong, but it will take major turnarounds from Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood to do so. The Yankees are gambling on that, and considering what they surrendered in both deals the risks were worth taking.
Let’s get the big plus out of the way. Austin Kearns is a fine addition, a real pro. The Yankees have lacked a quality fourth outfielder. Kearns fits the bill. This is not to disparage Marcus Thames, a fine hitter, but he is a liability in the field. The right-handed Kearns give Yankees manager Joe Girardi an option against left-handed pitching, which may affect the playing time of center fielder Curtis Granderson, who struggles against lefties (.214). Brett Gardner, a .266 hitter against lefties, might move to center on those occasions to open up left field for Kearns.
Berkman had big years in Houston, but 2009 was not one of them. The switch-hitter has been especially vulnerable against left-handed pitching, batting .188 from the right side. He made his Yankees debut as the designated hitter batting second, essentially the Nick Johnson role that took them half a season to fill after Johnson went on the disabled list, obviously for good, else why the move for Berkman? Therein lies the question, what was wrong with Nick Swisher in the 2-hole?
After toying with several options, including leading off Gardner and dropping Derek Jeter one spot, Girardi settled on Swisher, who in 50 games batting second hit .293 with 14 doubles, 1 triple, 12 home runs and 35 RBI in 208 at-bats. No one else came close to those numbers. Batting sixth Saturday night, Swisher struck out three times but also hit a game-tying home run in the seventh, a huge hit.
The other issue with Berkman as the full-time DH is that it locks up a position that can be an aid for a manager with some aging players. The Yankees have a 38-year-old catcher in Jorge Posada, a 36-year-old shortstop in Jeter and a 35-year-old third baseman with a surgical hip in Alex Rodriguez. Having each DH, say, once a week gives them a break from the field. If Berkman’s numbers against lefties remain anemic, Girardi could choose among Posada, Thames and Kearns, but that jeopardizes DH ABs for Jeter and A-Rod.
Is Wood that much of an upgrade over Chan Ho Park? I’m not sure, except for pedigree. Wood is a former Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner who tied fellow Texan Roger Clemens’ record of 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, but that was more than a decade ago.
No one would have relied on Park to be a regular closer as the Indians did Wood, but he was dreadful with a 1-4 record and 6.30 ERA to go with eight saves. The Yankees won’t use Wood as a closer, either, but will try to work him into the eighth-inning mix that has been a vacuum because of Joba Chamberlain’s inconsistency. Wood may find more competition for that role from David Robertson, who pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts.
One player unaffected by all this is Robinson Cano, whose ninth-inning home run off Rays closer Rafael Soriano created the final score. Cano, who also doubled twice, can be found at second base and in the 5-hole of the batting order game after game. No transaction can improve on that. It’s a good look.
It is never a good sign for a club when a pre-game press conference begins with a report about players who are not here. That’s how Saturday’s session with manager Joe Girardi got underway with a progress report on Yankees who are on the disabled list.
The most encouraging news is that outfielder-designated hitter Marcus Thames could be back with the club as early as Sunday. Thames was to play at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Saturday for the third consecutive day and if he comes out of it with no scrapes could be celebrating the Fourth of July at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees could use his bat off the bench in a big way these days.
Of the two pitchers on the DL, righthanders Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves, Mitre is the closest to returning, and that may still be another week to 10 days, which means probably not before the All-Star break. Mitre is scheduled to pitch two innings for Class A Tampa in an injury-rehabilitation assignment Monday. That same day, Aceves will throw 40 to 45 pitches off a mound. His injury has been the costliest as evidenced Friday by the bullpen breakdown of the three righthanders who couldn’t handle his role – Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Chan Ho Park.
Designated hitter Nick Johnson took dry swings Saturday with a light fungo bat and will report to Tampa early in the week. Asked about his timetable, Girardi said, “Weeks.” In other words, don’t hold your breath.
Girardi was amused to hear of the news that former Yankees pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez had signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals. Livan Hernandez, El Duque’s half-brother, pitches for Washington.
“If El Duque has anything left in his tank, he’ll find a way to compete,” Girardi said of the righthander, who is closer in age to 45 than 40 and has not pitched since 2007. “I loved catching the guy. He was a fierce competitor.”
We are down to the last three days of All-Star voting, so Yankees fans are going to have to pile on the votes if they want to get first baseman Mark Teixeira and right fielder Nick Swisher on the American League squad for the July 13 game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.
Teixeira is locked in a tight, three-player race at first base. He trails the Twins’ Justin Morneau by 255,000 votes and has a 30,000-vote lead over third-place Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers. Swisher ranks fifth among outfielders behind fourth-place Nelson Cruz of the Rangers and is 436,000 votes behind the Rays’ Carl Crawford for third place needed to break into the starting outfield. The top two outfielders are the Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki and the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton.
The Yankees will have at least two starters since shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano have huge leads at their positions. Jeter is running second in the overall voting only to Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who has a 2.6-million vote margin over the Yankees’ Jorge Posada. Mauer’s total is 3,968,039 votes to Jeter’s 3,350,155. Cano is just under 3 million at 2,948,269.
Going over the 3-million mark this past week was Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, whose lead over the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez is now more than 1.1 million and is probably uncatchable. With Nick Johnson on the 60-day disabled lists after having right wrist surgery, the Yankees had no chance in the designated hitter voting that has been a runaway for the Rangers’ Vlad Guerrero.
Voting continues through 11:59 p.m. Thursday. The results will be announced at 12 noon Sunday, July 4, on TBS’ MLB All-Star Selection Show Presented by Taco Bell. Former Yankees pitcher David Wells will be an analyst with Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Dennis Eckesley and emcee Matt Winer. American League manager Joe Girardi of the Yankees and National League manager Charlie Manuel of the Phillies will be interviewed on the program.
Mark Teixeira’s slump has finally caught up to him in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game fan voting. Tex led the field at first base in the first two cycles of this year’s balloting, but he fell behind the Twins’ Justin Morneau in the latest tally released this week.
Morneau, who trailed Teixeira by 83,000 votes a week ago, made a 125,000-vote turnaround and now has a 42,000-vote lead at the position. There is still nearly a month of voting remaining, but Teixeira has his work cut out for him since fans have clearly taken a good look at the season Mornueau is having for the Twins. And with the new Target Field in Minneapolis selling out nightly, plenty of fans in the Twin Cities are pledging their support.
Statistics clearly favor Morneau, who entered play Tuesday night leading the American League in batting (.370), on-base percentage (.483) and slugging (.688), quite a trifecta. His OPS is at an off-the-charts 1.171. Meanwhile, the comparable figures for Teixeira are .211, .326 and .363. His OPS of .689 is nearly even with Morneau’s slugging percentage alone. Morneau also has an edge over Teixeira in the other major offensive departments – hits, 71-47; runs, 39-35; doubles, 20-10; triples, 1-0; home runs, 13-8; runs batted in, 40-34.
At the other end of the infield, the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez continued to lose ground to the Rays’ Evan Longoria and now trails by 446,000 votes. At the start of balloting, the Yankees looked as though they had a shot at an all-starting infield for the American League, but now they are down to half. Up the middle, shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano still have sizeable leads with vote totals of more than a million apiece.
In the overall voting, Jeter’s vote total of 1,544,781 trails only Twins catcher Joe Mauer, whose 1,886,188 leaves runner-up Jorge Posada of the Yankees a distant second. Jorgie has a 274,000-vote lead over the Red Sox’ Victor Martinez, which could be important because in selecting the squads managers and league officials pay close heed to vote totals.
The only other AL player with more than a million votes is the Rangers’ Vlad Guerrero, the runaway leader for the designated hitter spot. The Yanks have no shot there because their candidate, Nick Johnson, is on the 60-day DL.
There was good news for the Yankees in the outfield where Nick Swisher, aided by a terrific May (.374, 7 HR, 17 RBI), jumped from seventh to fifth in the voting. Among those he climbed over was teammate Curtis Granderson, who went from sixth to seventh as Brett Gardner held steady in eighth place. Swisher is nearly 220,000 votes shy of breaking into the top three in the outfield, spots held currently by the Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki, the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz and the Rays’ Carl Crawford. Fourth-place Josh Hamilton of the Rangers is 109,000 votes behind Crawford and 110,000 ahead of Swisher.
The Yankees have been hard with injuries early on this season. Outfielder Curtis Granderson, designated hitter Nick Johnson and relief pitcher Alfredo Aceves are on the disabled list and soon to join them is catcher Jorge Posada. After Wednesday night’s 10-6 loss to the Rays at the Stadium, the Yankees announced that Posada has a hairline fracture on the bottom of his right foot and will be sidelined for at least a month.
Ouch. This one really hurts. For all the good things Francisco Cervelli has done in his place, Posada is as close to indispensable as anyone on the Yankees not only for his catching and hitting but also for his leadership. While he was recovering from a strained right calf a couple of weeks ago, Posada could at least see some duty at designated hitter or off the bench. He took a foul ball off his foot last Sunday against the Twins, and the situation did not get better. If anything, it got worse.
The Yankees were also without Nick Swisher, still nursing a tight left bicep, and during Wednesday night’s game lost another outfielder. In the sixth inning, Marcus Thames while running out a single stepped on his bat that he tossed indifferently in the baseline and had to leave the game because of a sprained left ankle. Manager Joe Girardi said that Thames is day-to-day, so it does not appear to be a DL situation. Yet it is still one more player not at full strength.
About the only positive for the Yankees Wednesday night was a two-out, four-run rally in the ninth that forced Rays manager Joe Maddon to use two relievers and get another up in the pen. Nevertheless, it was small compensation.
The length in games that Yankees starting pitchers Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte have given manager Joe Girardi on the regular basis this season might have rendered unnecessary Javier Vazquez’s sudden status as a long reliever this week.
With Sergio Mitre forced to pitch as a spot starter Sunday against the Twins and with short reliever Chan Ho Park coming off the disabled list Monday (Ivan Nova was returned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), Vazquez to pitch out of the bullpen should the Yankees have needed a reliever to give them some innings in the event a starter is knocked out early.
Naturally, Girardi hoped to avoid that and keep Vazquez on schedule to start Friday night’s opener of the Subway Series against the Mets at Citi Field. But the Yankees have four pretty important games against American League East opponents at Yankee Stadium before that, Monday and Tuesday nights against the Red Sox and Wednesday and Thursday nights against the Rays.
Hughes lasted only five innings Monday night, but Vazquez didn’t start warming up until the ninth. Girardi was forced to call on him to face Kevin Youkilis with two out and runners on first and third and struck him out.
Girardi has been concerned about the condition of his bullpen since a rainout last week in Detroit that was made up as part of a day-night, separate-admission doubleheader the next day. That cost him the use of Mitre out of the pen, leaving the manager to use Triple A call-ups Nova and Romulo Sanchez to soak up innings.
And the bullpen isn’t all that is short around the Yankees. So, too, is the roster. The Yankees’ lineup Monday night against Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka did not contain either Nick Swisher or Jorge Posada. Swisher is still bothered by left bicep tightness that affects his swing from the left side. He is available to pitch hit but only from the right side.
Posada has a painful knot on his right foot caused by a foul ball off it Sunday. Not having Posada against Matsuzaka worked against the Yankees. Jorgie is 6-for-12 with three doubles in his career against the Japanese righthander.
Will all the time Posada has missed (11 games), the Yankees have been fortunate to have Francisco Cervelli, who has been an absolute godsend.
The Yankees will be without designated hitter Nick Johnson for an extended period, probably at least another two months. Johnson has decided to undergo surgery on his right wrist Tuesday and won’t be able to pick up a bat for four to six weeks. Since this is the second surgery for Johnson on the same wrist in two years, the recovery period could be lengthy.
The Yankees appear unlikely to seek another full-time DH, preferring to rotate the position among aging veterans like Posada, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames. As for the 2-hole, Johnson’s old spot in the batting order, Girardi has been using Brett Gardner against right-handed pitching and Swisher against lefties. Curtis Granderson could work himself into that mix once he returns from the DL, but that is not forthcoming.
Don’t expect to see Nick Johnson around the Yankees any time soon. The oft-injured designated hitter-first baseman has been on the disabled list because of an inflamed right wrist since May 8 and will be sidelined for at least another three weeks. That is if the cortisone injection he received earlier this week kicks in.
If not, Johnson may require surgery, which would keep him out of action for another six weeks after that. The wrist has been troublesome for Johnson at other times in his career. He first hurt it in 2002 during his first tour with the Yankees and missed four weeks of the season. Six years later while with the Nationals, Johnson required surgery on the wrist that forced him out of the last four months of the 2008 season.
A more encouraging sign was Nick Swisher back in the lineup Saturday after being forced out Friday night due to renewed tightness in his left bicep. An MRI proved negative, and Swisher said the ailment is more an issue when batting left-handed. With lefty Francisco Liriano starting for the Twins, Swisher was in there batting right-handed and hitting second in the order, Johnson’s old spot.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has yet to replace Johnson with one player either in the 2-hole or as the DH. Girardi has alternated Swisher and center fielder Brett Gardner batting second and has used the DH spot to “rest” regulars such as Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. The manager has also resisted the temptation to use Gardner at leadoff and drop Jeter into the 2-hole to help the shortstop work out of a recent slump.
Then again, Girardi has maintained throughout Jeter’s rough stretch that he was hitting in tough luck. Perhaps Jeet’s luck changed Friday night. He was credited with a double on a line drive that caromed off pitcher Scott Baker’s leg and into right field, an important hit in what proved a game-winning rally climaxed by Rodriguez’s 19th career grand slam. Jeter singled sharply in his first two at-bats Saturday, a signal that he is coming around.