Results tagged ‘ Nick Swisher ’

Yanks prevail despite spotty Pettitte start

Triumphant was not the word for Andy Pettitte’s return from the disabled list Monday night, but the Yankees triumphed anyway. The lefthander did not survive the fifth inning, retired the side in order only once and squandered a three-run lead in his second consecutive unsuccessful attempt for career victory No. 250.

Pettitte pitched from the stretch a good portion of his 83-pitch outing, his 500th career start, in which he allowed four earned runs, seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts and two wild pitches in 4 2/3 innings. It was by no means classic Pettitte, who was in trouble in nearly every inning. Perhaps it was a matter of rust, but at a time when the Yankees are in search of anything to get through this rough patch Pettitte was simply not his usual self.

It showed mostly in the fifth when he coughed up the 4-1 lead given him two innings earlier by Mark Teixeira’s eighth career grand slam on a liner into the front row of the right field stands off Indians ace Justin Masterson. That was a big blow for Tex, whose name was being smeared all day by talk-radio smart alecks who dumped on him for his slow start (1-for-9, seven strikeouts) after missing seven weeks with a severe right wrist injury.

“We got more hits and walks in one inning off Masterson than we did the whole game the last time we faced him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, noting that the Cleveland righthander pitched a four-hit, no-walk shutout against them May 13 at Progressive Field.

Pettitte posted a shutdown inning in the fourth, which was good to see, but got into immediate trouble in the fifth when Drew Stubbs led off with a double to right-center. An infield hit by Michael Bourn put runners on the corners. Mike Aviles knocked in a run with a rarely-seen sacrifice fly to second base. Actually, the ball was in shallow center field where Robinson Cano made the catch with his back to the infield and could not get the throw home in time to prevent Stubbs from scoring.

Pettitte got a big second out when Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out and pulled up lame running to first base and had to come out of the game because of a right quad strain. Pettitte lost the plate as he walked Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds to load the bases. Carlos Santana supplied the fatal blow with a smoking, one-hopper past off the glove of third baseman David Adams that bounced into the stands for a two-run double that tied the score and ended Pettitte’s night.

That cost Andy any chance for a winning decision, but his teammates got him off the hook for a possible losing decision when they rallied with two out in the sixth to regain the lead, 6-4, on a two-run single by Brett Gardner. Masterson made a questionable decision to cut off Bourn’s peg home from center between the mound and the plate because the second runner, Austin Romine, a catcher, was quite a ways up the line when the pitcher gloved the ball, a break for the Yankees.

Travis Hafner put the finishing touches on the Yankees’ 7-4 victory with a home run off his old teammates in the seventh. Shawn Kelley (3-0), Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera (20th save) picked up Pettitte with 4 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit relief.

Overbay stays, gets a shot in the outfield

The Yankees found a way to keep Lyle Overbay in uniform. Unfortunately for Brennan Boesch, it came at his expense. To create space on the 25-man roster for Andy Pettitte, who was activated from the disabled list to start Monday night’s game at Yankee Stadium against the Indians, the Yankees optioned Boesch to Triple A Scranton.

The move ended much speculation over the past week around the Yankees about who would go when Pettitte was ready to get back on the mound. There was some talk about optioning infielder David Adams and even perhaps a trade of Overbay, whose playing time was reduced with the return of Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis off the DL.

But there was Overbay back in the lineup Monday night and playing right field, a position he had not played since early in his pro career in the minor leagues. Overbay has been a first baseman – and a good one – and occasional designated hitter as a major-leaguer and was a major fix-it at first base for the Yankees over the first seven weeks of the season as Teixeira was recovering from a wrist injury.

“We have been forced to be creative because of all the injuries,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Lyle is willing to do anything. We don’t expect him to be a Gold Glove right fielder. The area here at the Stadium is small.”

The Yankees decided to keep Adams, who started at third base Monday night, because he can support Youkilis at that spot and also give Robinson Cano a day at DH on occasion. Adams was primarily a second baseman in the minors but filled a more urgent need at third base since his call-up May 15.

Speculation had fallen on Adams, who has two options left, instead of Overbay, who would have had to be designated for assignment. It is doubtful that he would have passed through waivers considering his productivity (eight home runs and 29 RBI in 178 at-bats), and the Yankees would have lost a player without getting anything in return. Overbay borrowed a glove from relief pitcher Boone Logan to man the new position.

Like Adams, Boesch also had options remaining, so he was the odd man out for the second time this season. It was a bit of an unkind cut for Boesch, who had 5-for-8 (.625) with one double, one home run and three RBI in three games since his May 25 recall that raised his season average to .275 with three home runs and eight RBI in 51 at-bats. Boesch had also been the Yankees’ best pinch hitter at 3-for-9 (.333) with one home run and four RBI.

Overbay found himself in the defensive position that had been manned primarily the previous four seasons by Nick Swisher, who made his return to the Stadium as the Tribe’s first baseman. Swish was treated to a standing ovation from the Stadium crowd in his first at-bat in which he was called out on strikes for the last out of the first inning. The bleacher creatures also accorded a roll-call chant in the bottom of the inning for Swisher, who was always one of their favorites.

Grace Cashman, daughter of Yanks general manager Brian Cashman, did a nice job singing the National Anthem before the game.

Yankees add pitcher, drop Francisco

The cleaver finally came down on Ben Francisco, the least productive of Yankees hitters this season. Francisco, who was used at designated hitter and in the outfield, was designated for assignment Sunday as the Yankees needed to create roster space for pitcher David Huff, whom they claimed off waivers from the Indians. Francisco batted .114 with one home run and one RBI in 44 at-bats and never seemed to get untracked.

Huff gives the Yankees another lefthander to work out of the bullpen with Boone Logan and as a long reliever, which may be important these days with starters Hiroki Kuroda (bruised right calf) and David Phelps (bruised right forearm) on the mend. Huff has an unsightly 15.00 ERA in three appearances this season. Yankees fans may recall that Huff was beaned by a line drive to the box by Alex Rodriguez in a 2010 game at Yankee Stadium.

He told reporters before Sunday’s game at St. Petersburg, Fla., “The last time I talked to you guys was the day I almost had my head taken off. I’m just super excited to be here, and I’ve got to embrace it.”

The Yankees’ 4-3, 11-inning victory Saturday night in which they trailed, 3-1, with two outs in the ninth inning was the first time they won a game in which they had two outs and the potential tying run not yet at bat since a 9-8 walk-off victory June 5, 2008 over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, won on a pinch-hit home run by Jason Giambi. It was also the Yankees’ second victory this season when trailing after eight innings. They had just one such triumph last year (1-58) in the next-to-last game of the season Oct. 2 against the Red Sox at the Stadium.

The return of Brennan Boesch from Triple A Scranton gives the Yankees their best pinch hitter back. They are hitting only .167 with two home runs and five RBI in 24 at-bats in the pinch. Boesch as a pinch hitter is 3-for-9 (.333) with one of the homers and four of the RBI. His most recent pinch hit was an RBI double as part of Saturday’s ninth-inning rally.

Of the Yankees’ 60 home runs, 20 have tied the game or given them a lead with six of those coming in the seventh inning or later. Lyle Overbay’s 11th-inning, go-ahead homer was the first extra-inning jack by a Yankees hitter to give them the lead in a road game since April 11, 2012 by Nick Swisher at Baltimore. Overbay became the second Yankee to do so at Tropicana Field, joining Jorge Posada Sept. 14, 2010, a 10th-inning solo shot off Dan Wheeler in an 8-7 victory.

Yankees hope to spoil Moore’s record

The Yankees opposed Rays lefthander Matt Moore Saturday, which was the fifth time in the past 40 seasons that they have faced a pitcher with a season record of 8-0 or better. They won each of the past two such games: June 3, 2007 at Fenway Park, 6-5, over the Red Sox and Josh Beckett, who entered the game 8-0 and got a no-decision, and July 14, 2006 at Yankee Stadium, 6-5, over the White Sox and Jose Contreras, who came into the game at 9-0 and absorbed his first loss.

The other two times were June 1, 1994 at the Stadium, 5-4, to the White Sox and Wilson Alvarez, who entered 8-0 and got a no-decision, and June 16, 1986 at the Stadium, 10-1, to the Red Sox and Roger Clemens, the winning pitcher whose record went to 12-0.

The Yankees recalled outfielder Brennan Boesch from Triple A Scranton Saturday to replace Curtis Granderson, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a fractured left pinky as the result of being hit by a pitch in Friday night’s 9-4 victory over the Rays. Boesch hit .179 with a double and two RBI in seven games and 28 at-bats after being optioned there May 13.

In Friday night’s victory, each of the Yankees last four batters in the lineup (David Adams, Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix and Chris Stewart) had two hits and scored at least one run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the starting 6-7-8-9 hitters for the Yankees each had multiple hits and at least one run in the same game since Aug. 6, 2009, a 13-6 victory over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The 6-through-9 hitters in that game were Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera.

Robertson Yanks spokesman for Wounded Warriors

David Robertson has assumed the role of Yankees spokesperson for the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). He will represent the Yankees in Wounded Warrior Project outreach efforts and participate in Wounded Warrior visits to Yankee Stadium throughout the season. The role was filled the previous two seasons by outfielder Nick Swisher, now with the Indians.

The Yankees welcomed to Friday night’s game approximately 25 Wounded Warriors, all of whom were injured while serving their country in the armed forces. Their activities included a private tour of Monument Park and the Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America, along with spending time with Robertson in a quiet setting at the Stadium.

During a pre-game, on-field ceremony Sunday, the New York Yankees Foundation will make a $100,000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. Additionally, in a separate ceremony on Sunday, two Wounded Warriors, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rodjean Thorman and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jay Lawrence, will be recognized for their service. The pair will represent a group of approximately 25 Wounded Warriors who are attending the game with members of their families through the generosity of Manfredi Jewels of Greenwich, Conn., which is providing tickets for their visit.

“The Wounded Warrior Project has been close to our hearts for many years,” Yankees senior vice president of marketing Debbie Tymon said. “By continuing our relationship, we hope that the public further recognizes the magnitude of the sacrifices made by so many members of the armed forces. We owe it to these courageous men and women to extend our hands, hearts and resources to help them readjust to civilian life as quickly and thoroughly as possible.”

The mission of the non-profit and non-partisan Wounded Warrior Project – http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org – is to honor and empower wounded servicemen and servicewomen. WWP’s goals include raising awareness and enlisting the public in aiding the needs of injured service members. WWP also provides unique and direct programs and services for injured veterans.

“Wounded Warrior Project would like to thank David Robertson and the New York Yankees for their continued commitment to supporting our mission,” WWP deputy executive director Al Giordano said. “Taking the time to give back to our nation’s injured servicemen and women not only speaks volumes about David’s character but also of the Yankees organization as a whole. This ongoing support promises to provide memorable experiences for our alumni throughout the season.”

Hafner’s return to Cleveland ruins Tribe’s home opener

I thought it was nice to see Tigers fans cheer for Brennan Boesch during home-opening day ceremonies last Friday in Detroit even though he was now playing for the Yankees. But that was nothing compared to the response from Cleveland fans before the Indians’ home opener Monday toward Travis Hafner. You would have thought the Yankees’ designated hitter was still a member of the Tribe the way the local fans treated him.

It was obvious that Indians fans had fond feelings for Hafner, who slugged 200 home runs in 10 seasons in Cleveland. Hafner’s “thank you” response was a bit harsh, however. Wearing the No. 33 uniform that Nick Swisher, now playing first base for the Indians, had worn in his four seasons with the Yankees, Hafner quieted down the home crowd in the first inning with a three-run home run off righthander Ubaldo Jimenez.

Hiroki Kuroda gave back all of that lead in the bottom of the first, an indication that he might still have been bothered by the right middle finger he injured in his previous start. Hafner put the Yankees back in front with a run-scoring single in the third. Kuroda found himself and pitched into the sixth while the Yankees’ bats stayed as productive as they were Sunday at Detroit to ruin the home opener for the Indians to the tune of 11-6.

It turned out to be a big day for Hafner, who along with fellow newcomers Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells is off to a terrific start with the new club. Hafner walked and scored in each of his next two at-bats. He is batting .391 with two home runs and six RBI. Hafner has also scored six runs, the most on the team.

Hafner had the better day between him and Swisher, who reached base three times with a single and a pair of walks and scored a run. Swish made a remark before the game that he was “hurt” that the Yankees did not make him a contract offer, which was not true. They were willing to tender him for $13 million in 2013, but he chose to look elsewhere for a long-term deal and got it from the Indians at $56 million for four years, far too steep for the Yankees to consider for a 32-year-old switch hitter who batted .162 in 130 postseason at-bats for them the past four seasons.

Youkilis had another hit to extend his hitting streak to all seven of the Yankees’ games and is batting .370 with a .433 on-base percentage, one home run and four RBI. Wells had a double and two singles, stole a base and scored a run. He is batting .381 with two home runs and four RBI. All three of Wells’ hits were to right field, which is as many as he had all last year in 243 at-bats with the Angels.

The newcomers in the lineup have out-shown the holdovers in the Yankees’ lineup thus far, but Robinson Cano let himself be heard finally. Entering the game with a .130 batting average, no extra-base hits or RBI, Cano broke out big-time with two home runs, a double, a walk, two RBI and four runs scored.

A spotlight has been Cano since the season opener. He is eligible to become a free agent after the season and has already been engaged in negotiations toward a contract extension with the Yanks, who traditionally have not held contract talks with players during seasons but have indicated a willingness to do so in his case.

With regulars Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira all on the disabled list, Cano has been somewhat naked in the lineup. Nevertheless, Youkilis and Hafner and Wells have done their part to give Robinson protection, so it was encouraging to see him have such a big day Monday.

The Yankees’ offense that had been so criticized during spring training continues to click. They have raised their team batting average 39 points over the past two 13-hit games. And manager Joe Girardi can stop saying that the Yankees won’t hit a lot of home runs. The have out-homered opponents, 10-4, and are at a pace for a 230-homer season, which is not shabby.

Yanks go silently, like their bats

Not to be flippant about it, but the Yankees saved their worst for last. Their season ended with a thud Thursday as Detroit completed a four-game sweep of the American League Championship Series with a convincing 8-1 victory. It marked the second consecutive season that the Tigers eliminated the Yankees from the postseason, becoming the first team to do that since the New York Giants in the World Series of 1921 and 1922. A year later, the Yankees won the first of their 27 championships, so maybe this will be a good omen.

Nothing feels good to the Yankees now. Getting swept in a postseason series is something the franchise is not used to. It had not happened to the Yankees since the 1980 ALCS when they lost in three games to the Royals back when the series was still a best-of-5. The Yankees had played 36 postseason series without getting swept before Thursday.

It is not at all that difficult to analyze what went wrong for the Yankees. They simply did not hit. They scored in only three of the 39 innings of the series and only six runs total. They never had the lead for a single inning in the series, something that happened to them only once before, in the 1963 World Series when they were swept by the Dodgers.

Actually, the Yankees’ offense was pretty scarce throughout the postseason, but they were picked up by their pitching staff. The remarkable work of the rotation also ended Thursday as CC Sabathia, who got the Yanks into the ALCS with a complete-game triumph over the Orioles in Game 5 of the AL Division Series, came apart.

But what the Yankees needed more than a big game from CC Thursday was a big game from the lineup. Nick Swisher came up with his first run-scoring hit with a runner in scoring position in this postseason with a double in the sixth inning, but that was it as the team that set a franchise record with 245 home runs this year continued to falter in the postseason. A team that averaged 1.5 home runs per game during the regular season had only seven home runs in nine postseason games.

Raul Ibanez supplied most of the muscle with three dramatic home runs, but the Yankees got no homers from their usual sluggers – Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. It was not just a power outage, either. The Yankees’ team batting average was .157 in the ALCS and .188 overall in the postseason.

Ibanez’s heroics pinch hitting for Rodriguez in Game 4 of the ALDS unfortunately created a media circus around A-Rod, who had been rendered helpless against right-handed pitching in postseason play (0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts) and was benched in the final game of the ALDS and the last two games of the ALCS. Rodriguez has taken the blunt of the blame for the Yanks’ ouster, which is unfair.

He was part of the problem but by no means all of it. Eric Chavez, who replaced Rodriguez at third base, was hitless in 16 at-bats and made two costly errors in the ALCS. Curtis Granderson, who hit 43 home runs during the regular season, homered in Game 5 of the ALDS but was 0-for-11 in the ALCS. He had only two hits other than the home runs in 30 postseason at-bats and struck out 16 times. Swisher hit .167 with 10 strikeouts.

Then there was the strange case of Cano, who endured one of the cruelest postseasons for a New York player that brought to mind the struggles of Yankees right fielder Dave Winfield (1-for-22 in the 1981 World Series) and Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges (0-for-21 in the 1952 World Series).

Cano entered the postseason as the hottest hitter in baseball with a streak of nine multi-hit games in which he went 24-for-39, a .615 tear. The All-Star second baseman managed only three hits in 40 postseason at-bats (.075), including 1-for-18 (.056) against Detroit pitching. Cano went 29 at-bats without a hit over one stretch, the longest postseason drought in club history, which covers a lot of ground. This was the Yankees’ 51st postseason covering 73 series.

As it turned out, 2012 was a season in which the Yankees peaked too soon. They were running away with the AL East by mid-July with a double-digit lead and then had to fight and claw to finish in first place at season’s end. The same Baltimore team that hounded them in the regular season pushed them to the full five games of the ALDS. A talented Detroit staff headed by the game’s most talent pitcher, Justin Verlander, kept the Yankees’ bat silenced.

Now silence is all there is left of the Yankees’ season.

Yankees fans have their own debate

Hours before the Presidential debate at Hofstra, Yankees fans had plenty to debate about the team’s lineup for American League Championship Series Game 3 at Detroit’s Comerica Park. No Alex Rodriguez. No Nick Swisher. Eduardo Nunez is playing shortstop. Where do we begin?

Well, the starting point is that the Yankees are down 0-2 in the series with no Derek Jeter, the next three games (they hope; it could be only two) in the other club’s yard and the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner on the mound Tuesday night. How’s that for backs against the wall?

Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided that the lack of production from A-Rod and Swish in the postseason needed to be replaced by something different. Brett Gardner, who has had three at-bats since April, was inserted in left field and the leadoff spot with Ichiro Suzuki moving to right field and batting second.

Gardner joins Ichiro and Curtis Granderson to give the Yankees their swiftest outfield, which is important at spacious Comerica and a fly-ball pitcher, Phil Hughes, starting for them. Despite hitting two home runs during the regular season off Verlander, Rodriguez has been struggling big-time right-handing pitching in the postseason, which has resulted in Girardi lifting him for pinch hitters twice and benching him in the final game of the AL Division Series.

Using Eric Chavez at third base allows Girardi to get another left-handed batter, Raul Ibanez, the postseason batting star for the Yankees, in the lineup as the designated hitter. Nunez at short is definitely a gamble. He is a liability on defense, but the Yankees need a boost in offense (they were held scoreless in 21 of 22 innings in the first two games).

Let’s face it; the whole lineup is a gamble. When you are in the situation the Yankees are, rolling the dice is all that is left.

Not a happy birthday for the Skipper

Joe Girardi, who certainly did not have a good time on his 48th birthday, was understandably upset with the second straight bad call by a umpire on the bases Sunday night. The problem with much of his argument in the case of ALCS Game 2 was that the Yankees did not score at all. The two runs the Tigers scored after the missed call in the eighth inning surely hurt, but they did not cost the Yankees the game. No team can win a game, zero to minus-one.

The Yankees fell behind 0-2 in the ALCS with a 3-0 loss, which was not the scenario they would want heading into Game 3 Tuesday night at Detroit against Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner and a Cy Young Award candidate in 2012 as well.

The Yanks need a big game from Phil Hughes like the strong effort he gave them in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Orioles to get back into this series. That will not be enough, however. The Yankees have gotten above-average work from their starting pitchers during the postseason. Hiroki Kuroda was the latest example Sunday. He flirted with a perfect game for five innings, and those two runs in the eighth that were charged to his record were definitely tainted.

Yankees starters in the seven postseason games have pitched to a 2.33 ERA in 54 innings, but their record is a combined 2-2 with three no-decisions, due primarily to scant run support. The Yankees have scored 11 runs from the ninth inning on in postseason play but only nine runs in innings one through eight. They have been shut out in the first eight innings of both games in the ALCS and were flat-out shut out in Game 2.

It was not the sort of game the Yankees wanted the day after losing their captain, Derek Jeter, for the rest of the year to an ankle injury. Jayson Nix did a nice job in the field at shortstop but was 0-for-3 at the plate. I am not singling him out by any means. If the Yankees need Jayson Nix to save their season, they are in more trouble than they think they are.

Robinson Cano, who was at the center of the two baseline calls the past two games at Yankee Stadium, had his hitless streak reach 26 at-bats, the longest in postseason history, and only five of those outs have gone to the outfield. In Game 1, Cano was called out on a rally-killing double play in the second inning when replays indicated he beat the throw.

With the margin of error so miniscule, plays such as the one in the eighth inning Sunday become magnified, to the point that a manager got himself ejected. Kuroda got the first two outs on strikeouts before Omar Infante singled to center. Austin Jackson followed with a single to right. Nick Swisher, detecting that Infante had made a wide turn around second but had changed his mind about going to third, threw behind the runner. Second base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Infante was safe getting back to second, but replays clearly showed that Cano had tagged Infante near his chest before he touched the bag. The Tigers added tag-on runs with singles by rookie Avisail Garcia off Boone Logan and Triple Crown champ Miguel Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain.

“I don’t have a problem with Jeff’s effort because he hustled to get to the play,” Girardi said. “But in this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it has got to change. These guys are under tremendous amounts of pressure. It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it’s hard for him to see. And it takes more time to argue and get upset than you get the call right. Too much is at stake. We play 235 days to get to this point, and two calls go against us. We lose it by one run [Saturday] night.

“I’m not saying if Robby Cano is safe, that it changes the game. The outcome may be the same, but I like to take my chances. There is more pressure on the pitchers when it is 1 0 in the eighth inning and your club is hitting than 3 0. It’s a lot easier for a reliever to relax. He knows if he makes one mistake, it is still 3 1. The technology is available. That’s what our country has done. We have evolved technology to make things better.”

All right, the argument about using instant replay more often should be continued, and the issue should be taken seriously. What the Yankees need now more than instant replay is to get some clutch hits or they can forget reaching the World Series.

“We have to make some adjustments,” Girardi said. “We have to take what they give us and find a way to put balls in play when runners are on, and get runners in, and get them over, and do the things that you need to do to score runs.”

This is what CC is here for

Nobody said it better than CC Sabathia, just as nobody pitched it better. The Yankees spent most of the past two months trying to shake the Orioles off their pant cuffs and finally did so Friday in advancing to the American League Championship Series, which will start immediately Saturday night at Yankee Stadium against the Tigers.

As Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said, there are just a handful of pitchers who are truly No. 1 starters and that Sabathia is one of those. Buck also mentioned Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who threw a complete-game shutout over Oakland to clinch the other AL Division Series. ALCS Game 3 could very likely be a matchup between the two of them.

Sabathia didn’t pitch a shutout, but he sure came close. The big lefthander was nothing short of brilliant in pitching a complete-game four-hitter, 3-1. All the hits were singles. He had a couple of walks and eight strikeouts in pitching to the Yankees to the next level by taking his own game to the next level. He pitched 17 2/3 of a possible 18 innings in his two starts in the series.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Sabathia said afterward. “That is what I play for.”

Perfect. That is the attitude an ace has to have. Looking back, maybe those two stints on the 15-day disabled list did wonders for Sabathia, who essentially had a month’s time off in the regular season. He certainly displayed an abundance of strength Friday against the Orioles, who ended up the regular season two games behind the Yankees and the ALDS two runs behind them. They played 23 games against each other in 2012 and were separated by four runs.

Sabathia had only one troublesome inning, the eighth, while working with a 3-0 lead. That was when the Orioles scratched out their run and threatened for more by loading the bases with one out. CC needed to bear down and did so effectively with a huge strikeout of Nate McLouth, who was a pest all series, and with major help from hobbling shortstop Derek Jeter, who charged a grounder by J.J. Hardy and threw him out at first base.

“I was trying to back off a little bit and not try to overthrow and leave the ball over the plate,” Sabathia said. “After I got a couple of runners on, that went out the window. I went back to being fired up and trying to be aggressive with fastballs. Obviously, that didn’t work; I was all over the place. That late in the game in that situation, I can go ahead and let it go and just be aggressive.”

“He was going so well that I didn’t want to pull him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s our ace. He has been there, done that. This was vintage CC.”

A Yankees offense that sputtered much of the series came across with all the run support Sabathia would require. Who would figure a Mark Teixeira stolen base would help build a run? Ichiro Suzuki, who will play in his first ALCS since his Mariners opposed the Yankees 11 years ago, doubled home a run in the sixth.

The best sight, though, was Curtis Granderson belting a home run in the seventh, one of his two hits in the game. The Yankees need their bats to get hot. Granderson entered the game with one hit in 16 at-bats with nine strikeouts, so he was due to bust out. Now they need Robinson Cano (.091), Nick Swisher (.111) and Alex Rodriguez (.125) to follow suit.

Since the Tigers do not have a lefthander in their rotation, it remains to be seen where A-Rod, who was benched in ALDS Game 5 against a righthander, will fit in. That is one of the items on Girardi’s agenda for Saturday night when the ALCS begins. Friday was about the valuable left arm the Yankees relied on to get them into the next playoff round.

“We have so much belief in CC,” Girardi said. “You think of what he has done since he got here. It has been an unbelievable run for him.”

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