Results tagged ‘ Phil Coke ’

Tigers push Yanks to 0-3 precipice in ALCS

Jose Valverde was not around to give the Yankees a helping hand Tuesday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series as he did in Game 1 when they came back from a 4-0 deficit to push it into extra innings.

The margin was half that this time, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland instead stayed with his starter, and who could blame him when the starter was Justin Verlander? After eight innings of getting nothing off the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner other than two singles by Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees actually chased Verlander from the game but could not shove it into extras against lefthander Phil Coke, who gave up a couple of two-out singles before ending the game with a dazzling 3-2 slider to strike out Raul Ibanez.

Cut Ibanez some slack. He cannot do it all, even though it seems that he must. The Yanks are the last place they want to be – down, three games to none to the Tigers in the ALCS. Only once in the history of best-of-seven postseason baseball has a club overcome that deficit. The Yankees do not need to be reminded about that. They were on the other side of that equation in 2004 when the Red Sox ran off four straight victories to get to the World Series where they won four more in a row to end the Curse of the Bambino.

Although it must pain the Yankees to rely on something the Red Sox did for inspiration, that is the dilemma they find themselves in now. Having ace CC Sabathia on the mound for Game 4 Wednesday night is a plus, but, frankly, to this point pitching has not been the Yanks’ problem. They have a staff ERA of 3.10, which should not result in a record of 0-3.

Despite the ninth-inning rally Tuesday night, the Yankees’ offense remains anemic. Their only run in Game 3 came on a leadoff homer in the ninth off Verlander by Eduardo Nunez, who was not even on the Yankees’ original roster for the ALCS. He was added when Derek Jeter had to be removed because of a left ankle fracture sustained in the final inning of Game 1.

Nunez’s homer ended a scoreless streak of 20 innings for the Yankees, who have scored in only two of 30 innings in this series and have not had the lead in any one of them. They are hitting a collective .182 with a .291 slugging percentage in the ALCS.

A single by Mark Teixeira in a gritty at-bat and an opposite-field knock by Robinson Cano to halt a hitless string of 29 at-bats, the longest in franchise history in postseason play, kicked the Yankees in gear with two down in the ninth, but it was awfully late. Ibanez did not have another miracle in his bat.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi altered his lineup somewhat, but the results except for Nunez were not all that favorable. Brett Gardner, who played left field and batted leadoff, was 0-for-4 at the plate and failed to get a ball out of the infield. Eric Chavez, who started at third base over Alex Rodriguez, was 0-for-3 and made an error that led to an unearned run that was the difference in the game.

A-Rod was not only benched but also buried on it. He was not even called on to bat as a pinch hitter against the left-handed Coke. Girardi reasoned that had he summoned Rodriguez to hit for Ibanez the Tigers would have countered with righthander Joaquin Benoit. The manager preferred the Ibanez-vs.-Coke matchup than Rodriguez-vs.-Benoit.

That may not have been vintage Verlander out there, but the Yankees did no real damage against him. He had only three strikeouts but did not walk anyone. Verlander may have fallen out of his rhythm in the lengthy fourth and fifth innings when the Yankees made several pitching changes, but he did not cave in.

And still, due in large part to outstanding ensemble work by five relievers, the Yankees were in the game. Verlander would have been pitching with a more comfortable margin had the Tigers not stranded 10 base runners – six in scoring position – over the first six innings. It was another example of Yankees pitchers doing their jobs and Yankees hitters not doing theirs.

For all the success in the Yankees’ storied history of 27 World Series titles and 40 AL pennants, the ALCS loss in 2004 remains a deep wound that would finally be healed if they could pull the same trick. The task begins with Game 4. They should not think of anything else but that until a victory leads to Game 5…and Game 6…and Game 7. Lord knows the Yanks know it is possible.

Opener a blueprint special

On a raw Thursday afternoon, the Yankees got the 2011 season off to the best possible start with a 6-3 victory over the Tigers. The Yankee Stadium crowd of 48,226 had plenty of opportunities to try to stay warm in the chill and wind by standing and applauding.

Mark Teixeira, who has a history of poor starts to seasons, crushed a three-run home run off flame-throwing Justin Verlander in the third inning that erased a 1-0 deficit. A year ago, Tex didn’t hit his first home run until his 12th game during a miserable April when he batted .136.

“I have been petitioning the league to start the season in March for years because of how bad I have been in April,” he said after the game. “I’m glad they finally listened to me.”

Whether he can continue this into April, which begins Friday, remains to be seen, but Teixeira addressed the issue this spring by concentrating more on hitting during spring training. “A lot of time with all the stretching and weights work and conditioning you do in the spring, hitting is the last thing you think about,” Tex said. “I did a lot more swinging of the bat this spring.”

“It seemed before and after every game, I’d see Tex in the cage,” manager Joe Girardi said.

The skipper had reason to be pleased from first to last inning. The pitching fell into place ideally. CC Sabathia matched Verlander for six innings and turned over a 3-3 game to the bullpen, which was nothing short of perfect – three up and three down in the seventh for Joba Chamberlain, who got credit for the victory, in the eighth for new setup man for Rafael Soriano and in the ninth for closer Mariano Rivera.

“Sometimes it works out just how you draw it up,” Girardi said.

He got a scare in the first inning when center fielder Curtis Granderson, who was a questionable starter because of the oblique injury he sustained in spring training, made a diving catch.

“I was concerned the way he landed,” Girardi said, “but he was all smiles in the dugout after, so I figured he was all right.”

There’s an understatement. Granderson had a Willie Mays day in center field. The first-inning grab was one of three highlight-reel grabs for Granderson, who also smoked a home run leading off the seventh inning to break the tie. Equally encouraging was that the blow was off lefthander Phil Coke. Granderson is a .215 career hitter against lefties. It marked the third straight Opening Day that Granderson has homered.

Derek Jeter’s new stride-less approach at the plate didn’t produce any hits in the start of his climb to 3,000, but he drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and scored another when he walked in front of Teixeira’s bomb.

Another good sign was the effort of catcher Russ Martin, who handled the staff adroitly, got a hit his first time up, showed some savvy on the bases with a swipe of third and scored two runs. He was the lone unfamiliar face in the Yankees’ lineup, but one that fans will soon get to know.

The Elias Sports Bureau pointed out that the Yankees had the same starting infield (Teixeira at first base, Robinson Cano at second, Alex Rodriguez at third, Jeter at shortstop) and outfield (Brett Gardner in left, Granderson in center, Nick Swisher in right) for consecutive openers for the first time since 1926 and ’27 when they had first baseman Lou Gehrig, second baseman Tony Lazzeri, third baseman Joe Dugan and shortstop Mark Koenig in the infield and left fielder Bob Meusel, center fielder Earle Combs and right fielder Babe Ruth in the outfield. It was also the first time the Yankees had the same three outfielders in back-to-back openers since 1967 and ’68 with Tom Tresh in left, Joe Pepitone in center and Bill Robinson in right.

Former Yanks farmhand 2nd in Rookie voting

It turned out that the Yankees did not trade a future American League Rookie of the Year Award winner to get Curtis Granderson from the Tigers 11 months ago.

Austin Jackson, a highly-touted prospect in the Yankees’ system, went to Detroit along with relief pitcher Phil Coke in the three-team trade also involving the Diamondbacks Dec. 8, 2009 that brought Granderson to the Bronx and included sending pitcher Ian Kennedy to Arizona.

When Jackson got off to a smoking start for the Tigers as their center fielder and leadoff hitter, Rookie of the Year talk surrounded him for much of the first half. Jackson tailed off somewhat in the second half, although he still had a fine year. It just was not as good as that of Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, who set a rookie record with 40 saves and was the choice of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for the Jackie Robinson Award that was announced Monday.

Felix, 22, was listed first on 20 of the 28 ballots submitted by two writers in each league city, second on seven and third on one to amass 122 points, based on the 5-3-1 tabulation system. Feliz’s saves total broke the previous rookie mark of 37 by 2000 winner Kazuhiro Sasaki of the Mariners.

Feliz, who had a 4-3 record with a 2.73 ERA in 70 relief appearances, is the first Dominican pitcher to win the award and the third winner from the Dominican Republic overall, joining Alfredo Griffin and Angel Berroa. Dominican-born winners in the National League were Raul Mondesi, Rafael Furcal, Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez.

A closer has won the AL award three times in the past six years. Oakland’s Andrew Bailey won in 2009 and Huston Street in 2005. Feliz is the fifth closer honored. The first was the Orioles’ Gregg Olson in 1989. Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti, now the Giants’ pitching coach, was a starter when he won the award in 1981. Feliz is the second Rangers player to win the award. The other was first baseman Mike Hargrove in 1974.

Jackson, who received the other eight first-place votes and was the runner-up in the balloting with 98 points, led all AL rookies in runs (103), hits (151), doubles (34), triples (10), extra-base hits (48), stolen bases (27) and total bases (247). Jackson batted .293, stole 27 bases and scored 103 runs, but he struck out 170 times, a very high total for a player who hit only four home runs.

In the National League, Giants catcher Buster Posey beat out Braves right fielder Jason Heyward for the award. Posey, 23, was named first on 20 of the 32 ballots cast by two writers in each league city, second on nine and third on two to finish with 129 points. Posey hit .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI and handled a pitching staff that helped the Giants win the NL West title. His 21-game hitting streak from July 4-28 was the longest of the season by a rookie in either league.

Heyward (.273, 18 HR, 72 RBI) received nine first-place votes and was the runner-up with 107 points. Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia (13-8, 2.70 ERA) got one first-place vote and placed third with 24 points. The other two first-place votes went to Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez (.273, 19 HR, 85 RBI), who finished fourth with 18 points.

Posey was the sixth NL catcher honored, joining Johnny Bench, Earl Williams, Benito Santiago, Mike Piazza and Geovanny Soto. Catchers who won the award in the AL were Thurman Munson, Carlton Fisk and Sandy Alomar Jr. Other former Giants winners were Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Gary Matthews and John Montefusco.

The victories by Feliz and Posey marked the third time since the award’s inception in 1947 that the winners were opponents in the World Series. The other years were 1981 when Righetti and the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela started Game 3 at Dodger Stadium and 1951 when Mays and Yankees infielder Gil McDougald played in all six games of the Series.

It should have happened in 2003 with the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui and the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis, but Matsui lost out to Berroa in a disputed election.

Damage by Damon

Come on, Johnny, is that any way to treat a bunch of guys you still consider friends?

Johnny Damon, one of the key elements in the Yankees’ World Series run last year and one of the finest people to grace the Yankee Stadium clubhouse during his four seasons in pinstripes, hurt his old mates with a home run in the Tigers’ 5-4 victory Monday night at Comerica Park.

Now, this blow was not as stunning or decisive as his most famous home run against the Yankees. You remember that one. Javier Vazquez sure does. It was a grand slam that propelled the Red Sox to a Game 7 victory in the 2004 American League Championship Series to help Boston complete the only comeback from a 0-3 deficit in a post-season, best-of-seven series in baseball history.

Still, this one packed a bit of a blow. After all, it was a one-run game, and Damon’s shot was worth one run. It was only Damon’s second home run of the season, but the solo shot off Sergio Mitre with two down in the fifth inning looked very much like those one-handed clouts he sent sailing over the right field fence in the new Yankee Stadium a year ago.

If you can believe the Comerica Park scoreboard, Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya regularly reached 100 mph with his fastball. Despite that, the intimidating righthander was not untouchable. Yankees fans saw this type of act before when Kyle Farnsworth was in the Bombers’ bullpen.

For all the oo-ing and ah-ing coming from the Detroit crowd as Zumaya’s gun readings were flashed, the Yankees were getting back in the game against him in the eighth. Singles by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and a four-pitch walk to Jorge Posada in between all those 100-mph offerings loaded the bases for the Yankees with none out. An infield hit by Marcus Thames and a fielder’s choice by Brett Gardner made it a one-run game.

Phil Coke, who went to Detroit in the three-team trade that brought Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, has pitched well for the Tigers and did so again Monday night by keeping the ball in the infield for two outs in relief of Zumaya. The real “hold” went to right fielder Magglio Ordonez for his sliding catch of a sinking liner by Derek Jeter robbing him of a game-tying hit.

Jeter is suddenly in a slump with two hits in his past 20 at-bats and an average down to .286

Perhaps determined to match Zumaya’s readings, Joba Chamberlain was in the upper 90s in the bottom of the eighth and struck out the side. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Tigers closer Jose Valverde (9 saves, 0.61 ERA) had similar readings and also struck out the side in the ninth.

Mitre did a decent job in his emergency start, but lefthander Boone Logan walked one left-handed batter (Damon) and gave up an RBI triple to another (Brennan Boesch) in the seventh for an insurance run that the Tigers held up.


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