Results tagged ‘ Phil Humber ’

Impressive homestand for Yanks’ rotation

The seven-game homestand that ended Sunday turned out to be a showcase for the Yankees’ rotation. Coming out of spring training, the team’s starting pitchers seemed to have the most question marks, but they supplied a week’s worth of answers at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees received quality starts in six of the seven games, and the one pitcher who didn’t work into the seventh inning, Freddy Garcia, at least got through five. Ivan Nova, the winning pitcher Sunday against the Blue Jays, pitched well in both his starts on the homestand but lost a possible winning decision in his previous start when Rafael Soriano failed to protect a lead for him against the White Sox.

The rotation had a 4-2 record with one no decision and a 2.31 ERA in the seven games. Starters averaged 6 1/3 innings per start, which is very good by today’s standards. They held opponents to 12 earned runs and 44 hits in 46 2/3 innings, had a good walk-to-strikeout ratio of 15 to 32 and allowed only four home runs.

The other loss by a Yankees starter was also a quality effort, by A.J. Burnett, who gave up one run in eight innings but got outpitched by the White Sox’ Phil Humber in a three-hit shutout that opened the homestand. But the Yankees closed it out with a second straight sturdy effort from Nova, whose curve was responsible for all five of his strikeouts Sunday.

The starting unit has become so solidified that veteran big-league pitcher Kevin Millwood, who had hoped to find a place in it, decided to look elsewhere for a job by opting out of his minor-league deal with the Yankees. Who would have thought there would be a “No Vacancy” sign on the Yanks’ rotation at this point in the season, and even with Phil Hughes on the disabled list?

Nova got a big boost Sunday from Curtis Granderson, who also had a strong homestand and put the Yankees in front to stay with a three-run home run in the fifth inning. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has so much confidence in the way Granderson is hitting that he gave him the green light on a 3-0 count in that at-bat. The count eventually ran full to Grandy before he went yard for the eighth time this season. A year ago, he didn’t hit his eighth home run until July 25.

Granderson was used at the top of the batting order – first or second – in four of the games and batted .294 with a homer and five RBI in 17 at-bats. Girardi said after the game that Granderson is the kind of hitter who could bat in any spot in the order and be effective, quite a compliment.

Another good thing to see during the homestand was a return to prominence offensively by Brett Gardner. He scuffled through much of the first month of the season in losing his new-found role as the leadoff hitter. Back at the bottom of the order, Gardner had 6-for-11 (.545) with two home runs, three RBI, six walks and five runs during the homestand. It is interesting about all those walks. That takes patience, a virtue difficult to maintain for hitters trying to work out of slumps. It says volumes about Gardner’s approach.

Gardner’s speed, the best part of his game, kept a rally alive in the fifth inning when he was able to cross from second to third on a ground ball by Derek Jeter and beat shortstop Yunel Escobar’s peg to third trying to cut down the lead runner. Gardner beat it by a wide margin. His average is up to .200, which is significant since he has been on the Interstate since Opening Day.

Girardi may be tempted to use Granderson in a new spot in the lineup – fifth – if Robinson Cano is unable to play Monday night at Detroit where the Yankees begin a seven-game, two-city trip that continues to Arlington, Texas. Cano was removed for pinch hitter Eric Chavez in the eighth inning Sunday because of a bruised left hand, the result of awkwardly catching a pickoff throw at second from Nova.

Cano had played every inning of every game for the Yankees before then. That distinction now belongs solely to Nick Swisher. Jorge Posada achieved a milestone by playing in the 1,737th game to tie Joe DiMaggio for 10th place on the Yankees’ career list. Jorgie was happier about ending a 19 at-bat hitless streak with a double to left in the fourth inning.

Garcia’s Chisox replacement stymies Yanks

Freddy Garcia has pitched so well for the Yankees it makes one wonder why the White Sox did not re-sign him. Phil Humber may have supplied the answer Monday night in the opener of the four-game set between the Yankees and Chicago at Yankee Stadium.

Humber, the pitcher who replaced Garcia in the White Sox rotation, was every bit as good against the Yankees as Garcia has been for the Yankees. It is hard to imagine a batting order as potent as that of the Yankees going six innings without a hit, but that’s what happened Monday night in the 2-0 loss.

The Yankees did not have a base runner until the fourth inning when Curtis Granderson walked with one out. Nick Swisher was hit by a pitch in the fifth but was erased on a double play. The Yankees got only two balls into the outfield against Humber until Alex Rodriguez made it three with a single through the middle with one out in the seventh following a walk to Mark Teixeira.

Humber put down the threat, however, by striking out Robinson Cano on a high fastball and retiring Swisher on a ground ball to first. If Humber’s name sounds slightly familiar, it should. He was the Mets’ first-round draft choice in 2004 and went to the Twins in the Johan Santana trade two years later. He was released by both the Royals and the Athletics within a month’s time after the 2010 season before signing with the White Sox.

The Yankees were happy to see him go after the seventh inning and still had a chance to pull this one out because A.J. Burnett was being nearly as stingy as Humber. This might have been A.J.’s best outing thus far of what has been a good start for him this year. He held Chicago to three hits and two walks over eight innings. Burnett did not throw a wild pitch nor allow a stolen base, two areas of concern when he is on the mound.

The only run A.J. allowed came in the fourth inning. Carlos Quentin doubled to center on a ball on which Granderson tried for a diving catch. Quentin came around to score on two groundouts.

That was it. Burnett was pretty strong all game long. He put two runners on in the second and seventh innings but worked out of trouble each time. Burnett still had a chance for a winning decision or at least a no-decision if the Yankees could have taken advantage of a White Sox bullpen that has been vulnerable. Chicago relievers were 1-for-7 in save opportunities before Monday night.

After lefthander Chris Sale got the first two outs in the eighth, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen switched to righthander Sergio Santos after Andruw Jones had been announced as a pinch hitter for Brett Gardner. Yankees manager Joe Girardi trumped the move by sending up Eric Chavez, who singled to right. Pinch runner Eduardo Nunez got into scoring position by stealing second, but Derek Jeter could not a ground ball past Santos.

The White Sox added an insurance run – a somewhat tainted one at that – in the ninth. An infield pop by Alexei Ramirez fell among Rodriguez, Jeter and reliever Rafael Soriano for a single. One out later, pinch runner Brent Lillibridge swiped second, which allowed him to score on a single by Paul Konerko.

Granderson tried to get the Yankees going with a leadoff single in the ninth, but another double play defused the potential rally. In the end, it came down to Burnett losing for the first time in April as a Yankee in a pitching duel with the guy that replaced Freddy Garcia in Chicago.

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