Results tagged ‘ Russell Martin ’

Hey, a rally is a rally

It was not exactly a rally to write home about, but considering the conditions and circumstances the Yankees will take it. The only hard hit ball of the inning was a single by Jacoby Ellsbury, who reached base four times in the game. Still, the three runs wiped out a 3-1 deficit and sent them to their first victory of the season, 4-3.

They used a wind-blown, bloop double by pinch hitter Chris Young, the Ellsbury single, a wild pitch, an intentional walk to Mark Teixeira, two hit batters (Brett Gardner and Brian McCann) and an infield single by Chase Headley to steal the game away from the Blue Jays bullpen.

By contrast, the Yankees’ pen had another good game. Dellin Betances, charged with an unearned run in the eighth inning due to an error by Brian McCann, turned out the winning pitcher as the result of the Yanks’ three-run bottom of the eighth.

Andrew Miller was used in the closer role for his Yankees debut and pitched a perfect ninth for his first save. Manager Joe Girardi has talked about closing out games based on match-ups, and this one called for Betances in the eighth and Miller in the ninth. Another night it could be the reverse.

By the eighth inning, temperatures had dropped into the 30s with a wicked wind picking up and blowing a mist around the Stadium. The conditions were brutal and were reflected in the game with a pair of hit batters and a couple of errors. It was not picture perfect baseball.

One of the keys to the victory was Girardi using Young to bat for Didi Gregorius to start the eighth. Grigorius has a history of being vulnerable against left-handed pitching. With lefty Aaron Loup on the mound for the Blue Jays, Girardi made the call to Young. In all honesty, Young’s fly ball near the right field line likely would have been caught on a milder night, but the wind played havoc by that point in the game.

Hey, a break is a break. Give Young credit for busting it out of the box and getting in position to turn the hit into a double. Ellsbury followed with a dart to center field, and those remaining in the Yankee Stadium crowd of 31,020 began to sense it was a good idea after all to stick around.

The Yanks cut the deficit to 3-2 when Young scored from third on a wild pitch by Loup, who then hit Gardner with a fastball, a big ouch on a night like this. One out and an intentional pass later, McCann took oner off the wrist from lefthander Brett Cecil, and the game was tied. Headley put the Yankees ahead with a shot off Cecil’s glove for a single.

The rally would not qualify for any highlight film but not all have to be patterned after Murderers’ Row or the Bronx Bombers. A team that has major offensive issues a year ago took a small first step in showing its ability to dig itself out of a hole.

Pineda weathers cold minus pine tar

Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium was one of those early-season games when a pitcher could really use some pine tar to help him grip the ball. Except that to do so is illegal, which the Yankees’ Michael Pineda discovered infamously last year.

The righthander drew a suspension for using the substance that was smeared on his neck during an April 2014 game at Fenway Park, which got him tossed from the game. Pineda learned his lesson and weathered the 42-degree climate against the Blue Jays without anything beyond the talent contained in his right arm. His 96-pitch effort over six innings was a solid first start, but the Yankees did not get him any run support until his last inning.

Pineda gave up two runs, six hits and a walk with six strikeouts against a Toronto lineup that can be dangerous. Half of his K’s came against slugger Jose Bautista, including in the third inning when the Jays threatened to break the game open.

Toronto used two infield singles and a double to get its first run and had runners on first and second with none out when Pineda retired Jose Reyes on a fly ball to right and struck out Russell Martin and Bautista. Another infield hit played a factor in the Blue Jays’ second run that came home on a sacrifice fly by Martin in the fifth.

Meanwhile, the Yankees struggled against R.A. Dickey. Just what the Yankees did not need after a one-run, three-hit performance in the opener was to have to face a knuckleballer. It is hard to break out of a slump against that pitch.

Switch hitter Mark Teixeira chose to bat right-handed against the right-handed Dickey. It worked Tex’s first time up as he lashed a double to left field, but the Yankees could not get him past third base.

Jacoby Ellsbury was the main cog in manufacturing a run in the sixth. He led off with a single and promptly stole second base. A grounder to first by Brett Gardner advanced Ellsbury to third from where he scored on a lineout to center field by Carlos Beltran.

Yankees fans got their first 2015 look at Dellin Betances, who worked the eighth inning after Chris Martin pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Martin has retired all six batters he has faced in the Yankees’ first two games.

Betances was not especially sharp. He gave up a single and two walks, but he should have gotten through the eighth unscathed except that an errant pickoff attempt by catcher Brian McCann to first base went down the right field line allowing a run to score for a 3-1 Toronto lead and putting runners on second and third with one out. Betances avoided further damage by getting the next two hitters on grounders to the mound.

Yanks can’t match Opening Day pageantry

The pageantry of Opening Day never fails to elicit positive feelings. The sight of the Yankees players fresh up from spring training in the pinstriped white uniforms on a crisp, sunny day is welcomed to us who slugged our way through a frigid winter.

The huge flag in center field unfurled by the West Point cadet while the Military Academy’s band played the Star Spangled Banner had the crowd cheering loudly before the first pitch.

And handling the ceremonial first toss was none other than Joe Torre, the new Hall of Famer and popular former manager who threw a strike to catcher Brian McCann.

Masahiro Tanaka got off to a promising start. He struck out the Toronto leadoff hitter, Jose Reyes, on three pitches — a slider, a changeup and a split-finger fastball. In fact, Tanaka struck out three of the first four Blue Jays hitters.

The Japanese righthander, who missed most of the second half in 2014 because of right elbow inflammation, told writers in spring training that he was working on a two-seam fastball, which is why his radar gun readings were down from last year. The idea, he said, was designed toward pitch economy. Yet he was up to 55 pitches by the third inning, a messy one from the Yankees’ point of view.

Tanaka was submarined by his defense, although he was also to blame for failing to minimize the damage. A two-base throwing error by third baseman Chase Headley after fielding a sacrifice bunt by Reyes opened the gates for the Blue Jays. One run scored on the misplay, and two more followed on a single to right by former Yankees catcher Russell Martin, the Canadian native now playing for his country’s team.

Even more damaging was a two-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion off a high fastball. Just like that, it was 5-0, and some of that positive feeling was shrinking.

Tanaka lasted for four innings, but the Yankees backed him up with only one hit. He allowed five runs (four earned), five hits and two walks with five strikeouts, an outing that was not very encouraging.

Brignac out; Almonte gets shot in left field

Get used to a left side of the infield of Jayson Nix at shortstop and David Adams at third base for the Yankees until Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez come back sometime after the All-Star break.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi conceded as much before Friday night’s game. The Reid Brignac experiment is over as the Yankees designated him for assignment and recalled infielder Alberto Gonzalez from Triple A Scranton.

When they acquired him off waivers from the Rockies, the Yankees had hoped Brignac would provide some needed punch from the left side, but that did not happen. Brignac played well in the field but had only five hits, including one double, in 44 at-bats for a .114 batting average with the Yankees after he had hit .250 with one home run and six RBI in 48 at-bats with Colorado.

Gonzalez wasn’t exactly ripping it up at Triple A, either. He hit .224 with four doubles and eight RBI in 76 at-bats. He batted .333 on 3-for-9 in an earlier stint with the Yankees this year before he was optioned back to the minors when the Yankees brought in Brignac, so Gonzalez has gone full circle.

A new face was in the starting lineup Friday night. Zoilo Almonte started in left field and batted sixth in the order. Almonte batted as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning Thursday night and got his first major-league hit, a single off the third base bag.

“We’ll give Zoilo a chance,” Girardi said. “He may have some butterflies out there, but it was important for him to get that first hit out of the way.”

Asked if Almonte was a threat to the playing time of Vernon Wells, who is mired in a 9-for-90 (.100) slump, Girardi said, “No matter who you are in this game, there is going to be somebody who wants your job. You have to prove yourself over and over.”

The Yankees have used 41 players this year, which is only four fewer than they had all of last season. The total includes 18 players who have made their first appearance with the Yankees, six of whom have made their major-league debuts – right-handed pitchers Preston Claiborne and Brett Marshall, left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuno, infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph and Almonte. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the previous time the Yankees had six players or more make their big-league debuts prior to the All-Star break was in 2007 with seven – right-handed pitchers Tyler Clippard, Matt DeSalvo, Phil Hughes, Edwar Ramirez and Chase Wright, left-handed pitcher Kei Igawa and third baseman Chris Basak.

The Yankees also selected off waivers two pitchers, righthander Yoshinori Tateyama, 37, who had a 4.24 ERA for the Rangers’ Triple A Round Rock club, and lefthander Mike Zagurski, 30, who allowed 10 earned runs in six innings (15.00 ERA) for the Pirates and a 2.14 ERA for their Triple A Indianapolis affiliate. Both were assigned to Scranton.

With his two home runs Thursday night, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria tied Victor Martinez and Jose Bautista for the most home runs hit at by a visitor at the current Yankee Stadium with nine. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Longoria is the first visiting right-handed batter to hit two opposite-field home runs in one game at the Stadium. Two right-handed hitters have done that for the Yankees since the Stadium opened in 2009: Russell Martin, now with the Pirates, and Jesus Montero, now in the Mariners organization.

Yanks’ tandem an upgrade at catcher

So where is Russell Martin these days? Oh, that’s right; he took off for Pittsburgh as a free agent in the past off-season because the Pirates came up with a second year in their contract offer. Good for him; I hope he is happy.

I was thinking about Martin during the Yankees-Blue Jays game Sunday at Toronto when Chris Stewart hit a home run in the third inning and threw out Melky Cabrera trying to steal second base in the fifth.

I do not mean to pick on Martin as much as those who kept reporting all winter about how the Yankees blew it by not conceding to the catcher’s contract demands and would regret it. Look at what Stewart and Francisco Cervelli have done so far this year. Does anyone miss Russell Martin all that much?

The Cervelli-Stewart tandem was treated in a few media outlets as some sort of joke during spring training, but the duo have been a major part of the Yankees’ good start that hit a bump Sunday with an 8-4 loss. Stewart was involved in all the Yankees’ scoring innings. He got the Yanks on the board with his first home run of the season, began the two-run rally in the fifth with a single and bunted Jayson Nix to third base with one out in the sixth that preceded the sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner that gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead at that point.

In the first two games of the series – both Yankees victories – Cervelli was behind the plate and had 3-for-8 (.375) with two doubles and two runs scored. He has gotten the bulk of the playing time of the two catchers, with 42 at-bats to Stewart’s 17, but manager Joe Girardi insists that they are sharing the position. However the breakdown, the catching situation has been in good hands.

Cervelli and Stewart are batting a combined .322 with a .525 slugging percentage, three doubles, three home runs and eight RBI in 59 at-bats. Martin? He is hitting .216 with a .353 slugging percentage, three doubles, one home run and three RBI in 51 at-bats. Again, not to pick on the guy, but I cannot remember just when it was that Russell Martin became the second coming of Thurman Munson, which seemed to be an off-season theme in some circles.

Martin had two decent seasons with the Yankees. Last year, he showed renewed power (21 home runs) and had some memorable game-winning hits, including a huge homer against the Mets, but hit .211 for the season. Now I realize that the seamheads who adore the boutique stats don’t make much of batting average anymore, but .211 is still .211, which is not good by any measure.

Stewart had his hands full Sunday with another erratic outing from Ivan Nova, who threw 101 pitches but was gone after giving up a walk and a double to the first two batters in the sixth that the Jays turned into a four-run inning with RBI hits off relievers Boone Logan and David Phelps to regain the lead they would not relinquish again.

The leadoff walk in the sixth was to Toronto designated hitter Adam Lind. I do not know what the Yankees’ scouting report was on Lind, but they sure pitched to him carefully in the series. Lind had five plate appearances and walked in every one, including all four times he stepped to the plate Sunday.

It was nonetheless a positive series for the Yankees, who move on to St. Petersburg, Fla., for a three-game set against another American League East rival, the Rays, who swept the Athletics over the weekend at Tropicana Field.

Despite being booed loudly and repeatedly in the city where he was once a favorite, Vernon Wells will miss Toronto. He had quite series, going 7-for-15 (.467) with a double and two home runs. He also made the defensive play of the game Sunday in the third inning with a fence-climbing catch in left field to rob Edwin Encarnacion of a potential run-scoring, extra-base hit and begin a rally-killing double play.

Gardner also found Toronto to his liking, as usual. He had 5-for-14 (.357) in the series with a double, a home run, a stolen base, two runs and two RBI. Gardner is a .370 career hitter at Rogers Centre with 18 runs, six doubles, six triples, one home run and eight RBI in 30 games.

Raul does it again in Yanks’ assault on Valverde

What I looked forward to the least in this American League Championship Series was having to watch Tigers closer Jose Valverde at work. This guy is torture. He takes forever to throw the ball and goes through all sorts of gyrations on the mound after saving a game. So it was deliriously delightful for me to watch the Yankees beat up on him in the ninth inning as he failed to protect a 4-0 lead in Game 1.

The Yankees looked absolutely dreadful for eight innings, leaving 11 runners on base, including the bases loaded three times. Pathetically anemic were the Yankees. But just as the Athletics had mounted a comeback against Valverde during the AL Division Series, the Yankees awoke from their offensive slumber and got even on a pair of two-run home runs by Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez.

Russell Martin began the rally with a single. He took second on defensive indifference before Derek Jeter struck out. Suzuki got his first career postseason home run by pulling a low liner into the right field stands. Such homers are often known as rally killers because they clear the bases with a deficit still facing the team at bat. And when Robinson Cano struck out on high gas and Mark Teixeira fell behind 0-2 in the count, the Yankees appeared doomed.

I was thinking my usual thoughts about Teixeira in those situations – why not bunt when the defense is in an over-shift to the right side leaving most of the left side vulnerable? Even if Tex had hit a home run, it would not have tied the score. The Yankees needed a base runner at that time, and the Tigers were essentially conceding him first base.

Of course, once the count got to 0-2 that thought had to go out the window. Teixeira did the next best thing – he worked out a walk, which gave Ibanez, this year’s postseason batting hero for the Yankees, an opportunity to create more drama. And he came through again by driving a splitter that stayed up over the right field fence that brought the Yankees all the way back.

Umps go 1-for-2 in early calls

The Yankees loaded the bases in each of the first two innings of ALCS Game 1 but failed to score with each frame ending with a close play for the third out. One call by an umpire was correct. One was not.

Tigers starter Doug Fister walked Derek Jeter to begin the home first and issued two more free passes after two were out. Alex Rodriguez hit a hard grounder that shortstop Jhonny Peralta gloved with a back-hand stab. Peralta threw to second for a force on Raul Ibanez. The play was close, but second base umpire Sam Holbrook got it right.

The second inning was another story. Two-out singles by Russell Martin, Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki had the bases jammed again. Ichiro’s hit was in the infield, which is why Martin could not score. Robinson Cano then hit a one-hopper to the mound that caromed off Fister’s body to Peralta, who threw to first base to get the final out.

Or did he? First base umpire Rob Drake called Cano out, but video replays clearly indicated that Cano’s foot was on the base before the ball was in first baseman Prince Fielder’s glove. A crucial call went against the Yankees.

Jeter limping after game-tying triple

Derek Jeter’s RBI triple with two out in the third inning that tied the score at 1 may have come at a dear cost. The captain was moving quite gingerly when he went out to the field the next inning. Jeter has been bothered by a bone bruise in his left ankle the past month. It looked throughout the inning that he was trying to shake off the pain. The Captain barely moved to make an attempt to field a ground single to left by Adam Jones.

Jeter had Jones to thank in large part for the triple that scored Russell Martin, who had doubled to left with one out. Jones was playing shallow and misjudged Jeter’s drive to deep right-center that bounced in front of the fence. Jones was so blasé tracking the ball that he even blew a bubble with his gum before reaching in vain for the hit.

Manager Joe Girardi and head trainer Steve Donohue were seen talking to Jeter after he returned to the dugout. It is easy to figure out what Jeter said, something about intending to keep playing, no doubt.

Yankees close it out against Orioles’ closer

It has been a characteristic of the Yankees since Mariano Rivera has been with them – especially during postseason play – that they find a way to beat up an opponent’s closer while the opponent seldom, almost never, gets to touch Mo. Be it a Kent Mercker or an Arthur Rhodes or a Trevor Hoffman or an Armando Benitez or a practically anybody, the Yankees never feared the other team’s closer as much as the other guys feared Rivera.

Now the great Rivera is on the sidelines for this postseason, but his mates followed their history Sunday night by mugging Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the ninth inning to put up a 5-spot that turned a 2-2 nail biter into a 7-2 laugher in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. The Yankees did not even need Mo’s replacement, Rafael Soriano, to get into the game as starter CC Sabathia came within one out of his first career postseason complete game.

Make no mistake; Sabathia played the major role in this victory. The lefthander was hurt by one pitch, a hanging slider that Nate McLouth lined into right field for a two-run single in the third inning. CC was at his best in the eighth after giving up a leadoff double to right by J.J. Hardy. Sabathia got a huge strikeout of Adam Jones, sawed off the bat of Matt Wieters, who fouled out to first baseman Mark Teixeira, and ended the threat by getting a grounder to shortstop by Mark Reynolds, who smacked seven home runs off Yankees pitching during the regular season with CC among the victims.

Frankly, it was the kind of performance that Johnson routinely gave the Orioles all season when the righthander posted a league-leading 51 saves. Big deal, the Yankees might have thought. They have found ways to clobber other closers. Now it was their turn to do it to Johnson. It did not take long, either.

Johnson was stunned early. Russell Martin got ahead in the count 2-0 and zeroed in on a 93-mph fastball and slammed it to left for a home run, the first Johnson had ever yielded to the Yankees. Martin had been one of three Yankees players thrown out on the bases during the game, but he ignited the rally and was the first of five guys to touch the plate in the final inning.

Raul Ibanez followed Martin’s blow with a single. He raced to third on a hit-and-run single to right by Derek Jeter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a timely substitution at that point by having Eduardo Nunez, 25, run for Ibanez, 40. Nunez was able to score on a dribbler along the first base line by Ichiro Suzuki that became the Yankees’ fourth straight hit and produced what appeared to be an important insurance run.

But there would be much more insurance to come. Robinson Cano, who finished the regular season on a 24-for-39 (.615) tear but was hitless in his first four at-bats Sunday night, lined a 95-mph heater to the opposite field for a two-run double that knocked Johnson out of the game. An error by Hardy on the play allowed Cano to reach third from where he scored on Nick Swisher’s fly ball to center off Tommy Hunter.

How great was it to see Sabathia come out for the ninth and pitch count be damned? But when Lew Ford doubled with two down, Girardi decided 120 pitchers were enough for Sabathia and David Robertson finished off a game that the Orioles’ closer could not contain.

Yanks gain ground on Orioles

The remaining schedule favors the Yankees, who moved a huge step in front of the Orioles Monday night by taking control of first place in the American League East with two games to play. Fortunately for the Yankees, their two games are against the last-place Red Sox. Unfortunately for the Orioles, their two games are against the Rays, who have a stake in the postseason sweepstakes.

The Yankees did what they needed to do by overwhelming a Boston squad that seemed more suited for Pawtucket, the Triple-A affiliate. A nine-run second inning fortified by four home runs started the Yankees toward a 10-2 victory behind CC Sabathia, who looked every bit an ace with an eight-inning performance in which he scattered four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.

Meanwhile at St. Petersburg, Fla., Tampa Bay torpedoed Baltimore, 5-3. The Orioles had the potential tying runs on base in the ninth inning hoping to at least get even and then do their usual magic act in extra innings. Fernando Rodney prevented that, so the Yankees are back alone atop the division by a full game.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi might take some criticism for using Sabathia for so long in a game that appeared decided early. Look, there are no guarantees, and no lead is insurmountable. If Joe had pulled CC after, say, five or six innings, and the Pawtucket Sox somehow managed to rally against the bullpen, fans would have been furious. At this juncture of the season with a division title on the line, it is vital to win games.

With David Phelps starting Tuesday night, Girardi wanted a rested bullpen. I think he was right. Some might say that Sabathia could be called upon to pitch on short rest at some point in the postseason. Perhaps, but a manager cannot worry about that when he has a game to win now.

The Yankees flexed their muscles in a 13-hit attack. As he did recently on the Yanks’ final trip of the season, Robinson Cano led the way. He started the scoring with his 31st home run and added two doubles and two more runs batted in. During his seven-game hitting streak, Cano is batting .621 with seven doubles, one home run and eight RBI in 29 at-bats. He has raised his batting average over that stretch from .293 to .308, a 15-point hike that is almost unheard of this late into a season. The home run was career No. 175 for Cano, who tied Bobby Murcer for 20th place on the franchise list.

Nick Swisher also had three hits to keep his hot streak going. Over his past 14 games, Swish is batting .385 with four home runs and 14 RBI. Mark Teixeira celebrated a return to the lineup with his 24th home run in the four-homer, nine-run second inning that also featured round-trip blows by Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin. Tex’s 20 RBI in 10 games against the Red Sox this season are the most for a Yankees player against Boston in one season since Mickey Mantle had 22 in 1958.

There was also a feel-good moment in the eighth inning when Melky Mesa in his first major-league at-bat singled through the middle for his first major-league hit and RBI at the same time. The rookie was sent to the plate as a pinch hitter for Alex Rodriguez. Who knows where Mesa’s career will take him, but he surely won’t have any trouble remembering all those firsts on a night when the Yankees took over first.


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