Results tagged ‘ Todd Helton ’

Last shall be first with Yanks’ lineup lately

It has been a bottoms-up situation for the Yankees’ batting order in recent games. Monday night, the six-through-nine hitters in the Yankees’ starting lineup were a combined 7-for-14 (.500) with four runs, one doubles, one triple, one home run, four RBI and two walks in the 6-2 victory over the Rangers at Arlington, Texas.

Sunday, the 6-9 hitters drove in all seven runs in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Twins at Minneapolis. Over the past two games, 6-9 in the order are batting a combined .393 (11-for-28) with eight runs, one double, one triple, three homers, 11 RBI and two walks. For the season, the seven-through-nine hitters (not counting pitchers in inter-league competition) rank fifth in the American League with a .649 OPS (on-base plus slugging averages) and have the second most home runs (28).

Third baseman Chase Headley has been as hot as the weather this month. In 17 games in July, Headley is batting .369 (24-for-65) with 11 runs, six doubles, one home run, and 11 RBI in 65 at-bats. He has reached base safely in 15 of the 17 games, has a .400 on-base percentage and raised his batting average 22 points to .268. . . Shortstop Didi Gregorius has also been hot. Derek Jeter’s successor homered and drove in a career-high four runs Monday in his second three-hit game over the past five in which he is 8-for-15 (.533) with three runs, one homer and six RBI to raise his season batting average from .234 to .248. The home run ended a homer-less stretch of 103 at-bats.

Yankees closer Andrew Miller has converted all 23 of his save opportunities this year, which is the longest streak of consecutive saves to begin a stint with the Yankees since saves became an official statistic in 1969 and tied for third longest for any team, equaling those of Huston Street with the Padres in 2012 and LaTroy Hawkins with the Twins over the 2000 and ’01 seasons. The longest is 44 straight saves by Brad Lidge with the Phillies over the 2008 and ’09 seasons. Second is Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez with 32 for the Tigers in 1984, the year he won both the AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards.

Alex Rodriguez, who turned 40 Monday, hit his sixth career home run on his birthday to set a major league record. He had shared the previous mark of five with Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Derrek Lee and Al Simmons. A-Rod also became only the fourth player to homer in his teens and his 40s. The others were Ty Cobb (who played from 1905-28) Rusty Staub (1963-85) and Gary Sheffield (1988-2009). Since 1914, Rodriguez is the ninth right-handed batter (10th occasion) to hit at least 24 home runs in his age-39 season or older, and the first since Frank Thomas in 2007 (26 at age 39). The only player to hit as many as 30 homers at 39 or older was Hank Aaron, who hit 40 in 1973 when he was 39. Nine of A-Rod’s past 14 hits have been home runs, including each of his past four hits.

Familiar with retirement, Pettitte will try it again

This time he means it.

Andy Pettitte knows what retirement is all about. He experienced it in 2011 but decided to come back and pitch again in 2012. Friday he announced his retirement again for good.

“I was 100-percent convinced coming into the season that this would be it,” Pettitte said. “I came back last year and broke my leg, which put a wrinkle in that. I just felt now was the time. There was nothing that would happen during the season that would change my mind.”

Petttite had lunch with Mariano Rivera while the team was in Toronto earlier this week. Mo told Andy he needed to make an announcement to the fans. Pettitte said he was reluctant to take away from Rivera’s special day Sunday when the Yankees plan a ceremony in the closer’s honor. The Yankees’ starting pitcher that day will be Pettitte.

Rivera insisted this was the best time. And it seems to work out perfectly all around for Pettitte because his final start of the regular season will be next weekend in Houston not far from his Deer Park, Texas, home against the Astros for whom he pitched for three seasons, including that franchise’s only World Series appearance in 2005.

“I’m announcing my retirement prior to the conclusion of our season because I want all of our fans to know now—while I’m still wearing this uniform—how grateful I am for their support throughout my career,” Pettitte said. “I want to have the opportunity to tip my cap to them during these remaining days and thank them for making my time here with the Yankees so special.

“I’ve reached the point where I know that I’ve left everything I have out there on that field. The time is right. I’ve exhausted myself, mentally and physically, and that’s exactly how I want to leave this game. One of the things I struggled with in making this announcement now was doing anything to take away from Mariano’s day Sunday. It is his day. He means so much to me, and has meant so much to my career that I would just hate to somehow take the attention away from him.”

Pettitte, 41, has a 255-152 (.627) career record with a 3.86 ERA in 3,300 innings over 529 games (519 starts) inn 18 seasons with the Yankees (1995-2003, ’07-10, ’12-13) and Astros (2004-06). At 103 games over .500 in his career, Pettitte is the only active pitcher—and one of 26 pitchers in baseball history—to post a record of 100-or-more games over .500. Of the 25 other pitchers to accomplish the feat, 18 have been enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I don’t think about the Hall of Fame unless I’m asked about it,” Pettitte said. “I feel blessed that people will bring my name into that conversation. Have I been a pitcher who dominated? Every game has been a grind for me. I’d continue to pitch if [the Hall of Fame] was a desire of mine. I wouldn’t have retired in the first place.”

Originally selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft, Pettitte has played 15 seasons with the club, going 218-126 with a 3.95 ERA and 2,009 strikeouts in 445 games (436 starts) and 2,780 innings. He is the franchise leader in strikeouts and is on pace to finish his career tied with Whitey Ford (438) for the most starts in Yankees history.

Pettitte trails only Ford (236 victories, 3,171 innings) and Red Ruffing (231 victories, 3,168 innings) in winning decisions and innings pitched with the Yankees and ranks fifth in franchise history in appearances. He appeared in eight career World Series (seven with the Yankees) and won championships in 1996, ‘98, ’99, 2000 and ’09.

Andy is the all-time winningest pitcher in postseason history with a 19-11 record and 3.81 ERA (276.2IP, 117ER) in 44 career starts totaling 276 2/3 innings. He also ranks first all time in postseason starts and innings pitched and is second with 183 strikeouts. His personal career postseason victory total is more than that of eight other franchises (Royals 18, Diamondbacks 17, Mariners 15, Brewers 14, Padres 12, Rays 11, Rockies 9, Expos/Nationals 7).

With the Yankees in postseason play, Pettitte is 18-10 with a 3.76 ERA (251.1IP, 105ER) in 40 career starts and 251 1/3 innings. While winning his final World Series with the Yankees in 2009, he became the first pitcher in baseball history to start and win the clinching game of all three series in a single postseason (ALDS vs. the Twins, ALCS vs. the Angels and World Series against the Phillies).

This season, Pettitte has gone 10-10 with 3.93 ERA (169.1IP, 74ER) in 28 starts and 169 1/3 innings. He struck out the Red Sox’ David Ross Sept. 6 to become the first Yankees pitcher in franchise history to reach 2,000 strikeouts with the club. With his 10 wins in 2013, he has earned at least 10 victories in 14 different seasons for the Yankees, surpassing Ford (13) to set a club record.

Pettitte will finish his career as one of 12 players to spend at least 15 seasons with the Yankees. He joins teammates Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera with 19 apiece, Todd Helton (17 with the Rockies) and Paul Konerko (15 with the White Sox) as the only active players to have spent at least 15 seasons with their current team. Pettitte has earned the victory in games in which Rivera also earned a save 72 times, the highest victory-save combination for any pair of pitchers since saves became an official statistic in 1969.

The Louisiana-born, Texas-raised lefthander was a three-time All-Star (1996, 2001, ’10) and the 2001 ALCS Most Valuable Player. He is the only pitcher in major league history to pitch at least 17 seasons (1995-2010, ’12) without having a losing record. Pettitte also posted a winning record in each of the first 13 seasons of his career (1995-2007), the third-longest such streak to begin a career, trailing only Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland Alexander (17) and Cy Young (15).

“The only regret I have in my career is my time with HGH,” Pettitte said in reference to his admission of using the performance-enhancing drug to overcome an injury. “I never tried to cheat the game. I hate it that if any young person would think that I cheated the game. I would like to be remembered as a great teammate who took the ball every day and gave it all I got.”

Untypical victory at Coors Field truly a team effort

Sometimes it comes down to one simple play. A blown hit-and-run play turned into an important stolen base for the Yankees that turned the ninth inning Wednesday night into a melodrama that sent them toward a very satisfying, dugout-emptying victory.

Normally when you hear the phrase “dugout-emptying,” it is in reference to a brawl. This time it was literal for the Yankees. With Eduardo Nunez still unavailable due to an irritated left ribcage, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was forced to use all the available players in an inter-league game at a National League park where the designated hitter is forbidden. Thank heaven this one didn’t go extra innings or you might have seen some pitchers playing elsewhere on the field.

The Yanks’ 3-2 victory over the Rockies was truly a team effort. The deciding run that was set up by a stolen base that should have been an out scored thanks to the hustle of Brennan Boesch, the Yankees’ third pinch hitter of the night, who beat out an infield hit with a dash down the first base line while Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado took ever-so-slightly too long to get off a throw.

Vernon Wells, who crossed the plate for the tiebreaking run, then trotted out to third base with his oversized outfield glove, marking the first time he had played the infield in a major-league game. Sure enough, a ball was hit to him, but he handled Carlos Gonzalez’s grounder with ease and got the second out of the inning. Mariano Rivera withstood a two-out single and a steal of second base by Michael Cuddyer to make it 12-for-12 in saves when he retired Wilin Rosario on a fly to center.

Wells, whose three-hit game included his seventh home run that accounted for the Yanks’ other two runs, was asked to play third base because starter Chris Nelson had been lifted earlier in the ninth for pinch hitter Travis Hafner, who struck out. Without Nunez, Girardi had no infielders he could call on, a situation that the manager had explained to Wells even before the game started.

It was also Wells who benefit from a dropped throw by shortstop Jonathan Herrera from catcher Rosario on a busted hit-and-run play. Wells, who had left off the inning with an infield single, ended up with a gift of a stolen base. Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt in a non-save situation was not sharp and walked Lyle Overbay. After Ichiro Suzuki bunted the runners over, Jayson Nix was intentionally walked to load the bases. Girardi had his ace in the hole in Hafner, but the DH without a spot in the starting lineup at Coors Field struck out.

Boesch was Girardi’s last available player to use as a pinch hitter for catcher Austin Romine (Chris Stewart would have to catch the bottom of the ninth). Arenado made a terrific stop of a hard grounder to his left by Boesch, but the third baseman glanced momentarily to second base before throwing to first where Boesch beat the play by a hair.

Pitchers played major parts for the Yankees as well. Starter David Phelps went six innings and was hurt only by a two-run homer by Todd Helton. Recent Triple A call-up Preston Claiborne pitched a 1-2-3 seventh (the righthander has retired all nine hitters he has faced in his first two appearances for the Yankees) and David Robertson added a scoreless eighth.

This is not the sort of stuff fans are used to seeing at Coors Field. Tuesday night, it was 2-0 Rockies. Seven runs in two games in a yard where every night it seems that seven runs are scored every two innings is pretty rare. The Yankees ended a five-game losing streak at Coors dating to June 20, 2002 and are 29-9 in games following shutout losses since Girardi became manager in 2008, including 3-0 this year.

Crooked number follows 9 zeroes

No shutout this time. After becoming the first team to get shut out in a game at Coors Field this year, the Yankees got on the board right away Wednesday night. Vernon Wells, who has been struggling lately with three hits in his previous 22 at-bats (.136) clubbed a 3-2 fastball from the Rockies’ Juan Nicasio in the first inning for a two-run home run.

The blow, Wells’ seventh homer of the season and his first ever at Coors, scored Brett Gardner, who had singled to lead off the game and stolen second base. It was the Yankees’ fifth steal in 10 innings at Denver.

Lyle Overbay put on a clinic at first base in the bottom of the first inning to save Yankees starter David Phelps from a potential rough beginning. Overbay took part in all three outs with a putout and two assists, both on sure-handed grabs of tough hops. The Yankees could have done a whole lot worse in finding a replacement for injured Mark Teixeira than the stylishly efficient Overbay.

The Rockies got even in the second inning with a two-run homer of their own. After a one-out double to right-center by Wilin Rosario, Todd Helton drove a 3-1 fastball to right field for his second home run of the season.

Come the sixth inning and both team’s pitchers were batting eighth in the order. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bat Phelps in the 8-hole to break up the left-handed hitters. It was the first time a Yanks starting pitcher batted in that spot since Aug. 28, 1957 when then manager Casey Stengel hit Don Larsen eighth and second baseman Bobby Richardson ninth against the White Sox.

Nicasio was in the usual ninth spot for pitchers to start the game, but when he came out after five innings Rockies manager Walt Weiss made a double switch and brought in Jonathan Herrera to play shortstop and put reliever Josh Outman in the 8-hole previously occupied by Reid Brignac.

Winning pitcher still best way to describe CC

The question came to CC Sabathia, and he could have shattered the walls with a certain answer, if he cared to. But it is not his way to be angry or critical, so Sabathia responded in kind, without malice or disdain.

The question offered by a reporter was, “What does it mean to be the first pitcher this year to win 10 games?”

CC didn’t hesitate and said, “I’d like to say it’s a big deal, but it isn’t, really.”

Perfect. Sabathia seems to know that you can’t have it both ways. Last year, he led the American League in victories with 21, but come time to vote for the Cy Young Award Sabathia ended up losing out to the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and his 13-12 record. Baseball writers defended the decision because Fernandez had scant run support yet ranked very high in some other statistical measures for pitchers.

There is even a segment of the baseball press, those who digest the gourmet stats, that believes pitching victories have no meaning whatsoever. If so, then why all the fuss about Sabathia getting to 10-4 Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the Yankees’ 8-3 victory over the Rockies? If winning games does not matter anymore, why bother even asking the question?

Truth be told, CC, there are some of us in the press box who still value the art of pitching your team to victory. As Roy Halladay, who owns two Cy Young Award trophies put it so well last winter, that is still part of the job description. Sabathia would prefer to stay neutral in the debate, and I don’t blame him.

Praise is due the big guy, but it won’t be long that you’ll be hearing from the stat geeks than any pitcher can win 10 games with the run support Sabathia gets. That’s coming next, you watch.

Oh, yes, the Yankees have scored runs in bunches behind Sabathia, whose support of 7.67 runs per game is tops in the majors. The Yankees have scored in double figures in six of his 17 starts with CC getting a ‘W’ each time out. It should be noted, however, that the Yankees have been shut out twice with Sabathia on the mound.

A year ago, Hernandez had the worst run support I have ever seen a quality pitcher have in all my years of covering big-league ball, which is more than I care to (and can’t always) remember. That King Felix put the record together than he did was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but I am not prepared to let a freak season become the game’s standard.

It is clear by now that the Yankees enjoy playing behind Sabathia, who earned his 50th victory in a Yankees uniform, in his 85th start. That matches what Chien-Ming Wang once did and is the best since Ron Guidry got to 50 victories with the Yankees in 1979 in his 82nd start in pinstripes. Playing behind Sabathia often puts the Yankees in such a comfort zone that they slug their way to victory.

“When you play behind CC, you’re not on the field very long,” manager Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees spent most of their time on the field at bat and scored eight more runs behind their ace. Alex Rodriguez, playing despite a sore right knee that has troubled him for a week, drove in three runs and scored another on a somewhat daring, hands-first slide into the plate in the third inning. A-Rod saw that the left fielder, Ryan Spilborghs, was fading toward center to make the catch on Nick Swisher’s fly ball and gave it a try. He went in on his hands, “because I wanted to give the catcher the least possible amount of body to tag,” Alex said.

Not a bad answer, actually.

Jorge Posada had three hits and an RBI in raising his batting average to .232. Rodriguez, Swisher, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Francisco Cervelli had two hits apiece. Mark Teixeira knocked in two runs with his 22nd home run, taking over the team lead. The only 0-fer in the lineup, ironically, was by Robinson Cano, who made six outs in four at-bats and ended his consecutive game hitting streak in day games at 24 games. The Yankees remain lights out in the daytime at 21-4.

Sabathia, who lowered his ERA to 3.25, took a five-hit shutout into the eighth only to lose it that inning on a two-out, RBI single by Seth Smith, who was pinch hitting for Todd Helton. Sabathia was so dominating that Rockies manager Jim Tracy removed All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki after the seventh and pinch hit for Carlos Gonzalez and Helton in the eighth.

Talk about an early concession. But what else was there to do facing the daily double of the Yankees in broad daylight with CC Sabathia on the hill?

Burnett’s 4 K’s in 1 inning a 1st for Yankees pitchers

A.J. Burnett made Yankees history Friday night when he struck out four Colorado batters in the sixth inning. Believe it or not, he became the first Yankees pitcher ever to do that. Granted, it is a rarity, but it is hard to believe it had never happened before for a franchise that is more than one hundred years old.

For a pitcher to have the chance to strike out four batters in an inning means that one of them had to reach base on a third-strike wild pitch or passed ball. Since A.J. has had a special relationship with wild pitches over the years, he was an ideal candidate to be the first Yankees pitcher to pull off the oddity. Burnett’s 111 career wild pitches rank second among active pitchers behind only Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who has 124.

In fact, it marked the second time in his career that Burnett had four K’s in an inning. He also did for the Marlins against the Mets July 5, 2002, which was the first of two seasons in which he led his league in wild pitches with 14. The other was in 2009 with the Yankees when he had 17. A.J. was second in the American League in wild pitches with 16 and is leading this year with 12.

No. 12 came after Burnett got called third strikes past Chris Iannetta and Carlos Gonzalez. Chris Nelson reached first after Burnett’s third strike to him went all the way to the backstop. It gave Burnett a shot at a franchise first, which he accomplished by striking out Todd Helton swinging.

Unfortunately, that was the highlight of the night for Burnett, who gave up solo home runs to Jason Giambi and Troy Tulowitzki and two more runs on infield outs 6 1/3 innings in a 4-2 loss. It might have been worse except that the Rockies stranded 11 runners.

Alex Rodriguez drove in both Yankees runs with Curtis Granderson scoring each time, but the Yanks had only two hits after the second inning. Rockies righthander Ubaldo Jimenez, who was the National League’s starting pitcher in last year’s All-Star Game, struggled early this year but picked up his second straight victory. Jimenez, who had an 11-game winless stretch in April and May, scattered four hits and four walks over seven innings.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi correctly assessed before the game that Colorado could benefit more than any other NL club in inter-league competition because of the presence of Giambi as its designated hitter. In addition to his home run, Giambi also singled twice and walked.

Cano back in action on ‘anniversary’

Robinson Cano celebrated his sixth anniversary as a major leaguer by returning to the lineup Tuesday night at Detroit. He had been kept out of Monday night’s game because of a bruised left palm. Cano’s hand was still a bit sore, but he was anxious to get back to work, which is usually the case when a player is off to the kind of start he is this year.

Cano played in his first big-league game May 3, 2005 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., in an 11-4 loss to Tampa Bay. He was hitless in three at-bats but soon established himself and finished the season batting .297 with 34 doubles, 4 triples, 14 home runs and 62 RBI. Cano went into Tuesday night’s game with 1,107 career hits, including 124 home runs. Research by the Elias Sports Bureau pointed out that Cano has the most hits by a player whose primary position was second base since Pete Rose had 1,111 hits over a similar span from 1963-68.

Another gem from Elias is that Cano is one of only three active players in the majors with at least 1,100 hits and 100 home runs within six calendar years of their debuts. The others are the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (1,159 hits, 250 home runs) and the Rockies’ Todd Helton (1,119 hits, 209 home runs).

May 3 also marked the 75th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s first game in the majors. Joe D. is the only Yankees player with more hits (1,185) than Cano in his first six calendar years. The Clipper also had a more productive debut in 1936 with a triple, two singles and an RBI in six at-bats in a 14-5 victory over the St. Louis Browns at the original Yankee Stadium.

When Cano came out of Sunday’s game in the eighth inning, it left Nick Swisher as the only Yankees player who had played every inning of every game. That ended Tuesday night as he was not in the starting lineup, not because of injury but for a rest.