Results tagged ‘ Todd Helton ’
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.