Results tagged ‘ Travis Hafner ’

Ironic that Indians should eliminate Yankees

Go back to early April in Cleveland and who would have thought the season would end the way it has for the two clubs on the field in two games at Progressive Field? The Yankees outscored the Indians, 25-7, in those games. Cleveland fans treated former Tribesman Travis Hafner to a standing ovation for his past service as the Yankees newest designated hitter was well on his way to a very productive first month of the season. Many folks in the media were wondering if Terry Francona did a smart thing in going back to the dugout with that franchise.

It just shows how much things can change in six months. The Yankees were eliminated from the race for a postseason berth Wednesday night while the Indians were still in line for a shot at their first postseason appearance in six years. Cleveland still has to fight off the challenges of Texas and Kansas City but no longer has the Yankees to worry about.

The Yanks’ tragic number for elimination was down to one entering play Wednesday night. One more loss or one more Indians victory would knock the Yankees out of the playoff picture. As it turned out, both results happened. The Indians beat the White Sox, 7-2, to eliminate the Yankees, who lost a few minutes later to the Rays, 8-3.

In head-to-head competition, the Yankees were clearly superior to Cleveland this year. They won six of the seven games between them and outscored the Tribe, 49-19. The Yankees batted .295 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI against the Indians and averaged seven runs per game. Yankees pitchers combined for a 2.71 ERA in limiting the Indians to a .205 batting average and 2.71 runs per game.

But over the course of the entire season against all levels of competition, the Yankees finished behind the Indians. For all their success against Cleveland, the Yankees were done in by failing to beat inferior teams when it counted. Losing two of three at San Diego followed by getting swept by the White Sox at Chicago last month was a bad sign. Losing all four games this year to the Mets certainly hurt. And earlier this month after giving fans encouragement by winning three of four games at Baltimore, the Yankees were swept by the American League East winning Red Sox at Boston and then, even worse, dropped two of three to the last-place Blue Jays at Toronto.

Matters did not improve when the Yankees came home. They held the Giants to three runs total in three games but did not sweep the series, which was a must. Tampa Bay beat the Yanks each of the past two nights. Do not expect a spring-training lineup from the Yankees in the final home game of the season Thursday night.

“We have a responsibility to baseball,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

What he meant is that the Rays have not yet clinched a postseason berth, so for the sake of the Rangers and the Indians Girardi will field a representative lineup. Whether it will include Alex Rodriguez or not remains to be seen. He was lifted for a pinch hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, in the eighth inning and complained of sore legs.

Phil Hughes (4-14) lasted four batters into the third inning and was hung with another loss, his 10th in 11 decisions at Yankee Stadium this year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hughes’ 1-10 mark in 16 home starts made him only the second pitcher in major league history to win fewer than two home games in a season in which he made at least 15 starts at his home yard. The other was the Blue Jays’ Phil Huffman, who was 1-9 in 16 starts at Exhibition Stadium in 1979.

Evan Longoria whacked two home runs and David DeJesus one in a 15-hit Tampa Bay attack that supported last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, David Price (9-8). Say this for Yankees fans. They were on their feet and applauding during an eighth-inning rally despite their team trailing by five runs.

Thursday night will mark the final Stadium appearance by Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Mo will almost certainly get in the game regardless of the score. He is hoping for one more save situation. So are all of us.

Yankees get off the singles treadmill

Drastic times call for drastic measures. The Yankees’ lineup Tuesday night against Rangers righthander Alexi Ogando did not contain Travis Hafner. Surprised? Probably not. The only surprising thing about is that Hafner is a designated hitter only who bats left-handed. If not in the batting order against a right-handed starting pitcher, then when?

Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn’t hesitate to answer when questioned by reporters at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. “He’s just not being productive,” the skipper said.

The numbers do not lie. After a torrid April in which he batted .318 with six home runs and 17 RBI in 66 at-bats, Hafner cooled off to the point since then of hitting .172 with six homers and 20 RBI in 186 at-bats. Pronk’s batting average is down to .210 while his OPS is below .700 (.699), not a good neighborhood for someone whose contribution is limited to his offense.

Disregarding platoon notions, Girardi went with right-handed-batting Vernon Wells as the DH with another righty swinger, recent Triple A Scranton callup Melky Mesa, in left field. The move had an early payoff when Mesa jump-started the Yankees in a two-run third inning that ended the Yankees’ 14-inning shutout string.

Mesa’s leadoff double, a hard liner to the gap in left-center, was the Yankees’ first extra-base hit in 24 innings coming after 21 consecutive singles. After going so long without extra-base power, the Yankees got another double immediately, by Austin Romine, for their first run of the game. Singles by Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki got home a second run, but Robinson Cano defused the rally by grounding into a double play.

Still, the Yankees ended a 22-inning scoring drought against Texas pitching. According to Baseball Reference.com, the Rangers (after shutting out the Yankees on three hits Monday night and with their June 27 victory at Yankee Stadium with Derek Holland pitching a 2-0, two-hitter) were the first team to throw consecutive shutouts with three or fewer hits in each game against the Yankees since the Red Sox June 21-22, 1916. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that those games were a complete-game no-hitter by Rube Foster and a complete game three-hitter by Babe Ruth, both at Fenway Park.

Wells joined the doubles parade with a leadoff two-bagger in the fourth, his first extra-base hit in 24 at-bats since July 12. He displayed some alert running skills by crossing to third on a flyout to medium center field by Eduardo Nunez and beating a play at home to score on a fielder’s-choice grounder to second base by Brent Lillibridge.

HOPE Week: ‘Stand for the Silent’

On the final day of HOPE Week 2013 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Friday, the Yankees celebrated “Stand for the Silent” and its anti-bullying initiative in the Great Hall at Yankee Stadium.

Kirk Smalley delivered a moving presentation that has given to almost 700,000 children and adults around the world. Joining him on stage were Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal; general manager Brian Cashman; pitching coach Larry Rothschild; pitchers Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan; catcher Austin Romine; designated hitter Travis Hafner and first baseman Lyle Overbay, with WWE wrestler The Big Show.

Approximately 500 students, parents and teachers from local schools and community groups were in the audience to hear Smalley’s message.

kirknson Kirk Smalley & photo of son Ty

Ty Smalley was raised in the town of Perkins, 15 minutes from the campus of Oklahoma State University, in the heart of Payne County. For Ty, who was small and looked much younger than his 11 years, school was a waking nightmare.

By sixth grade, he had already been the subject of unmerciful bullying for a number of years. Kids tossed food at him. He was regularly jammed into lockers and garbage cans. Deflecting insults, coping with intimidation and suffering violence from classmates were part of the daily curriculum administered. Most administrators looked the other way or brushed off the incidents as “boys being boys.”

Throughout it all, Ty maintained his good nature and ever-present smile. Unfortunately, his outward demeanor masked a great deal of hurt. No one saw coming what seems inevitable now. On May 13, 2010, Ty was provoked into a fight at school and was suspended. Home early from school and left alone because his parents had to work, he took his own life.

That summer, Ty’s story was taken up by local high school students participating in Oklahoma State University’s Upward Bound program. Together, they set a goal to end bullying in their respective high schools and began an initiative called “Stand for the Silent.”

Word of the movement spread quickly and just over three months later, a silent vigil was held on the lawn of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Related ceremonies took place simultaneously in 20 other states and six other countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, Spain, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Needing an outlet for their grief, Ty’s parents, Kirk and Laura, threw themselves into the movement. When summer ended, they assumed leadership of the program and took Ty’s story on the road to any school, community group or religious gathering that wanted to hear it.

“Bullying is the same in the city as it is in country towns, and it’s the same among the big kids as it is with the little kids,” Kirk said. “The message resonates no matter where I go.”

His typical audience ranges from fourth-graders to high schoolers, though he has spoken to pre-kindergarten children, prison populations and senior citizens.

At the start of his presentation, five life-size photos of children are placed on easels behind five empty chairs. Each photo is of a child who has taken his or her life as a result of being bullied. Student volunteers read aloud the stories of these children as written by their parents. The children then introduce Kirk, who tells how bullying has impacted his family’s life.

“Kids have a built-in b.s. detector,” Kirk said. “I’m no public speaker. I’m a construction worker. But they realize that I’m someone who cares. I can’t let this happen to another family.”

Kirk also urges children to cultivate a culture of kindness toward each other based on recognizing and celebrating the worth of every individual. He asks everyone in attendance to take a pledge entitled “I Am Somebody.”

Together they recite:

“From this day forward, I promise to respect those around me as well as respect myself. I am somebody, and I can make a difference. I can make another feel loved. I can be the helping hand that leads another back to a path of hope and aspiration. I will not stand silent as others try to spread hatred through my community. Instead, I pledge to lift up these victims and show them that their life matters. I will be the change because I am somebody.”

“No one is born to hate,” Kirk said. “It’s something that’s learned and something that can change. “To the bullies who gain an understanding of what they’ve done, I say ‘We love you. But now you have to apologize and change your behavior.’ ”

The Smalleys have sacrificed almost everything to spread the Stand for the Silent message. Prior to Ty’s suicide, Kirk was a foreman for a union sheet-metal company; however, after a year of mourning and dedicating himself to speaking to children, his job had to let him go.

“It’s very hard on us, but it’s what I do now,” Kirk said. “Laura and I prayed over it, and we decided that Stand for the Silent was our mission, and we would let God take care of the rest.”

Stand for the Silent receives speaking requests daily, and Kirk is booked solid into the summer of 2014. Booking Kirk’s travel, handling the organization’s finances and managing the e-mails that flood in from around the world is Laura’s full-time job. She was previously employed as a member of the kitchen staff at Ty’s school, but never went back. Their daughter, Jerri Dawn, coordinates the scheduling.

Kirk and Laura ask schools and organizations to cover his cost of travel and lodging. If that’s not possible, Kirk will visit anyway, out of pocket. He and Laura never turn down a request. As a result, they have burned through their savings and are now using their retirement money to fund their work.

“Knowing that we are saving lives is gratifying,” Kirk said. “We get messages by the thousands from children and young adults who want to get involved and from kids who hear us and realize that taking their own life isn’t the answer.”

Jerri Dawn arranges her father’s schedule to enable him to speak three or four times in a day, often at various locations in the same city. Then, he will drive or fly to the next city and do it again. Typically, he’s on the road five or six days a week, recounting and reliving any parent’s worst nightmare solely for the benefit of others. At this point, the pain is permanently watermarked in his voice.

“The most important thing parents can do is to be completely aware of what’s going on in their child’s life,” Kirk said. “Don’t take ‘OK’ for an answer. You have to ask your child hard questions and be prepared to fight with his or her school in making sure that their safety is looked after. Kids need to know not to internalize any mistreatment they receive. If they’re upset, they can talk it out. They don’t have to act it out. My boy didn’t know that, and it’s too late for him. But it’s not too late for others.”

Crooked numbers back on Stadium scoreboard

Preparing for the All-Star Home Run Derby next week at Citi Field, American League captain Robinson Cano got the Yankees off the one-run-per-game wagon they had been on by whacking a three-run home run off Royals righthander Wade Davis in the third inning of Wednesday night’s 8-1 blowout of Kansas City.

The Yankees scored one run in the first inning on a wild pitch by Davis. They had scored one run in the first inning the night before against Kansas City and that was all they got. The Yanks also scored one run Monday night against the Royals and one run Sunday against the Orioles. Cano saw to it that the offense did not stop at one this time.

The All-Star second baseman’s 21st homer of the year was an impressive blow, a drive to center over the wall to the left of Monument Park. It scored ahead of him Luis Cruz, who led off the inning with a single, and Brett Gardner, who was hit by a pitch. Gardner had some night. He reached base four times on two walks and two hit by pitches. Gardner had a nasty bruise on his right shin from the second plunking and came out of the game. X-rays were negative.

Cano’s homer was his 1,558th career hit, which moved him past Thurman Munson into 18th place in the Yanks’ career list. “I feel honored because I know how much Thurman meant here,” Cano said.

It was almost as if the entire Yankees dugout let out a sigh of relief. For the first time in four days and over 33 innings, the Yankees had a crooked number on the scoreboard. Three innings later, Lyle Overbay did Cano one better by clubbing his fourth career grand slam to boost the Yanks’ lead to 8-0.

Cano had a hand in that rally, too, in fact he started it with an opposite-field single. Vernon Wells, pinch hitting for Travis Hafner (bruised left foot, x-rays negative), hit a ground single to left that moved Cano to third and Zoilo Almonte walked to fill the bases. Overbay unloaded on a full count against Davis, who was done for the night – real done (6 innings, 8 hits, 8 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 1 hit batter, 1 wild pitch, 2 home runs).

It was Overbay’s second home run of the series. He went deep Monday night as a pinch hitter for the Yankees’ only run. It was also the first baseman’s first bases-loaded home run since May 10, 2006 for the Blue Jays against the Athletics.

“We needed that really bad,” Cano said of the explosive offense that led to the most runs the Yankees have scored in a game at Yankee Stadium this year.

Cano made another bid for a home run in the seventh, but this time his drive to center to the right of Monument Park hit off the top of the fence and back onto the field. Lorenzo Cain, who had played an impressive center field in this series, made an amazing, one-bounce throw to third base to cut down Cano trying for a triple.

This abundance of offense seemed very safe in the right hand of Ivan Nova, who is working himself back into the rotation very nicely. The righthander extended his scoreless streak to 14 innings by holding the Royals scoreless the first seven. A two-out walk, a defensive-indifference advance and a double by Eric Hosmer spoiled Nova’s shutout bid in the eighth.

“I could have sent him out for the ninth, but he had done his job by then,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He had a good downhill fastball, a very good curveball and an occasional changeup. It should build his confidence.”

Since coming off the disabled list, Nova is 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA to lower his season ERA from 6.48 to 3.63. The righthander has a 2.95 ERA over his past three starts and is proving valuable in a rotation that has one 41-year-old (Andy Pettitte, Thursday’s starter in the series finale) and one 39-year-old (Hiroki Kuroda).

“Having extra starting pitchers is a good thing,” Girardi said.

Nova gets late reward for 1st complete game

It would have been an absolute shame if Ivan Nova did not get the victory Friday night, and yet the possibility was there before the Yankees rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning for one of the most satisfying triumphs of the season.

Nova was nothing short of magnificent. He gave up a two-run home run to Matt Wieters in the second inning (after hitting the previous batter, Chris Davis) and only two other hits all game. Nova went the full nine for his first complete game in the majors, but when he came into the dugout before the Yankees’ final at-bat he was staring at a 2-1 deficit. He tried to keep faith and recalled how Luis Cruz told him on the bench a couple of innings earlier that he was not losing this game.

Several other teammates came through for Nova to reward Cruz’s faith. David Adams started the inning against Orioles closer Jim Johnson with a well-struck single to right, which livened up a crowd of 43,396 at Yankee Stadium that had been silent much of the night as the Yankees squandered several opportunities.

Johnson opened the door even more for the Yankees when he mishandled a sacrifice attempt by Brett Gardner and did not get an out anywhere. Big error. Ichiro Suzuki bunted next, not a good one as Wieters grabbed it in front of the plate on the first hop. The catcher looked to third base, but Manny Machado had charged the bunt and was not in position to take a throw at the bag to get the lead runner. Wieters threw to first to get Ichiro, and the Orioles walked Robinson Cano intentionally to load the bases with none out.

Johnson then kicked the door wide open by walking Travis Hafner on four pitches to force home the tying run. Johnson fell behind 2-0 in the count to Vernon Wells, who took a strike and fouled off a pitch before sending everyone home with a ground single to left field. Hafner and Wells had come up short three innings earlier with a runner in scoring position when the Yanks needed a run to tie the score, so their at-bats in the ninth were wonderful atonements. The Yankees had come from behind for a walk-off victory against a division opponent that had swept them a week before in Baltimore and handed Johnson a league-high sixth blown save.

But the best thing about the inning is that it put a ‘W’ next to Nova’s name in the box score. Man, did he ever deserve it. Making a spot start for ailing Hiroki Kuroda, Nova held one of the American League’s fiercest lineups to three hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts over nine innings.

“We’ll probably start him again,” manager Joe Girardi said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “His curve was really, really good, but he also had a good fastball down in the zone and his changeup was really effective. We played good defense behind him. It was a great team win.”

“A great night” Nova called it. “Everything was working for me.”

Everything but the score until the ninth inning.

Yanks make full recovery with sweep of Twins

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Yankees’ 9-5 victory Thursday that completed a four-game sweep of the Twins was that Robinson Cano had very little to do with it. For the only time on the seven-game trip to Baltimore and Minneapolis, Cano did not get a hit, although he drove in a run with a first-inning sacrifice fly.

Others in the lineup provided the fireworks for the Yanks on the Fourth of July as they moved out to a 9-1 lead by the sixth inning. Ichiro Suzuki at the top of the lineup as Brett Gardner got a needed day off fell a home run short of the cycle, scored twice and knocked in two runs. Travis Hafner reached base four times with two doubles, a single and getting hit by a pitch and crossed the plate twice. Vernon Wells had two hits and three RBI, Zoilo Almonte in the 2-hole had two hits and two RBI and near the bottom of the lineup Luis Cruz and Carlos Gonzalez drove in one run apiece.

It was a nice ensemble effort by the Yankees, who banged out 13 hits and did not have to rely on Cano carrying them as he did for most of the trip. With six multi-hit games, Cano had 14-for-28, a .500 clip, with nine runs, two doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI.

David Phelps rebounded from a dreadful prior start in Baltimore (nine earned runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings) and had a decent outing (four earned runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings). The Twins closed the gap to four runs, but Joe Girardi did not have to bring in Mariano Rivera for the first time in the Target Field series as Shawn Kelly and David Robertson provided perfect relief in the eighth and ninth innings.

The Yankees’ second four-game sweep of the season (they also accomplished it April 25-28 at Yankee Stadium against the Blue Jays) removed the bitter taste of being swept in three games by the Orioles. The Yankees returned to third place in the American League East and got back to 1 ½ games behind second-place Baltimore, although they remain six games behind the first-place Red Sox.

The Yankees open a 10-game homestand leading into the All-Star break Friday night against the Orioles, the first of a three-game set. Then the Royals come to the Stadium for four games and the Twins for three. This should be happy news for the Yankees, who are 14-3 (.824) against AL Central competition this season, the second best record by a club against a division within its league, trailing only the Indians’ 12-2 (.857) mark against the AL West. The Yanks have won 14 of their past 15 games against the AL Central after losing their first two games at Detroit April 5 and 6. They are a combined 105-55 vs. the AL Central over the past five seasons, the highest winning percentage (.656) for any AL team against the division.

This was the Yankees’ first sweep of the Twins in a series of at least four games since May 15-18, 2009 at home and the first time in Minnesota since April 18-21, 2003 when the Twinkies were still at the Metrodome.

The Yankees played the Twins on Independence Day for the seventh time since the original Washington Senators franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961. The Yanks are 4-3 in those games. They swept a doubleheader (remember those on the Fourth of July?) at the original Yankee Stadium in 1964, 7-5 and 2-1; lost a doubleheader at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington (now the site of Mall of America), 3-8 and 6-7; won, 3-2, in 1985 and lost, 2-6, in 2007, both at the renovated Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees played on the road on the Fourth of July for the third straight year, the first time they have done that in three consecutive seasons since 1988-90. They are 30-27 on the Fourth of July in the Expansion Era (since 1961).

The Elias Sports Bureau pointed out that with Wednesday night’s victory CC Sabathia became the 27th pitcher in major-league history and only the eighth in the Expansion Era to get his 200th career victory prior to his 33rd birthday. The others were Don Drysdale, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver. All are in the Hall of Fame except for Maddux, who will go on the ballot for the first time this year.

Francisco Cervelli’s recovery from a fractured right hand has been complicated by a stress reaction in his right elbow. The catcher, who has been catching in simulated at-bats in the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, has been shut down for the next two weeks. On the positive side, infielder Eduardo Nunez will continue his injury-rehabilitation assignment at Double A Trenton.

Sabathia clings to lead for 200th career ‘W’

The memory was too recent for CC Sabathia to dismiss it. The lefthander was angry with himself last Friday night when he coughed up a 3-0 Yankees lead in the sixth inning and eventually lost to the Orioles, 4-3. Sabathia was so upset that he said afterward that he felt like he was wasting his starts the way hitters get on themselves for giving up at-bats.

Sabathia had to wait a while before he got a lead to work with Wednesday night, but considering the opponent was Minnesota it was only a matter of time. For the third straight night, the Twins lost the lead to the Yankees. Sabathia knew the feeling, and it was not going to happen to him if he could help it.

The 3-2 lead the Yankees grabbed in the sixth inning was safe in Sabathia’s left hand this time out. He pitched shutout ball in the sixth and seventh and was in position for his 200th career victory, which was preserved by David Robertson with a 1-2-3 eighth and Mariano Rivera, who gave up one hit in the ninth but won a duel with Joe Mauer for the final out and notched his 28th save.

After lashing out 24 hits over the previous two games at Target Field, the Yankees found hits tough to come by against Twins righthander P.J. Walters, who entered the sixth working on a one-hit shutout. Go ahead, guess who got the hit? Robinson Cano, of course, and he would come back to haunt Walters in the sixth.

The third time through the order proved difficult for Walters, who ended up sustaining his fifth straight loss. Brett Gardner began the inning with a leadoff walk. Ichiro Suzuki came inches from a home run on a drive off the right field fence and had to settle for a double. Moments later, Cano tied the score with a double to right. Hot? You could light a cigar off Cano the way he has hit on this trip – 14-for-24 (.583) with six straight multi-hit games, nine runs, two doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI.

Cano had to stop at third base on a hard single to left by Travis Hafner, but Lyle Overbay got the job done and unlocked the score with a sacrifice fly to center field off reliever Caleb Thielbar. The rally followed a pattern of this series for the Yankees, who came back from deficits of 3-1 Monday night and 1-0 Tuesday night to win both games.

Sabathia (9-6) was reached for single runs in the third on an RBI double by Mauer and in the fifth on a solo homer by Trevor Plouffe. CC gave up seven hits in all and walked three batters, but he had nine strikeouts and held the Twins hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. Keeping the Twins from tacking on runs allowed Sabathia’s teammates room to take charge at some point, which they finally did in the sixth.

The Yankees certainly made the most of their hits. They had only four in the game – three of them in the sixth – and were 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Newly-arrived infielder Luis Cruz made his Yankees debut at shortstop, the 42nd player used this season, and was 0-for-3 with an error.

Down in Charleston, S.C., Alex Rodriguez on the comeback trail from off-season left hip surgery had another 0-for-2 showing in a three-inning stint in a Class A game. He will go back to Tampa to play for the Class A team there starting Thursday.

General manager Brian Cashman could happily celebrate his 46th birthday as the Yankees moved back into third place in the American League East.

Joe wins 600th; Andy passes Whitey in Ks

Perhaps the Yankees decided to play Monday night’s game at Target Field as if it were a playoff game. After all, they beat the Twins nine times in 10 games in winning three American League Division Series against Minnesota. Monday night was like many of those playoff games with the Yankees overcoming early deficits with some late-inning lightning.

It was a tight game for seven innings before the Yankees broke through with seven runs over the last two innings against a sloppy Minnesota bullpen for a 10-4 victory, which marked the first time in 48 games that they reached double figures in runs. They had not done that since an 11-6 victory over the Royals May 10 at Kansas City.

It was also the 600th managerial victory for Joe Girardi and was a long time coming following a five-game losing streak that had pushed the Yankees into fourth place in the AL East.

Andy Pettitte overcame a 42-pitch first inning in which he turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit to pitch into the sixth inning and along the way unseat Whitey Ford as the pitcher with the most strikeouts in franchise history. Pettitte’s punchout of Justin Morneau in the fifth, one of only two Ks in the game for the lefthander, was his 1,958th.

Of course, Andy already had more career strikeouts than Whitey. Pettitte had 428 strikeouts in his three seasons with the Astros and has a career total of 2,386, which is 41st on the all-time list, 10 behind Sandy Koufax. With his Yankees total, Pettitte ranks third among pitchers on New York teams in strikeouts behind Tom Seaver’s 2,541 with the Mets and Christy Mathewson’s 2,504 with the Giants.

It was not a strong outing by Pettitte, who allowed six hits and four walks and made a throwing error that accounted for one of the four runs against him. He was removed after giving up a home run to Chris Parmelee leading off the sixth inning that put the Twins ahead, 4-3. The late rallies by the Yankees took Pettitte off the hook, but he remains winless in four starts since June 8.

Robinson Cano, who had driven in the Yankees’ first three runs with two home runs off Twins starter Scott Diamond, ignited the eighth-inning uprising when the Yankees regained the lead for good. He opened the frame with a double to right-center. After a bunt single by Ichiro Suzuki pinch hitting for Vernon Wells, Cano scored from third on an errant pickoff by Jared Burton, who ended up the losing pitcher as his record fell to 1-6.

A one-out single by Zoilo Almonte gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead, and they were far from finished. Almonte came around to score after a walk and a wild pitch on an infield out by Chris Stewart. In the ninth, they loaded the bases with none out and pushed across four more runs on RBI singles by Travis Hafner and Almonte, a passed ball and a bases-loaded walk to Stewart.

The 14-hit attack was spearheaded by Cano, who reached base four times and scored each time. He and Almonte each had three hits, and Brett Gardner and Wells added two apiece. After going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position over the first seven innings, the Yankees went 4-for-10 in those situations in the final two innings.

For the first time since the losing streak began, the Yankees had cause to use Mariano Rivera, who in a non-save situation pitched a scoreless ninth, following a shutout inning apiece by pen pals David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain (1-0) and Shawn Kelley.

Andy ties Whitey for K record in loss

Andy Pettitte couldn’t even come away with a consolation prize Wednesday night. A seventh strikeout in the Yankees’ 8-5 loss to the Rangers would have given Pettitte the club record. His strikeout of Adrian Beltre in the fifth inning was career No. 1,957 for Pettitte, who tied Whitey Ford for the most punchouts by a pitcher in franchise history.

Pettitte’s final inning was the sixth. After retiring A.J. Pierzynski, the leadoff hitter that inning, Pettitte got two strikes on the next four hitters but failed to get strike three each time. Lance Berkman grounded out to third. Mitch Moreland singled to center. David Murphy came back from 0-2 to draw a walk. Leonys Martin ended the inning with a popout to shortstop.

The Yankees tried to get Pettitte off the hook in the bottom of the sixth. Trailing, 4-1, the Yanks rallied to make the score 4-3 on RBI singles by Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner but could get no closer. Lyle Overbay, who had homered off Texas starter Justin Grimm for the Yankees’ first run in the second inning, struck out. After a walk to Zoilo Almonte loaded the bases, Jayson Nix grounded into a double play.

Pettitte’s third consecutive loss that dropped his record to 5-6 came down to one bad inning – the third when the Rangers scored four runs, one of which was unearned due to a throwing error by Nix on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus that filled the bases with none out. Petttitte caught Nelson Cruz looking at a third strike, but Beltre and Pierzynski followed with two-run doubles. Pettitte at least stranded Pierzynski at second by retiring Berkman on a groundout and Moreland on a called third strike.

After the Yankees closed the gap, Joba Chamberlain opened it again in the seventh by giving up a two-run homer to Cruz. Chamberlain needed to be bailed out by Preston Claiborne after being touched for another double by Beltre and a two-out single by Berkman. Claiborne got Moreland on an infield pop for the third out after replacing Chamberlain, whose ERA skied to 6.38.

Chamberlain’s stretch of ineffectiveness covers his past seven appearances in which he has given up nine earned runs in 6 2/3 innings (12.15 ERA).

“He is making mistakes in the middle of the plate,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I still have confidence in him. His stuff is too good not to turn it around.”

The Yankees tried to turn it around for them in the seventh when a two-run home run by Ichiro Suzuki off Ross Wolf again made it a one-run game at 6-5. Yet once again, the Yankees let the Rangers stretch their lead with a two-run ninth. Both runs were not earned. An error by center fielder Brett Gardner, who dropped a drive by Pierzynski on the warning track in left-center, put runners on second and third with one out. A single by Berkman and sacrifice fly by Moreland added insurance runs for Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who notched his 26th save with a perfect bottom of the ninth.

The loss dropped the Yankees 3 ½ games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East and in a virtual tie for second place with the Orioles, who also lost.

Ichiro steals spotlight from Japanese pitchers

The all-Japanese pairing of the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda and the Rangers’ Yu Darvish turned into a standoff Tuesday night. The game was decided by another Japanese player in the bottom of the ninth inning as Ichiro Suzuki hit a walk-off home run for a 4-3 Yankees victory.

It was the second career walk-off homer for Suzuki, whose other was Sept. 18, 2009 with the Mariners off Mariano Rivera, who just happened to be the winning pitcher Tuesday night. Ichiro has three other walk-off hits. It was the Yankees’ first walk-off victory of the season.

For one game at least, the Bronx Bombers were back. Ichiro’s shot off a 1-2 fastball from Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers was the fourth solo homer of the game for the Yankees, who had not homered in the previous two games and four of the past five. In fact, they hit only four homers in their previous 15 games combined.

“That’s Yankees baseball,” catcher Chris Stewart said. “We haven’t seen much of it this year.”

Both starting pitchers left the game with the score 3-3.

Kuroda had a slight edge as he pitched two batters into the seventh inning, and one of the three runs he allowed was not earned due to a throwing error by third baseman David Adams. The other two runs were on solo homers by Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin. Kuroda walked one batter and struck out six.

Darvish lasted 5 1/3 innings. All three of his runs were on inning-leadoff home runs by Travis Hafner in the fourth, Brett Gardner in the fifth and Jayson Nix in the sixth. Darvish gave up seven hits overall with two walks and six strikeouts.

Gardner’s home run was his seventh of the season, which already matches his career high. He hit seven homers in 2011 in 510 at-bats. His seventh dinger this season came in his 289th at-bat.

Nix’s home run was his second of the season and ended a homerless stretch of 202 at-bats. It was also the first home run for the Yankees by a right-handed batter in 18 games covering 255 at-bats since June 4 when switch hitter Mark Teixeira connected from the right side off Indians lefthander Scott Kazmir.

Adams’ errant throw allowed Adrian Beltre to reach first base in the fourth inning (Beltre would later make two errors himself although neither resulted in a run). Singles by A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman loaded the bases. Beltre scored as Mitch Moreland hit into a fielder’s choice.

Beltre’s first error put Zoilo Almonte on first base in the fourth. Almonte quickly got to second base by stealing it but he was stranded. Beltre failed to glove a smoking liner by Hafner with one out in the fifth, and Robinson Cano made it from first to third. Darvish averted danger by striking out Lyle Overbay and retiring Almonte on a force play.

After Stewart’s single in the sixth that ended Darvish’s night, the Yankees did not have a base runner until Stewart again walked on four pitches leading off the ninth. Gardner grounded into a force play and then made the second out attempting to steal second. That left matters up to Ichiro as he moved into center stage on a night that began with two of his countrymen on the mound.

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