Results tagged ‘ Vernon Wells ’
Andy Pettitte’s first-inning woes continued into the next two innings Monday night as a Yankees starting pitcher failed to get through the third inning for the second straight game. Following Phil Hughes’ 2 2/3-inning outing Sunday in San Diego, Pettitte lasted just as long in Chicago against a White Sox team that put an end to a 10-game losing streak with an 8-1 victory.
Chicago scored only four runs total in its previous four games but had that many runs before the second inning was complete. Pettitte was scored upon in the first inning for his seventh straight start, a dubious franchise record, as the White Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead. All but one of the five hits off Pettitte that inning was rather softly struck yet they found holes.
The second inning was quite different as the White Sox hit the ball much harder and tacked on two more runs. The hits kept on coming in the third, plus a walk by Pettitte, who was removed from what was his briefest outing in three years. The White Sox had 11 hits in 18 at-bats (.611) off Pettitte, who has allowed 141 hits in 120 2/3 innings this season as opponents are batting .293 against him.
U.S. Cellular Field has always been a bit of a horror house for Pettitte, whose career record there is 3-8 with a 6.99 in 68 innings after getting tattooed for seven runs Monday night.
The Yankees’ infield had a different look with the return of Alex Rodriguez, who was allowed to play while awaiting an appeal of a drug-related suspension by commissioner Bud Selig. A-Rod became the ninth different player to start at third base for the Yankees this season, and that does not include Vernon Wells, who played one inning there earlier this season.
Wells made his first career appearance at first base where he has been taking grounders during batting practice. It was the sixth different position this year for Wells, who has also played left field, right field, second base and designated hitter as well as first and third.
Once again, the Yankees’ infield was without Derek Jeter, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a Grade 1 strain of the right calf. A similar injury to the captain in 2011 kept him on the DL for three weeks.
Rodriguez got a hit in his first at-bat, a looping single to left field leading off the second inning. Wells followed with a double into the left-field corner, but the Yanks’ rally proved short-lived as Chicago starter Jose Quintana retired Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki on pop-ups and struck out Eduardo Nunez.
It was that kind of night for the Yankees, who were hitless in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Their only run came in the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner.
The Rangers got an immediate dividend in their trade for Matt Garza Wednesday night at the expense of the Yankees. Garza had trouble with the Yankees (1-4, 4.48 ERA) in his years with the Rays, but in his first start against the Bombers in four years the only one who hurt him was himself.
The run off Garza in Texas’ 3-1 victory was not earned, although it was his two-base error with a bad throw to first base on an infield single by Brett Gardner in the sixth inning that led to the run that scored on a single by Robinson Cano. But that would be it for the Yankees, who were back to hitting only singles – five of them – as they got only two runners past first base after the first inning. It was back in the first inning that the Yankees had a chance to go some damage against Garza. Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki each singled, but Garza came back to strike out Cano and Lyle Overbay and get Vernon Wells on a ground ball.
The momentum the Yankees felt after Tuesday night’s somewhat miraculous victory ebbed quickly, which can happen when a pitcher is on his game as was Garza (7-1), who pitched into the eighth inning with no walks and five strikeouts.
Andy Pettitte (7-8) took the loss, a tough one. He gave up eight hits but only two runs, both driven in by A.J. Pierzynski on a two-out single in the first inning and his 10th home run in the sixth. Give Pettitte credit. It was not a fat pitch to Pierzynski for the homer but a 1-2 slider that the Rangers’ designated hitter caught just above his shoelaces and got up into the humid Texas air.
Pettitte had two strikeouts with both coming in succession in the second inning that pushed him past Sandy Koufax and tied him with former teammate Kevin Brown for 39th place on the career list with 2,397. For the fifth consecutive game, Pettitte was scored upon in the first inning, but he pitched well enough to win.
David Murphy provided an insurance run with a home run off Shawn Kelley in the eighth. Texas manager Ron Washington elected to have lefthander Neal Cotts, who had gotten the last two outs of the Yankees eighth, to face the left-handed Cano and Overbay in the ninth. Cotts retired both before Washington brought in his closer Joe Nathan, who blew Tuesday night’s game.
The move looked questionable when Wells greeted Nathan with a single that brought the potential tying run to the plate in Eduardo Nunez, who hit a game-tying triple off Nathan the night before. No such luck this time as Nunez made the final out on a soft liner to shortstop.
Gardner had two hits and a stolen base, the 154th of his career, which shot him past Mickey Mantle into eighth place on the Yankees’ all-time list.
I’ll be heading for Cooperstown, N.Y., Thursday for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend and will file reports on the induction of former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and the ceremonies honoring former Yankees pitcher Tommy John and Dr. Frank Jobe and Lou Gehrig, who will finally officially be part of an induction ceremony. More on that in my next report.
The momentum swings in Tuesday night’s game resembled the rollercoaster at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park across the highway from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Yankees went up to a 3-0 lead, then down to a 4-3 deficit and then up again to a 5-4 victory.
Just a week after getting a save in the All-Star Game where Mariano Rivera served as his setup man, Joe Nathan sustained only his second blown save in 33 opportunities this year as the Yanks staged a dramatic rally that sent Texas to its first loss in 52 games this season when the Rangers were leading after eight innings.
To finish things off, Rivera returned to his normal role and got his 32nd save of the season and 640th of his career with a 1-2-3 ninth featuring two strikeouts, a perfect end to an absolutely startling comeback for the Yankees, who appeared down for the count against the Rangers’ impressive bullpen.
Texas relievers recorded 10 consecutive outs before Nathan walked Vernon Wells with one out in the ninth. Nathan further improved the Yankees’ condition with a wild pitch that not only advanced Wells to second base but also forced the Rangers to bring their outfielders in shallower for a possible play at the plate.
Eduardo Nunez benefitted from the altered defense with a drive to the wall in left-center for an RBI triple, the Yanks’ first hit since the fourth inning. The run scored by Wells ended a streak of 25 2/3 scoreless innings by the Texas pen dating to July 11. Brent Lillibridge then atoned for an earlier damaging error with a single to left that scored Nunez with what proved the winning run.
Phil Hughes has had somewhat surprising success at Rangers Ballpark despite its being a hitters’ paradise. Tuesday night it appeared that success would continue as the Yankees gave Hughes an early lead and he was doing a good job at protecting it. For five innings anyway.
Everything fell apart for Hughes, however, in the sixth. An error by Lillibridge at third base with one out opened the door for the Rangers, who came back from being down 3-0 to take a 4-3 lead. Adrian Beltre followed the error with a double for Texas’ first run. Hughes got the second out on a fly to center by A.J. Pierzynski but gave up a single to Elvis Andrus that got Texas to 3-2.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a quick hook of Hughes (80 pitches) for lefthander Boone Logan, who faced left-handed batting Mitch Moreland, who drove a home run over the center field fence. Only one of the three runs charged to Hughes was earned as his ERA at Rangers Ballpark fell to 1.90 over 23 2/3 innings.
The Yankees also had an exceptional defensive game with second baseman Robinson Cano making one of his patented across-the-body throws to first on a far-ranging play to his right in the seventh and center fielder Brett Gardner belly-flopping in right-center to haul down a drive by Andrus.
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.
The Yankees post-All-Star break were just as short-handed as before the break. The sad news came Friday night as the Yanks opened a three-game series at Fenway Park with a 4-2 loss in their first 2013 visit to the Hub that Derek Jeter was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a Grade 1 strain of his right quadriceps, the same injury that shortened his comeback from a twice-fractured left ankle to one game.
An MRI on the Captain revealed next to no healing over the past week so he goes on the DL retroactive to July 12 that will keep him away from the team at least until July 27. The Yanks dipped into the farm system to purchase the contract of utility man Brent Lillibridge from Triple A Scranton and made room for him on the 40-man roster with the release of outfielder Brennan Boesch.
Lillibridge got into the mix right away at third base and batting seventh in the order. He became the seventh different player to start at third for the Yankees this season, joining David Adams (29 games), Jayson Nix (24), Kevin Youkilis (20), Chris Nelson (9), Luis Cruz (8) and Alberto Gonzalez (5). And don’t forget, even Vernon Wells put in an inning at third base in one game as a reserve.
All of these guys have been trying to hold the position for Alex Rodriguez, who according to general manager Brian Cashman is on schedule to finish his injury-rehabilitation assignment at Scranton over the weekend and barring complications will join the Yankees in Arlington, Texas, their next stop on this trip either Monday or Tuesday. A-Rod is recuperating from offseason hip surgery.
Jeter’s second trip to the DL brought the total to four players who came off the DL only to go back on shortly after returning, following Curtis Granderson, Youkilis and Mark Teixeira.
As if the Yankees did not have enough trouble getting players on the field, Brett Gardner further hampered them in the fifth inning by getting ejected from the game for throwing a temper tantrum after being called out on strikes standing the potential tying run at second base. The Yankees had closed to 3-2 on doubles by Lyle Overbay and Chris Stewart.
With Stew on second and two out, Gardner disagreed with plate umpire Mike Everitt’s third-strike call and slammed his helmet to the angrily. Everitt tossed Gardner, whose ejection taxed a thin Yankees bench, particularly since outfielder Zoilo Almonte also left the game because of a left ankle sprain that will send him to the DL.
That will make 20 stints by 16 players for the Yankees on the DL this year. Will this ever end? Reports had outfielders Melky Mesa and Thomas Neal heading to Fenway from Scranton to replace Almonte and another player not yet identified.
Manager Joe Girardi was not happy with Gardner’s departure but was even more upset with Everitt, whom he thought pulled the trigger too quickly. Girardi saw it as a heat-of-the-moment situation that warranted a fine perhaps but not a bouncing.
Lillibridge moved from third base to right field with Luis Cruz taking over third. Ichiro Suzuki went from right to center and Gonzalez came in for Almonte in left. That left Girardi with only two players on the bench – backup catcher Austin Romine and designated hitter Travis Hafner, who does not play a position in the field.
Just the inning before he was kicked out of the game, Gardner had single-handedly manufactured a run as the Yankees scored before they had a hit off Felix Doubront, who won his third straight start. Gardner, who probably needed the four-day All-Star break more than any other Yankees player, walked, stole second and third and continued home on a wild throw to third by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Andy Pettitte had another outing that might best be described as so-so. He gave up a leadoff home run to Jacoby Ellsbury and was taken deep again in the second inning with a runner on by Jonny Gomes. Pettitte came back with four scoreless innings before leaving one out into the seventh with a runner on second his responsibility. That runner, Gomes, scored on a two-out single by Jose Iglesias off Shawn Kelley.
Pettitte (7-7) had a 4-3 record with a 3.83 ERA before he went on the DL because of a strained left trapezius muscle. In nine starts covering 55 1/3 innings since his return, Pettitte is 3-4 with a 5.04 ERA.
The Yankees tried to get Andy off the hook in the eighth when Suzuki singled and Robinson Cano doubled with one out off Craig Breslow, who rebounded to retire Wells on a soft pop to shortstop and Cruz on a ground ball. The Yanks went meekly in the ninth to the latest Red Sox closer, Koji Uehara.
The Yankees started the post-break period with a hard mission ahead and on the first night it got harder. Not only did the Red Sox win but also the second-place Rays and the third-place Orioles did as well, which leaves the Yanks seven games behind Boston, 4 ½ behind Tampa Bay and 2 ½ behind Baltimore.
Considering the success the Yankees have had this year against teams from the American League Central, the past week was expected to be a strong one. That has not been the case. The Yankees split the four-game series against the Royals and need a victory Sunday to win the three-game set against the Twins.
Minnesota pulled even in the series Saturday because for the third time in six games the Yankees scored merely one run. An example of their desperation was employment of the old high-school play in the fourth inning with runners on first and third and two out. The idea is for the runner at first base to break for second and draw a throw. Once the catcher throws through to second base, the runner from first stops to avoid being tagged while the runner at third breaks for the plate and usually scores by the time the trail runner is tagged out in a rundown.
That was how manager Joe Girardi envisioned it when he had Zoilo Almonte break for second with Vernon Wells leading off third. The only problem is that Almonte went straight for the bag and was tagged out on a strong throw from Twins catcher Ryan Doumit before Wells crossed the plate.
“If [Almonte] stops, we have a run,” Girardi said. “He can’t be tagged out there. Vernon could have walked home.”
When runs are precious as they have been for the Yankees this season, such plays magnify. The Yankees scored in the first inning on a double by Ichiro Suzuki and a single by Robinson Cano and got nothing after that off Samuel Deduno (5-4) and two relievers.
For a while, that run looked huge behind the pitching of Phil Hughes, who struck out six of the first eight batters he faced en route to a 10-strikeout performance in 7 1/3 innings. Once again, the long ball poisoned a Hughes start at Yankee Stadium. The righthander was taken deep three times in the 4-1 loss. He has allowed 12 home runs in 54 1/3 innings at the Stadium compared to six dingers allowed in 48 starts on the road. To his credit, Hughes did not blame the ballpark.
“Two of those home runs were out anywhere,” he said.
The solo home run by Doumit in the seventh inning that unlocked a 1-1 score was a classic Stadium variety shot, a high fly that fell into the first few rows of the right field stands.
“That ball doesn’t go out in a lot of parks,” Girardi said, “but we have taken advantage of that, too.”
Unfortunately, not Saturday.
The solo homer Trevor Plouffe crushed in the second inning landed in the visitors’ bullpen, a healthy blow, and the two-run shot by Pedro Forimon struck off a sign in front of the second deck in right. There was nothing cheap about any of those. All three of the homers off Hughes came on 2-2 counts with one out.
“My slider was the best it has been all year,” Hughes said. “It just seems like one or two mistakes cost me the ballgame. It comes down to execution.”
The loss dropped Hughes’ record to 4-9. The Yankees’ 17-6 record against AL Central foes is still impressive, but a .500 week against the division has definitely been a letdown.
I saw something Thursday that I never saw before nor ever expected to see – Derek Jeter not running hard to first base. Jeter is on my list of players I have covered over the years who always – always – gave it their all running down the line, right up there with Pete Rose, Dave Winfield and Mookie Wilson.
So when I saw Jeet jogging the final third of the way to first base in the sixth inning I figured something was up. When Yankees manager Joe Girardi sent Brett Gardner up as a pinch hitter for Jeter in the eighth, my suspicions were confirmed. After the game, Suzyn Waldman of WCBS Radio and Meredith Marakovits of the YES Network were informed that Jeter would be unavailable for an on-field, postgame interview.
The warm and fuzzy feeling brought on by Jeter’s return to the Bronx Thursday turned gloomy when it was learned that in his first game back with the Yankees in 2013 Jeter felt tightness in his right quadriceps. Actually, the muscle tightened up slightly in his previous at-bat when he also tried to beat out a ground ball.
The Captain did that all game. He was not at shortstop but as the designated hitter as Girardi decided to ease Jeter back into the mix. DJ beat out an infield single in his first at-bat to the absolute delight of the Yankee Stadium crowd of 40,381 and grounded out his other three times up. On the last one, the quad wouldn’t allow him to go full throttle, which is as rare a sight as there can be in the major leagues.
Of course, Jeter considered the situation minor and fully expects to be back in the lineup Friday night against the Twins.
“It’s not frustrating yet,” he said. “We’ll see what the tests say. I hope it’s not a big deal.”
We have been down the road with Jeter before on these matters. He played much of the 2012 postseason on a weak left ankle that eventually gave way and shattered to knock him out of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers. While on the rehabilitation trail, the ankle broke in another spot pushing his recovery back toward the All-Star break, which is next week.
Jeter is back in pinstripes earlier than planned although later than he wanted. He could have done without the at-bats in the minors but acknowledged, “I understand you have to play games, but I felt that I was ready.”
The original plan was for Jeter to come back to the Yankees and play Friday night after another game as a DH for Triple A Scranton. Jeter was surprised when he returned a call from general manager Brian Cashman telling him to come to New York for Thursday’s game.
Leg injuries to Gardner and Travis Hafner Wednesday night had left the Yankees short. Jeter reached his Manhattan apartment at around 2:30 a.m., got to sleep at around 4, woke up at 6:30 and could not get back to sleep so he decided to get up and go to the Stadium early.
“No disrespect to rehab assignments, but this is Yankee Stadium,” Jeter said. “There’s a huge difference. For me, it was almost like Opening Day. The fans gave me a nice ovation.”
No one in the Stadium could hear the tape of the late Bob Sheppard announcing Jeter as he strode to the plate in the first inning because of the crowd’s reaction. The plate appearance allowed Jeter to tie teammate Mariano Rivera for the most seasons played (19) with the Yankees.
“I thought about that first at-bat ever since I got hurt,” Jeter said, “and I knew I was going to swing at the first pitch.”
Which he did; he hit a topper down the third base line and beat it out for his first hit of the year. He showed no leg problems running to third on a single by Robinson Cano and had a nice trot to the plate on Vernon Wells’ scoring fly ball. On that other trot in the sixth, Jeet was credited with a run batted in as Luis Cruz scored from third base. It was a nice beginning for Jeter, who got his first hit, first run and first RBI out of the way all in the same game.
Perhaps it was just an illusion, but all the Yankees seemed to have more spring in their step with the Captain back. They overcame deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 to take an 8-4 decision and earn a split of the four-game set with the Royals, which is meaningful after having lost the first two games. Three straight two-out singles by Lyle Overbay, Zoilo Almonte and Eduardo Nunez produced four runs in the fifth as the Yankees took control of the game.
The winning decision went to Andy Petttitte (6-5), who passed Bob Gibson on the all-time list of pitching victories with 252. It was not vintage Pettitte, who made an error on a bunt play and had his outfielders working overtime running down long drives. The way the offense has struggled so much of the season, three-run deficits can seem enormous to the Yankees, but Pettitte and the bullpen held KC scoreless after the second inning and waited for the hitters to take their cue from Jeter.
Now it is a matter of waiting for the test results to determine the severity of Jeter’s condition. At 39, the healing process can have more delays, which Jeter understands if reluctantly.
“Age doesn’t creep into my mind when I’m playing,” he said. “Maybe in the morning. . .”
So we wait for Friday morning and hope Thursday wasn’t too good to be true.
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.
The Yankees celebrated Autumn Blinn and her dedication to those in need through her “Pillows of Love” initiative Tuesday on the second day of HOPE Week 2013 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel).
Yankees manager Joe Girardi and players Robinson Cano, David Robertson, Vernon Wells and Jayson Nix surprised Autumn and assisted her in handing out homemade pillows to sick children at the Ronald McDonald House on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The Yankees and Delta Air Lines flew Autumn and her family from Central New York.
The players, Autumn, and her family spent time with the children, playing games in the playroom of the facility on East 73rd Street between First and York Avenues and having a pizza party. Autumn and her family were invited to Yankee Stadium for the 7:05 p.m. game against the Royals where they watched batting practice from the field and took in pre-game ceremonies.
Coping with a hospital stay of any length can be a scary proposition. Autumn Blinn, 10, from Rome, N.Y., realized this from spending time with her grandfather, John Santiago, who undergoes kidney dialysis three times a week at their local hospital, Faxton St. Luke’s in nearby Utica.
Last year, when Autumn’s grandmother, Shari, taught her to sew, they decided to make a pillow for their first project. When her grandfather saw it, he asked if she could make him a pillow on which to rest his arm during dialysis. After John, a Bronx native, proudly showed off his pillow to other patients, Autumn realized that other dialysis patients could be uplifted by the gift of a pillow.
Without prompting, she dove into making “Pillows of Love” for as many people as possible. Over the last year, she has made approximately 175 pillows for sick children and adults.
Autumn has donated pillows to dialysis patients and pediatric patients at Faxton St. Luke’s, residents of the Rome Memorial Hospital facility in her hometown, and for children at both the Ronald McDonald House in Syracuse and Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. Autumn continues to sew pillows during her free time between school, sports and spending time with her brothers, Justin, 8, and Thomas, 7, and her sister, Isabella, 4. Media should note that Autumn’s parents, Ray and Kara Snell, are both deaf, and the family uses American Sign Language to communicate in their home.
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.