Results tagged ‘ Victor Martinez ’

Gardner saves Rivera again

Brett Gardner came to Mariano Rivera’s rescue again. The way Gardner looked at it, a Yankees hitter picking up Mo was due for all the game’s greatest closer has meant to the team the past 19 seasons.

“I think Mo has bailed us out quite a few times,” Gardner said. “Things like that happen.”

Well, not quite. Rivera had never blown three consecutive save opportunities before the past five days nor had he ever allowed two home runs in a save opportunity. That was the case Sunday when trying to nail down a 4-2 victory over the Tigers Mo gave up solo shots to Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez that tied the score.

“There’s always a first time,” Rivera said. “I don’t pay attention to that stuff; just go out there and do my job. The last three opportunities, I haven’t done it. You have to continue battling.”

But in the last two of those blown-save situations, the Yankees came back to win the game with Gardner getting the climactic hit each time. Friday night after Cabrera stunned Rivera with a two-run bomb over Monument Park in the top of the ninth, Gardner won it for the Yankees with a single in the bottom of the 10th. Sunday it was Gardner who put the Yankees over the top again with his first career walk-off home run, off Jose Veras.

“That’s the first time I ever hit a walk-off homer and might be the last,” Gardner said. “I’ve had a couple of seeing-eye singles, up the middle and through the left side, but never a home run like that. It felt good. It didn’t matter if it was me or somebody else; we just needed to get a win today. I was glad we made it happen.”

It was a happening all right. The Yankees won two of three games from the club with the best record in the American League. It was the first winning series for the Yankees since July 5-7 against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Before Sunday, the Yankees had endured eight consecutive non-winning series (five losses, three splits), their longest such stretch in 22 years.

Gardner’s walk-off homer was the second of the season for the Yankees. The other was by Ichiro Suzuki June 25 against the Rangers at the Stadium. Gardner’s eight home runs are the most he has hit in one season. With 23 career homers, the Yankees are 20-3 in those games.

Rivera allowed two home runs in a game for the fifth time in his career and the first time since May 7, 2009 to the Rays’ Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria. Sunday was the first time Mo was taken deep twice in a save opportunity, however.

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte allowed one earned run in 4 1/3 innings, the fewest runs he has allowed in a game since June 8 at Seattle and the fewest in a game at the Stadium since April 4 against the Red Sox. The run off Pettitte came in the first inning, marking the eighth straight start in which he has been scored upon in the first inning, equaling a franchise-record streak by Javier Vazquez from April 3 to May 15, 2011.

With his first home run of the season, Alex Rodriguez passed Stan Musial into fifth place in career RBI with 1,951. It was career homer No. 648 for A-Rod, who is 12 behind fourth-place Willie Mays on the all-time list.

Alfonso Soriano’s solo home run (No. 20) in the fourth inning was his 2,000th career hit. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that Soriano is one of four players who made their major league debuts with the Yankees in the past 60 years to get at least 2,000 career hits, joining Derek Jeter (3,308), Bernie Williams (2,336) and Don Mattingly (2,153). Sori also joined the Red Sox’ David Ortiz as the only players to hit at least 20 homers in each of the past 12 seasons (2002-13).

David Robertson allowed a solo home run to Brayan Pena at the start of the eighth inning. It ended D-Rob’s 20 1/3-inning scoreless stretch dating to June 19. Robertson still has a streak of holding opponents hitless each of their past 23 at-bats with runners on base.

Empty feeling on a night Yanks come up empty

And so it all came down to the guy who boasted after the Tigers took a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 American League Division Series that it would not return to New York. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Jose Valverde put his money where his big mouth was and remained spotless in save situations.

Valverde is a real three-ring-circus act as a closer constantly walking the high wire with none of the cool effectiveness of Mariano Rivera. He had Detroit in the AL Championship Series before this series was over, and the Yankees hoped they could make him pay for his putting the cart in front of the horse.

Facing the taunts of those in a record crowd of 50,960 at Yankee Stadium Thursday night, Valverde navigated himself through the ninth inning against three of the Yankees’ best hitters. The closer who converted all 49 of his save opportunities in the regular season made it 2-for-2 in the ALDS by sending Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez back to the bench, as it turned out for good in 2011.

One of the ironies in how the season ended for the Yankees in the 3-2 loss was that the fault lay more with the hitters than the pitchers. The Yankees were an offensive juggernaut for most of the season, and they did have 10 hits in Game 5, but only two came in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, neither of which produced a run.

The Yankees stranded 11 base runners – six in scoring position – and left the bases loaded twice. The killer inning as the seventh when infield hits by Derek Jeter and Cano surrounding a single by Granderson filled the bags with one out for Rodriguez, who had a huge chance to overcome an injury-riddled regular season and atone for a dismal postseason.

Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit, who had to remove a huge bandage on his face that covered a big cut on his left cheek, seemed distracted in trying to protect a 3-1 Detroit lead. The inning was getting away from the Tigers and moving in the Yankees’ direction.

A-Rod didn’t have to be a big hero. All he had to was make contact, get a fly ball deep enough or even a ground ball slow enough to stay out of a double play and get a runner home. Instead, he swung through a 2-2 changeup – a pretty gutty pitch when you think of it – for the second out.

The Yanks got to 3-2 when Benoit walked Mark Teixeira to force in a run, but Benoit struck out Nick Swisher, and you could feel the air suck out of the Stadium. With two out in the eighth, Brett Gardner, who had a splendid series, gave the Yankees hope with a two-out single to left off a two-strike fastball. Jeter brought the crowd to its feet with a drive that right fielder Don Kelly caught right in front of the wall.

That was as close as the Yankees got. The ninth was all Valverde, who struck out A-Rod for the final out.

Another irony is that CC Sabathia, the ace in the hole who made the first relief appearance of his major league career, gave up the run that proved the difference on a two-out single in the fifth by Victor Martinez, who used to be his catcher in Cleveland years ago. Sabathia and five relievers were used by Girardi, who felt forced to pull Ivan Nova after two innings because of stiffness in his right forearm.

Nova gave up successive home runs to Kelly, who started the game at second base, and Delmon Young (No. 3 of the ALDS) in the first inning, but it was the way the ball came out of Nova’s hand in the second inning that disturbed Girardi. Nova overcame a leadoff double that inning but was replaced by Phil Hughes at the start of the third. Sabathia’s run was the only one allowed in seven innings by Nova’s successors.

“Our pitchers threw as well as they could all year,” Girardi said. “They pitched their hearts out. They have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Pitching, particularly the rotation, was supposed to be the Yankees’ Achilles heel, but the staff was fourth in the AL in ERA and the bullpen was first. The Yankees batted a decent .260 and outscored Detroit, 28-17, in the ALDS, but their situational hitting left something to be desired — .229 with runners in scoring position. Their victories were in 9-3 and 10-1 blowouts. Their losses were in two 1-run games and one 2-run game.

Jorge Posada, who just might have played in his last game for the Yankees, was their leading hitter in the series with a .429 average. Gardner hit .412 with 5 RBI, but other than Cano (.318) no other Yankees player batted above .300. It was a particularly rough series for Rodriguez and Teixeira, who were a combined 5-for-36 (.139) with 2 extra-base hits (both doubles by Tex) and 4 RBI.

Posada could not contain his emotions after the game and excused himself from a crowd of reporters with tears covering his face. Girardi also choked up when speaking of Posada.

“What he went through this year and what he gave us in the postseason, I don’t think there’s a prouder moment I have had of Jorgie,” Girardi said. “You can go back to when he came up in ’96, how proud of him I was when he caught the perfect game [by David Wells in 1998] and all the championships that he has won. The heart that he showed during the series; that’s why Jorgie has been a great player.”

The only hit that produced a run for the Yankees in the finale was Cano’s second home run and ninth RBI of the ALDS off Tigers starter Doug Fister, who made up for his Game 1 loss with five innings of 1-run, 5-hit pitching.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland kept his promise to keep Justin Verlander out of the game and has him fresh to start Game 1 of the ALCS Saturday night at Arlington, Texas, the place the Yankees had hoped to visit and take revenge for being eliminated by the Rangers last year.

“It’s an empty feeling for everyone in that room,” Girardi said. “It hurts.”

Yanks limp out of Detroit

It’s official. The Yankees are in a funk. Until Thursday, they had been the only team in the major leagues that had not lost three games in a row. Now they are not. Their first three-game losing streak came at the hands of the Tigers, who had lost seven straight games after dropping the first game of the series Monday night.

The Yankees threw away Thursday’s game, a 6-3 loss, literally. Two of the three errors they committed led directly to three runs, the deficit in the game. The Yankees’ offense was pretty active with 10 hits, including 3-for-8 (.375) with runners in scoring position, but were overtaken by a Detroit club that had only four hits.

A.J. Burnett continued the run of Yankees starting pitchers going deep into games with a seven-inning outing, and only two of the five runs off him were earned. However, one of the errors was his errant pickoff throw in the first inning that put Don Kelly, who reached base because Burnett hit him with a pitch on a count of 0-2, at third base from where he scored on Brennan Boesch’s sacrifice fly.

The Yankees took the lead in the fourth inning on RBI hits by Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez, who started as subs for resting Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Chavez had to leave the game, however, after suffering a bone fracture in the small toe of his left foot running out his first triple in four years. Chavez was headed back to New York to see club physician Chris Ahmad and may have to go on the disabled list.

That meant Rodriguez had to come into the game as a pinch runner, the first time he had such an assignment since his rookie season of 1995 with the Mariners when he spelled Tino Martinez. A-Rod, who had been on the bench not only resting his body but also a 7-for-50 (.140) slide, wound up with two hits and scored two runs, so maybe he is working himself back to form.

Detroit played some small ball in the sixth inning and tied the score after Ramon Santiago bunted Kelly to second base on a two-out single through the middle by Boesch, who topped off a big game in the eighth with a solo home run off lefthander Boone Logan.

The critical play came in the three-run seventh when the Tigers took control of the game. Burnett lost a 9-pitch duel with Victor Martinez, who singled to center leading off, then walked Magglio Ordonez and hit Ryan Raburn with a pitch to load the bases with none out. Brandon Inge broke the tie with a sacrifice fly, but Burnett should have been out of the inning after getting Santiago out on a bouncer to second baseman Robinson Cano playing in and Kelly on a grounder to short.

Nunez had all the time in the world to throw out Kelly but sailed his peg over first baseman Mark Teixeira. Two runs scored on the error, the second of the game for Nunez and his fifth in 22 innings in the field. For a backup infielder who is supposed to supply solid defense, this is unacceptable. Expect infield coach Mick Kelleher to work with Nunez to correct this part of his game.

Another coach with his work cut out for him is hitting coach Kevin Long. It is not a good sign when two of the three .300 hitters on the club are bench players – Nunez (.385) and Chavez (.303). Cano had two hits Thursday to get back over .300 (.303), but the Yankees had 6-for-32 (.188) with runners in scoring position and left 30 runners on base in the series.

One bad inning was all it took

It is easy to become spoiled by a player’s performance. Freddy Garcia may have done that to the point that Yankees fans might be disappointed by what he did Wednesday night. Think of this, though. When the Yankees signed Garcia, wouldn’t you have been pleased if you could count on his pitching into the eighth inning of a game?

I sure would, which is why Garcia deserves another passing grade even though he was on the losing side of a 4-0 score to the Tigers, a team he has handled over the years (18-8, 4.12 ERA). Garcia basically had one bad inning, but that was all it took for Detroit to take control behind the four-hit, nine-strikeout pitching for eight innings by Max Scherzer, who improved his impressive record to 5-0 with a 3.15 ERA.

Garcia seemed in big trouble in the second inning when Victor Martinez, Magglio Ordonez and Jhonny Peralta singled in succession to produce one run, but Freddy avoided further damage by getting the next three batters out.

The Tigers came right back in the third with three more runs on an RBI double by Miguel Cabrera and a two-run home run by Ordonez. It was the first time Ordonez went deep this year, in his 85th plate appearance, on a first-pitch fastball that Garcia later admitted he should not have thrown.

Ordonez has struggled this season coming off right ankle surgery, but he is a dangerous hitter, and Garcia had a base open. Coming inside with heat on the first pitch was a poor move, and he knew it. Garcia would have been better off pitching around Ordonez or trying to get him chase out of the zone, but it was too late.

The way Scherzer was pitching, the four-run lead might as well have been 10. The Yankees got only two runners in scoring position against the hard-throwing righthander, who walked two and struck out nine, and could not come to Garcia’s rescue after he held the Tigers in check for four-plus innings after the third.

The Yankees have fallen into a collective slump. Unless Eduardo Nunez starts at shortstop in the series finale at Comerica Park Thursday, the Yankees will field a batting order without a .300 hitter in it. Robinson Cano fell below .300 after going 0-for-4 to join his scuffling teammates.

The idea that Nunez could be in Thursday’s starting lineup surfaced when Derek Jeter was forced out of the game due to a sore right hip. As usual, he made light of the ailment and refused to consider it an injury, but manager Joe Girardi said Jeter was “day to day,” which could mean that Nunez will be in there Thursday to give the captain time to recover.

That the offense failed to generate anything against Scherzer does not take anything away from the effort by Garcia, who continued the Yankees’ recent stretch of solid starting pitching. In the past 16 games, starters have averaged 6 2/3 innings per game and have a combined 2.89 ERA. It is enough to make a fan spoiled.

‘Catching’ on at DH

The Yankees and the Tigers have a similar situation this year in that both clubs are going with veteran catchers as their designated hitters. Yet there is a difference in how Jorge Posada will be used by Yankees manager Joe Girardi and how Victor Martinez will be used by Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

The difference was evident Sunday. Posada was in the Yankees lineup as the DH for the third straight game, but Martinez, who was the Tigers’ DH in the first two games, was behind the plate for the series finale.

Whereas Girardi has no plans for Posada to wear catcher’s gear except in dire emergencies, Leyland plans to use Martinez in several capacities. After two days of watching rookie Alex Avila struggle at the plate (1-for-7, 4 strikeouts), Leyland decided to give Martinez a game back of the plate.

Martinez, who also played first base quite often in his years with the Indians and Red Sox, will not play there much for the Tigers except for the rare occasion when Miguel Cabrera “rests” as a DH.

“I’m not sure Jim will handle Victor the same way we will Jorge,” Girardi said. “I think he’ll catch a bit more and possible play some first base. For Jorge, we need him to get comfortable with the role of DH. The challenge will be what they do between at-bats. They have to find things to do with their minds away from the field.”

Martinez is also supplying some protection in the batting order for Cabrera, who belted a two-run home run off a 1-2 pitch from Phil Hughes in the first inning. Cabrera may have his off-field problems, but he is one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. Having Martinez bat behind him means that Cabrera won’t walk 150 times, which he might otherwise.

Posada’s mind sure seemed clear in the second inning when he hit a first-pitch fastball from Max Scherzer for his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to right. It was the first meaningful contribution from Posada, who has not been adept as a DH historically (.222, 9 home runs in 302 at-bats entering play Sunday).

The way Russell Martin has played behind the plate and next to it swinging a bat the first few days for the Yankees has quieted any possible talk that Posada might be out of position.

A.J. gets an ‘A’ in 1st outing

Perhaps the best thing that happed for A.J. Burnett Saturday came while he was sitting on the bench after an impressive first inning in which he retired the Tigers in order with two strikeouts. The Yankees struck for three runs against Brad Penny, Burnett’s former teammate with the Marlins, right off the bat and then hung another three spot the next inning on Mark Texeira’s second three-run home run in two games.

A 6-0 cushion in the second inning was just what someone like Burnett, who is atttempting to come back from a horrendous 2010 season (10-15, 5.26 ERA), needed to help his relax in his first start of the year while still battling a nasty cold.

A.J. faced a threat in the second when Miguel Cabrera led off with a double to right-center. Last year, that might have set Burnett off, but he gathered himself and struck out Victor Martinez and Brennan Boesch on impressive fastballs that were all the more effective because of the twilight. A wild pitch allowed Cabrera to reach third base, but that was as far as he went as Jhonny Peralta flied out to center.

Austin Jackson got the Tigers on the board with a home run in the third, and they put a rally together in the fifth after Boesch, Peralta and Alex Avila all singled with none out for a quick run. Brandon Inge was credited with a sacrifice despite clearly bunting for a hit, and a walk to Jackson loaded the bases.

Burnett kept the damage to a minimum as Will Rhymes grounded to Teixeira at first base for a run to cut the Yanks’ lead to 6-3. Burnett held it there by striking out Magglio Ordonez.

It was a sound effort for Burnett, whose chances for a victory improved even more when his new catcher, Russell Martin, homered with two on in the sixth to boost the Yanks’ lead to 9-3.

Judgment day is here

And so it all comes down to the final day. The Yankees and the Rays are tied for first place in the American League East heading into Sunday’s 162nd game for each team – except they really aren’t.

The Yankees need to win today at Boston and have the Rays lose at Kansas City to win the division. If both teams win or if both teams lose, then Tampa Bay will be the division winner because the Rays won the season series with the Yankees, 10-8.

The Yankees split two 10-inning games at Fenway Park Saturday, spending 8 hours and 18 minutes on the field. The night game actually ended shortly before 1:30 a.m. Sunday when Eric Patterson got his first hit in seven at-bats in the two games, a single off Ivan Nova that scored Bill Hall, who had opened the Red Sox 10th with a double and was sacrificed to third.

It was a staggering day of wasted scoring opportunities for the Yankees, who were lucky to win the first game and nearly put away the second as well despite committing four errors. They suffered their poorest performance in the clutch all season by getting merely four hits in 37 at-bats (.108) with runners in scoring position and stranded 27 base runners combined in the two games.

Francisco Cervelli’s two-out single in the seventh inning was the Yankees’ only hit in 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the second game. The Yankees’ other five runs were scored on two sacrifice flies, a bases-loaded walk, an infield out and a wild pitch. They had a runner on second base with one out in the ninth and 10th innings and failed to push him across both times.

Fenway Park continued to be a house of horrors for A.J. Burnett, who actually left the game with a shot at a winning decision. Once again, however, he was all over the place. Only two of the four runs he allowed in six innings were earned, but one of the unearned runs he yielded was on his own throwing error. It followed a brain cramp in which Burnett argued with first base umpire Brian Runge without calling time with runners on base.

While Burnett was engaged in conversation with Runge on a bang-bang play at the bag in the fourth inning, Daniel Nava was running around the bases and scored when the pitcher’s hurried throw to the plate was wild. David Cone pulled such a rock once while pitching for the Mets at Atlanta, except that was even worse because while Coney was screeching at an umpire, two Braves runners crossed the plate.

Burnett gave up six hits, including a home run to light-hitting Felipe Lopez, and two walks with five strikeouts. He also hit two batters and threw a wild pitch. In five starts at Fenway Park the past two seasons for the Yankees, A.J. is 0-3 with a 10.61 ERA. He has been skewered for 33 earned runs, 44 hits and 16 walks in 28 innings.

And the lineup Red Sox manager Terry Francona sent out there against Burnett was far from daunting. No one in the order had a batting average above .256, and three players were hitting under .200. Victor Martinez, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell were on the bench, and Adrian Beltre was home with his wife, who gave birth this weekend. The Red Sox weren’t much better than the Yankees in the clutch: 6-for-30 (.200) with runners in scoring position, 23 runners left on base – but they didn’t have anything at stake.

Yanks clinched trying to clinch

For so long we heard about how the Yankees were playing not for the American League East title and not just to clinch a post-season berth, which seemed inevitable only four short days ago. Mariano Rivera was even quoted in the New York Post as saying that the players would not celebrate clinching a playoff spot but to wait until they had clinched the division title.

It is beginning to look as if they wait that long the Yankees would sip any champagne at all.

That was the situation they found themselves in Saturday night after a second straight loss to the Red Sox following two straight losses to the Rays, who have overtaken the Yankees for the AL East lead and are amid playing a string of games against last-place teams while the Bombers are matched against their hated rivals this weekend and next with a stop in unfriendly Toronto in between.

Saturday’s game followed the same pattern as Friday night’s. The Yankees fell behind by a lot early and had to claw back into the game while counting on the second tier of the bullpen to keep matters close. It didn’t work either time.

Not even a pep talk from Tony Dungy could help. I must say that I was a bit skeptical about that. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is a long-time admirer of Dungy and was gratified to have the former NFL coach and current TV analyst say a few words, which centered on the attributes of family, faith and sticking together as a team when the going gets rough.

I admit I don’t know all that much about pro football, but I seem to remember that Dungy was the coach of a Colts team that had a chance to run the table a few years ago but tanked the last game to have players fresh for the playoffs. Was that justified when they won it all? Not to me. Did the Colts win the Super Bowl because they had rested players or BECAUSE THEY HAD PEYTON MANNING?

At least Dungy’s Indianapolis football players had their playoff berth clinched before taking a blow in the final game. The Yankees haven’t clinched anything, although we all know it would take a miracle for the Red Sox to get back into the wild-card mix. Despite winning the past two nights, they are still 5 games behind the Yankees with eight to play.

Yet the reason for that partially has been the Yankees’ lack of going for the jugular by using lineups minus resting veterans and not over-taxing bullpen arms. Sunday’s starting pitcher is Dustin Moseley, not Phil Hughes. Girardi defends his maneuvering by saying that he has managed the same way all season. On that score he is correct, and on that defense the Yankees’ case rests.

Yankees fans surely remember the September collapse the team had in 2000 when a pitching staff breakdown led to their losing 15 of their last 18 games and wheezing to the playoffs with 87 victories. That they ended up winning the World Series has been used as a sign of encouragement for the fans.

But this is a different team – older at many of the positions and a pitching staff with as many growing question marks. The wild card may not be the Yankees’ only ticket to the post-season, which would mean needing to have CC Sabathia win two games on the road rather than giving him the luxury of starting at Yankee Stadium where he has been mostly dazzling for two years.

CC won’t like this, by the way, but Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester improved his Cy Young Award credentials with seven shutout innings in improving his record to 19-8 with a 2.96 ERA.

What seems missing in this series from the Yankees is the passion and grit of a team trying to nail down a playoff spot.

Who knows? Maybe it’s contagious. In the seventh inning, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli leaned over the railing of the Red Sox dugout to try for a foul ball. Cervelli would have crashed to the floor but was held up by Boston pitching coach John Farrell, catcher Victor Martinez and outfielder Daniel Nava. Martinez then lifted Cervelli back onto the field unharmed.

Somehow, I don’t think the Red Sox of old would have done that for Thurman Munson.

The good, the bad, some ugly

Let’s get to the good stuff first. The Yankees’ victory Saturday negated Friday night’s loss and tore another page off the calendar. The Yankees pushed the Red Sox back to six games behind and improved their first-place lead in the American League East to 1 games over Tampa Bay, which got clobbered at Toronto.

CC Sabathia withstood a home run by former Cleveland teammate Victor Martinez and doubles by Adrian Beltre and Mike Lowell in the second inning to notch his 150th career victory. Sabathia had his best fastball since the All-Star break and allowed only two more hits through the eighth.

Martinez’s home run, his 10th, was the first yielded by Sabathia in 12 starts covering 80 2/3 innings. CC continued to be lights out at Yankee Stadium where he is 8-0 with a 2.64 ERA this year, all the more reason for the Yanks to earn the home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. They can’t have that for the World Series because the American League lost the All-Star Game, of which Yankees manager Joe Girardi need not be reminded.

Robinson Cano, who had three hits Friday night, added two more Saturday plus a walk and an RBI to boost his batting average back up to .332. Curtis Granderson tripled in one run and manufactured another with a stolen base that forced a throwing error by Martinez, who was once Sabathia’s catcher with the Indians.

The Yankees got Sabathia back in the game immediately with two runs in the bottom of the second off John Lackey. They had an impressive fifth inning with four consecutive two-out hits for two more runs. Ramiro Pena, emergency starter at third base, drove in his second run of the game with a single in the sixth.

What was Pena doing in the lineup of a Yankees-Red Sox game? Well, here comes some of the bad news. Alex Rodriguez had to be scratched from the starting lineup when he got hurt during batting practice. A-Rod simply was not paying attention. He turned his head to greet Fox broadcaster Joe Buck when a hard grounder by Lance Berkman, of all people, struck A-Rod in the left shin. Yes, there is room for the joke – it’s one of the few hits Berkman has had since joining the Yankees.

It is amazing that there not more injuries during BP. Baseballs are flying all over the place, off the bat of the hitter in the cage as well as the bats of the coaches hitting fungoes to the infielders. Meanwhile, balls are being thrown to a spot behind a fence back of second base by outfielders and pitchers shagging flies and players right out of the cage are running around the bases. It is absolute bedlam, and if a player has a lapse in concentration he runs the risk of an injury, perhaps seriously.

I recall an incident in Milwaukee back in the early 1980s when Yankees outfielder Steve Kemp was hit in the face with a batted ball when someone or something else drew his attention away from the matter at hand. Kemp suffered eye damage and was never the same player after that.

The Yankees may have caught a break with Rodriguez. X-rays were negative. He got away with a nasty bruise and may not miss as much time as he might have had that ball broken a bone. Another joke – good thing Cano didn’t hit the ball.

It has been a rough transition for Berkman in the week since he arrived via trade from the Astros. The native Texan has already found out what Bronx cheers sound like. Despite all the positive things that happened to the Yankees Saturday, the sound of booing directed at Berkman punctuated the afternoon. He walked in the second and scored on Granderson’s triple, but went hitless after that with a strikeout and two weak grounders.

One of the ironies about Berkman hitting Rodriguez is that the switch hitter was batting right-handed. Berkman is batting .188 from the right side and is not likely to bat much against left-handed pitching. Still, he has to be ready if needed as a pinch hitter in an extra-inning game. Berkman has two hits in 22 at-bats (.091) with the Yankees, and to think Girard had designs at one time on his batting second in the order. To remove Nick Swisher for Berkman now may get the manager committed.

The shortness in the Boston lineup was evident. The bottom third was 0-for-8 with a walk. David Ortiz appeared to let plate umpire Jerry Layne get into his head and was punched out three times. Sabathia had only four strikeouts but got 15 outs in the infield.

The Sox are so desperate to get replacements for their injured players that they signed first baseman Carlos Delgado to a minor-league contract. Delgado, a .280 career hitter with 473 home runs, has not played a game since May 10 of last year and had two hip surgeries. His contract calls for the Red Sox to make a decision by Sept. 1 about whether he will be brought up to the majors. It could be too late for Boston by then.

The manager speaks out

ANAHEIM, Calif.

It was inevitable that Yankees manager Joe Girardi as the skipper of the American League for Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Angel Stadium would run into some criticism. He knew it would be coming, and he was ready for it.

Naturally, Red Sox Nation was not happy about Kevin Youkilis being passed over for the White Sox’ Paul Konerko when a replacement was needed for the Twins’ Justin Morneau, who is recovering from a concussion. Morneau had been elected to the starting team by fans. The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera will take his place in the starting lineup while Konerko will take Morneau’s spot on the roster.

Girardi identified as a bang-bang call between two players having good years. Youkilis did finish a very close second to Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher in the Final Vote for the 34th roster spot, but despite Boston’s rage over this the Red Sox are well represented on the team with pitcher Jon Lester, catcher Victor Martinez and DH David Ortiz. Besides, pitcher Clay Buchholz, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and third baseman Adrian Beltre had all been named to the squad but had to be replace due to injury.

How many representatives does a third-place team warrant? The White Sox are in first place in the AL Central and had just one representative, pitcher Matt Thornton, before Girardi selected Konerko, who has been a big part of the South Siders’ emergence after a terrible start.

After revealing his batting order, Girardi was questioned about having Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (.274, 8 home runs, 43 RBI, 9 stolen bases, 60 runs) hit second and Rays left fielder Carl Crawford (.321, 11 homers, 50 RBI, 31 steals, 70 runs) hit ninth. Crawford was the Most Valuable Player of last year’s game at St. Louis. Jeter was MVP in 2000 at Atlanta, which played into Girardi’s reasoning.

“With a player like Carl Crawford at the bottom, it’s like having two leadoff hitters,” Girardi said. “Derek Jeter has been here many, many years in a row and deserves to bat second.”

Then, of course, came talk about the Home Run Derby in which the Yankees convinced second baseman Robinson Cano to bow out but allowed Swisher’s appearance.

“I think it’s a great event,” Girardi said. “My son will watch it, and then we’ll practice hitting home runs when we get home. We have a player in it. Robbie has some lower-back issues. We felt his back needed the rest.”

One thing is for sure, however. With home-field advantage in the World Series on the line, Girardi intends to manage the game with a victory in mind.

“We were the recipients of the home field advantage last year,” he said. “We were 7-1 at home in the post-season. We’re going to play the game hard and right and do whatever it takes to win.”

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