The Yankees had Josh Beckett on the ropes, a position they had not come close to putting him in this season, but they allowed the righthander to squirm out of it Wednesday night and ended up losing so that it is now impossible for them to leave Boston after Thursday night’s finale of the three-game series in first place in the American League East.
The Yanks found themselves in the same spot they were when they arrived at Fenway Park, 1 ½ games behind (1 in the loss column) behind the first-place Sox after a 9-5 loss that really stung. Phil Hughes failed to hold leads of 1-0 and 5-4, the second the most disturbing, and may have failed to hang on to his spot in the rotation as well, particularly if A.J. Burnett can finally come up with a big performance Thursday night, which is now decidedly necessary if the Yanks want to keep the Red Sox in their headlights.
Beckett had been lights out against the Yankees all season. The four runs they scored in the sixth inning was one more than they had scored off Beckett in 27 innings against him heading into this game. Robinson Cano and Eric Chavez came through with RBI doubles to tie the score. Eduardo Nunez put the Yankees ahead with a sacrifice fly, but that turned out to be the first of 12 straight outs by them through the end of the game as Beckett stiffened with a perfect seventh followed by duplicate efforts in the eighth by Daniel Bard and ninth by Jonathan Palelbon.
The game was there for the taking for the Yankees at 5-4, but Hughes ran into trouble in the sixth with a one-out walk to Josh Reddick, who scored the tying run on Jason Varitek’s double into the left field corner. Marco Scutaro made the second out on a scorcher to center, which had manager Joe Girardi bringing in Boone Logan to face Jacoby Ellsbury.
Logan’s stretch of 11 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run ended as Ellsbury homered over the Green Monster to make it 7-5 Boston. That was an absolute crushing blow for the Yankees, who never recovered. Varitek struck again with a two-run home run in the eighth off Luis Ayala to complete what turned out to be an onslaught. Beckett improved to 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA against the Yankees this season and 14-7 despite a 5.36 ERA in his career.
The series is even at one game apiece, but the Red Sox’ offense has hardly been quiet. Boston has banged out 25 hits – 11 for extra bases – and probably should have won two blowouts if not for having only four hits in 22 at-bats (.182) with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox have clubbed the Yankees this year, batting .299 with a .482 slugging percentage and outscoring them, 86-56.
The Yankees are batting .226 with a .369 slugging percentage against the Red Sox, who have dominated the season series with 11 victories in 14 games. Wednesday night, the Yankees had only six hits, including two singles by Derek Jeter, who had 41 hits this August, the most in a month for him since August 2009 (46).
Anyone expecting a head-hunting mission in the Yankees-Red Sox game Wednesday night was sorely mistaken, at least in the early inning work of Phil Hughes and Josh Beckett.
Collars got pretty hot Tuesday night when John Lackey hit Francisco Cervelli with a pitch in the at-bat following the catcher’s home run and somewhat over-expressive celebration. CC Sabathia and Matt Albers also hit batters Tuesday night, but the Lackey-Cervelli confrontation caused the dugouts to empty, although not much came of it except heated words.
If Lackey was targeting Cervelli, and the pitcher insisted he wasn’t, he picked the wrong time, since Cervelli was leading off the inning. Putting the 9-hole hitter on base to start an inning is pretty dumb, and it cost the Red Sox because Cervelli eventually came around to score.
Wednesday night, however, it was business as usual as the Yanks and the Red Sox concentrated on baseball.
Derek Jeter moved into the top 20 of all-time hitters with singles in his first two at-bats to pass Craig Biggio and take over 20th place with 3,061. That leaves the Captain 20 knocks behind No. 19 Cap Anson. DJ’s first hit was a single off the glove of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to score Eduardo Nunez, who had opened the inning with a double.
Hughes gave up the lead in the third. Marco Scutaro singled and Ellsbury doubled, and a big inning appeared on the way for Boston, but Hughes limited the damage by getting Dustin Pedroia on a grounder that scored the tying run and retiring Adrian Gonzalez on a fly ball. The Yankees then decided to walk David Ortiz intentionally and go after Jed Lowrie, a strategy that backfired when Lowrie singled to drive in the go-ahead run.
It’s too bad the Yankees didn’t walk Ortiz two innings later. After Gonzalez singled (his first hit in the series in eight at-bats) with two out, Ortiz drove a 3-2 fastball to center for his 28th homer and a 4-1 Boston lead.
Beckett hit Mark Teixeira at the start of the sixth, but the pitch was a breaking ball that got the first baseman in the foot, hardly a message pitch of any sort. Now it was the Yankees’ turn to take advantage of a leadoff hit batter, and did they ever.
Robinson Cano, an absolute hitting machine at Fenway Park, doubled to left-center to score Tex. Nick Swisher worked a walk, and Eric Chavez followed with a drive into the right field corner. The ball caromed past right fielder Josh Reddick, who quizzically was charged with an error that cost Chavez an RBI for one of the two runs he drove in to tie the score. What should have been a triple was instead scored a double and an error on Reddick and one RBI. Swisher is no track star, but I doubt Reddick was going to be able to throw him out at the plate. Besides, third base coach Rob Thompson had been waving Swisher home all the way, so it was not as if the ball getting by Reddick allowed Swisher to score.
The Yankees then regained the lead on Nunez’s sacrifice fly to center. Beckett may not have sent a message when he hit Teixeira, but the Yankees sure sent a message to Beckett.
The Red Sox can’t say they did not have their chances Tuesday night against CC Sabathia, who they have batted about all season. The big lefthander did not have a single 1-2-3 inning against Boston as he pitched with runners all over the place and gutted his way through six innings and 128 pitches.
Sabathia guaranteed for now at least that he would not become the first Yankees pitcher in history to lose to the Red Sox five times in the same season because he left the game with the Yankees ahead, 5-2, the eventual final score. The victory was Sabathia’s first in five decisions this year against Boston, matching the 1-4 record of Pat Dobson in 1975, the previous time a Yankees starter lost four times to the Red Sox in one year.
In an odd way, CC’s performance rated a 10. He gave up 10 hits, he struck out 10 batters, and he left 10 Boston runners on base. Six of those stranded Red Sox were in scoring position. Boston actually raised its season batting average against Sabathia from .324 to .333, but he lowered his ERA against the Red Sox from 7.20 to 6.39.
Sabathia improved his season record to 18-7 with a 2.99 ERA and his career record in the month of August to 41-12 with a 3.29 ERA, even though his August this season was merely so-so (3-2, 4.68 ERA).
The Yankees gave Sabathia some room to work with by building a 3-0 lead by the fourth. Eric Chavez, playing third base for injured Alex Rodriguez (sprained left thumb), contributed two RBI singles. Robinson Cano continued his Fenway Park success with an RBI double. He also made a splendid play snaring a line drive by Carl Crawford in the fifth that came to Sabathia’s rescue.
Also coming to CC’s rescue were relievers Boone Logan with two big strikeouts with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and Mariano Rivera, who overcame a leadoff double by David Ortiz in the ninth to notch his 35th save and career No. 594.
The Red Sox wasted scads of opportunities throughout the game. They left 16 runners on base and had 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position with only one of those hits driving in a run.
Francisco Cervelli homered for one run and scored another after reaching base when hit by a pitch as possible retaliation for his clapping his hands at the plate after the homer. Nick Swisher had a perfect night with three singles and a walk and is 7-for-16 (.438) on the trip. Cano raised his career batting average at Fenway Park to .356, the highest for an opponent with at least 200 at-bats.
It was not vintage CC, but it was a step toward the Yankees trying to gain ground on their rivals. The Yanks’ third victory in 13 victories closed the gap between them in the American League East standings to a half-game. They are even in the loss column.
There are times to retaliate for infractions of unwritten rules and times not to. One time definitely not to do it is at the start of a late inning in a game of importance in which you are trailing. Red Sox pitcher John Lackey took precisely that time to take revenge against Francisco Cervelli, and it helped the Yankees get a run.
Cervelli obviously ticked off Lackey and his catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, not only for the home run the Yankees’ backup catcher hit in the fifth inning but also because he stomped on the plate and clapped his hands when he reached home. This is a big no-no in the game of be careful not to show up the opposition.
Lackey did not waste any time. The next time he saw Cervelli as the leadoff hitter in the seventh with the Yankees leading 4-2 the righthander hit him in the back with a pitch. The dugouts emptied, and there was the usual jawing and finger pointing but no punches were thrown. Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was furious enough to get himself ejected for his behavior.
Lackey’s maneuver fulfilled the macho code but proved foolish because it eventually cost the Red Sox a run. A passed ball by Saltalamacchia got Cervelli to second base, and he crossed to third when Bret Gardner beat out an infield single on a sacrifice attempt. Derek Jeter grounded into a double play, but Cervelli crossed the plate, so just what did Boston gain for retaliating so soon?
The Yankees and Red Sox still have two more games left in this series and another series left in the regular season Sept. 23-25 at Yankee Stadium, plenty of time to make Cervelli pay for his indiscretion. What Lackey did Tuesday night was just foolish, to the Yankees’ benefit.
Derek Jeter was back in the Yankees’ lineup Tuesday night for the opener of the Red Sox series at Fenway Park. The Captain sat out the night game Sunday at Baltimore because of a bruised right knee, the result of fouling a ball off it in the afternoon game Sunday.
Jeter’s appearance in the day game Sunday at Camden Yards brought his career total of games to 2,402, the most of any player to wear a Yankees uniform, thereby breaking what Mickey Mantle had considered his most cherished career record. DJ has been moving up a lot of lists this year with the push past 3,000 hits and a climb up the career list for runs as well.
On that games played list, he also passed the Mick in another area: that of games played for one team. Like Jeter, Mantle played all his games for the Yankees. Jeter is now 16th on that list. His game Tuesday night got Jeter to 2,403, one behind Mike Schmidt for 15th. Schmidt played all 2,404 games of his career with the Phillies.
The record for most games played for one team is 3,308 by Carl Yastrzemski with the Red Sox. Also ahead of Jeter on that list are Stan Musial (3,026 with the Cardinals), Cal Ripken Jr. (3,001 with the Orioles), Brooks Robinson (2,896 with the Orioles), Robin Yount (2,856 with the Brewers), Craig Biggio (2,850 for the Astros), Al Kaline (2,834 with the Tigers), Mel Ott (2,730 with the Giants), George Brett (2,707 with the Royals), Ernie Banks (2,528 with the Cubs), Dave Concepcion (2,488 with the Reds), Tony Gwynn (2,440 with the Padres), Roberto Clemente (2,433 with the Pirates) and Luke Appling (2,422 with the White Sox). All but Biggio and Concepcion are in the Hall of Fame, and Biggio is not yet eligible.
While Jeter was back in the Yankees’ lineup, Alex Rodriguez was not. He is not expected to swing a bat in the series due to a nagging left thumb sprain that required a cortisone injection Monday. Those shots usually take a couple of days to take effect, so A-Rod is not likely to play in Boston unless needed in an emergency situation as a defensive replacement or pinch runner.
Major League Baseball and the Orioles would not heed the Yankees’ earlier request that the teams play two games Friday night at Camden Yards to avoid a washout of Saturday’s split-admission doubleheader due to Hurricane Irene reaching Baltimore, so what happened? After consulting with MLB and the National Weather Service during Friday night’s game, the Orioles announced the postponement of Saturday games.
Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. game will be made up Sept. 8 at a time to be determined as the Yankees will lose another open date on the schedule, something they had hoped to avoid by playing two games Friday. Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game will be made up at 7:35 p.m. Sunday as part of a dual-admission doubleheader with the regularly scheduled afternoon game to start at 1:35.
Tickets dated Aug. 27 at 7:05 p.m. will only be accepted at the 7:35 p.m. game Aug. 28. No exchange is necessary. Fans should bring their original tickets to the ballpark gates for admission. Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. game was a makeup for a game rained out April 22. Tickets dated Aug. 27 at 1:05 p.m. or April 22 will be accepted only for the game Sept. 8. Again, no exchange is necessary, and fans should bring their original tickets to the ballpark gates for admission.
Fans unable to attend any of the games this weekend may exchange their tickets for any remaining game during the 2011 season, subject to availability. Ticket exchanges must be completed by Sept. 28. Parking passes will be honored for the makeup games only and are non-transferable.
The Orioles’ offices and Official Team Store at the Warehouse will be closed tomorrow. Due to the impeding weather, road closures and public transportation closures in New York, the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office will be closed Saturday and Sunday.
It was clear that the Orioles did not want to lose a gate against the Yankees by not agreeing to play a doubleheader Friday. They could have still completed the series even if Saturday’s two games were lost to the storm by arranging for split-admission games Sunday or Monday.
The Yankees’ disappointment was expressed in a statement released in the name of center fielder Curtis Granderson, the club’s player representative:
“Given the advance notice and the fact that other teams have adjusted their schedules ahead of time, we are perplexed at the current options we are being presented with in regards to making up any games postponed due to Hurricane Irene. The proposition to take away our only full off day in the final month of the season is not an option, even though the Orioles’ front office and the commissioner’s office think this is an adequate solution. It’s a shame that the decision has now come down to possibly having to play four games in two days or having to come back to Baltimore for another makeup game.”
The Yankees certainly had a grand day Thursday in a game none of the buildings known as Yankee Stadium ever experienced. In fact, no ballpark anywhere did because it was the first time in major-league history that three players on the same team homered with the bases loaded in the same game.
Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson pulled off the trick. Cano’s slam brought the Yankees to 7-6 after Oakland had broken out to a 7-1 lead. Martin’s blow gave the Yankees the lead. Granderson’s just added to the barrage of runs the Yankees collected in a 22-9 blowout that took 4 hours and 31 minutes to complete, following a rain delay of 1 hours, 29 minutes; that was 6 hours of powerhouse baseball.
In the three previous times two Yankees hit grand slams in one game, all were on the road. Two were in Toronto: Sept. 14, 1999 at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) by Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill and June 29, 1987 at Exhibition Stadium by Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly. The other was May 24, 1936 at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park by Tony Lazzeri, who hit both of them.
The Yankees have a strong connection with grand slams. The career record holder with 23 is Lou Gehrig. Right behind him with 22 is Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, although only 12 of his have been with the Yankees. Mattingly’s six slams in 1987 are tied for the most in a single season (amazingly, they were the only salamis of Donnie Baseball’s career). Of the 18 grand slams hit in the World Series, eight were by Yankees players – Lazzeri (1936), Gil McDougald (1951), Mickey Mantle (1953), Yogi Berra (1956), Moose Skowron (1956), Bobby Richardson (1960), Joe Pepitone (1964) and Tino Martinez (1996).
Prior to Thursday, the Yankees never had more than one player hit a grand slam in a home game, which is pretty remarkable when you think about it. They had plenty of opportunities to hit even more Thursday. The Yankees had 17 plate appearances in the game with the bases loaded. After going 3-for-23 (.130) with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series against the Athletics, the Yankees were 10-for-21 (.476) in those situations Thursday.
There are 19 teams in the majors that have not hit as many grand slams all year as the Yankees did Thursday. It was only the third time that three slams were slugged in one game. The other times: Aug. 6, 1986 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium by the Orioles (2) and Rangers (1) and June 3, 1987 at Chicago’s Wrigley Field by the Cubs (2) and Astros (1).
The Yankees took over the major-league lead in grand slams with eight, including five this month. Jorge Posada did it Aug. 13 against the Rays and Cano Aug. 11 against the Angels, both at the Stadium. As if the 12 runs that came on the three salamis weren’t enough, the Yankees got 10 more runs on top of them.
The 22 runs marked the most for the Yankees in a game since they had that total June 19, 2000 at Boston’s Fenway Park and tied their most in a home game in franchise history July 26, 1931, a 22-5 victory over the White Sox. The 31 combined runs were the most in a Yankees game since Aug. 21, 2009, 2009, a 20-11 victory at Boston, and the most at the current Stadium. The Yanks had a season-high 13 walks, including seven in the seventh inning.
All this slamming obscured the fact that Phil Hughes had a rough start, allowing six earned runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. But, man, talk about guys picking up a teammate!
His catcher, Martin, had a 5-for-5 game with a walk and six RBI and became the Yanks’ first catcher to get a five-hit game since Elston Howard was 5-for-6 April 18, 1959 at Fenway. Cano pushed his team-best hitting streak to 16 games during which he is batting .353 with four homers and 18 RBI. Granderson took over the major-league lead in RBI (105) to go with his big-league leading 119 runs.
Derek Jeter had three hits and keeps moving up those career lists; he passed Rickey Henderson for 21st place in hits with 3,058 (two behind No. 20 Craig Biggio) and Jimmie Foxx for 20th place in runs with 1,753 (22 behind No. 19 Charlie Gehringer). The Captain is one away from tying Mantle for the most games in Yankees history. That’s a big one. The Mick always said he was more proud of that distinction than any other of his Hall of Fame career.
Despite balls flying over fences all day (Andruw Jones also homered in one of the few times the bags were empty), Rodriguez, who got his first two hits since coming off the disabled list, extended his homerless stretch to 94 at-bats. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is A-Rod’s longest power drought since he got his first career homer in his 103rd at-bat.
And to top of the long day was a good laugh, provided by Jorge Posada, who convinced manager Joe Girardi to allow him to play second base in the ninth inning. Posada began his pro career as a second baseman. He got a shaky assist on the final out of the game as Nick Swisher at first base saved his throw in the dirt, a good example of why the Yankees moved Posada behind the plate.
CC Sabathia’s candidacy for the American League Cy Young Award took a detour Wednesday night. He failed to get his 18th victory, but at least he did not suffer his eighth loss. CC’s record stayed at 17-7, thanks to Mark Teixeira’s 35th home run, in the eighth inning.
The game eventually went into extras and ended with another disappointing loss to the Athletics that dropped the Yankees into second place in the AL East. Coco Crisp had a career night with two home runs, two singles, a walk and five RBI. His second homer was a three-run shot in the 10th off a hanging slider from Rafael Soriano. Nick Swisher hit his second home run of the game and third in two games in the bottom of the 10th, but it only got the Yankees to 6-4.
It could very well be that no AL pitcher will catch the Tigers’ Justin Verlander for the Cy Young trophy this year, but Sabathia has stayed in the running a lot longer than the guy he opposed for Oakland. Remember when Trevor Cahill was an early front-runner for the Cy?
Go back to May 9. Cahill was 6-0 with a 1.72 ERA. At the time, Sabathia, who had been winless in his first four starts, was 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA. Cahill lost 12 of his next 15 decisions, and the no-decision Wednesday night kept his record at 9-12. Sabathia has been 14-4 since May 19.
Sabathia was reached for a first-inning home run by Crisp, then settled in and gave up only two more hits until the sixth inning when things got dicey but he was aided big-time by his defense.
Jemile Weeks opened the sixth with a drive to right-center. He was thinking triple all the way, but a sensational relay connection from Curtis Granderson to Robinson Cano to Eduardo Nunez gunned Weeks down. It is on plays like that when you really admire Cano’s cannon of an arm.
Derek Jeter’s RBI single in the third had tied the score. Swisher, who hit a three-run home run Tuesday night and came about a foot short of a game-winning grand slam in the ninth, drove his 17th home run into the visitors’ bullpen beyond the left field fence for a 2-1 lead.
CC let the A’s get even in the eighth on a double by Scott Sizemore, who had four hits. David Robertson’s Houdini act didn’t work for a change, and Oakland went ahead on a single by Crisp. Tex got Sabathia off the hook and tied Granderson for the club lead in homers again.
The Yankees had another grim night with runners in scoring position (2-for-10). They are 3-for-23 (.130) under those conditions in the series.
It is no longer a question of if Derek Jeter can get his batting average to .300 this year. It is only a matter of time. The Captain keeps passing Hall of Famers on the career hits list while marching into the land of .300.
You keep hearing these days that batting average isn’t as relevant a statistic as it used to be. So how come they still put batting averages on the scoreboard? I agree that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better gauges of a player’s offensive profile, but hitting .300 is still a cool thing, particularly if you’re someone like Jeter who is not a traditional power hitter.
Jeter hits at or near the top of the lineup, a place where .300 hitters are always welcome. Jeter was being written off by the same people who say batting average doesn’t count for much anymore when he hit .270 last year and was stuck on .260 this year while on the disabled list due to a right calf injury.
Mickey Mantle told me in an interview years ago that the greatest disappointment as a player was that his career batting average fell below .300 at .298. Another Hall of Famer, Tigers great Al Kaline (.297), said the same thing. Sure, you can say those guys played in the 1950s and ‘60s when hitting .300 was still a big deal, but I maintain that the .300 level remains a badge of honor.
You won’t hear Jeter talk much about individual stats, which is one of his greatest attributes. The stat he plays for is the W. All he cares about is his team winning and what he can do to make that so. You can be sure that what he liked most about his third-inning single Wednesday night was that it scored Brett Gardner from second base to tie the score against the Athletics.
Maybe years from now DJ will remember that it was the hit that tied him with Rickey Henderson for 21st place on the all-time list. Jeter passed another Hall of Famer, Rod Carew, with his infield single in the first inning. Jeter can move into the top 20 with five more hits that would bring him even with Craig Biggio.
In the meantime, .300 is a knock away – literally. That 3,055th hit got Jeter to .299. This has been quite a ride for the Captain since his July 4 return. That spell on the DL could have been the best thing that happened to Jeter.
He got to step away from the game, take a look at himself with perspective and get in some work with old pal Gary Denbo, who preached the message of stay back and trust your hands. It was a simple message, really, but one that took hold after a long year of getting into bad habits such as jumping at the ball and top-handing everything.
By hitting .351 in 168 at-bats in the past 40 games, Jeter has raised his season batting average 39 points. In his previous 16 seasons in the majors, Jeter batted over .300 11 times. An even dozen is suddenly looking like a lock.
What happened in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night as the Yankees came up one run short of what would have been a sensational comeback is something other teams see a lot but not the Yankees because their closer is Mariano Rivera.
Mo has his off games, but they are so few and far between that it may make fans think that this is the way it is everyplace else, too. Hardly. Andrew Bailey emerged as Oakland’s closer two years and won the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award, but he could not find the plate for most of the ninth inning and nearly blew the game.
The Yankees came back from a 6-0, eighth-inning deficit and preciously close to pulling off a stunning victory. Nick Swisher, who started the comeback with a three-run homer in the eighth off starter Brandon McCarthy, had the crowd on its feet to the end with a warning-track drive to center field that died in the glove of Coco Crisp to end the threat.
Swish’s homer was the Yankees’ only hit in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Yes, they had oodles of chances, but they sure seemed done going into the eighth inning. McCarthy seemed like a magician getting the Yankees to swing at ice cubes.
Bailey came on in the ninth for what is known in closer’s parlance as a “cookie,” a save opportunity with a three-run lead. He got in trouble immediately. Jorge Posada led off with a home run, and Russell Martin lined a gapper to left-center for a double. When third baseman Scott Sizemore botched a shot-hop grounder by Brett Gardner, the Yankees had the potential tying runs on base and Derek Jeter at the plate.
Despite getting three hits to raise his batting average to .295, the Captain was called on to bunt the runners over, which he did professionally. Some might question bunting Jeter there, but I don’t. As hot as Jeter has been, you cannot afford to have him hit into a double play there. Get the runners into scoring position, and bring on your 3-4-5 hitters.
In the Oakland dugout, manager Bob Melvin was in the usual rut skippers fall into when their closer is ineffective. It is the book call: I went with my closer, that’s what we pay him for. Well, fine, but what happens on a night when the closer doesn’t have it?
Bailey walked Curtis Granderson, which loaded the bases. Bailey’s only real break of the inning was when Mark Teixeira fouled out to Sizemore. Whatever breathing room the A’s though they had after that expired when Bailey walked Robinson Cano to force in a run that made the score 6-5.
When Bailey fell behind 2-0 to Swisher, it looked like another bases-loaded walk was coming or maybe a grand slam. The latter appeared possible when Swish lofted the ball to center field. You don’t get many finishes like that when your closer is Mariano Rivera.