May 2013

Gardner pulled off an ‘Endy Chavez play’

I remember the first time I walked out on the field at Citi Field the year it opened in 2009 and looked at the left field wall and thought what a mistake the Mets made. Instead of an eight-foot high fence such as the one at old Shea Stadium, the same area at Citi Field had a 16-foot wall that resembled the old San Diego Stadium, later known as Jack Murphy Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium.

Whatever name the San Diego yard had, it was a lousy idea to have such a wall around the outfield because it took away the possibility of an outfielder making a home run-robbing catch. I remember Dave Winfield making a fence-climbing grab in left field at Yankee Stadium during a playoff game in 1981 and telling me afterwards, “I couldn’t have done that in San Diego.”

In the same vein, one of the Mets’ greatest postseason moments at Shea could not have occurred at Citi Field in its first three seasons. Left fielder Endy Chavez’s leaping, glove-extending grab of a drive by Scott Rolen denied the Cardinals third baseman a two-run home run in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series.

I covered that game for and recall writing a story that rated Chavez’s play with those of other New York outfielders in postseason play, such as the World Series catches by the Dodgers’ Al Gionfriddo off the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio in 1947, the Giants’ Willie Mays off the Indians’ Vic Wertz in 1954, the Dodgers’ Sandy Amoros off the Yankees’ Yogi Berra in 1955, the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle off the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges in 1956, the two beauties by the Mets’ Tommie Agee off the Orioles’ Elrod Hendricks and Paul Blair in 1969 and the Yankees’ Paul O’Neill’s hamstring-straining, game-ending rundown of a drive by the Braves’ Luis Polonia in 1996.

Although the Mets eventually lost the game and the series, Chavez’s catch has been defined as the greatest defensive play in Shea’s history, with only Ron Swoboda’s belly-flop snaring of a Brooks Robinson liner in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series qualifying as a rival, another play to which I referred in the 2006 NLCS story.

All of this came to mind Monday night when Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner took away a potential two-run home run by Daniel Murphy in the sixth inning that preserved at the time a 1-0 lead for the Bombers. Gardner was able to make such a smashing play because the Mets had the good sense to change the dimensions prior to the 2012 season.

Part of the reason for the change was that Mets right-handed hitters, particularly David Wright, the face of the franchise, were getting psyched out by the unfriendly distances. Wright and his pals would continually watch well-struck drives turn into 400-foot outs. But the best part may have been the erection of an eight-foot fence in front of the previous one. It created a party deck that has been a featured seating section and has allowed the outfielders to have a chance to act like Jesse James once in a while.

“Thank goodness it’s a part of the park where it’s a fence, not a wall,” Gardner said after the game. “The poles out there have got some pretty good pads in front of them, so I’m fine. It wouldn’t be as difficult if I was a little taller [5-foot-10]. You’ve just got to hope that you’re able to get a good clean jump. You want to get back there close to the fence as possible, but you don’t want to run into the fence or hit the fence on the way up. I was able to time it just right.”

It was a gem of a play, one that pitcher Phil Hughes called the best catch he ever saw from the mound. It certainly was reminiscent of the play Chavez made. Unfortunately for the Yankees, it was also similar to Chavez’s play in that the opposition came back to win the game.

Mets prevail in rare bullpen failure by Yankees

Wasn’t the pitchers’ duel in this series supposed to be Tuesday night? That is when the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda goes up against the Mets’ prized rookie, Matt Harvey. Subway Series fans got a pitchers’ duel in Monday night’s opener as an appetizer with the Yankees’ Phil Hughes and the Mets’ Jonathan Niese matching zeroes for five innings.

The spell was broken in the sixth by Brett Gardner, who helped the Yankees take the lead and then kept them in front in the bottom half of the inning. Gardner led off the sixth against Niese with a slicing drive down the left field line where Lucas Duda attempted a diving catch but could not get there in time. As the ball rolled behind him, Gardner put on the jets and ended up with a triple.

Jayson Nix, playing the shortstop position that Derek Jeter had previously manned in all previous Subway Series, delivered Gardner to the plate with his second hit of the game, a single to center. Niese recovered nicely by getting Robinson Cano to ground into a double play.

Gardner got into the act again in the bottom of the sixth. With Niese, who had two of the four hits off Hughes, on first base and two out, Daniel Murphy hit a drive to deep left-center where Gardner made a leaping catch to rob the second baseman of a home run that would have given the Mets the lead. Gardner’s glove was above the orange line atop the fence that signals a home run when he gloved Murphy’s clout.

Hughes’ good fortune ended at the top of the seventh, however, when David Wright, who had tripled with two out in the first inning but was stranded, drove a 2-2 fastball to left-center for his seventh home run that tied the score. Gardner would have needed a crane to stop that one.

Hughes and Niese both came out of the game after the seventh inning and had similar pitching lines in terrific efforts that did not warrant no-decisions. Hughes allowed one run and four hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Niese gave up one run, eight hits and one walk with four K’s. Kuroda and Harvey would love to post such lines Tuesday night.

This game ended up in the bullpen, which is usually to the Yankees’ advantage, but the Mets’ 2-1 victory was at the expense of David Robertson, who had a shaky eighth inning, as the Yankees lost for the first time this season in 23 games in which they had the lead after the sixth. D-Rob gave up a one-out double to Mike Baxter and compounded the situation by walking pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin.

A passed ball by Chris Stewart advanced the runners to second and third. The Yankees got the second out when Baxter tried to score on a contact play and was thrown out by Robinson Cano on a close call at the plate. Murphy, hoping to get another important at-bat after losing a homer to Gardner, knocked in the deciding run with a line single to center.

As he broke from the box, Murphy tossed his bat in a sort of tomahawk fashion. The Mets have had issues this year with players flipping bats, notably Valdespin, who has irritated some clubs.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi defused the situation by saying, “I don’t have an issue with it. It’s an emotional game. I would only have a problem with it if a player is trying to show up a team.”

Hard to believe: A Subway Series without Jeter

It is fair to say that Monday was the first day this year when Derek Jeter was conspicuously absent. That is not to say that the Captain isn’t missed. No matter how well Jayson Nix and before he got hurt Eduardo Nunez have played shortstop in his absence, neither player has exactly made the Yankees’ fan base forget all about Jeter.

However, the Yankees have played such an invigorating brand of ball over the first 50 games of the season that Jeter’s loss while recovering from left ankle surgery has been muted to a degree.

Now comes the Subway Series and, oh boy, where is Derek?

Jeter has been every bit the face of this annual inter-league competition. He and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are the only players still active with the Yankees who were part of the first regular-season series between the New York clubs in 1997. Manager Joe Girardi also goes back to ’97 as the Yankees’ regular catcher. In fact, he got three of the Yankees’ nine hits in that first game when Mets righthander Dave Mlicki silenced a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium by pitching a 6-0 shutout over the Yankees and Pettitte. Jeter struck out to end the game, which was really the last time the Mets had the upper hand in the series.

DJ and Mo are the only players who have been part of the Subway Series on a continuous basis since then. Pettitte spent three seasons in Houston, and Girardi went back to Chicago and later started his managerial career in Miami. Rivera missed last year’s annual grudge match because of right knee surgery, and Jeter will miss this week’s slate of games at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium.

It felt weird coming to Flushing and not chatting it up with Jeet about the series. He always tried to downplay it but then would take the field and play as if he wanted to knock the Mets’ block off. He often did, too.

In 84 games and 380 at-bats in his career against the Mets, Jeter has batted .368 with a .421 on-base average and a .548 slugging percentage for a .948 OBP with 66 runs, 19 doubles, 2 triples, 13 home runs and 43 RBI. He found Shea Stadium to his liking (.321, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 18 RBI in 34 games and 137 at-bats) but not so much Citi Field (.233, 2 doubles, 2 RBI in seven games and 30 at-bats).

And, of course, Jeter was the Most Valuable Player of the real Subway Series, the 2000 World Series in which the Yankees beat the Mets in five games, by hitting .409 with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs and 2 RBI. It is hard to imagine these two teams playing on the same field together without Jeter being a part of it, but that will be the case the next four nights.

Subway Series Week is here

With the shift to two 15-team leagues in Major League Baseball this year that has led to inter-league play on a daily basis, the Subway Series has gone from a six-game, separate-weekend series to a four-game, home-and-home set on consecutive dates Monday and Tuesday nights at Citi Field and Wednesday and Thursday nights at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees are 22-18 on Memorial Day since 1971 when the holiday began being celebrated on the last Monday in May following the National Holiday Act of 1971. They did not play on Memorial Day in 1973, 2004 or 2005. The Yankees are 7-4 on Memorial Day since 2000. This year marks the first time they will play an inter-league game on Memorial Day. The Yanks are playing on the road on Memorial Day for the third straight year and seventh time in the past eight seasons.

The Yankees lead the all-time series at 54-36, a .600 winning percentage, including a 25-20 (.556) mark in Queens. They are 8-4 at Citi Field after having gone 17-16 at Shea Stadium. The Yanks have won nine of the past 11 games between the clubs, 19 of 27 and 36 of 60 since the start of 2003. Last year the Yankees were 5-1 against the Mets with a three-game sweep at the Stadium and winning two of three at Citi Field. The Yanks are 8-2-6 in season series against the Mets, whose only season series victories were in 2004 and 2008.

Probable starting pitchers for the games in Queens are the Yankees’ Phil Hughes (2-3, 5.51 ERA) vs. the Mets’ Jonathon Niese (3-5, 4.80 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. Monday on YES and a marquee pairing of the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda (6-3, 2.67 ERA) and Mets heralded rookie Matt Harvey (5-0, 1.93 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 9.

For the games in the Bronx, it will be the Yankees’ David Phelps (3-2, 3.96 ERA) vs. the Mets’ Jeremy Hefner (0-5, 4.76 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday on YES and the Yankees’ Vidal Nuno (1-1, 1.93 ERA) vs. the Mets’ Dillon Gee (2-6, 6.34 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. Thursday on YES. All games will be carried on WCBS-880AM Radio and WADO-1280AM Radio in Spanish.

Other inter-league items about the Yankees:

Derek Jeter is the all-time leader in hits (345) and runs (195) and ranks fourth in doubles (55).

Alex Rodriguez is the all-time leader in RBI (198) and ranks second in hits (307), third in runs (183) and fourth in home runs (51).

Mariano Rivera is first in saves (72) and has converted each of his past 28 save opportunities in home inter-league play games dating to June 14, 2001. Mo has not allowed a run in home save chances over that span covering 28 innings in which he has allowed six hits, two walks and a hit batter with 34 strikeouts.

CC Sabathia is tied for third in victories (23).

Andy Pettitte has made the most starts (53).

Sabathia and Pettitte are tied with each other for the second-most strikeouts (266).

Yankees pitchers have batted a combined .097 (32-for-330) with eight doubles, 11 RBI and 40
sacrifices in 330 inter-league at-bats. They have only two hits (singles by Pettitte and Ivan Nova) in their past 49 at-bats dating to June 23, 2010 at Arizona.

Yankees pitchers have never homered in inter-league play. The last Yankees pitcher to hit a home run in a regular-season game was Lindy McDaniel Sept. 28, 1972 off Tigers lefthander Mickey Lolich in the top of the ninth in a 3-2, 12-inning victory at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium.

Woes continue for Sabathia

For so long CC Sabathia has been high among the things you can count on around the Yankees that it is surprising to see him go through the stretch he has had the past month. CC bottomed out Sunday in an 8-3 loss to the Rays in which he was roughed up for seven runs and seven hits in seven innings. Clearly, seven was not a lucky number for Sabathia as the Yankees surrendered sole possession of first place in the American League East and dropped into a tie with the Red Sox, who come to Yankee Stadium later this week.

Perhaps surprising is not the word for Sabathia against the Rays or at Tropicana Field. The Rays have been a difficult opponent for the lefthander, whose career record against them fell below .500 (10-11) with a 3.48 ERA in 220 innings. At the Trop, CC is 3-7 with a 4.39 ERA in 108 2/3 innings. He is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in the St. Petersburg, Fla., dome in two starts this season with 14 hits allowed, including five home runs, in 14 innings.

Sabathia remained winless since April 27 and over five starts in that stretch is 0-2 with three no-decisions and a 4.85 ERA in 36 2/3 innings with 37 hits allowed, five of them homers. His ERA for the season has climbed to 3.96.

Tepid velocity on his fastball has been an issue for Sabathia this season. The home runs by Sean Rodriguez, a two-run shot in the third, and James Loney, a three-run bomb in the sixth, were off ineffective fastballs. CC also didn’t help himself in a two-run second inning when the Rays got one hit, a soft single at that, by not covering first base on a play that prolonged the inning.

The Yankees could not afford such lax play on a day when Rays starter Alex Cobb, who is becoming something of a Yankee killer with a 3-1 mark and 2.21 ERA against them, was his usual stingy self against the Bombers. The righthander, who improved to 6-2 with a 2.66 ERA, took a three-hit shutout into the ninth inning before Brett Gardner finally got the Yanks on the scoreboard with his fifth home run.

That ended Cobb’s scoreless streak against the Yankees at 22 1/3 innings. They got two more runs with assistance from wild reliever Cesar Ramos, who allowed two four-pitch walks and a two-run double by David Adams, before Joel Peralta restored order.

David Huff, who was claimed off waivers from the Indians and added to the roster Sunday, also had control issues in giving up a run in the eighth on two walks and a double to Desmond Jennings. From the seventh inning on this year, the Yankees have outscored opponents, 70-42. This was a game, however, that was decided long before the seventh inning.

Yankees add pitcher, drop Francisco

The cleaver finally came down on Ben Francisco, the least productive of Yankees hitters this season. Francisco, who was used at designated hitter and in the outfield, was designated for assignment Sunday as the Yankees needed to create roster space for pitcher David Huff, whom they claimed off waivers from the Indians. Francisco batted .114 with one home run and one RBI in 44 at-bats and never seemed to get untracked.

Huff gives the Yankees another lefthander to work out of the bullpen with Boone Logan and as a long reliever, which may be important these days with starters Hiroki Kuroda (bruised right calf) and David Phelps (bruised right forearm) on the mend. Huff has an unsightly 15.00 ERA in three appearances this season. Yankees fans may recall that Huff was beaned by a line drive to the box by Alex Rodriguez in a 2010 game at Yankee Stadium.

He told reporters before Sunday’s game at St. Petersburg, Fla., “The last time I talked to you guys was the day I almost had my head taken off. I’m just super excited to be here, and I’ve got to embrace it.”

The Yankees’ 4-3, 11-inning victory Saturday night in which they trailed, 3-1, with two outs in the ninth inning was the first time they won a game in which they had two outs and the potential tying run not yet at bat since a 9-8 walk-off victory June 5, 2008 over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, won on a pinch-hit home run by Jason Giambi. It was also the Yankees’ second victory this season when trailing after eight innings. They had just one such triumph last year (1-58) in the next-to-last game of the season Oct. 2 against the Red Sox at the Stadium.

The return of Brennan Boesch from Triple A Scranton gives the Yankees their best pinch hitter back. They are hitting only .167 with two home runs and five RBI in 24 at-bats in the pinch. Boesch as a pinch hitter is 3-for-9 (.333) with one of the homers and four of the RBI. His most recent pinch hit was an RBI double as part of Saturday’s ninth-inning rally.

Of the Yankees’ 60 home runs, 20 have tied the game or given them a lead with six of those coming in the seventh inning or later. Lyle Overbay’s 11th-inning, go-ahead homer was the first extra-inning jack by a Yankees hitter to give them the lead in a road game since April 11, 2012 by Nick Swisher at Baltimore. Overbay became the second Yankee to do so at Tropicana Field, joining Jorge Posada Sept. 14, 2010, a 10th-inning solo shot off Dan Wheeler in an 8-7 victory.

Yanks over Tampa Bay thanks to Overbay

Two outs, nobody on base and watch out for Lyle Overbay. That is pretty much how the Yankees came up with a 4-3, 11-inning victory over the Rays Saturday. Oh, sure, there were plenty of other factors that contributed to the thrilling, come-from-behind triumph, but it was a pair of at-bats by Overbay that made the greatest difference in the game that put Tampa Bay’s record back to .500 at 24-24 and pushed the Rays six games behind the 30-18 Yankees.

Overbay was a key figure in Fernando Rodney blowing his fifth save in 14 opportunities this year, a far cry from the 2012 season when the Rays closer had the best conversion rate in the majors at 96 percent on 48-for-50. Rodney entered the ninth with a 3-1 lead that Tampa Bay had acquired partially against the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen and got the first two outs of the inning.

Rodney never did get that third out. Overbay drew a walk on a 3-2 changeup, the pitch that would continue to let Rodney down that inning. After Overbay moved to second base on a balk by Rodney, Brennan Boesch, fresh up from Triple A Scranton, batted for catcher Austin Romine and poked a changeup inside the left field line for a double that scored Overbay.

Brett Gardner followed with a single to center off yet another ineffective changeup. Boesch made it to the plate with the tying run with a nice slide on a close play. The way Rodney was going he might not have ever gotten out of that inning if Gardner had not been thrown out at second base trying to steal for the final out. Gardner had made a base running gaffe by not advancing to second base on center fielder Desmond Jennings throw home, which would have negated the need for an attempted steal in that spot with Robinson Cano at the plate.

Ivan Nova, who was activated from the disabled list Friday, made his first relief appearance in two seasons and did quite a dance in the bottom of the 10th. The Rays loaded the bases with one out on a couple of singles and a walk, but Nova struck out .344-hitting James Loney on a nasty curve and got Matt Joyce on a grounder to second to keep the Yankees alive.

Then in another two-out, nobody-on situation in the 11th, Overbay made a great swing on a 96-mph fastball from Josh Lueke and crushed his eighth home run, to right field. That triggered a call to Mariano Rivera, who showed Rodney and everyone else in the Tropicana Field crowd of 25,874 how saving a ballgame is done with a 1-2-3 inning featuring two strikeouts. Mo’s conversion rate remained 100 percent at 18-for-18.

Nova got the winning decision in relief in another ensemble effort from the bullpen, the area of the game that most separates the Yankees from the Rays. The Rodney walk of Overbay was an example of Tampa Bay bullpen’s problem this season. Rays relievers have walked 73 batters in 133 2/3 innings whereas the Yanks’ pen has issued 52 walks in 148 1/3 innings. The Yankees’ relief corps is 10-4 with 20 saves and a 3.16 ERA while the Rays’ pen is 6-11 with 10 saves and a 4.92 ERA.

The Yankees were not able to hang an ‘L’ on unbeaten Rays starter Matt Moore (8-0), but they did the next best thing, which was to stay close in the game until he departed, which was after the sixth inning with the score 1-1. Rookie Vidal Nuno kept pace with Moore until the seventh when he gave up a leadoff hit.

Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan could not prevent Tampa Bay from taking the lead at that point, 3-1, but Preston Claiborne kept the inning from getting too messy. The rookie righthander came into the game with runners on first and second, none out and two runs in and got a force play and two strikeouts.

Ichiro Suzuki made a dazzling, sliding, game-saving catch in right field of a sinking liner by Yunel Escobar in the bottom of the ninth that spared David Robertson, who had started the inning with a walk to Joyce, who was sacrificed to second. Joyce almost surely would have scored on Escobar’s ball had Ichiro not gobbled it.

Suzuki also had two hits. Travis Hafner got the Yankees off to a good start against Moore with a two-out, RBI single in the first inning, but it would be a long time before they scored again and in the most difficult of circumstances – two out, nobody on base and down to their last strike. Victories do not come sweeter than this.

Yankees hope to spoil Moore’s record

The Yankees opposed Rays lefthander Matt Moore Saturday, which was the fifth time in the past 40 seasons that they have faced a pitcher with a season record of 8-0 or better. They won each of the past two such games: June 3, 2007 at Fenway Park, 6-5, over the Red Sox and Josh Beckett, who entered the game 8-0 and got a no-decision, and July 14, 2006 at Yankee Stadium, 6-5, over the White Sox and Jose Contreras, who came into the game at 9-0 and absorbed his first loss.

The other two times were June 1, 1994 at the Stadium, 5-4, to the White Sox and Wilson Alvarez, who entered 8-0 and got a no-decision, and June 16, 1986 at the Stadium, 10-1, to the Red Sox and Roger Clemens, the winning pitcher whose record went to 12-0.

The Yankees recalled outfielder Brennan Boesch from Triple A Scranton Saturday to replace Curtis Granderson, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a fractured left pinky as the result of being hit by a pitch in Friday night’s 9-4 victory over the Rays. Boesch hit .179 with a double and two RBI in seven games and 28 at-bats after being optioned there May 13.

In Friday night’s victory, each of the Yankees last four batters in the lineup (David Adams, Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix and Chris Stewart) had two hits and scored at least one run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the starting 6-7-8-9 hitters for the Yankees each had multiple hits and at least one run in the same game since Aug. 6, 2009, a 13-6 victory over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The 6-through-9 hitters in that game were Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera.

Another wayward pitch knocks out Granderson

The recent “problem” that manager Joe Girardi had of having to make four outfielders fit into three spots went away Friday night but not the way the Yankees manager would have wanted. The return of Curtis Granderson created the musical chairs situation in the Yankees’ outfield, but he is headed back to the disabled list.

Granderson, who played right field at Tropicana Field in a unit that also had Vernon Wells in left and Brett Gardner in center, was struck by a pitch from Tampa Bay lefthander Cesar Ramos in the fifth inning and sustained a fracture of the small finger on his left hand. Ichiro Suzuki, the odd man out of the starting lineup Friday night, took Granderson’s place and will likely do so for the next several weeks.

It was the second disabling injury suffered by Granderson this year for being hit by a pitch. On the first offering he saw in a spring training game by Blue Jays lefthander J.A. Happ, Granderson was hit in the right forearm that caused a fracture and kept him out of action for two months and the first 38 games of the regular season.

Granderson batted .250 with 1 double, 1 home run and 1 RBI in eight games and 28 at-bats since he was activated May 13. He played all three outfield positions as Girardi figured out daily who would play where. Now the manager is back to where he was when Granderson was unavailable.

He was not the only Yankees player to be forced from Friday night’s 9-4 victory over the Rays. Winning pitcher David Phelps, who appeared to have strengthened his position in the rotation, took a hard line drive by Ben Zobrist with two out in the eighth inning off his right forearm and had to call it a night. X-rays were negative. Girardi told reporters after the game that Phelps was not hit on a bone and may only have a nasty bruise.

Up to then, it had been a good night for Phelps, who retired the first 13 batters he faced before James Loney doubled with one down in the fifth for the Rays’ first hit. The righthander had a good fastball and was aggressive with it early in the count to put Tampa Bay hitters in a very defensive mode.

Phelps gave up three runs in the sixth, but the Yankees had eight runs by then, so the damage was not threatening. He was touched for another run in the seventh and went on to his fourth consecutive quality start. Over that stretch, Phelps is 2-1 with a no-decision and a 2.63 ERA in 27 1/3 innings in which he has allowed 19 hits and nine walks with 22 strikeouts.

All this came on a day when the Yankees got some good news on other injured players. Pitcher Ivan Nova came off the DL. First baseman Mark Teixeira (torn right wrist tendon sheath) took part in a simulated game Friday, will play games in the extended spring training at Tampa and will play at Double A Trenton Wednesday and Thursday with the possibility of a return to the Yankees by next Friday at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox.

Nova may have returned to the Yankees’ staff but not the rotation. Lefthander Vidal Nuno will start Saturday against the Rays’ Matt Moore, who has been lights out (8-0, 2.29 ERA) and at 24 is the youngest American League lefthander to start a season 8-0 exclusively as a starter since Babe Ruth with the Red Sox in 1917 at age 22. Nova will be a long man in the bullpen for the time being. The Yankees returned Dellin Betances to Triple A Scranton without his getting into a game since his May 16 recall.

Teixeira’s potential return could affect Lyle Overbay, who has done a splendid job at first base in Tex’s absence. Overbay got the Yankees on the board early with a two-run double in the third. He singled and scored in the fifth as part of the Yankees’ offensive attack from the 6-through-9 hitters who combined to go 8-for-18 (.444) with 6 runs, 1 double, 1 triple and 5 RBI.

Rookie David Adams had two more hits and scored two runs. Jayson Nix singled, tripled and had two RBI, including one on a bases-loaded walk. Chris Stewart, who played for the first time in a week because of a groin injury, had two hits and an RBI and scored a run.

On top of the order, Gardner hit a two-run homer and Robinson Cano got a painful RBI by getting hit with a pitch. Fortunately for Cano, he avoided the dismal diagnosis that befell Granderson.

Kuroda knocked out early but injury not serious

Look at it this way; it was Hiroki Kuroda’s turn. The way the Yankees have been besieged with injuries, it seems as if everyone on the roster is bound to be affected at some point. Wednesday night the arrow pointed at Kuroda, who was drilled in the right leg by a line drive from Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado in the second inning and came out of the game an inning later.

Kuroda had his first brush with injury in his first start of the season April 3 against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium when he hurt his right hand trying to catch a line drive. This time, the ball struck Kuroda in the right calf.

Manager Joe Girardi and head trainer Steve Donohue checked out Kuroda, who threw several warm-ups and stayed in the game. He got the final out of the second inning, but Girardi was back to the mound for another visit after Kuroda gave up hits to the first two batters of the third. Fearful that Kuroda was favoring the leg and altering his stride, Girardi decided to remove the righthander from the game.

This was not the Kuroda the Yankees have seen much of the year. He gave up two home runs in the first inning, a solo shot by Nick Markakis and a two-run jack by Chris Davis, who took over the American League lead with 14. Kuroda had never pitched at Camden Yards before, and the way Wednesday night went he probably wished he still hadn’t. With five earned runs charged to his record in two innings, Kuroda’s ERA shot from 1.99 to 2.67.

The injury was identified as a bruised calf and did not appear to be serious. Girardi told reporters after the game that he would be “shocked” if Kuroda did not make his next start, which could be a marque pairing with Mets rookie standout Matt Harvey at Citi Field.

Matt Wieters greeted reliever Preston Claiborne with a three-run home run to right-center that increased the Orioles’ lead to 6-1 on the way to a 6-3 final. It was the first run Claiborne allowed in the major leagues after nine scoreless innings over his previous seven outings. He got the next six batters out, and Adam Warren followed with four shutout frames to lower his ERA to 1.14 in 23 2/3 innings.

While Yankees relievers were holding down the Orioles over the last five innings, the offense could not muster a comeback attack except for the solo home runs by Curtis Granderson in the fifth inning and David Adams in the ninth. Robinson Cano had driven in the Yankees’ first run by following a double by Granderson in the third. Granderson, who was back in center field, batted leadoff and had a perfect night with his first home run, the double, a single and a walk.

Orioles starter Jason Hammel had been terrible at home (0-2, 7.79 ERA) as opposed to the road (5-0, 4.64 ERA) but finally got a victory this year at Camden Yards. The Yankees hit quite a few balls hard off Hammel, but he gave up two runs and six hits with two walks and six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

With the score 6-2 entering the ninth, there was no save situation for Jim Johnson, who has been very undependable lately. He stayed in the bullpen, and the Orioles ended up winning the series.