Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Yanks hurt again by three-game series sweep jinx

The inability to pull off a three-game series sweep bit the Yankees again Sunday. After shutting out the Angels Friday night and almost doing so again Saturday night in two victories, the Yankees put up nothing but zeroes offensively Sunday in falling to the Halos, who beat the Yanks for the first time in seven tries this season.

The Yankees swept a four-game series against the Angels June 6-9 at Yankee Stadium and had another four-game sweep May 19-22 at Oakland. Their other series sweep was a two-gamer June 14-15 at Denver. Yet all season the Yankees have not swept a three-game series. Sunday marked the sixth time this season they lost the third and final game of a series after having won the first two.

Conversely, the Yankees have been swept in three-game series four times this year — April 19-21 by the Athletics at the Stadium, April 29-May 1 at Boston, May 30-June 1 at Toronto and July 29-31 at St. Petersburg, Fla. In 24 other three-game series, including this past weekend, the Yankees won two games 12 times and lost two games 12 times.

A key hit here or there Sunday would have ended the three-game series sweep drought for the Yankees, but they were handcuffed by Los Angeles pitchers. Mark Teixeira led off the third inning against Angels starter Jhoulys Chacin with a double off the wall in center field and got to third on a one-out single to center by Aaron Hicks. Brett Gardner hit the ball hard to second base, but that was the start of an inning-ending double play.

The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth on singles by Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro and a walk to Brian McCann before Teixeira flied out to center. In the eighth the Yanks had runners on first and second with one out against reliever J.C. Ramirez, who got out of the jam by striking out Gregorius and retiring Castro on a squib in front of the plate. Hicks’ third-inning single was the Yankees’ lone hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, and it did not result in a run.

The offensive failures of the Yankees were a tough blow for rookie Chad Green, who had his second straight impressive start. The righthander gave up a first-inning run and then shut down the Angels through the sixth. Over his past two starts, Green has allowed one earned run, seven hits and one walk with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings (0.75 ERA). He lowered his season ERA over that stretch from 4.94 to 3.66.

Green grew up in Missouri and was a big fan of the Cardinals and Albert Pujols, who won three National League Most Valuable Player Awards in his time with St. Louis. Green watched his boyhood idol have another strong game only this time at the expense of him and the Yankees. Pujols had three hits and scored both L.A. runs, the first against Green.

Pujols singled with two out, advanced to second on a walk to C.J. Cron and scored on a single by Andrelton Simmons. Pujols scored again in the eighth inning against reliever Adam Warren after getting the first of three ground singles by the Angels against the Yankees’ infield shifts.

It would have been a 4-for-4 game for Pujols if not for a sensational catch in the fifth inning by Jacoby Ellsbury, who made like an NBA rebounder and jumped high to grab Pujols’ bid for a home run with his glove over the center field fence. Pujols tied Mark McGwire for 10th place on the all-time home run list with his 583rd blast Saturday night off Dellin Betances in the bottom of the ninth inning to avoid a second straight shutout loss by the Angels. Pujols did his share Sunday to hand the Yankees their sixth shutout loss of the year.

Mac, Gardy join youth corps to beat Angels again

The Yankees’ youth movement continued to pay early dividends Saturday night in a 5-1 victory over the Angels, although not all the faces who made important contributions were that fresh. Some hearty veterans did their part as well.

The Yanks came within an inning of their second straight shutout against an Angels club lingering in last place in the American League West. The Angels finally got on the board when Albert Pujols hit the first pitch Dellin Betances offered in the bottom of the ninth inning to left field for his 583rd career home run, which tied him with former Cardinals teammate Mark McGwire for 10th place on the all-time list.

That has been the only run given up in Anaheim by the Yankees, who have a chance not only to sweep this series in the finale Sunday but also the season series. They swept the Halos in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium in early June.

Luis Cessa limited the Angels to two hits, both singles, in pitching one batter into the seventh inning in his first major-league start. Obtained with fellow rookie Chad Green, who will start Sunday, from the Tigers in an off-season traded for reliever Justin Wilson, Cessa walked only one batter and struck out five to boost his record to 3-0 and lower his earned run average from 5.30 to 4.01.

The Yankees provided Cessa a 3-0 lead before he took the mound beginning with a solo home run by his catcher, Gary Sanchez, that started a two-out rally against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco. Youthful veterans Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro kept the line moving with a single and double, respectively, before the more grizzled vet Brian McCann, who has settled in nicely as the designated hitter, drove both runners home with a single.

Big Mac was also part of the Yankees’ two-run sixth in which he put himself into scoring position with a stolen base, a first since 2012 for the weary-legged catcher by trade. After his single sent Castro, who had also singled, to third base, McCann took off to the surprise of Nolasco and swiped second. And Big Mac was not finished running. He barreled his way home on a single to right field by Aaron Judge, another newcomer from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre who has made a positive early impression.

McCann has been used as the DH to give the Yanks a long look at Sanchez behind the plate. He worked smoothly with Cessa and also showed off his strong arm by throwing out Kole Calhoun at first base in the sixth inning when the Angels right fielder drifted too far off the bag.

The fielding gem of the game, however, came from left fielder Brett Gardner, who had a brutal game offensively (0-for-5) but more than made up for it with his circus catch in the seventh to rob C.J. Cron of a home run. Gardner leaped high, reached over the wall and had to contend with two glove-wearing fans to haul in Cron’s drive and somehow kept his balance by leaning his lower back across the top of the fence.

It was a remarkable play on another remarkable night in Anaheim for a Yankees team trying awfully hard to get back into playoff contention.

Late-inning blasts power Yanks past Angels

What Brian McCann did in the seventh inning Monday night at Yankee Stadium seldom happens. Usually when a player hits a long foul ball over the fence that excites the crowd he almost never follows that with a fair ball over the fence in the same at-bat.

McCann not only accomplished that against the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker but also on the very next pitch. The Yankees catcher missed a home run by a few feet, then smacked the next delivery on a 3-2 count deep into the second deck in right field for his eighth home run.

Yankees fans had not much to cheer about up to that point, but they had barely gotten back into their seats when Starlin Castro jacked a 1-0 delivery into the second deck in left field for his eighth home run. The back-to-back bombs made the score 2-2.

Prior to that, the Yankees had managed only four hits over six innings off Shoemaker, who had retired 12 batters in a row at one point. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka was trying to keep the Yankees close with another quality start. He allowed two runs on a two-out, RBI single by Albert Pujols in the first inning and a sacrifice fly by Kole Calhoun in the third. With the Yanks tying the score in the seventh, Tanaka came out of the game with his eighth no-decision in 12 starts.

Andrew Miller kept the Stadium crowd of 34,648 electrified in the eighth as he struck out Calhoun, Mike Trout and Pujols in succession. Miller wound up the winning pitcher as the Yanks mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who had ended Shoemaker’s 12 outs in a row run with a double in the sixth, lined a single to right, his third hit of the game. With two down, Ellsbury was a threat to steal and commanded much of Shoemaker’s attention, perhaps too much, as Brett Gardner was able to poke a single to center in front of Trout, who may have given up on the ball too soon.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to turn switch-hitter Carlos Beltran around to the right side and brought in lefthander Jose Alvarez. Beltran joined the home run derby by launching a 0-1 pitch to the opposite field with the ball landing in the lower stands in right field for his 14th home run.

The 5-2 victory was an especially satisfying way to begin the homestand after what happened to the Yankees in Baltimore Sunday at the end of a dismal 4-8 trip. Aroldis Chapman, who sustained his first blown save in Sunday’s stunning, late-inning loss, got a quick shot at redemption and picked up his 10th save. Recent Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Chris Parmelee made two splendid catches along the first base railing to assist Chapman, whose other out was a strikeout.

No. 7 proved lucky for Hall of Fame inductee

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — One of the many distinctions Mickey Mantle had in his legendary career was that for 45 years he was the only player who wore No. 7 to have his number retired. That changed this year when the Astros retired No. 7 in honor of Craig Biggio, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday alongside Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

I chatted with Biggio, a native New Yorker from Smithtown, Long Island, who has made Houston his home, on the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel here about that situation. I asked him if he wore the number because of Mantle.

“No,” he said. “Actually, I sort of got the number by accident.”

Biggio recalled that in his second spring-training camp he asked for a number lower than the 67 he wore the previous year as a late-season callup.

“I had worn No. 44 when I played baseball and football in high school and hoped to get that number again,” Biggio said. “But the equipment manager said I was too thin to wear a double number. So I asked him if I could have ‘4.’ The problem was that another infielder had that number — Steve Lombardozzi, who was senior to me and had played on a World Series championship team [1987 Twins]. So they gave me No. 7, the only single digit that was available at the time.

“The irony is that Lombardozzi was cut just before we broke camp, and I made the team. I could have taken ‘4,’ but since I made the team wearing ‘7’ in camp, I figured I better keep it.”

Biggio would have made Mickey proud. He was an All-Star at three positions (catcher, second base, center field) and banged out 3,060 hits, of which 668 were doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. The only players in front of him are left-handed hitting Tris Speaker (792), Stan Musial (725) and Ty Cobb (724) and switch hitter Pete Rose (746). The active leader among right-handed batters is Angels first baseman Albert Pujols with 574. Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez has 532.

After hot homestand, bats turn cold on road

First place in the American League East was all theirs for the taking Tuesday night, but the Yankees failed to take advantage of losses by the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays by suffering the same fate.

For five innings, it appeared as if Iva Nova would drive the Yanks back to the top of the division. In his second start since coming back from Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow, Nova took a shutout into the sixth inning. He wiggled out of danger in the first two innings as the Angels were hitless in five at-bats with five runners in scoring position and stranded five runners, three of them in scoring position.

Then in the sixth, the Angels struck quickly and deeply as Nova was tagged for back-to-back home runs by Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar for the first runs the righthander had allowed in 12 innings this year.

The blows offset the solo home run Mark Teixeira hit leading off the second inning against Angels starter Andrew Heaney, who allowed only one other hit through seven innings and earned his first major league victory. Other than Tex’s 19th home run, the Yankees had only five other base runners on a single by Brett Gardner, two walks, an error and a wild-pitch third strike. None of them got past first base with the Angels turning three double plays along the way.

It was a tough loss for Nova, who scattered eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. A nasty curve served him well in the game until he could not keep the ball in the yard. Adam Warren, back in the bullpen after having done a good job as a starter, did his part in keeping the Yankees close with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit, one-walk, two-strikeout relief.

The bats have turned cold on this trip, which ends Wednesday. After a homestand in which they batted .351 with 19 home runs and averaged 7.5 runs per game, the Yankees through six games on the trip are hitting .192 with five home runs and are averaging 2.5 runs per game. Of the Yankees’ 15 runs on the trip, nine came in one game.

CC ejected from his 1st Stadium win since 2013

CC Sabathia finally ended his Yankee Stadium drought and was ejected from a game for the first time in nine years all in the same afternoon. It was an altogether pleasant day for the Bombers, who extended their season-high winning streak to six games and completed a three-game sweep of the Angels.

It was the second consecutive series sweep for the Yanks, who took three in a row last week at Seattle. Sabathia said later that he wanted to get his money’s worth in griping with plate umpire Dan Bellino, who tossed the big fella as he came off the mount in the middle of the sixth inning for complaining about balls and strikes calls. Manager Joe Girardi sprung out of the dugout in his pitcher’s defense, and he was soon gone, too.

The Yankees had taken the lead the previous inning with a four-run outburst against lefthander C.J. Wilson (this was a day for initials on the mound) and would go on to a 6-2 victory, the first for Sabathia at the Stadium since Sept. 20, 2013 in an inter-league game against the Giants. In the interim, CC was 0-6 with a 9.42 ERA in 28 2/3 innings in the Bronx. He reached a milestone in the fifth inning with a strikeout of Johnny Giavotella, career No. 2,500 for the lefthander.

Sabathia got off to a shaky start. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols touched him for solo home runs one pitch apart in the first inning. CC settled in nicely after that and kept the Angels scoreless on three hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. Girardi said later that he intended to have Sabathia go back out for the seventh inning, but Bellino had other ideas when CC mouthed off about pitch location. There seemed to be a lot of griping about the umpiring in the whole series. Major League Baseball may want to take a closer look.

Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless inning apiece to get CC back in the victory column at home.

Once again, the long ball came to the Yankees’ rescue. Three more home runs Sunday gave them six in the series and 74 in 57 games. The Yankees have homered in 14 of 16 games with a total of 27 since May 22. They have 15 homers in their past six home games and 38 in 25 games at the Stadium this year.

Jose Pirela, who had doubled and scored on an infield out in the third inning, cracked his first major-league home run in the seventh. Chris Young had tied the score with a solo homer leading off the fifth. Following one-out singles by John Ryan Murphy and Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner drove a 2-0 pitch to right for his fifth jack of the year and a 5-2 Yankees lead. The Yankees are 33-11 when Gardner has homered in his career. Pirela’s maiden shot two innings later was icing.

The six-game winning streak is the Yanks’ longest since a six-gamer July 1-6, 2013. They have won a season-high six straight home games (since 5/25), their longest home winning streak since winning six straight Aug. 20-31, 2013. Their last longer winning streak at home since a seven-gamer Sept. 15-22, 2012. The Yankees’ fifth series sweep this season was their first sweep of the Angels in a series of at least three games since July 29-31, 2003 at Anaheim (3-0) and their first such sweep of the Halos at the Stadium since Aug. 29-31, 1995 (3-0). The Yankees are 11-3 in their past 14 games against Los Angeles.

Roberts’ homer comes too late for Kuroda

This was the Hiroki Kuroda we have come to know and love but had not seen much of lately. The Japanese righthander had his best outing of the season Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. It was an absolute shame that he ended up with a no-decision and remains winless on the road for the past 10 months.

On the plus side, the Yankees did win the game, thanks to a home run to right field by Brian Roberts off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri with two out in the top of the ninth inning. Roberts had a strong night at the plate with an RBI single in a two-run fifth inning.

The Yankees gave Kuroda a 3-2 lead in the eighth, and the way he was pitching it looked as if it might hold up. He got the first two outs in the bottom half of that inning but then lost a nine-pitch at-bat to Mike Trout, who smoked a drive halfway up the scoreboard in right field and legged it out for a triple.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi turned to Shawn Kelley at that point to face Albert Pujols. Kelley had hoped to bounce back from his Monday night loss when he walked four batters and gave up three runs. Pujols had other ideas, however, and lined a 3-2 pitch into left-center field for a single that scored Trout with the tying run.

That was the only earned run the Angels got off Kuroda, who gave up five hits, did not walk a batter (he did hit one) and struck out eight in 7 2/3 innings, his longest stint this season. Los Angeles’ two runs in the third were set up by a botched play by the Yankees on a sacrifice bunt.

One of the drawbacks to these over-shift defenses employe more often in recent years is that it can be exposed on bunt plays. Bunts are not as common in the American League because of the designated hitter, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose playing career was with the Dodgers in the National League, likes to rely on small ball.

Roberts was too close to second base to cover first base as Mark Teixeira charged to field a bunt by Colin Cowgill that went to the left side. Tex tried to get back to first as third baseman Yangervis Solarte fielded the ball but could not make it in time and Solarte’s throw sailed past him for an error that put runners on second and third with none out. Both scored on sacrifice flies by Erick Aybar and Trout.

The Yankees finally got to C.J. Wilson in the fifth on successive singles by Solarte, Brett Gardner and Roberts with the second run scoring as Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a double play. A two-out, RBI single in the eighth by Alfonso Soriano put the Yankees ahead, but Kuroda could not get that third out in the bottom half.

Ironically, the winning decision went to Kelley, who had allowed the tying run. David Robertson wrapped up the victory nicely for his fifth save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

The good news in addition to Roberts’ two big RBI and first home run with the Yankees was the return to form of Kuroda.

Picking spots to challenge calls important

The challenge of umpires’ calls through video replay has become integrated into the game slightly more than a month into the season. When Yankees catcher Brian McCann was ruled safe on a bang-bang play at first base, you fully expected that Angels manager Mike Scioscia would emerge from their dugout.

He did but wisely decided against challenging the call after getting a negative signal from one of his coaches who had checked with someone in the clubhouse monitoring the telecast. The play was close, but since it appeared that McCann’s cleat hit the base at precisely the same time as the relay from shortstop Erick Aybar hit first baseman Albert Pujols’ glove there was no conclusive evidence to reverse the call.

The play proved inconsequential. Had the call been reversed, McCann would have been out as the second half of a double play. He remained on base instead but did not advance as Alfonso Soriano and Kelly Johnson were both struck out by Angels starter Jered Weaver.

Scioscia was smart not to challenge because had it been rejected he would have lost a chance to challenge again before the seventh inning. This is part of the new system that makes managers think twice before asking for a video review unless they are certain the original call was faulty.

A day a young catcher will never forget

Why do fans do it? Is getting a baseball at a game more important than your team getting a crucial out in that game?

The outcome of Saturday’s game at Yankee Stadium was put severely at risk by a fan along the first base rail just beyond the dugout who got in the way of first baseman Mark Teixeira trying to catch a foul ball in the ninth inning with one out, a runner at first base while the Yankees were clinging to a one-run lead and none other than Albert Pujols at the plate.

“It’s not what you want to see,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I understand it. People want baseballs, but it’s not want you want to see in your ballpark.”

One pitch later, Mike Trout stole second base, putting the potential tying run in scoring position with Pujols given a second life and adding to the pressure of David Robertson trying to nail down his third save and his first in three weeks since coming off the disabled list.

D-Rob prevailed this time. He retired the latest member of the 500 Home Run Club on a routine fly ball to left field and then back from 3-0 in the count to perennial Yankee killer Howie Kendrick (.352 in 210 career at-bats) and struck him out.

The save by Mariano Rivera’s heir preserved an important victory for the Yankees coming off Friday night’s walloping and a memorable one for two of the team’s younger members. Backup catcher John Ryan Murphy drove in three runs with a clutch, two-run single in the second inning and his first major-league home run, leading off the fifth. It marked the first major-league victory for Dellin Betances, who pitched two shutout innings but was quick to credit the equally impressive relief work by Shawn Kelley, Matt Thoronton and Robertson.

“It makes it easier when you’ve caught someone before,” Murphy said. “I have said it before. When Betances is in the strike zone, he can be unhittable.”

“Collectively, the bullpen did a goof job,” Betances said. “The bullpen on the whole was great. We feed off each other.”

Betances also had nice things to say about his former Triple A Scranton batterymate, Murphy.

“He definitely did the job today,” Betances said. “We played together last year, and he became one of my best friends. He had a great game.”

Those thoughts were echoed by Girardi, a former catcher who well knows that games such as the 4-3 victory are savored by cachers.

“A huge day,” Girardi said about Murphy’s 2-for-3, three-RBI effort and work with starter Vidal Nuno and four relievers. “He did a great job behind the plate. [The home run] is special It’s and even means more because it was a one-run game. He’ll never forget it.”

Murphy impressed the Yankees with his work behind the plate last year as a September call-up and again this spring, but he did not begin the season on the major-league roster as the Yankees kept Francisco Cervelli to support starter Brian McCann. But when Cervelli went on the 60-day disabled list because of a hamstring strain, the call from Yankees came for Murphy over Austin Romine.

“I can’t say whether I was surprised or not because my attitude is that you always have to be ready,” Murphy said.

His two-run single came after a balk by Angels starter Hector Santiago that placed runners on second and third. The situation did not change Murphy’s approach, which was the same when he took Santiago deep off a first-pitch fastball for his home run.

“I want to be aggressive at the plate when I do play,” Murphy said. “The home run ball is going to my mom [Carolina]. I’ll let her decide what to do with it.”

Murphy did get the ball. He was on his way out of the clubhouse to meet the person in the stands who caught it and wanted to return it to him. At least one fan in the stands did the right thing.

Mound woes still troubling Yankees

What kind of night was it Friday for Hiroki Kuroda? Well, put it this way; the Angels had a 5-0 lead in the third inning and Mike Trout had not done anything yet. It turned out that Trout never did do anything. The Halos somehow soared to a 13-1 victory despite Trout going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

That is how awful things went for the Yankees. They held Trout in check and still got clobbered. Remember Brennan Boesch, who was one of the record 56 players used by the Yankees last year? Now with the Angels, he pinch hit for Trout in the eighth inning of the lopsided game. That’s something he can tell his grandchildren some day (not that they will believe him).

Kuroda had trouble keeping the ball down and was hurt more by the bottom of the lineup than the top, at least until the fifth inning when Albert Pujols crushed career home run No. 501 to left field. It was Pujols’ ninth home run this month, which tied the club record for homers in April set by Brian Downing in 1986.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the second inning on singles by Ian Stewart and Erick Aybar, a double off the top of the wall in right by Hank Conger, a suicide squeeze bunt by Collin Cowgill and an infield out. The Angels struck again with two out in the third on a two-run home run by Stewart.

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited Kuroda on the mound and likely told him he would need to take one for the team. No one was warming up in a bullpen that was pretty much spent after the recently-completed trip through St. Petersburg and Boston.

Kuroda hung on until the fifth, but the balls kept ringing off Angels bats. One out after Pujols’ bomb, Howie Kendrick doubled to right-center on a hard line drive. Kuroda should have been out of the inning on Aybar’s fly ball into the right field corner, but the usually dependable Carlos Beltran dropped it for a two-base error and a free run.

That ended the night finally for Kuroda, whose line was a bit ugly — 4 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 8 runs (6 earned), 0 walks, 2 strikeouts, 1 wild pitch, 2 home runs. Those untidy figures resulted in his ERA rising to 5.28. The righthander also had another night of non-support from his offense. The Yankees did not score while he was in the game and have had two runs or fewer in 12 of his past 17 starts.

The relatively brief outing by Kuroda added to the staff’s current woes with Ivan Nova gone for the season to Tommy John elbow surgery and Michael Pineda on suspension for another eight days. Their absence has taken lefthander Vidal Nuno and righthander David Phelps out of the bullpen for starting assignments, leaving the relief corps a bit short.

Bruce Billings had to give the Yankees some length Friday night to help keep the pen fresh for the rest of the weekend. Matt Daley and Preston Claiborne, who provided relief help this past week, are ineligible for recall from Triple A Scranton at this time because of the 10-day rule that prohibits minor leaguers from merely being shuttled back and forth.

Billings did his job, although he was taken deep by Aybar and Cowgill in the seventh. The righthander had seven strikeouts in four innings and gave the pen a break. Strangely, manager Joe Girardi brought in Shawn Kelley to get the last out of the ninth, but he gave up a run before doing so.

The Yankees did not get on the board until the sixth against lefthander C.J. Wilson, who had allowed only two singles to Brett Gardner before that inning. Beltran helped build a run to offset the one his error cost by following a one-out single to right by Derek Jeter with a double to left. Alfonso Soriano got the Captain home with a sacrifice fly to center.

Unfortunately, it was the only run of the game for the Yankees, who have been outscored, 110-100, despite holding first place in the American League East.