Results tagged ‘ Bobby Abreu ’

Yanks have biggest division lead in July in 8 years

The Yankees went into Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium with a nine-game lead in the American League East. It is their largest division lead to open a day of play since Oct. 2, 2009. The last time they were more than nine games up was Oct. 1, 2009 when they led by 10 games.

The Yanks have opened a nine-game division lead in the month of July for the first time since 2004 when they were in first place by 9 ½ games at the close of play July 23. They possess a nine-game division lead within the first 90 games of a season for the first time since 1998 when they were up by 14 games after Game 89.

Tuesday marked the 35th consecutive day the Yankees will be in sole possession of first place, their longest such stretch since a 43-day span in 2010 from June 6 through Aug. 2.

Raul Ibanez’s game-winning grand slam in Monday night’s 6-3 victory over Toronto was the first bases-loaded home run by the Yankees in the eighth inning or later that gave the team the lead since Bobby Abreu in the 10th inning Sept. 24, 2008 at Toronto. It was the fifth home run this season that gave the Yankees the lead in the eighth inning or later and the second at home (also Russell Martin’s walk-off homer June 10 against the Mets).

The Yankees are batting only .191 with the bases loaded, but they lead the majors in grand slams with six. They have led the majors each of the previous two years (2010-11) and have combined for a major-league-high 26 salamis over the past three seasons, which is double the total of the next-best teams (Phillies, Cardinals and Rays with 13 apiece).

Cano named captain of AL Home Run Derby squad

Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was named American League captain for the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby July 9, the night before the All-Star Game at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. His National League counterpart is Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp.

This year’s Home Run Derby will follow the format introduced in 2011 at Chase Field in Phoenix, featuring team competition between the leagues. Last year, the AL won, 76-19. Cano and Kemp will determine the other participants on their teams and will personally extend the invitations. Each captain will select a charity of his choice for which his team will be hitting in the Derby.

In his first career Home Run Derby appearance, Cano set a final-round record with 12 home runs, topping the previous mark of 11 set by Bobby Abreu in 2005 and matched by David Ortiz in 2010 and Adrian Gonzalez earlier in last year’s final. With his father serving as his pitcher, Cano, who joined Ryne Sandberg (1990) as the only second basemen to win a Home Run Derby, hit 32 home runs during the competition, placing him 13th on the all-time list. Cano says he will bring his father back again this year.

Major League Baseball and State Farm will donate a significant amount of money for charity through the event. Donations will be made of $150,000 awarded to the winning captain’s charity, $100,000 to Boys & Girls Club of America in the name of the winning captain and $25,000 to the charity of the captain of the losing team.

The total money amount will be determined by the home runs hit during the competition. State Farm and MLB will combine to donate $18,000 for every home run hit with a gold ball during the competition. The dollar figure was selected to coincide with the number of State Farm agents throughout the United States and Canada. State Farm will also give $3,000 for every non-gold ball hit during the Derby. Cano and Kemp are supporters of Boys and Girls Club of America and have participated in public service announcements.

Cano’s blow provides Mo needed cushion

If the Yankees sent any kind of message to the Angels in taking two of three games at Yankee Stadium this week, it was this: if you guys want to get to postseason play, you better win your division.

The Yankees increased their lead over the Los Angeles Anaheims to eight games in the wild-card race. The Angels are much closer to first place in the American League West where they trail the Rangers by two games. The Yanks are one game behind the Red Sox in the AL East.

The Angels made the mistake of giving the Yankees an extra out in the seventh inning because of an error by second baseman Maicer Izturis, who bobbled a ground ball by Mark Teixeira that should have been the third out. Instead, it loaded the bases for the Yankees, who gleefully watched Robinson Cano clear them with a grand slam against Scott Downs.

Cano was on fire in the series. Thursday was his second straight three-hit game. Wednesday night, he was a single shy of hitting for the cycle. Cano had 7-for-12 (.583) with a double, a triple, two home runs and six RBI in the series. The All-Star second baseman is back over .300 at .303 with 20 home runs and 81 RBI. He also made one of his patented charging plays with a crossover throw to nail Torii Hunter at first base to end the Angels fifth.

Cano’s salami made a winner of Rafael Soriano, who has been nearly perfect since coming off the disabled list. He finally gave up a hit Thursday in his sixth inning since returning from a right elbow injury. The other two Yankees’ runs were courtesy of Curtis Granderson, who homered for the fourth time in three games and raised his season total to 32 to tie Teixeira for the club lead.

The grand slam by Cano made the score 6-2, but that was not the final. Another “blip,” as Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been calling the recent relief work of the struggling Mariano Rivera, turned it into a one-run game. Russell Branyan came off the bench with two on in the ninth and clubbed a fat cutter from Mo deep into the right field stands for a home run, his eight in 47 career at-bats at the Stadium, which got the Angels to 6-5. Rivera settled down after that and got the final two outs for his 30th save. This is the 14th consecutive season that Mo has saved at least 30 games, tying the major-league mark of Trevor Hoffman, the only closer with more career saves. Rivera now trails Hoffman, who retired this year, by 11.

Normally, you might say it would be a lock for Rivera to overtake Hoffman as the all-time saves leader but not the way he has pitched this week. He suffered a blown save Sunday night at Boston and gave up a game-winning home run to former teammate Bobby Abreu Tuesday night. Over his past three appearances, Rivera has allowed four runs, all earned, and four hits, including two home runs, with no strikeouts while his ERA has swelled from 1.70 to 2.40.

“I’ll get concerned if it happens for a month,” Girardi said after the game.

Rivera has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt that he can right himself, but at 41 he may finally be showing signs of age. Even the other night, Girardi said that when he caught Rivera in the 1990s his cut fastball ranged from 94 to 98 mph and that now it is more like 90 to 93. Four to five miles is a big difference. One thing I have noticed is that hitters seem to be more aggressive against Rivera, who is always around the plate. For years, he took advantage of the fact that opposing hitters whose teams were trailing in the ninth would usually take a strike. Mo has spent his whole career getting ahead 0-1 on opposing hitters. Now, more and more hitters are taking the approach Branyan did Thursday.

Nevertheless, it was a positive game for the Yankees, who got another good start from the remarkable comeback man Bartolo Colon, who pitched six innings and gave up two runs and five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Derek Jeter reached base four times with three singles and a walk. Since coming off the DL July 4, the Captain is batting .312 with eight doubles, one triple, two home runs and 21 RBI in 31 games and 125 at-bats.

It was a good day for the Yankees, and they have had a lot of them. They are playing .800 ball in the daytime with a 32-8 record.

Another tough night for Mo

The Yankees’ aggressiveness on the bases has been a major factor to the team’s success this year. Tuesday night, that aggressiveness both helped and hurt them in a 6-4 loss to the Angels than ran the Yanks’ losing streak to three games.

Where it helped was in the seventh inning when Brett Gardner swiped second, extending his string of successful steal attempts to 22, and was able to score the tying run on a single by Derek Jeter. Where it hurt was the last play of the game when Curtis Granderson took off too soon for second base and was caught in a rundown and tagged out as Mark Teixeira stood at the plate.

It certainly was strange to see a player as alert as Granderson pull such a rock. The Yankees had the potential tying runs on base and their leading home run hitter up. To get picked off in that situation is nothing short of stunning. It was almost as surprising as watching Mariano Rivera leave the mound in the ninth inning without the lead for the second straight game.

Two nights after blowing a save in Boston, Rivera cost the Yankees another game by giving up a two-out, two-run home run to former teammate Bobby Abreu, who is having a big year against them. It was the second homer of the game for Abreu, who entered the game with only four jacks in 383 at-bats this season. Abreu has 8-for-14 (.571) with two home runs and four RBI this year against the Yankees and is batting .243 against everybody else. He had a good swing on a bad cutter from Mo.

Nevertheless, the Yankees had a chance to pull the game out against the Angels’ impressive closer, Jordan Walden, who throws in the high 90s but was a bit wild in the ninth. Eduardo Nunez led off with a single and stole second. Talk about aggressiveness! It was a daring move for a rookie like Nunez to try for a stolen base with his team two runs behind, but it worked.

Walden struck out Brett Gardner with high heat, but Jeter worked a walk. Granderson’s speed came in handy when he hit a ground ball to second base because he beat the play at first base to avert a double play as Nunez crossed to third. When the count got to 1-2 on Teixeira, Granderson should have looked for a chance to steal second, but the last thing a runner can do in that spot is get picked off.

Walden pulled the third-to-first move that almost never works, but Granderson broke for second and was trapped. It was a tough ending for Granderson, who had given the Yankees the early lead with his 29th home run in the first inning.

The Angels, who trail the Rangers by 1 ½ games in the American League West, are also the Yankees’ closest competitors in the wild-card race, and the visitors from Anaheim shaved off a game and now trail by six.

Burnett’s winless streak continues

In his previous start last week at Chicago, A.J. Burnett was given a 13-1 lead but could not last the five innings required to qualify for a winning decision. Tuesday night against the Angels at Yankee Stadium was entirely different. The early lead he got this time was just 1-0, on Curtis Granderson’s 29th home run, in the first inning, and Burnett kept it that way into the sixth.

Then everything fell apart.

A leadoff home run by Bobby Abreu tied the score. Okay, the Yankees were still in the game, no reason to panic. Over the first five innings, Burnett scattered five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out six. He kept the Angels hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position.

After the Abreu home run, however, Burnett suddenly lost the plate. He ended up walking the bases full (one walk was intentional) and let the Angels go ahead, 4-1, on a two-run, ground-rule double by .185-hitting catcher Jeff Mathis and a wild pitch. Just like that, a beautiful outing turned into another dark August game for Burnett, who has not won a game this month in three years.

A three-run rally after two were out in the seventh inning got the Yankees even and took A.J. off the hook, but he remained winless in his past 14 August starts. Since his last August victory Aug. 21, 2008, which was when he was still with the Blue Jays and it came against the Yankees, 2-1, Burnett is 0-9 with a 6.32 ERA in 94 1/3 innings. Even more pressing an issue for the Yankees is the current winless streak Burnett is on. He has not won a game since June 29. In seven starts since, A.J. is 0-3 with four no-decisions and a 6.21 ERA in 44 innings.

With all the current talk about who might be in and who might be out in the Yankees’ six-man rotation, Burnett is walking a slender line. Manager Joe Girardi points to Burnett’s track record as a confidence factor, but the results haven’t been there lately, and this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately game.

The Yankees showed resilience in coming back against Dan Haren, who has been hot lately. He entered the game with a 2-0 record and 1.09 ERA over his previous three starts. This game was the big hurdle in the three-game set against the Halos because the Yankees caught a break in not having to face Jered Weaver or Ervin Santana, the other top guns in the Los Angeles rotation.

Haren was motoring along until Russell Martin doubled to left with two out. Eduardo Nunez dropped a single in front of right fielder Torii Hunter that scored Martin. Brett Gardner’s single to left knocked Haren out of the game. Reliever Fernando Rodney allowed Gardner to steal second base with a pitch in the dirt that Mathis blocked. The steal was big because Gardner was able to score the tying run on Derek Jeter’s two-run single to center.

Good & bad about All-Star selections

The good news is that the Yankees will have six players on the American League roster, four in the starting lineup, for the All-Star Game July 12 at Chase Field in Phoenix. The bad news is that several deserving players from the Yankees will not be making the trip next week to Arizona.

Let’s start with the positive. The Yankees will make up three-quarters of the AL starting infield for the third time in franchise history with second baseman Robinson Cano, third baseman Alex Rodriguez and shortstop Derek Jeter.

The only other time the Yankees had three infielders elected to the starting unit was for the 2004 game at Minute Maid Park in Houston with Rodriguez, Jeter and first baseman Jason Giambi.

The Yankees also had three starting infielders in 1980 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, but only one – shortstop Bucky Dent – had been elected by the fans. Graig Nettles started at third base as a replacement for injured George Brett of the Royals. The Brewers’ Paul Molitor was voted the starter at second base but had to be replaced due to injury as well. The Angels’ Bobby Grich was added to the roster, but the Yankees’ Willie Randolph started the game at the position.

This will mark the 10th time that the Yankees have had at least three infielders on the All-Star roster. First baseman Mark Teixeira’s failure to make the squad this year cost the Yankees the chance to have four infielders overall for the third time. The Yankees had four infield All-Stars in 2002 at Miller Park in Milwaukee (Jeter, Giambi, 2B Alfonoso Soriano, 3B Robin Ventura) and in 1939 at Yankee Stadium (1B Lou Gehrig, 2B Joe Gordon, 3B Red Rolfe, SS Frankie Crosetti). Giambi and Soriano were starters in 2004 and Gordon in 1939.

Other years in which the Yankees had three All-Star infielders were 1950 at Comiskey Park in Chicago (1B Tommy Henrich, 2B Jerry Coleman, SS Phil Rizzuto), 1957 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis (1B Moose Skowron, 2B Bobby Richardson, SS Gil McDougald), Game 1 in 1959 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh (Skowron, Richardson, SS Tony Kubek), Game 2 in 1959 at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles (Skowron, Kubek, McDougald) and 2006 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh (Cano, Jeter, Rodriguez).

Yankees catcher Russell Martin had led in the voting until the last week when he was passed by the Tigers’ Alex Avila. At least Martin made the team as an alternate. His handling of the Yanks’ pitching staff has been superb.

Mariano Rivera was an obvious choice for the staff despite his blown save Sunday, which ended a 26-save streak against National League clubs in inter-league play.

Now for the head-scratching stuff – why no Teixeira or CC Sabathia? And has anyone other than Yankees fans been paying attention to the season David Robertson is having?

Tex fell out of the balloting lead at first base last month behind the Red Sox’ Adrian Gonzalez, an admitted Most Valuable Player Award candidate, but still ran a strong second in the voting. The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera cannot compare with Teixeira defensively and trails him in homers, 25-17, and RBI, 65-56, but his .328 batting average is 80 points higher than Tex’s.

Now, here’s the rub. Teixeira has been invited to participate in the Home Run Derby. Nice. He can’t be on the team but he can fly all the way to Phoenix and take part in an exercise that could ruin his swing. Ask Bobby Abreu or David Wright about that? Say no, Tex.

All Sabathia has done is lead the AL in victories with 11 and posted a 3.05 ERA. Oh, that’s right. Pitching victories do not count anymore. I guess that’s why there was room for Felix Hernandez on the staff. The word is that CC pitching Sunday before the Tuesday night All-Star Game hurt his chances of making the team. Dumb reason.

To his credit, AL manager Ron Washington of the Rangers said nice things about Robertson when Texas was in town and that he was given him strong consideration. With so many other Yankees on the team, Robertson didn’t stand much of a chance, particularly since every team needs to be represented. When you see the Royals’ Aaron Crow in the pre-game announcements, think of Robertson. Crow, also a set-up reliever, is Kansas City’ lone representative.

It is a tough break for Robertson, but he is no more deserving than Sabathia, so it is hard to say he was snubbed. A lot of people don’t like the baseball rule about All-Star Games having to have players from each team, but I think it is a good thing. The 2012 game is supposed to be in Kansas City. It would be a shame if someone from the Royals was not on the team.

Each club no matter where it is in the standings has someone who deserves All-Star recognition. That the Yankees have so many is a testament to the terrific season the team is having.

Yanks have a devil of a time with Angels

The Yankees’ longest winning streak this season of four games came to an end Friday night against the Angels and Jered Weaver, who ended a personal four-game losing streak and won for the first time in seven starts since April 25.

Weaver was tested early by the Yankees, who came back from a 2-0, first-inning deficit to tie the score, but the righthander got tougher later in the game after the Angels had regained the lead at 3-2, which would be the final score. The Yankees had only two base runners after the fourth inning when they knotted matters on a two-out double by Jorge Posada, who hit the ball hard again in the seventh but the Angels’ fleet center fielder, Peter Boujos, ran the ball down.

That Weaver lasted through seven innings was impressive considering he was working with a high pitch count from the very beginning of the game. Derek Jeter led off with a 15-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off 10 consecutive pitches before flying out to center field. It might have been a case of Weaver winning the battle but the Yankees winning the war. Instead, Weaver patched up his wounds and ended up causing more casualties for the Yankees in a 119-pitch effort.

Weaver had opened the season by winning his first six starts but was 0-4 with two no-decisions in his next six starts despite pitching to a decent 3.38 ERA. Lack of run support from the Angels’ offense was a factor. For example, Weaver allowed only one run in 16 innings over his previous two starts but did not get a decision in either game.

Yankees starter Ivan Nova remained winless in three starts since May 17, but he pitched much better than his prior start when he was knocked out in the fourth inning at Seattle. Nova pitched into the seventh this time and withstood a hard line drive off his right forearm to keep the game close.

Nova hurt himself with a wild pitch in Los Angeles’ two-run first inning that put a runner in scoring position who was driven home by Bobby Abreu’s double. A passed ball by Russell Martin sent Abreu to third, and he scored an unearned run on an infield out. Martin, back in southern California where he played for five seasons with the Dodgers, atoned for his miscue with an RBI single in the second that scored Alex Rodriguez, who led off with a double. The double by Posada was the Yankees’ only other hit.

Weaver walked four batters, including Rodriguez, who scored on the Posada double that tied the score in the fourth. The Angels loaded the bases against Nova in the bottom of the inning but got only one run on a single by Boujos. Nova stopped the bleeding with a strikeout of Maicer Izturis and a flyout by Erick Aybar.

That run would have to be enough for Weaver as the Angels continued to struggle by going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranding 10 runners. The Yankees weren’t any more successful with relievers Scott Downs in the eighth and Jordan Walden (13th save) in the ninth.

Despite the remarkable first-inning at-bat, Jeter was hitless and remained stuck on 2,984 for his career. Curtis Granderson also had a tough night (0-for-4, 3 strikeouts) as the Yankees struck out 11 times in all.

The Yankees may catch a break Saturday night in that Dan Haren (5-3, 2.29 ERA) has been scratched as the Angels’ starter due to back stiffness and replaced by Ervin Santana (3-4, 4.34 ERA) while the Bombers will have ace CC Sabathia (6-3, 2.98 ERA). However, Sabathia’s .417 winning percentage (5-7) against the Angels is his second lowest against opponents. The lowest is .111 against the Yankees based on a 1-8 record against his current club when he was with the Indians.

A home run to savor

There isn’t a major-league player who cannot remember everything about his first home run in the big leagues. In the case of Colin Curtis, he will have quite a story to tell years from now.

Okay, so it may not be as hard to believe as the Red Sox’ Daniel Nava hitting a grand slam on the first pitch he saw as a major leaguer June 12, but Curtis will be able to spin a pretty good yard and get his fair share of “I can’t believe it” looks.

There was the rookie outfielder sitting on the bench of the home dugout at Yankee Stadium wondering with the rest of his teammates just what Brett Gardner did to get ejected from the game for beefing to plate umpire Paul Emmel about a called strike in the seventh inning. Emmel was the same ump who threw manager Joe Girardi out of Tuesday night’s game, so this is not the Yankees’ favorite crew.

Curtis was snapped into action by the voice of bench coach Tony Pena, who chirped, “Ready to hit, CC!” I’m just surprised that CC Sabathia, who is always ready to swing a bat, didn’t get to his feet first and volunteer to celebrate his 30th birthday by taking some hacks.

A player sort of knows where he stands on the depth chart when he is the one chosen to pinch hit and inherit a count of no balls and two strikes. Curtis, a testicular cancer survivor, has been a feel-good story for the Yankees this year, but he is a rookie, and this was a situation for a rookie. Man, did he never make the most of it.

Curtis hung tough against Scot Shields and worked the count full before getting a fastball to his liking and driving the ball into the right field stands, a three-run blow that turned a 7-5 score into 10-5 on the way to a 10-6 Yankees victory.

This was a game that the Yankees should have put away but were on the verge of losing several times. Only some uncharacteristically strange base running by the Angels kept them from coming back completely from an early 6-0 deficit. The Halos closed to 6-5 against a withering Javier Vazquez in the sixth on a two-run homer by 2009 World Series hero Hideki Matsui, his second bomb of the series and third at the Stadium this year.

The Angels left the bases loaded that inning against David Robertson with Juan Rivera oddly held at third base on a single by Erick Aybar that should have tied the score. Aybar had pulled a rock on the bases in the fifth. At second base with one out and left-handed hitting Bobby Abreu, who owns Vazquez (.316, 10 homers) at bat, Aybar tried to steal third and was thrown out by a wide margin by Francisco Cervelli, who had a clear shot at the runner.

Los Angeles left the bags full again in the seventh before the Yankees took charge in the bottom half on Juan Miranda’s solo homer that preceded Curtis’ dramatics. And if you don’t think the Yankees wanted this game badly, consider that Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth in a non-save situation with a four-run lead.

Mo preserved the victory for Vazquez, who beat the Angels for his first time in his career to join lefthanders Jamie Moyer of the Phillies and Barry Zito of the Giants as the only active pitchers in the majors to have defeated all 30 clubs. Still, Vazquez lasted merely two batters into the sixth, forcing the bullpen to log four innings, raising its total to 20 over the past four games.

Each team had 15 hits and was 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position, but the Yankees had one more home run and did not do anything stupid on the basepaths. Robinson Cano was walked twice intentionally but also found time to hit his 18th home run. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira had three hits apiece. Tex also drove in three runs to keep up his scorching July pace. He is batting .383 with eight doubles, five home runs and 17 RBI in 16 games covering 60 at-bats this month and hiked his batting average 25 points to .256.

For all that, Wednesday’s game could easily have gone into the L column and was saved by a rookie down to his last strike the moment he stepped to the plate coming through and providing his team and himself a special memory.

Cano needs to be careful

Robinson Cano has agreed to take part in the All-Star Home Run Derby. Let’s hope the Yankees second baseman doesn’t suffer the same consequences of other former participants whose swings were altered by the process.

Bobby Abreu, David Wright and Josh Hamilton are just a few examples of players whose power swings were tempered after having impressive showings in the Home Run Derby. All three eventually got their grooves back, but the popular exhibition has had a hangover effect.

Not on everybody, of course. Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez won the Home Run Derby before the 1997 All-Star Game at Cleveland and went on to hit a career-high 44 home runs that year and also set personal bests in RBI (141) and batting (.296) in finishing second to former Mariners teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Mike Piazza quit participating after failing to hit one home run two years in a row. Alex Rodriguez needs to protect his surgical right hip and no longer takes part. Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols begged out this year.

Cano’s AL mates will include Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera and Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells. Good luck, Robbie, but try not to develop any bad habits.

A-Rod makes milder contact with pitcher

Alex Rodriguez finally got to talk to David Huff Saturday night and was relieved to learn that the Indians pitcher he had struck in the head with a searing line drive Saturday was out of the hospital and feeling better. A-Rod was visibly upset by the incident and kneeled on one knee near the mound as trainers attended the fallen lefthander. Rodriguez left the clubhouse immediately after the game and planned to visit Huff at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center before learning that he had already been released and was back at the Stadium.
 
A-Rod reached Huff by cell phone while the pitcher was on the Indians’ team bus going back to their Manhattan hotel. Rodriguez recalled the time Bobby Abreu hit the Twins’ Nick Blackburn with a liner two years ago but knew this was worse because Huff was motionless for several minutes.

“Definitely, it was a heart-stopper,” A-Rod said. “David lay there for it seemed like 30 minutes, although it was probably three or four minutes. The one thing that I was most concerned with was if his family was in the stands. Sure enough, his whole family was here.

“In front of 55,000 people, only one person knows how hard you hit it. A lot of times you hit it back up the box, you hit it off the end or you get jammed, but I hit that ball really flush. It sounded like it hit a brick wall. He actually kidded with me that he was going to come find me during batting practice and ask me if that was my best shot, if that’s all I got. My answer would have been, ‘Yeah. That’s all I got.’ “

Amazingly, Huff might even make his next scheduled start Thursday at Detroit, although that has yet to be determined.