Results tagged ‘ Brian Matusz ’

Bird filling key role in Teixeira’s absence

It was only a little more than a week ago that Yankees manager Joe Girardi contemplating using Alex Rodriguez, a season-long designated hitter, as a first baseman as part of the plan to deal with the loss to injury of Mark Teixeira. Girardi was concerned that the Yankees might be vulnerable against left-handed pitching with the switch-hitting Teixeira out of the lineup.

Fortunately for the Yankees, the play of rookie Greg Bird as Tex’s caddy has turned this situation into a non-issue. Bird got the most important hit of Monday’s 8-6 victory over the Orioles, a three-run home run in the seventh inning that unlocked a 5-5 score. It came off a left-handed pitcher, too, as Brian Matusz got too much of the plate with a slider on a count of 0-2.

As Matusz was jogging in from the bullpen, Bird ducked into the runway and watched some quick video of the lefthander, which he later said may not have helped all that much. “For me, it’s more important what I see from the batter’s box,” Bird said.

Bird anticipated fastball from Matusz and adjusted when he saw the spin indicating breaking ball. It was a big-league approach from a young hitter who has gotten more and more comfortable in the big leagues, so much so that you don’t hear too many people around the Yankees mentioning Teixeira’s injury any more.

That is the way of baseball. A player goes on the disabled list, and someone else must step up. Bird has done that for the most part. He is batting .263 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 76 at-bats. And get this: against left-handed pitching, the lefty-swinging Bird is 6-for-17 (.353) with a double, two home runs and six RBI. Who needs A-Rod to leave his DH perch with this kind of production?

Rodriguez also contributed a home run (No. 29, career No. 683), a solo shot in the fifth off Wei-Yin Chen as the Yankees clawed away at a 4-1 Baltimore lead. A two-run homer by John Ryan Murphy later in the inning put the Yanks ahead, 5-4. Justin Wilson gave up a game-tying homer to Manny Machado in the top of the seventh before Bird settled matters in the bottom half.

His blow was the 38th homer of at least three runs (31 three-run homers and seven grand slams), the most by a major-league team in one season since 2009 when the Phillies had 39. The Yankees had have multiple homers in six of their past 10 games.

The long balls were vital for the Yankees to bail out Michael Pineda, who gave up four runs (three on a home run by Jonathan Schoop) in the second inning and then allowed only one walk and one hit over the next four innings. Girardi credited Murphy, the catcher, with helping the struggling pitcher through the outing.

Labor Day marked the third holiday this season on which Pineda started. The others were Mother’s Day and Fourth of July. In those starts, the righthander was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 20 innings.

After Bird’s homer, Girardi went with his twin bullpen aces to finish off the game, but it was a bit dicey. Dellin Betances had a weird eighth in which he walked three batters and struck out three. The next inning, Andrew Miller was touched for a run but prevailed to record his 32nd save.

The victory coupled with Toronto’s loss at Boston moved the Yankees within a half-game of the Blue Jays in the American League East.

The Yankees are 12-7 in the games following Aug. 17 when Teixeira fouled a ball off his right shinbone. He started one of those games and pinch-hit in another, and the Yanks lost both. So without Tex taking part in games over this stretch, the Yankees are 12-5. Sure, they may have had a better record if he did not get hurt, but clearly they are succeeding despite his loss.

Little contact but big inning for win saved by Dellin

So it took a pretty weird inning Sunday to help the Yankees shake off their three-game losing streak and stop the Orioles’ six-game winning streak.

The Yankees entered the fifth inning at Camden Yards trailing, 3-2, but loaded the bases with none out on three consecutive walks by Baltimore starter Mike Wright. Reliever Brian Matusz took over and walked his first batter, Garrett Jones, to force in the tying run. Matusz recovered momentarily by striking out Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius.

So there you have it — six batters in the inning to that point and no contact made, yet the Yankees had at least gotten even. John Ryan Murphy finally broke this contact-less string with a double off the glove of third baseman Manny Machado for two runs and a 5-3 lead that would hold up and allow the Yankees to salvage the final game of what had been an ugly series previously.

The Orioles whacked the Yankees for 20 runs and 31 hits over Friday and Saturday nights and were 13-for-31 (.419) with runners in scoring position while the Yanks were a meager 3-for-21 (.143).

In his new role as Yankees closer while Andrew Miller is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle in his left forearm, Dellin Betances made good on his first save situation since his partner’s injury. Betances set down the first two batters in the ninth on ground balls, then after a walk to Machado came back to strike out pinch hitter Matt Wieters for his third save of the season to preserve a much-needed victory.

The Yankees maintain a portion of first place in the American League East and actually have a slight percentage lead over the Rays. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays remained on fire with their 11th straight victory and are just one game out of first. The Yankees’ victory Sunday pushed the also-surging Orioles to three games back. Gradually falling out of the AL East picture are the Red Sox, who were battered by Toronto again and are eight games behind.

The Yankees next head for Miami where Alex Rodriguez’s chase for 3,000 career hits will take a brief detour. With the designated hitter rule not in effect in National League ballparks, Rodriguez would have to play the field — third base or perhaps first base — to get at-bats, but manager Joe Girardi has indicated that he is not inclined to put A-Rod on the field.

Miami is Rodriguez’s home town, so there would have been a special feeling if he could accomplish the feat there. A-Rod needed a big day Sunday to be in position to get No. 3,000 in Miami where he is likely to be used only as a pinch hitter. But he was hitless with one walk in five plate appearances and stands at 2,995 hits, not nearly close enough to get to 3,000 at Miami if he does not play a position in the field.

Girardi also said he might give right fielder Carlos Beltran a rest during the Miami games. Marlins Park has a spacious outfield, and the former Gold Glover does not cover as much ground as he used to, so expect Jones and Chris Young to get outfield playing time in Miami.

Another decision facing Girardi and the Yankees’ brass is what to do next about Ivan Nova. The righthander, 28, made his second injury-rehabilitation start for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre in a 5-1 victory over Rochester Saturday night. Nova allowed one run, five hits and one walk with three strikeouts in six innings. Of his 73 pitches, 50 were strikes.

Nova, who underwent Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his right elbow in April of 2014, could be declared ready to return to the Yankees later in the week. One likely scenario would be a start Friday night at Yankee Stadium against the Tigers in what would be Adam Warren’s spot in the rotation.

Interestingly, Warren was removed from Sunday’s game one out away from qualifying for a winning decision after throwing his 92nd pitch. It may have been Girardi’s way of letting it be known Warren could soon be returning to the bullpen.

The victory went to Chasen Shreve (3-1), who was part of a solid relief ensemble to atone for miserable games by the pen the two prior games at Baltimore. Yankees relievers combined for an 8.22 ERA in allowing 10 runs (seven earned) and 14 hits, including two home runs, in 7 2/3 innings. Oh, and four wild pitches.

Shreve, Justin Wilson and Betances teamed to hold the Orioles hitless Sunday in 4 1/3 innings with two walks and five strikeouts.

O’s closer proves there is only one Rivera

What Yankees fans never see from Mariano Rivera was what Orioles fans witnessed Monday night from Jim Johnson. The Orioles closer, who led the American League is saves last season with 51, sustained his third consecutive blown save, something that Rivera has never done, and the Yankees took advantage of it to come away with a 6-4, 10-inning victory.

Johnson was gone by the time the Yankees scored the deciding runs in the extra inning off Pedro Strop and Brian Matusz with clutch hitting by Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. Rivera kept the lead intact with his 17th save in 17 opportunities. Johnson began the season with a similar streak with 14 saves before coming unglued in his past three appearances.

Hafner dealt the crushing blow to Johnson this time with a one-out home run in the ninth, the Yankees’ fourth solo shot of the evening in Baltimore’s humid Inner Harbor air. Johnson’s latest failure opened the gates for the Yankees to improve their record in games where they get on the scoreboard first to 19-0 and extend the Orioles’ losing streak to six games.

The Yankees were in danger of losing their first game when they scored first because their offense was reduced to the long ball with no one on base and CC Sabathia blew leads of 2-0 and 3-2. Robinson Cano and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis entered the game tied for the AL lead in home runs with 12 and maintained that tie as each got his 13th in his first at-bat.

David Adams, the rookie who has done so well at third base and turned a few more good plays Monday night, hit his first career home run to put the Yankees up, 2-0, in the second, but Davis made it 2-1 in the bottom of the second and Nick Markakis singled in the tying run in the fifth.

It was a strange start for Sabathia, who allowed a double-digit hit total (11) for the second game in a row (23 total in his past 12 2/3 innings) and had only two strikeouts, although he did not walk a batter. The lefthander is winless in four starts since April 27. Former teammate Freddy Garcia actually pitched better. He allowed the two solo homers and just one other hit with two walks and two strikeouts in six innings.

Lyle Overbay’s leadoff homer in the seventh off lefthander Troy Patton put the Yankees ahead again, but Sabathia couldn’t hold the advantage as the Orioles grabbed the lead on RBI doubles by Markakis and J.J. Hardy. Shawn Kelley stopped the O’s there with two more strikeouts. He added a third in the eighth, which gives the righthander 15 of the past 21 batters he has faced and 33 in 18 1/3 innings for the season.

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter entrusted the lead to Johnson, who began the ninth by retiring Cano on a groundout. Johnson fell behind 3-1 in the count to Hafner, who drove a 94-miles-per-hour fastball over the left field fence for his eighth home run. The Yankees were back in business.

Johnson’s woes have come after a run of 35 consecutive saves dating to last July. He has given up eight earned runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings (30.86 ERA) in the three blown saves, which has driven his season ERA from 0.95 to 4.22.

In the 10th, Ichiro Suzuki ran his Camden Yards hitting streak to 20 games with a leadoff double off Strop, a reliever who has struggled against the Yankees. Vernon Wells, riding the bench despite having good career numbers against Garcia (.438, one home run), came up as a pinch hitter for shortstop Reid Brignac and doubled to left to send home Ichiro.

Austin Romine bunted Wells to third, but Wells could not advance as Jayson Nix grounded out. After Cano was intentionally walked, Hafner delivered an insurance run with a line single to right off the left-handed Matusz. Rivera then showed Johnson how it’s done with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 10th.

Hafner. Wells. Overbay. There are those names again. Yankees fans are getting used to seeing these guys do important stuff.

Ibanez finished what he did not start

All that concern before Game 3 of the American League Division Series about where Alex Rodriguez was batting in the order obscured the fact that Raul Ibanez was not in the lineup against a right-handed starter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to have Eric Chavez play third base and use Rodriguez at designated hitter and keep Ibanez on the bench.

Oh, man, did that hunch pay off for Girardi and the Yankees. Ibanez, who only eight days earlier became the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and a walk-off RBI in extra innings in the same game, trumped that Wednesday night. This time, he not only homered to tie the score in the ninth but also in the 12th to win it.

This one will have the Elias Sports Bureau researchers up all night in their Fifth Avenue office trying to determine if what Ibanez did in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory over the Orioles was unprecedented in the history of postseason play. My guess is they will discover that the answer is yes. We already know that Ibanez is the first player to hit two home runs in a postseason game that he did not start.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter had identified Ibanez as a threat off the bench he had hoped to avoid when discussing his late-inning pitching maneuvers in Game 2. Ibanez’s performance in Game 3 justified Showalter’s concern. Ibanez, pinch hitting for A-Rod yet, sent the game into extras with a ninth-inning home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, whom the Yankees continue to rough up.

The Yankees mugged Johnson for five runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 at Baltimore in a non-save situation. This time it was a blown save for Johnson, the major-league leader in saves with 51 in the regular season.

Ibanez’s drive into the right field stands off a 1-0 fastball (at 94 miles per hour, no less) took a potential losing decision away from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who deserved a better fate after allowing only two runs (on solo homers by Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado, the O’s 8-and 9-hole hitters) in 8 1/3 strong innings. Ibanez was the Yankees’ best pinch hitter this season with a .320 average, two home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats and kept that distinction intact with Wednesday night’s feat.

Not even having to face a lefthander, Brian Matusz, fazed Ibanez in the 12th. He didn’t even wait as he swung at the first pitch – a 91-mph cut fastball – and thrust the Yankees into a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 series.

Pinch hitting for Rodriguez was a gutty decision for Girardi, although one that could hardly have been second-guessed. A-Rod was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game and is 1-for-12 (.083) with seven punchouts in the series. Ibanez is now 3-for-5 (.600) with two home runs in the ALDS.

Girardi looked at Ibanez the way Casey Stengel once did at Johnny Mize and Joe Torre once did at Darryl Strawberry. Mize and Strawberry were left-handed sluggers whose aim at the cozy right-field porch at Yankee Stadium gave many opposing managers cause for alarm, the same feeling Showalter had when thinking about Ibanez.

As unusual as it was to see Derek Jeter sitting in the Yankees dugout as his teammates took the field in the ninth inning, the more amazing aspect was that he was able to play at all after the third inning. The Captain aggravated a nagging bone bruise in his left ankle running out a triple in the bottom of that inning.

He gutted his way through the eighth before Girardi decided to keep a hobbling player on the field was too great a risk in what was then a one-run game. In his eighth-inning at-bat, Jeter nearly fell down when landing on his left ankle on the follow-through of a swing and miss.

The startling finish was something the Orioles are not accustomed to. Extra innings have been joyful ones for the Orioles, who had won 16 consecutive such games before Wednesday night. The only two extra-inning games Baltimore lost in the regular season were against the Yankees on back-to-back nights April 10 and 11 at Camden Yards.

In the April 10 game, the deciding hit was a two-run double by Raul Ibanez.

Split in Baltimore what Yanks needed to do

The Yankees did what they needed to do in Baltimore in the American League Division Series in splitting the two games at Camden Yards and heading home to Yankee Stadium for at least two more games and possibly a third. Oh, sure, the Yanks would have loved to do what the Reds did against the Giants by winning the first two games in San Francisco to create a shot at closing out that National League Division Series at home in Cincinnati.

The Division Series format of the team with home-field advantage playing the first two games on the road and the next three, if necessary, at home was put back in place this year for reasons that I still cannot explain. Major League Baseball wisely went to a 2-2-1 format for Division Series play in 2000 and plans to return to that structure next year. For now, the Yankees must live with it, but at this point it is to their advantage. The troubling part is that the Orioles won the season series at the Stadium this year, six games to three.

Frankly, the Yankees were lucky to get the runs they did in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss in Game 2 that squared the series. There was Ichiro Suzuki’s magic act in the first inning with a whirling dervish of a slide. In the seventh, Orioles right fielder left his feet trying to catch a low liner by Eduardo Nunez that allowed the Yankees’ swift designated hitter to turn the hit into a double and be in position to score on Derek Jeter’s single.

It was another game in which the Yankees could not come up with the big hit the way they did in the ninth inning of Game 1 when they scored five runs. In Game 2, they left 10 runners on base, including six in scoring position. They stranded a runner on second in the first inning, the bases loaded in the fourth and runners on second and third in the seventh.

Andy Pettitte, the Yankees’ perennial Game 2 postseason starter, deserved a better fate. He pitched one batter into the eighth and allowed three runs, seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He gave up a 1-0 lead in the third on a two-run single by Davis, who was one of five straight batters to reach base that inning after two were out.

Pettitte was furious with himself for giving up the third run, in the sixth. Matt Wieters smoked a double to left-center to begin the inning, and Mark Reynolds found a hole to the right side for an opposite-field single that delivered what proved the deciding run.

After a bullpen breakdown, Baltimore got a superlative pitching effort from Taiwanese starter Wei-Yin Chen, who allowed one earned run in 6 1/3 innings with a sneaky fastball and a hard slider, and ensemble work from the bullpen. Under-arm righthander Darren O’Day got a big strikeouts of Alex Rodriguez in the seventh.

The Orioles wanted nothing to do with Robinson Cano, who was intentionally walked by lefty reliever Brian Matusz, who set down four of the next five hitters, two on strikeouts. Yankees manager Joe Girardi showed respect for Matusz’s ability to hold runners on first base by not pinch running for Mark Teixeira after he led off the eighth with a single. Girardi saw no point is using Brett Gardner with Matusz on the mound and the track slow from early rain. It would not have mattered much because Matusz struck out Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson and got Nunez on a foul pop.

Those outs proved just as valuable as the three in the ninth produced by Jim Johnson, the major-league saves leader (51) during the regular season who got bombed for five runs in a third of an inning in Monday night’s last inning.

These two teams have played 20 games each other this season. Each has won 10. The see-saw has to stop at some point, and when it does it will be at Yankee Stadium.

Buck: No. 1 and No. 1,000 in the Bronx

Yankees fans of a certain age may remember where they were on the afternoon of April 7, 1992. I know it was 20 years ago, but think about it. I recall where I was that day, at Yankee Stadium for Opening Day the season after the Yankees lost 91 games and replaced their manager, Stump Merrill, with the previous year’s third base coach, a former minor-league designated hitter and manager by the name of William Nathaniel Showalter, known by family and friends as Nat and within baseball as Buck.

Not much was expected of the Yankees that season, and indeed they finished a mediocre 76-86. But they beat the Red Sox and Roger Clemens that day, 4-3, before a crowd of 56,572 with the final out recorded by Steve Farr on a foul pop by Jody Reed. It was Showalter’s first victory as a major-league manager and the beginning of a startling six-game winning streak. Not too many managers are 6-0 before they lose a game.

I was reminded of just how long ago that was Tuesday night when the same Buck Showalter was back in the Bronx at the helm of the Orioles and earned his 1,000th big-league victory, this time at the expense of the Yankees, 7-1. Particularly satisfying for Buck was that his pitcher, hard-luck Brian Matusz, ended a 12-game losing streak with his first winning decision in 11 months.

“I’m kind of embarrassed,” Buck said afterwards. “It’s all about the players. But I’d be lying to say that it wasn’t emotional. Not a day goes by in this game that doesn’t tug at your emotions.”

Showalter enjoyed winning seasons with the Yankees in 1993, ’94 and ’95, earning American League Manager of the Year honors in the middle season that might have landed them in the World Series had the event not been canceled by commissioner Bud Selig because of a strike. The Yankees did make the playoffs in 1995 but lost to the Mariners in a tightly-played Division Series, the first of its kind in the new alignment.

After turning down a two-year contract extension, Showalter left the Yankees and was succeeded by Joe Torre, who took the Yankees to 10 division crowns, six pennants and four World Series titles in 12 years. Showalter moved on to Arizona as the expansion Diamondbacks first manager and then to Texas where he earned a second AL Manager of the Year Award in 2004. In between job, he manned the desk on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight programs.

Showalter may have missed out on the Yankees’ glory years, but this was a glorious night for him and his team, which is 15-9 and challenging for the top spot in the AL East.

“The significance is more about this being a game we wanted to win and get close to doing something this year that will be great for our fans in Baltimore, a great baseball town,” he said. “I am appreciative that Mr. [George] Steinbrenner gave me my first opportunity to manage in the big leagues. I’ll never forget that.”

Beyond a titanic home run by Curtis Granderson, it was not much of a night for the Yankees, who got another lackluster start from Phil Hughes, who pitched into the sixth but gave up four runs, so his ERA came down only slightly, from 7.88 to 7.48, with his record falling to 1-4.

Nova rights the rotation ship

The Yankees finally got a quality start from someone in their rotation, ironically from Ivan Nova, who had the poorest spring training (8.06 ERA) of any of their starting pitchers. There was even talk that Nova might begin the season in the minor leagues before Michael Pineda had to go on the disabled list because of right shoulder tendinitis.

Nova gave the Yankees precisely what they needed Monday night at Baltimore after the rotation was roasted for 13 runs and 21 hits in 16 1/3 innings in getting swept in the three-game series over the weekend against the Rays. Any concerns the Yankees may have had about the righthander were alleviated by his sound if unspectacular seven innings. He was touched for 10 hits, half of them doubles, but had no walks and struck out seven.

Pitching effectively with runners on base and aided by two double plays, Nova stranded six runners as the Orioles had only two hits in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring opportunities against him. The Yankees broke up a 1-1 score with three runs in the fourth off lefthander Brian Matusz, who a year ago had the worst ERA (10.69 ERA) of any rotation regular in history and was not much better (9.00) in his first start of 2012.

The 6-2 Yankees victory extended Nova’s winning streak to 13 games dating to June 10 of last season, the longest such stretch of any current big-league pitcher.

In addition to the pair of double plays, Nova got a big boost from third baseman Eduardo Nunez, who made a leaping catch of a smoking liner by Wilson Betemit to end the fourth inning and save a run. Nunez has had a rough time of it in the field in his brief time with the Yankees, but that play was a beaut as was a grab of a wind-blown popup for one of Mariano Rivera’s outs in the ninth. It was not a save situation for Mo, but he got in some work to take away the sour taste of that blown save in the season opener.

Nunez had a nice game with the bat as well with a sacrifice fly and a well-placed, bunt single. Derek Jeter ignited the Yankees’ offense with a double and three singles, the first of which led off the game and led to a run driven in on Mark Teixeira’s two-out single against the over-shift. Jeet’s double and Noonie’s sac fly accounted for two of the three runs in the fourth (the other RBI was on a single by Russell Martin) that regained the lead for Nova who kept it in place.

Andruw Jones started in left field against the left-handed starter, but it was off right-handed reliever Darren O’Day that AJ homered in the sixth. After that, Yankees manager Joe Girardi put Brett Gardner in for defense. Wouldn’t you know it that the left-handed Gardner got an RBI single in the seventh off lefty reliever Troy Patton.

The Yankees finally won a game. The Orioles finally lost a game. The globe is back on its axis.

First blood a first for Yanks

After being outscored,  7-0, in the first inning of the season-opening, three-game series loss to the Rays, the Yankees got on the board first for a change Monday night at Baltimore. Mark Teixeira’s first-inning RBI single, the first run-scoring hit for a Yankees 3, 4 or 5 hitter, marked the first time in 28 innings this season that the Orioles, who got off to a 3-0 start, fell behind in a game.

Another good sign for the Yankees was that Teixeira went the other way in getting a hit past the overshift he faces in nearly every at-bat. With the switch-hitting Tex batting right-handed against Orioles lefthander Brian Matusz, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter had three infielders stacked to the left side of second base. Instead of pulling the ball, Teixeira punched it to the vacated hole between first and second into right-center. Success with that approach is what Tex needs to convince him to think the other way in RBI situations against the shift.

Although manager Joe Girardi did not say left field is a platoon position for the Yankees, Brett Gardner was not in the lineup for the second time in two games against a left-handed starter. Gardner, who bats left-handed, was also on the bench Saturday night against the Rays when Tampa Bay started lefty David Price. Righty-batting Andruw Jones started in left field in both games. Girardi told reporters that Gardner will eventually see some time against lefties this year.

The Yanks’ lead proved short-lived as Ivan Nova gave up a home run to right by Matt Wieters off a 2-0 fastball. Nova made a nice recovery after Mark Reynolds dumped a double near the right field line by striking out the next two batters.

Laborious day for pitchers at Stadium

Billy Altman was the official scorer for that 22-9 game the Yankees won against the Athletics on the previous homestand. Billy, a free-lance writer who concentrates on baseball and pop culture, is one of my oldest pals, but I must say I was not all that happy to see him, particularly when the score got to 8-7, and we were still in the third inning.

Billy said that due to the rain delay and the length of a game (4 hours, 31 minutes) in which 31 runs were scored – 12 by the Yankees on a record three grand slams – he did not get to his Westchester home until well past eight o’clock that night. Considering we would all have to be dealing with Labor Day traffic Monday, a similar fate may have awaited us.

It is not often that a pitcher with a 9.07 ERA entering a game has it grow, but that is what the Yankees did to Orioles starter Brian Matusz. The lefthander had hoped his career record at Yankee Stadium (2-0, 2.10 ERA in 25 2/3 innings) might have been an indication that he was in position to lower that ERA considerably and perhaps improve a 1-7 won-lost record.

Just the opposite happened, however. Matusz wobbled his way through 1 1/3 innings in which he was grilled for five earned runs, five hits and two walks with three strikeouts. The result was that Matusz’s ERA rose to 9.84. Well, at least he kept it under 10.

Reliever Chris Jakubauskas fared no better. The righthander took over for Matusz in the second and promptly loaded the bases by walking Mark Teixeira, who had homered (No. 36) in the first inning, and hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch on a 0-2 count. Robinson Cano cleared the bases with his 24th home run, his third grand slam of the season and seventh of his career, six of which have come at the Stadium.

Just as an aside, imagine if Jakubauskas pitched for the Red Sox. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate, you would surely have a battery with the longest names in history. The shortest I can remember is pitcher Doug Rau and catcher Ed Ott with the Angels in 1980.

Yankees starter Freddy Garcia also had his ERA swell Monday. He didn’t make it through the third inning, yielding seven earned runs and nine hits, which sent his ERA from 3.09 to 3.50. Yankees manager Joe Girardi turned to Scott Proctor in the third. The righthander returned to where he started his career in 2004 and made his first appearance for them since July 22, 2007, also against Baltimore. Proctor, whom the Yankees signed to a minor-league contact Aug. 15, gave up one run (on a game-tying home run by Robert Andino) and three hits in two innings.

Another September callup, Jesus Montero, continues to win over fans on this homestand. He was according a curtain call in the fifth inning when he hit his first major-league home run, a solo shot to right field in the fifth that pushed the Yankees back into the lead, 9-8. With each game, the rookie is bettering his audition for a post-season roster spot as the Yankees’ designated hitter against left-handed pitching.

A-Rod alone as 100-RBI leader

History was made at Yankee Stadium Monday. The old Yankee Stadium was rich with history, and the new building will undoubtedly have its share of historic moments. This one came in the sixth inning when Alex Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly off Orioles lefthander Brian Matusz.

Two innings earlier, Rodriguez hit his 22nd home run of the season and 605th of his career, but it was the sac fly that gave him 100 runs batted in for the season, the 14th time he has reached the century mark in RBI. What’s so special about that? No major-league player had ever done that before.

Rodriguez got to 100 in dramatic fashion in 2009, a season in which he missed 38 games, mostly at the start while recovering from hip surgery. Going into the Yankees’ last game of the regular season Oct. 4 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., A-Rod needed seven RBI to get to 100. He got them all in a wild, 10-run sixth inning when he hit a three-run home run and a grand slam.

Getting to 100 this year was nowhere near as astonishing for Rodriguez, who tied the game twice for the Yankees only to have A.J. Burnett, the winning pitcher of that final game in 2009, give back the lead in the next inning each time.

Many of the numbers-minded seam heads that want to rewrite baseball history with their fancy new statistics do not put much of a premium on RBI anymore. They are, of course, wrong. Runs scored and runs batted in remain the two most important stats in the game. The day you can win a ballgame by a score of zero to minus one is when I will concede that scoring runs or driving them in is overrated.

For all the measuring sticks of great offensive players, isn’t it odd that you find the best players among the RBI leaders year after year? It is the 13th consecutive season of 100 RBI or more for Rodriguez. The only other players to do that were a couple of Hall of Famers named Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. That’s pretty heady company. When it comes to the total of 100-RBI seasons, however, Alex Rodriguez is in a company of one.

A-Rod’s consecutive streak ended early. After his breakout season of 1996 with the Mariners when he batted .358 with 36 home runs and 123 RBI, Rodriguez slid back slightly in 1997, batting .300 with 23 homers and 84 RBI. In 1998, he knocked in 124 runs, and he has been putting up triple digits ever since, with a high of 156 for the Yankees in 2007 when he won his third American League Most Valuable Player Award.

As Alex himself pointed out, it would have been better if the record had occurred in a victory. The Orioles improved to 20-13 under Buck Showalter with the 4-3 victory. The Yankees had pushed Baltimore around all season winning 10 of their previous 12 meetings, but all were without Showalter in the dugout or second baseman Brian Roberts in the lineup.

Roberts, who was sidelined for three months with a strained abdominal muscle, had three hits and drove in two runs, including the game-winner in the seventh inning. It made Matusz a winner for the first time in four starts against the Yankees despite putting up a 2.41 ERA in the other three starts.

Say this for Burnett. He did allow himself to be smitten by flattery. His manager, Joe Girardi, said he thought the struggling Burnett pitched well.

“I appreciate the kind words,” Burnett said, “but I didn’t get the job done. When your team scores, you have to come back with shutdown innings, and I didn’t do that either time.”

After A-Rod’s homer made the score 1-1 in the fourth, Burnett gave up a run the next inning on a two-out single by Roberts. The same thing happened after the Yankees tied the score again at 3 with two runs in the sixth. Another two-out single by Roberts off Burnett thrust the Orioles back into the lead. The Yankees would get no more runs as Burnett was saddled with his 13th loss, which he clearly felt he deserved.