Results tagged ‘ Buck Showalter ’

3-game sweep keeps eluding Yankees

Maybe the Yankees just wore themselves out the previous two games. After combining for 27 runs and 36 hits Friday night and Saturday, the Yanks came out flat against the Orioles Sunday and were shut out in failing once again to sweep a three-game series.

It marked the seventh time this season that the Yankees won the first two games of a series but could not complete the sweep. Overall in three-game series this year, the Yankees have won 14 and lost 16. They have been swept in three-game sets four times but have not yet done so themselves. Oddly, they have two four-game series sweeps and one two-game series sweep.

CC Sabathia put the Yankees in position to get over this hump until the seventh inning when a strange hit set up what proved a decision blow. With a runner on first and two out, Nolan Reimold hit a spinning bloop of a liner that bounced past Starlin Castro, who was also distracted by the runner, Jonathan Schoop, coming into the area.

Sabathia then sealed his own fate in the game with a walk to 9-hole hitter Hyun Soo Kim that loaded the bases. Manager Joe Girardi called on righthander Adam Warren to face righty-swinging Steve Pearce, who lined a 2-2 fastball through the middle for a two-run single that pushed Baltimore’s lead to 3-0. Pearce had broken the scoreless tie the inning before with his 12th home run.

Pearce, who was reacquired by the Orioles Aug. 1 in a trade from the Rays, helped douse a promising Yankees rally in the third inning by throwing out Gary Sanchez at third base for the first out, a cardinal sin. Sanchez, who had two more hits and is batting .405, led off the inning with a single. On a single to right by Mark Teixeira, Sanchez noticed no one was at third base and made a break for it. Third baseman Manny Machado, however, made a quick recovery, took Pearce’s strong, accurate throw and tagged out Sanchez. Didi Gregorius followed with a single, but the rally died when Castro grounded into a force on another nice play by Machado and Brian McCann struck out.

This turned out to be another fruitless game for the Yanks against Orioles righthander Kevin Gausman, who shut them out on seven hits with nine strikeouts in seven innings. Gausman is 1-1 with an ERA of 0.99 in 27 2/3 innings against the Yankees this year but is 5-9 with a 4.41 ERA against everyone else.

The Orioles padded their lead in the eighth when major league home run leader Mark Trumbo, who had struck out twice and grounded into a double play, belted a two-run shot (No. 40) to left off rookie Ben Heller.

Sabathia became the 39th pitcher in American League history to achieve the 3,000 plateau in career innings (3,002). . .It was career victory No. 1,411 for Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who moved past Al Lopez into 26th place on the all-time list. . .Ronald Torreyes had 2-for-3 with a double in extending his hitting streak to seven games during which he is batting .538 with six runs, six doubles, one home run and four RBI in 26 at-bats to boost his season average to .298. . .Sanchez was the AL Player of the Week for the period ending last Sunday and is a candidate again for the period ending this Sunday. The rookie catcher had a slash line of .522/.604/1.250 with seven runs, three doubles, five home runs and nine RBI this past week.

Teixeira’s battered body told him it was time

Upon reflection of when his playing days were nearing an end, Yankees manager Joe Girardi recalled praying that it would be revealed to him when to retire. Then he hurt his back. The daily struggle to stay healthy was all he needed to know that the time to walk away had come.

It is never easy for a gifted athlete who has known success at a high level. Many of them need to have the uniform torn off them before they can admit it is over. Mark Teixeira was not like that. He was more like Girardi.

“My body can’t do it anymore,” Teixeira said before Friday night’s game at Yankee Stadium. “It has been a struggle to stay on the field the last three or four years.”

That is why Teixeira called a late-afternoon press conference where he announced that he will retire at the end of this season. With the Yankees in a period of transition, he did not want to be a distraction. Tex has dealt with neck and knee issues all year. In recent seasons, he has seen more of the trainer’s room that he would like.

I remember Don Mattingly telling me years ago when back issues pushed him towards retirement that it took so much more energy and work to get into the shape needed for the 162-game grind of the Major League Baseball schedule that he knew it was time to walk away, as difficult as that was to do.

“Every kid playing whiffle ball in the backyard or playing Little League, you dream of being a major league baseball player,” Teixeira said. “After 14 years it’s time for me to do something else and after this season I’m going to retire and do something else. I got to live out my dream and had more success than I could ever imagined, but it felt like it was the right time to step away from the game. I want to finish this season on a high note.”

Teixeira, who had a big game Wednesday night only to be on the sidelines again Thursday night because of a sore knee, talked it over with Girardi and told him how he was leaning.

“Are you sure,” Girardi said to Teixeira. “At this point in a season, players are banged up and think along those lines.”

Teixeira assured Girardi he was certain about his decision and then added, “I’ll do whatever you need me to do. What would that be?”

Girardi answered, “Play first base.”

So Teixeira was back in the lineup Friday night. He intends to play out the season as much as his aching knee and neck allow. Tex has been playing with a cartilage tear in his right knee since early June. His neck sprain is a chronic condition.

It was just a year ago that a trimmed-down Teixeira belted 31 home runs and was in the discussion for American League Most Valuable Player consideration entering August, but a foul ball off his knee caused more damage that originally thought that ended his season prematurely.

He has struggled offensively much of this season and entered play Friday night batting .198 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI. Tex has picked it up lately. He has reached safely in six consecutive plate appearances and eight of his past nine. He was on base in nine of 13 plate appearances in his three Subway Series games against the Mets. Over his past eight games, Teixeira has had a slash line of .333/.484/.542 with five runs, two doubles, one home run and four RBI in 24 at-bats.

His 400th career double Tuesday night at Citi Field made him the first switch-hitter in major league history with 400 career doubles and 400 career home runs. His 404 homers rank fifth on the switch hitter list behind Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (468) and former Yankees teammate Carlos Beltran (415).

Teixeira grew up a Murray fan in Annapolis, Md., and was encouraged to switch-hit by his father, whom he thanked in a tearful address. “I need to let you know,” he said. “The Teixeira’s are cryers.”

He thanked the Rangers, who drafted him in the first round and signed him in 2001, and Buck Showalter, his manager in Texas who showed patience after Teixeira started his career with 15 hitless at-bats but finished the season with 26 home runs. He called second stop Atlanta his second home since he attended Georgia Tech and married a Georgia girl. He thanked the Angels for “two fabulous months” in 2008 and giving him his first taste of postseason play.

But it was his time with the Yankees that he loved most. Signing an eight-year contract prior to the 2009 season, he finished second in the MVP race that year with a 39-homer, 122-RBI output for the most recent Yankees team to win the World Series.

“2009 was a whirlwind, winning the World Series in the first year of the new Stadium,” Teixeira said. “I probably didn’t appreciate it as much at the time because you think you’ll win three or four more.”

The only personal achievement Teixeira mentioned was the pride he had in having eight seasons of more than 30 homers and 100 RBI.

Yet all that seemed so far away as the injuries piled up. And with free agency lurking after season’s end, Teixeira decided this was the moment to call it a career once the schedule is finished.

“Being a free agent at season’s end, and being 36, retirement is always in the back of your mind,” he said. “If I have to grind through the season not being healthy, I’d rather be somewhere else. I did not want to be a distraction. I would miss my kids way too much to be in some training room in Detroit not knowing if I can play while they’re in Little League or a play or something.”

With the Yankees in this period of transition, there is always the possibility a contending team might be interested in a player who won five Gold Glove and three Silver Slugger Awards and was a three-time All-Star.

“There has been no conversation about a trade, but I want to retire as a Yankee,” Teixeira said. “There is something about the Yankees. When you play against them you want to beat them or play well at Yankee Stadium. It was an unbelievable blessing to get to wear the pinstripes every day.”

Tex also had a message to Yankees fans: “They are the greatest fans in the world. I was far from perfect, but I appreciated your support. I gave you everything I had. It wasn’t always enough, but I tried very hard and am proud to have such fans rooting for the Yankees.”

And soon he will be among them.

“I’ll be watching,” Teixeira said. “I’ll be a Yankees fan forever.”

Bullpen springs a major leak

The most consistent positive for the Yankees in the early going has been the bullpen. Wednesday night, it leaked and cost the Yankees a chance to win their first series of the season.

The pen coughed up a one-run lead in the sixth inning as the Orioles put up a five-spot against three Yankees relievers to take control of the game and go on to a 7-5 victory, which dropped the Bombers’ record to 3-6.

Nathan Eovaldi had nine strikeouts in five innings, but he gave up eight hits and three walks, which along with the Ks shot his pitch count up to 101. The hard-throwing righthander needs to find a way to be more economical with his pitching.

The bullpen ranked third in the majors with a 1.73 ERA entering play and had limited opposing hitters to a .177 batting average. In addition, the pen was fairly well rested, but it did not take long for the tide to turn.

Jonathan Schoop led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run to center field off David Carpenter that tied the score. Alejandro De Aza followed with a single. Everth Cabrera sacrificed De Aza to second base. It seemed as if Orioles manager Buck Showalter was playing small-ball, but it would soon turn into a big-ball inning for Baltimore.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi ordered an intentional walk to Adam Jones, the Orioles’ hottest hitter (.406, 4 home runs, 11 RBI) from Carpenter and then brought in lefthander Justin Wilson to face left-hitting Travis Snider and Chris Davis. But Showalter countered with righty-swinging Delmon Young, who singled to left as a pinch hitter for Snider to score De Aza. The sac bunt proved crucial, as it turned out.

Davis, who struck out eight times in the series and could not catch up with Wilson’s fastball early in the at-bat, took a slider to the opposite field for a two-run double. Righthander Chris Martin tried to stem the tide but gave up a two-out, RBI single to Chad Joseph, who had three hits in the game and drove the Yanks crazy in the series going 7-for-11 (.636) with a triple and two RBI.

The Yankees came back Monday night against shaky Tommy Hunter and nearly did the same by scoring two runs off him in the eighth on doubles by Chris Young and Mark Teixeira and a wild pitch, but they would get no closer than that.

That Yankees bullpen ERA rose more than a run to 2.75 and the opponents’ batting average went up to .210. One good sign out of the bullpen came from Dellin Betances, who worked a scoreless, one-hit eighth inning with two strikeouts.

Yanksees get a jump start in road opener

A nice combination of speed and power brought the Yankees back from a 4-2 deficit Monday night in the seventh inning at Camden Yards on the way to an impressive 6-5 victory.

Orioles lefthander Wei-Yin Chen limited the Yankees to two runs over six innings on solo home runs by Chris Young and Mark Teixeira and was thrust into the lead when Adam Jones connected for a two-run homer off Michael Pineda in the bottom of the sixth that unlocked a 2-2 score.

Tommy Hunter, Baltimore’s hard-throwing righthander, came on in the seventh, and the Yankees were ready for him. Young started things off with a single, and John Ryan Murphy worked a walk on a full count.

Curiously, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had lefthander Brian Matusz warming in the bullpen but did not bring him on to face left-handed Garrett Jones, pinch hitting for Gregorio Petit. After Jones flied to left for the second out, Matusz remained in the pen as lefty-swinging Jacoby Ellsbury came up against Hunter.

Here was the speed part of the rally. Ellsbury hit a slow roller to second base and beat the play at first base for a single that filled the bags. Brett Gardner was due up but was held back because of a swollen right wrist.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi went with Stephen Drew as the pinch hitter and looked like a genius when Drew worked the count to 3-1 and then drove a fastball over the center field wall for a grand slam and a 6-4 Yankees advantage. That was the power part.

Michael Pineda put the lead in jeopardy when he gave up two singles in the bottom of the seventh. Dellin Betances relieved Betances with one out and gave up another single that loaded the bases. A run scored on a fielder’s choice that the Yanks failed to convert into a double play, but a fine stop at first base by Teixeira protected the lead.

Betances walked Steve Pearce, which re-loaded the bags for the Orioles, but rebounded to fit the golden sombrero on Chris Davis, who suffered his fourth strikeout of the game, this one on a nasty slider.

Pineda was more hittable than Yankees fans are accustomed to seeing. He allowed nine hits in 6 1/3 innings but did not walk a batter and struck out nine.

Nor was Betances what Yankees fans have gotten used to seeing. He gave up two hits and a couple of walks in his inning of work with only 10 of his 24 pitches going for strikes. Betances was aided in the eighth when catcher John Ryan Murphy threw out Adam Jones, who had led off with a single, trying to steal second base.

After Betances walked Travis Snider, Girardi also went against convention and brought in lefthander Andrew Miller to face two right-handed hitters, Manny Machado and Jonathan Scoop. Both struck out. Miller withstood hitting a batter with two out in the ninth to notch his second save and give the Yankees their first winning streak of the year.

It was a good night for Girardi moves.

Another tribute to a Yankees captain

Yankees fans are everywhere, not just in the New York metropolitan area. One place where they are plentiful is in Southern California. I can attest to that.

Watching the wild reaction Wednesday night in Anaheim when Derek Jeter homered in the second inning of the Yankees’ 9-2 victory over the Angels reminded me of an incident in the same ballpark 20 years ago.

The date was July 24, 1994. The Yankees were finishing off an 11-game trip to the three West Coast cities with a Sunday afternoon game against the Angels. The Yanks entered the ninth inning trailing Mark Langston, 4-2, but got a rally going with one out when Mike Stanley singled and Jim Leyritz walked.

Angels manager Marcel Lachemann replaced the left-handed Langston with Joe Grahe, a journeyman righthander. Yankees manager Buck Showalter countered with Don Mattingly as a pinch hitter for outfielder Gerald Williams. Mattingly, the regular first baseman, had been given the day off unless an opportunity to win the game presented itself, which in this case it clearly did.

As Jeter is today, Mattingly was the Yankees’ captain and the face of the franchise two decades ago. The response from the crowd was favorable as he stepped to the plate. Despite it being a road game for the Yankees, there was considerable cheering for them in the Big A crowd of 25,754.

During the at-bat, Grahe threw a wild pitch that advanced the runners. First base was now open, but the rule of thumb is not to put the potential go-ahead run on base, so Grahe continued to pitch to Mattingly — a big mistake. Donnie got all of a 3-2 fastball and drove it to right field for a three-run home run that put the Yankees ahead (they would add another run for a 6-4 victory).

The sound at Anaheim Stadium as Angel Stadium of Anaheim was then known while Mattingly ran around the bases was so thunderous that if you closed your eyes you would have sworn you were at Yankee Stadium.

Only one other time had I ever heard such a response to a visiting player. It was at a game in the Polo Grounds in 1962 when the Cardinals’ Stan Musial hit three home runs against the Mets. The third cleared the roof in right field, and the fans gave “The Man” a standing ovation during his home run trot.

Such was the appeal of the Yankees and Mattingly, just as Wednesday night the cheers for Jeter were due to his appeal. Barring a postseason date, this was the Captain’s last appearance in Anaheim, which treated him graciously throughout the series.

The Angels presented Jeter with a paddle board before the game, then gave him an unintentional gift in the first inning when Collin Cowgill collided with Mike Trout tracking a Jeter fly ball that fell free. Cowgill was charged with an error that helped fuel a five-run rally.

Mark Teixeira knocked in two runs with a double, Yangervis Solarte one with a sacrifice fly and Brian Roberts one with a single. Another run scored on a throwing error by pitcher Hector Santiago, the eventual losing pitcher whose record fell to 0-6.

Jeter’s first home run of the season with one out in the second pushed the Yankees’ lead to 6-0, a very comfortable cushion for Vidal Nuno, who had an impressive night. The lefthander allowed only one run and four hits with one walk and three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. His catcher, John Ryan Murphy, drove in two runs in the eighth. Carlos Beltran added a sacrifice fly to pad the Yankees’ lead some more.

Anaheim has always been among Jeter’s favorite stops in the American League. His 2-for-5 performance Wednesday night improved his career numbers there to .339 with 15 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs and 43 RBI in 336 at-bats.

It was in every way a fond farewell.

Jeter started trot a bit too soon

There is a first time for everything, I guess. There was Derek Jeter, the centerpiece of the Yankees’ home opener Monday, jogging to first base after hitting a fly ball to deep left field. I have been watching Jeter play for 20 seasons now, and that was the first time I saw him go into coast mode running to first base.

Granted, the Captain came oh-so close to hitting a home run. The ball hit near the top of the left field wall and caromed to Orioles left fielder David Lough. Jeter had started what appeared to be a home run trot, then had to kick it in gear and make a dash for it to get a double on what was such a bang-bang play that Baltimore manager Buck Showalter came out to argue but did not challenge the call by second base umpire Tim Welke.

Perhaps Jeter learned that seeking that extra gear on the base paths is not that easy when the legs underneath are closing in on 40 years of age. The shortstop who has always run hard to first base no matter where his ball was hit is not likely to make that mistake again.

The double did prove important for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a well-struck single to right-center. Jeter turned on the jets rounding third base and slid into the plate without challenge to give the Yanks a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning. The Yankees added another run that inning on a bases-loaded walk.

Pettitte bows out in style

What a way for Andy Pettitte to end his major-league career. The lefthander gave Yankees fans one more brilliant performance before a crowd of 37,199 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, some 20 miles from his hometown of Deer Park, Texas. Pettitte completed his 18-season career with a complete game, his first in seven years.

The 2-1 victory over the Astros brought Pettitte’s season record to 11-11, which means that he never had a losing record, the first pitcher to do so in a career of 15 years or more. Andy had one other .500 season – 2008 when he was 14-14 – otherwise it was nothing but winning campaigns.

“It’s a shame you have to grow old,” Pettitte said immediately after the game.

Yes, it happens to all players, even his teammate, Mariano Rivera, who is also finally stepping away from the game at season’s end. Pettitte hated walking away from the game so much once before that he came back out of retirement to pitch another two years for the Yankees.

andy
(New York Daily News photo)

The finish was a momentous way to go out. It reminded me of how it all began. The day I arrived at what was the last spring training camp the Yankees had at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1995, then manager Buck Showalter drove up to me in a golf cart on the sidelines of the main field and said, “Hop in; I want you to see someone.”

He drove to me to one of the back fields where two pitchers were warming up. I have long forgotten who one of them was, but the one I remember was Andy Pettitte. He wasn’t as cut as he would later become; he still had some love handles, but one pitch after the other sunk with stinging action.

Showalter, who grew up in the Florida panhandle and attended Mississippi State University, had an affinity for Southern players. Still does, probably, so I said to him, “Okay, which is it? Louisiana or Arkansas?”

“Texas,” Buck said. “You can’t quote me on this, but this guy might win 15 games for us this year.”

“Pretty tall order for a rookie,” I said.

Showalter missed on his prediction. Pettitte won 12 games, not 15, but he helped stabilize a rotation snagged by an injury to Jimmy Key, who finished second to David Cone, then with the Royals, in the previous year’s American League Cy Young Award race, and was a key ingredient in the Yankees’ reaching post-season play for the first time in 15 years, as the newfangled wild card.

Pettitte’s victory total was second on the staff only to another former Cy Young Award winner, Jack McDowell, who was 15-10. Pettitte’s 12-9 record and 4.17 ERA was not overwhelming, but it was good enough for him to finish third in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award voting behind winner Marty Cordova of the Twins and runner-up Garret Anderson of the Angels, a couple of outfielders.

The lefthander started Game 2 of the Division Series against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium and was not involved in the decision, a 7-5 Yankees victory on a two-run home run in the 15th inning by Jim Leyritz that gave them a 2-0 lead in the series before they went 0-for-Seattle.

With Showalter gone after turning down a two-year contract offer from George Steinbrenner, Pettitte had to prove himself all over again to a new manager, Joe Torre, in 1996. It wasn’t easy, either. Torre at first thought the deeply-religious Pettitte was a bit soft. Yet start after start, Pettitte kept the Yankees in games and ended up winning 21 of them and becoming a Cy Young Award candidate, although he finished second in the voting to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen.

Pettitte never came closer to winning that award, but even better he won over Torre with 8 1/3 gutty innings of shutout ball in Game 5 of the World Series at Atlanta in the last game played at Fulton County Stadium, a 1-0 Yankees victory that put them up 3-2 and in position to take the Series two nights later, which they did. From that point on, Torre never questioned Pettitte’s toughness again.

Pettitte pitched that night with the authority he showed during his 21-8 regular season as well as Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Baltimore that clinched the Yankees’ first World Series appearance in 15 years. The key inning for Pettitte in Game of the ’96 Series was the sixth when he got himself in and out of trouble.

He gave up singles to opposing pitcher John Smoltz and center field Marquis Grissom, whose fourth-inning error accounted for the game’s only run. Pettitte pounced on a sacrifice attempt by Mark Lemke and forced Smoltz at third base, which prompted Braves manager Bobby Cox to say later, “He was a cat on that bunt; it took a lot of guts to throw that ball to third base.”

On Pettitte’s next pitch, Chipper Jones hit a one-hopper to the mound. Pettitte was a cat again, starting an inning-ending double play.

“Andy took the ball every five days, and if he had it his way, he’d get it more often than that,” Torre recalled. “What’s really unusual about him is that a lot of times pitchers are more consumed with themselves. Andy was probably the consummate team player, especially for a pitcher. He was so concerned not only about the day he pitched but he always had his arm around a young guy in between starts.

“He has been a huge favorite of mine because he’s such a standup guy, and he hasn’t changed from day one. He was a great teammate, and I think that’s why he won so many games. The guys that play behind him understand how intense he is, and it becomes contagious.

“I think the impact he had on the teams we had in the mid-to-late 1990’s was enormous even though he was never the guy in the spotlight. He liked the fact that he wasn’t the No. 1 guy even though I trusted him like a No. 1 guy. But he didn’t have an ego that dictated he needed all that attention.

“He did a great job of channeling his energy into competing, and he was about as consistent a performer as anybody in terms of getting your money’s worth. He glued our staff together. When you’re performing with the same people year-in and year-out, it’s always nice to have that security blanket. He was certainly that guy on the pitching staff.”

For other managers, the Astros’ Jimy Williams and Phil Garner and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi, Pettitte proved just as reliable in a career he brought to a halt this week.

That Game 5 of the 1996 World Series four nights after the Braves handed his head to him in Game 1 (seven runs, six hits in 2 1/3 innings) remains the centerpiece of Pettitte’s career, but there were plenty of other times when he gave the Yankees everything needed from a pitcher.

He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 ALCS when he won both his starts and held a Seattle team that had won 116 games during the regular season to four runs in 14 1/3 innings. Even in defeat, Pettitte could be magnificent, such as the Game 6 showdown with the Marlins’ Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series, Andy’s last start for the Yankees before signing as a free agent with his hometown Houston club.

Three years later, Pettitte was back with the Yankees reunited with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and helped ring in the new Yankee Stadium by winning the clinching games of all three post-season series in 2009 as the team achieved its 27th championship. In 2010, he was a Cy Young Award candidate for half the season before a groin injury cost him at least a dozen starts. That sent him into his first retirement, but he was lured back in 2012. Pettitte dealt with health issues each of the past two seasons yet was no less competitive

“Andy was a great teammate and a wonderful guy,” Rivera said. “He was a fighter and all about winning, and he was respected by every person in the clubhouse.”

“It has been a pleasure to play with Andy for all these years,” Jeter said. “The Yankees have been fortunate to have him representing the organization both on and off the field. More importantly, it has been an honor to get to know him as a person, and I consider him family. I wish for nothing but happiness for him and his family, as I know how important they are to him.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for Hall of Fame talk about Pettitte to sprout. Let’s give it the five-year wait before getting serious about that. Pettitte has a lot going for him – a won-loss record more than 100 games over .500 at 256-153, a postseason-record 19 victories and winning five rings in eight World Series overall. He also has some things going against him – allowing more hits than innings pitched, a rather high ERA (3.85) and three more dangerous capital letters, HGH, which he admitted to using after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report.

His path to Cooperstown won’t be smooth. Over the next few years, the ballot will contain the names of starting pitchers superior to him in terms of statistics – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, even Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

“I don’t think about the Hall of Fame unless I’m asked about it,” Pettitte said. “I feel blessed that people will bring my name into that conversation. Have I been a pitcher who dominated? Every game has been a grind for me. I’d continue to pitch if [the Hall of Fame] was a desire of mine. I wouldn’t have retired in the first place.”

The writers who vote will be talking about him for a while. But to Yankees fans, Pettitte will always be in their personal Halls of Fame for his competitiveness and remarkable consistency.

Pitchers stifled because of managers’ scrap?

Someone will have to explain to me what CC Sabathia and Chris Tillman had to do with the beef between their managers, the Yankees’ Joe Girardi and the Orioles’ Buck Showalter, at the end of the first inning Monday night in the opener of a crucial four-game series between the American League wild-card playoff berth foes at Camden Yards.

The shouting match between the skippers apparently was over Girardi’s admonishing Orioles third base coach Bobby Dickerson for reasons the Yankees manager did not specify after the game only to say that he has always been dedicated to defending his players. One can only assume the player he was defending was catcher Austin Romine after hearing Showalter’s post-game remarks that the issue may have been sign stealing or signaling pitch location.

Well, it all made for interesting theater and little else. So what was the point of plate umpire Ed Hickox issuing warnings to the pitchers? What did Sabathia and Tillman have to do with all this? Here is a pivotal game between a couple of postseason candidates and the pitchers are neutralized for no good reason.

Camden Yards is a home-run haven that requires pitchers to use every inch of the plate and they are told from practically the start of the game that they work the inner half at their peril. What a joke.

Despite this limitation, both starters worked deeply into the game. Sabathia was provided a 1-0 lead before he took the mound on a home run by Alex Rodriguez. But for the 12th time this season, CC gave up a lead as the Orioles tied the score with a run in the bottom half of the first on a sacrifice fly by Adam Jones.

The pitchers exchanged zeroes until the fifth when another sacrifice fly, by J.J. Hardy, put the Orioles ahead. Baltimore picked up an additional run thanks to the legs of Alexi Casilla. He singled with two out and stole second from where he scored on a single by Nick Markakis, one of his three hits in the game.

Sabathia hurt himself in the eighth with a throwing error that helped the Orioles to another run on a two-out double by Manny Machado. Lyle Overbay’s 14th home run leading off the eighth inning ended Tillman’s stretch of 14 consecutive outs and his outing as well. Tommy Hunter struck out the next three innings.

The Yankees got the tying run to the plate after Rodriguez led off the ninth with a single, but Jim Johnson withstood a warning-track drive by Curtis Granderson to get his 43rd save.

It was not the way the Yankees wanted to start the series. They fell three games behind the Rays for the second wild card and 1 ½ games behind the Orioles and Indians with only a one-game edge over the Royals.

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.

Yankees take what Orioles give them — in triplicate

So maybe you cannot chew gum and walk at the same time, or in the case of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones blow bubble gum and field at the same time. An error by Jones in the seventh inning Friday night on a ball he appeared to have caught was the critical play in the Yankees’ 5-2 victory over Baltimore that gave them a share of first place in the American League East with the Red Sox, who were rained out.

The three-run rally that resulted in the Yankees’ fourth straight victory was as weird as it can get. They did not have a hit in the inning. Orioles lefthander Troy Patton entered the game after starter Miguel Gonzalez walked Francisco Cervelli to start the inning. After Brett Gardner sacrificed Cervelli to second base, the Orioles decided to walk Kevin Youikilis, who had three hits, intentionally.

Somewhat surprisingly, Yankees manager Joe Girardi allowed lefty-swinging Travis Hafner to bat against Patton, who made a huge gaff by hitting the Yanks’ designated hitter with a 3-2 pitch that filled the bases and brought up Vernon Wells. O’s manager Buck Showalter brought in righthander Pedro Strop, a Yankees punching bag, to pitch to Vernon Wells. The Yanks’ left fielder got good wood on a drive to center. Jones, a Gold Glove winner last year, made a long run to the warning track to catch up with the ball blowing a bubble along the way. For a quick moment it seemed as if Jones had ended the threat, but the ball clanged off his glove for a two-base error that cleared the bags as the Yankees unlocked a 2-2 score.

This was the same Jones who in Game 3 of last year’s American League Division Series blew a bubble with his gum while tracking a drive to right-center by Derek Jeter that fell on the warning track for a run-scoring triple.

The good fortune continued for the Yankees the next inning with their second triple play since 1969. The Orioles got a rally going against CC Sabathia after leadoff singles by Alex Casilla and Nick Markakis. Manny Machado followed with a grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano, who flipped to shortstop Jayson Nix for what looked like the beginning of a double play. But why settle for two outs when you might get three?

Nix thought he had a shot at getting Casilla going to third and threw to that base instead of first. Casilla got in a rundown and was tagged out by Youkilis, the third baseman, who saw that Machado was midway between first and second and gunned the ball to first baseman Lyle Overbay, who ran Machado toward second and then tossed to Cano to complete the 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple killing.

I ran into WCBS Radio voice John Sterling while leaving the yard later, and he told me in making the call on the play said, “Nix turns and throws to third base, why, I’ll never know.”

I must admit that I felt the same way. The Yankees had a sure double play, and you never know what can happen when a fielder throws behind a runner. Nix ended up making an alert play in spite of its unorthodoxy.

The previous triple play turned by the Yankees was April 22, 2010 at Oakland on an around-the-horn job from third baseman Alex Rodriguez to Cano to first baseman Nick Johnson on a ground ball by Kurt Suzuki. That game was a loss by the Yankees. This one might have been, too, except Baltimore did everything but hand it to them.

The Yankees took advantage of all the breaks the Orioles gave them. The players who scored the Yanks’ five runs all reached base without a hit. Orioles pitchers held the Yankees to six hits but walked six batters and hit two.

Sabathia, meanwhile, was brilliant under difficult situations with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees with a 25-miles-per-hour wind. One of the two runs off CC was not earned due to a balk, which the lefthander disputed. That second run for Baltimore that tied the score in the seventh loomed large until the bottom of the inning when Jones’ glove lost its glove and the Yankees tripled their pleasure.