Results tagged ‘ Chipper Jones ’

Yanks to honor Teixeira before regular-season finale

The Yankees will honor Mark Teixeira in a ceremony prior to their 3:05 p.m. game Sunday, Oct. 2, against the Orioles. Teixeira, 36, will retire as a player at the end of the 2016 season.

He joined the Yankees as a free agent Jan. 6, 2009 when he signed an eight-year contract. In that time, Teixeira has batted .248 with 530 runs, 183 doubles, five triples, 203 home runs, 615 RBI, 472 walks, a .343 on-base percentage and .820 OPS in 948 regular-season games and 3,494 at-bats. The Yankees’ record during Tex’s tenure is 542-406 (.572).

With the Yankees, he earned three Gold Gloves (2009-10, ’12) and a Silver Slugger (2009), and was named to two American League All-Star teams (2009, ’15). As part of the Yankees’ World Series-winning team in 2009, Teixeira finished second in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting. He led the AL with 122 RBI (including a league-leading 31 go-ahead RBI) and tied for the league lead with 39 home runs. He also hit an 11th-inning “walk-off” home run to win Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Twins.

In franchise history, Teixeira is tied with Roger Maris for 15th place in home runs, trailing only Lou Gehrig (493), Don Mattingly (222) and Jason Giambi (209) among players whose primary position was first base. Along with Maris, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez, Tex was one of four Yankees all-time to hit at least 30 home runs in each of his first three seasons with the club.

Originally drafted by Texas as the fifth overall pick of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, Teixeira has played 14 seasons in the majors with the Rangers (2003-07), Braves (2007-08), Angels (2008) and Yankees (2009-present) and batted .268 with 1,096 runs, 406 doubles, 18 triples, 406 home runs, 1,291 RBI, 914 walks, a .360 on-base percentage and an .869 OPS in 1,852 games and 6,908 at-bats. He is a three-time All-Star (also 2005), five-time Gold Glove winner (also 2005-06) and three-time Silver Slugger winner (also 2004-05).

Only four switch-hitters in baseball history have more home runs than Teixeira (Mickey Mantle-536, Eddie Murray-504, Chipper Jones-468 and former teammate Carlos Beltran-419) and only four players have more home runs since his debut in 2003 (Albert Pujols-519, David Ortiz-479, Miguel Cabrera-441, Adam Dunn-417).

A Maryland native who now lives on Greenwich, Conn., Teixeira has been actively involved in charitable endeavors throughout his career, including participation on the Board of Directors of Harlem RBI, supporting a scholarship fund at his alma mater, Georgia Tech, and creating a scholarship at his high school, Mt. St. Joseph, in the name of his friend Nick Liberatore, who passed away in a car accident while the two were in school together.

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.”

Yankees obtain 3 more prospects for Beltran

On the day of the first Subway Series game in 2016, the best position player of those who spent time with both the Yankees and the Mets was on his way out of New York again. Carlos Beltran, the Yankees’ most productive hitter this season, followed the path of relief pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller and was traded for three prospects.

Beltran was a major trade chip for the Yankees, particularly to American League clubs that could use him at designated hitter as well as in the outfield. The Rangers have been in need of added punch at the plate since Prince Fielder was lost for the remainder of the season due to a neck injury that required surgery.

Beltran will certainly provide that for Texas. At the age of 39 and despite nagging leg issues, Beltran hit .304 in 359 at-bats for the Yankees and led the team in hits (109), home runs (22) and runs batted in (64) and was tied for the club lead in doubles (21). He was an All-Star for the ninth time in his career and the first time as an American Leaguer.

Earlier this season, he reached 20 homers for the 12th time in his career (1999, 2001-04, ’06-08, ’11-13 and ’16), tied with former teammate Mark Teixeira for the fourth-most 20-homer seasons all time among switch-hitters. Eddie Murray had 16 such seasons, and Mickey Mantle and Chipper Jones 14 apiece. Beltran also became the second switch-hitter in major league history with a 20-homer season at age 39-or-older, joining Murray (21 homers at 39 in 1995 and 22HR at 40 in ’96).

Beltran was a five-time National League All-Star during his seven-plus seasons with the Mets. Only Darryl Strawberry rivals him as a major position player on both New York teams. The best pitcher who was on both clubs was David Cone, with Dwight Gooden a close second.

Of the four players the Yankees received in return for Beltran, the most promising is pitcher Dillon Tate, a righthander who was the Rangers’ selection in the first round (and the fourth overall pick) in the 2015 First Year Player Draft. The Yankees also got two other right-handed pitchers, Erik Swanson and Nick Green.

Tate, 22, was 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA (65.0IP, 37ER) in 17 games (16 starts) and 65 innings with Class A Hickory this year. He made his professional debut in 2015, posting a 1.00 ERA over six starts and nine innings with Hickory and short-season Class A Spokane. Entering the 2015 draft, Tate was tabbed by Baseball America as the top pitcher and third-best prospect overall. Following the 2015 season, the Claremont, Calif., native was ranked by the publication as baseball’s 69th-best prospect.

During his collegiate career at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Tate was named a 2015 Louisville Slugger All-America and UCSB’s first-ever Golden Spikes Award semifinalist after going 8-5 with a 2.26 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 14 starts and 103 1/3 innings as a junior. In 2014, he earned a spot on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, recording three saves while posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 appearances. The highest selection ever out of UCSB, Tate is a product of Major League Baseball’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., where he played in tournaments across the United States and Japan as a teenager.

Swanson, 22, was 6-4 with one save and a 3.43 ERA (81.1IP, 31ER) in 19 games (15 starts) and 81 1/3 innings with Hickory in 2016 and was a South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star. The Terrace Park, Ohio, native was originally selected by the Rangers in the eighth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. Over three minor league seasons, he has combined to go 8-6 with two saves and a 3.52 ERA in 44 games (15 starts) and 120 innings.

Green, 21, was 2-2 with a 4.98 ERA in seven starts totaling 34 1/3 innings with Spokane in 2016. Originally selected by Texas in the seventh round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, Green has posted a 6-8 record and 5.15 ERA in 31 career appearances (21 starts) and 108 1/3 innings over three minor league seasons. The Fountain, Colo., native was previously drafted by the Yankees in the 35th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft but did not sign.

In another transaction designed towards the future, the Yanks traded pitcher Ivan Nova to the Pirates for two players to be named. The Yankees added relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, who they acquired from the Diamondbacks Sunday, to the 25-man roster and recalled pitcher Nick Goody and outfielder Ben Gamel from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not say who would replace Nova in the rotation. The candidates are Luis Severino and Chad Green. The manager was also unclear how he would replace Beltran.

“We lost the most important hitter in our lineup,” Girardi said. “This is a chance for young players to step up. I believe we can still win with the players in that room.”

Teixeira posts 2nd straight 3-hit, 2-HR game

When the Yankees scored 21 runs Tuesday night at Arlington, Texas, Mark Teixeira did not have one of the the team’s 19 hits. He did reach base twice on a walk and being hit by a pitch and scored both times but essentially was left out of all the fun.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave Teixeira Wednesday night off, and the first baseman has been on fire ever since. Tex pounded two home runs Thursday night in a 7-6 loss to the Rangers and put on a major show Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field.

The Yankees broke out of the gate with a rush and kept it up for a 13-6 victory over the White Sox. Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brendan Ryan had three hits apiece in the Yanks’ 18-hit attack. Alex Rodriguez reached base in all five of his plate appearances (double, single, three walks) and scored four runs. Nathan Eovaldi improved his record to 11-2 despite needing 117 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings.

Two more home runs came off the bat of Teixeira, who also doubled and walked and knocked in six runs. The switch hitter homered from both sides of the plate in a game for the 14th time in his career, breaking the major league record he had shared with former teammate Nick Swisher. It was also the 41st multi-homer game in Teixeira’s career. The only switch hitter with more is Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle with 46.

Teixeira’s first homer was a grand slam as part of a five-run second inning that staked Evoldi to a 6-0 lead. Tex greeted reliever Matt Albers in the fourth with a two-run blast. The Yankees batted around in both innings and totaled 10 runs.

This marks Teixeira’s 10th season with at least 25 homers and his first since 2011 when he bashed 39. He is tied with Mantle and Chipper Jones for the second most 25-homer seasons for a switch hitter. The all-time leader is Hall of Famer Eddie Murray with 12.

Tex has had multiple hits in eight of 12 games since July 18 and is batting .457 with 12 runs, six doubles, six home runs, 11 RBI and six walks in 46 at-bats over that span to raise his season batting average from .239 to .269.

Coming back from two sub-par, injury-riddled seasons, Teixeira has been touted as a candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year. However, with 28 home runs and 73 RBI with 60 games left on the schedule, Tex is a solid candidate for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Try to imagine where the Yankees would be without him.

Last shall be first with Yanks’ lineup lately

It has been a bottoms-up situation for the Yankees’ batting order in recent games. Monday night, the six-through-nine hitters in the Yankees’ starting lineup were a combined 7-for-14 (.500) with four runs, one doubles, one triple, one home run, four RBI and two walks in the 6-2 victory over the Rangers at Arlington, Texas.

Sunday, the 6-9 hitters drove in all seven runs in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Twins at Minneapolis. Over the past two games, 6-9 in the order are batting a combined .393 (11-for-28) with eight runs, one double, one triple, three homers, 11 RBI and two walks. For the season, the seven-through-nine hitters (not counting pitchers in inter-league competition) rank fifth in the American League with a .649 OPS (on-base plus slugging averages) and have the second most home runs (28).

Third baseman Chase Headley has been as hot as the weather this month. In 17 games in July, Headley is batting .369 (24-for-65) with 11 runs, six doubles, one home run, and 11 RBI in 65 at-bats. He has reached base safely in 15 of the 17 games, has a .400 on-base percentage and raised his batting average 22 points to .268. . . Shortstop Didi Gregorius has also been hot. Derek Jeter’s successor homered and drove in a career-high four runs Monday in his second three-hit game over the past five in which he is 8-for-15 (.533) with three runs, one homer and six RBI to raise his season batting average from .234 to .248. The home run ended a homer-less stretch of 103 at-bats.

Yankees closer Andrew Miller has converted all 23 of his save opportunities this year, which is the longest streak of consecutive saves to begin a stint with the Yankees since saves became an official statistic in 1969 and tied for third longest for any team, equaling those of Huston Street with the Padres in 2012 and LaTroy Hawkins with the Twins over the 2000 and ’01 seasons. The longest is 44 straight saves by Brad Lidge with the Phillies over the 2008 and ’09 seasons. Second is Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez with 32 for the Tigers in 1984, the year he won both the AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards.

Alex Rodriguez, who turned 40 Monday, hit his sixth career home run on his birthday to set a major league record. He had shared the previous mark of five with Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Derrek Lee and Al Simmons. A-Rod also became only the fourth player to homer in his teens and his 40s. The others were Ty Cobb (who played from 1905-28) Rusty Staub (1963-85) and Gary Sheffield (1988-2009). Since 1914, Rodriguez is the ninth right-handed batter (10th occasion) to hit at least 24 home runs in his age-39 season or older, and the first since Frank Thomas in 2007 (26 at age 39). The only player to hit as many as 30 homers at 39 or older was Hank Aaron, who hit 40 in 1973 when he was 39. Nine of A-Rod’s past 14 hits have been home runs, including each of his past four hits.

Yanks outhomered as 4 solos not good enough

Wednesday seemed to be ideal for the Yankees. Everyone knows how hot it was. Temperatures soared in the 90s throughout the game, the kind of day when the ball carries very well, making the dimensions at Yankee Stadium even more comfortable than normal for power hitters. The Yankees lead the major leagues in home runs. What could have been better?

The Braves even did the Yankees a favor by giving Chipper Jones a day off. Chipper’s only time out of the dugout was in a pre-game ceremony when Derek Jeter and Andruw Jones on behalf of the Yankees presented him with a trophy case in which he could put third base from the game as a parting gift in his farewell season. Of course, the Yankees would like to see Chipper play more games at the Stadium because that would mean they would be in the World Series.

It was a nice gesture by the Yankees, but the Braves returned the favor by outslugging them in a 10-5 home run derby. It was the first losing series for the Yankees since May 28-30 when they dropped two of three to the Angels at Anaheim. The Braves also took two out of three from the Yankees and unlike the first two games beat the Bombers at their own game Wednesday.

Atlanta hit five home runs to the Yankees’ four. Each starting pitcher, the Yanks’ Phil Hughes and the Braves’ Tommy Hanson, was touched for four, which marked the first time in franchise history that two pitchers allowed four home runs apiece in the same game. The nine combined homers were the most in a game at the current Yankee Stadium and tied the franchise mark for any home game (the fifth time).

It was a distressing day for Hughes, who has allowed 19 home runs in 14 starts totaling 78 1/3 innings. His previous start June 15 at Washington was the only game in which Hughes did not give up a home run. The righthander had location issues, made little use of his changeup and relied on a fastball that he could not get down in the zone.

Freddie Freeman started the onslaught with a two-run shot in a three-run first inning. Martin Prado found the seats in the third. Jason Heyward hit the first of his two home runs in the fourth, and backup catcher David Ross whacked a 0-2 pitch for a homer in the fifth.

Despite all that, the Yankees kept themselves in position for a comeback by teeing off regularly against Hanson – by Derek Jeter in the first, Eric Chavez in the fifth and back-to-back jobs by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano in the sixth that got them within 6-4 with plenty of sundry daylight left.

Curtis Granderson’s run-scoring single with one out in the seventh made it a one-run game and got the potential tying run to third base, but Rodriguez grounded into a double play to end the threat. It was the first of two double-play situations that hurt the Yankees. The other came in the eighth when their failure to turn two gave the Braves a huge opening.

Mark Teixeira was not in the starting lineup to rest his sore left heel, which he hurt Tuesday night by getting hit there with a hard ground ball. Eric Chavez started at first base in his place.

In the eighth, the Braves had runners on first and third with two out when Freeman hit a hard grounder to Chavez, who made a back-handed stop but bobbled it momentarily losing the chance to go to second base for what might have been an inning-ending DP. Chavez was able to get only the out at first base as a run scored.

That gave Heyward an at-bat, which resulted in a two-run home run off Boone Logan, who had a 13-appearance streak of unscored upon relief ended. The Braves added a tack-on run in the ninth off Freddy Garcia. That 10th run allowed marked a season high for the Yankees, who became the last team in the majors to give up a double-figure run total in a game this year.

Hughes’ exit after 4 1/3 innings stopped a stretch of 19 consecutive games in which a Yankees starter pitched at least six innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the had been the longest such streak in the majors this season and the franchise’s longest since 1981 (also 19).

Jeter’s homer was his fourth of the season leading off a game and 28th of his career, extending his club record. It was also Jeet’s ninth career homer on a game’s first pitch and second this year (the other was June 3 at Detroit off Justin Verlander). The Captain is one shy of the most leadoff homers he has had in one season. He had five in 2005.

Rodriguez’s home run was career No. 640 and gave him his 1,925th career run batted in as he passed Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx into sixth place on the all-time list.

On the plus side for the Yankees was the relief outing of Clay Rapada, who struck out the four batters he faced. The lefthander has held opposing hitters hitless in the past 20 at-bats against him.

Yanks not so ‘chipper’ as winning streak ends

Chipper Jones has been enjoying his time at Yankee Stadium this week. The Braves’ third baseman will retire at the end of this season and is in smell-the-roses mode. There is definitely a case of mutual respect between Jones and Yankees captain Derek Jeter. The two have chatted it up throughout the two series.

Jones, whose former Atlanta teammate Andruw Jones is now with the Yankees, is one of the game’s greatest switch hitters. His father was a huge Mickey Mantle fan as a kid and taught his son to switch-hit. Before the Yankees and Braves play the finale of their series Wednesday, Jones plans to visit the New York Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America at the Stadium to view the special exhibit on Mantle.

I am not a big fan of inter-league play, but clearly the best thing about it is the opportunity to see great players from the other league in your ballpark. Sure, the Yankees just saw Chipper a week ago in Atlanta, but what a treat to see him at the Stadium. Not all of Jones’ memories of the old Stadium are positive. He was on Braves teams that lost the World Series to the Yankees in 1996 and 1999.

Perhaps there was a sense of revenge achieved as Jones helped the Braves end the Yankees’ 10-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory, only their third loss in 14 inter-league games this year.

Chipper, who has tormented the Mets throughout his career, was in the middle of a lot of stuff Tuesday night. He doubled home a run in the fourth inning off Hiroki Kuroda that tied the score. Jones failed to reach the plate, however, before Jason Heyward was gunned down at third base on a strong throw from Curtis Granderson in center field for the third out. One run scored on Andrelton Simmons’ single to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead, but Heyward was tagged at third by Chavez about a half-second before Jones hit the plate.

The Yankees took advantage of an error by Jones to tie the score in the bottom of the fourth without a hit. With two out and runners on first and second, Russell Martin hit a hard line drive that dipped as it approached Jones and went off his glove, allowing Raul Ibanez to score from second base.

In the sixth, Kuroda clearly pitched around Jones with Brian McCann, who led off the inning with a double, on third base and two out. The deliberate if not intentional walk to Jones preceded a hard grounder by Heyward that went under the glove of first baseman Mark Teixeira and struck him in the left heel and caromed toward second base for a single as Atlanta regained the lead.

Jones helped maintain that lead with a dazzling play to atone for the earlier boot. The Yankees had runners on second and third with one out when Teixeira hit a hard chopper to third that Jones gloved with a backhand scoop on the in-between hop and fired a strike to McCann the catcher to nail Granderson at the plate.

It was a tough loss for the Yankees. One-run losses always are, particularly those in which two runners are thrown out on the bases. Yet those in the crowd of 41,219 at the Stadium got to see why the guy at third base for Atlanta is likely to have a place in Cooperstown in about five years.

Mixed bag for Yanks


There were mixed reviews for the Yankees in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Angel Stadium, a 3-1 National League victory.

Joe Girardi became the first American League manager to lose an All-Star Game since the Indians’ Mike Hargrove 14 years ago at Philadelphia. If you don’t think 1996 was a long time ago, consider that only six players on the rosters that year are still active – three from each league – Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and Ivan Rodriguez from the AL and Chipper Jones, Mark Grudzielanek and Jason Kendall from the NL.

Girardi did a good job getting players into the game. All the position players except for A-Rod did time. Girardi left himself short in the ninth, however, and did not have anyone to pinch run for David Ortiz after he opened the inning with a single. A-Rod was available, but Girardi said he needed him either to pinch run for hamstring-aching Adrian Beltre if he reached base or to be the designated hitter had the game gone into extras.

Beltre did not reach base and struck out. Blue Jays catcher John Buck dumped a flare to right in front of the Cubs’ Marlon Byrd, but he fired a blazer to Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal covering second to force the plodding Ortiz and essentially kill the rally. So Alex Rodriguez never got to swing the bat.

Phil Hughes was hung with the losing decision, the first Yankees pitcher to lose an All-Star Game since Tommy John in 1980 at Dodger Stadium. Hughes came on in the seventh and got the first out before yielding singles to Reds third baseman Scott Rolen and Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday. Rolen’s reputation for savvy base running was evident as he challenged Angels center fielder Torii Hunter and got to third.

Girardi pulled Hughes at that point for White Sox lefthander Matt Thornton, who got righty-swinging Chris Young of the Diamondbacks on a foul pop. Byrd worked out a walk in an eight-pitch at-bat to fill the bases before lefty-swinging catcher Brian McCann cleared them with a double, which earned him the game’s Most Valuable Player Award.

A wild throw in the fifth inning by Dodgers pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo had given Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano the opportunity to drive in what proved to be the only AL run with a sacrifice fly. A base-running blunder by Twins catcher Joe Mauer, thrown out at third base trying to advance on a grounder to Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, spoiled the AL’s chance for another run that inning.

Derek Jeter reached base twice in his three at-bats with a walk and a single. Pettitte pitched the third and looked sharp striking out the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier and the Brewers’ Corey Hart before Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina reached the lefthander for a single. Pettitte ended the inning by retiring Ramirez on a fielder’s choice. Nick Swisher batted as a pinch hitter in the seventh and struck out on a nasty curveball by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. CC Sabathia was not eligible for duty because he pitched Sunday.

Andy not handy

Dodgers manager Joe Torre must have been stunned to see Andy Pettitte throw the ball all over the infield in the third inning Sunday night.

The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew of Joe Morgan, Orel Hershiser and Jon Miller rattled on about the Yankees showing inexperience dealing with the bunting game that is more prevalent in the National League, which was a lot of nonsense. The Yankees only happen to have beaten NL competition more than any team in World Series history.

Besides, Sunday night’s finale of the series at Dodger Stadium was the Yankees’ 18th and last inter-league game of the year and the 12th consecutive game against an NL club. It is not as if they haven’t seen a pitcher bunt before.

You can be sure Torre knows better. His relationship with Pettitte was cemented in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series at Atlanta when the lefthander pitched 8 1/3 innings of a 1-0 victory over the Braves that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in games heading back to Yankee Stadium where they would win Game 6 and clinch the Series. Prior to that performance, Torre had viewed Pettitte somewhat skeptically telling friends he thought the pitcher was “soft.”

Baseball people of Torre’s generation don’t know what to make of a player like Pettitte who has deep religious convictions. Such players are often labeled “God squanders” and have their competitive grit questioned. Torre might have viewed Pettitte in that light at one time, but not after Game 5 in ’96. Not ever again. In fact, when the Yankees toyed with the idea of trading Pettitte to Philadelphia during the 1999 season, Torre campaigned hard with the front office to keep Pettitte in pinstripes.

Go back to that Game 5 in Atlanta, and one of the critical innings was the bottom of the sixth in which Pettitte’s defensive ability helped him snuff out a rally. Clinging to a one-run lead, Pettitte gave up singles to opposing pitcher John Smoltz and Marquis Grissom with none out. Mark Lemke attempted to sacrifice the runners over, but Pettitte pounded on the bunt and quickly threw to Charlie Hayes at third base to cut down Smoltz, the lead runner. Pettitte then handled a shot to the box by Chipper Jones and turned to second to start an inning-ending double play.

So you can imagine what might have been going through Torre’s mind Sunday night watching Pettitte commit two throwing errors on bunt fielding plays in the third. Reed Johnson was on second base after a leadoff double when Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw bunted in front of the plate. Pettitte tried for the lead runner at third, but Alex Rodriguez, who had charged for the bunt, was back pedaling to the bag and could not lunge for the throw that was wide to his left and ended up down the left field line, allowing Reed to score.

Rafael Furcal then bunted for a hit and got one. A third consecutive bunt came from Ronnie Belliard. Pettitte fielded the ball, but his throw to first on the sacrifice was into the runner and eluded second baseman Robinson Cano, who originally was charged with an error which the official score correctly amended later by assigning it to Pettitte. A run scored on that play, and Furcal was able to get to third from where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier.

A surprisingly sloppy inning by one of Joe Torre’s favorite players turned his reunion weekend with the Yankees in the Dodgers’ favor temporarily. The Yankees’ four-run uprising in the ninth against Jonathan Broxton, in a non-save situation, featured major contributions by Curtis Granderson, Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis, three Yankees never managed by Torre.

Huffman drove in two runs and Curtis one. A big mistake was by James Loney, the Dodgers first baseman who lost precious time stepping on the bag on Curtis’ grounder and was late throwing home as Granderson scored the tying run. Can’t these NL players handle balls in the infield?