Results tagged ‘ Chris Stewart ’

Sunday in New York: A disappointing split

The first Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium in 17 years brought back some nostalgic thoughts, among them that this was awful lot of baseball in one day. For the diehard fans, that was fine. Consider me among those who do not mind two games back-to-back on the same day, provided as it used to be and was again this time that the next day is an open date.

That was the case years ago when clubs had 16 to 18 doubleheaders on their schedule. The economics of the game changed all that. There is no way in this day and age that clubs would concede that many dates. Truth be told, a separate-admission doubleheader may have been scheduled to make up for Friday night’s rainout but conflicts with national television networks FoxSports Saturday and ESPN Sunday forced the Yankees and the Pirates to play a single-admission twin bill Sunday.

Another issue with any doubleheader is fatigue. The Pirates on the last leg of a six-game trip through Milwaukee and New York looked like a tired team. They made two errors that resulted in two runs for the Yanks in the second inning and ran themselves out of two rallies with a couple of blunders on the bases. The Pirates were able to overcome those early lapses to salvage a split of the doubleheader with a 5-3 victory after the Yankees had won the first game, 4-3.

The Yankees did not play all that soundly in the second game, either. They, too, had a pair of errors in the top of the second that gave the Pirates a freebie run. In the first inning, Brett Gardner, who led off with a triple, got picked off third base by a former teammate, catcher Chris Stewart, who hurt the Yankees again the next inning with an RBI single. Stew got a second RBI in the ninth with a sacrifice fly for an insurance run.

“There were a lot of weird things that happened in the first two innings,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Then it became a baseball game.”

Vidal Nuno was following in the string of solid starts this turn in the rotation with no earned runs over the first five innings. The lefthander was stung by a two-run home run by Starling Marte in the sixth that put the Bucs ahead, 3-2, but the Yankees quickly tied it on a homer by Yangervis Solarte in the bottom of that inning.

Josh Harrison’s solo home run off Alfredo Aceves (0-2) with two out in the seventh regained the lead for Pittsburgh. Harrison also made the defensive play of the game one inning later. After Derek Jeter singled as a pinch hitter leading off the eighth, Harrison, who had moved to left field from third base the previous inning when Marte came out of the game with a hamstring injury, made a diving catch on the warning track to rob Solarte of a potential extra-base hit that likely would have scored Jeter with the tying run.

Jeter stayed in the game at shortstop the next inning, which led to an unusual alignment as Ryan moved over to first base. Kelly Johnson started there but was lifted for Jeter. It was the first time in his major-league career that Ryan played the position. He handled one chance without incident.

Mark Teixeira was already in the game as the designated hitter, so moving him would have put the pitcher in the batting order. Ryan had to stay in the game because there were no other infielders available if God forbid one of them got hurt.

The second game was definitely a downer against a team that seemed to be handing them the game at the beginning. Nevertheless, the Yankees ended the day in first place in the American League East and a pitching staff that is making do despite losing three-fifths of its Opening Day rotation to injury. The starters were 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 30 2/3 innings over this turn in the rotation. It starts all over again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago with Masahiro Tanaka taking the mound.

One other piece of nostalgia: This was the Pirates’ first victory at the Stadium since Game 5 of the 1960 World Series and in nine regular-season games during inter-league play.

Nova makes scoreboard watching easy

There was not too much scoreboard watching for the Yankees Saturday. The only game other than theirs against the Giants in the afternoon that involved the clubs ahead of them in the wild-card hunt was the Orioles at St. Pete where the Rays won, 5-1. The Indians, Rangers and Royals were all scheduled at night.

So the best scoreboard watching for the Yankees was their own as inning by inning Ivan Nova kept tossing zeroes at the distant cousins from San Francisco. The righthander, who has been the Yankees’ best starting pitcher in the second half, finished up with a six-hit shutout, his second complete-game blanking of the season. This one, a 6-0 final, was clutch because of the timing when the Yankees simply have to win every game they play.

“If we play like we did today, there is no reason why we can’t win all seven games we have left,” Alfonso Soriano said.

Soriano ranks right up there with Nova as the most important Yankees post the All-Star Game. Sori smacked out another home run Saturday. That gives him 17 in 52 games with the Yankees, the same total he had in 93 games with the Cubs. He also raised his RBI total to 101 in becoming only the fifth player in history to drive in 50 or more runs each for two different clubs in the same season. The others were Matt Holliday with the Athletics and Cardinals in 2009, Manny Ramirez with the Red Sox and Dodgers in 2008, Carlos Beltran with the Royals and Astros in 2004 and David Justice with the Indians and Yankees in 2000.

Similar to what Justice did for the Yanks 13 years ago; Soriano has re-ignited the team’s offense with 50 RBI in 52 games and 36 RBI in 26 games at Yankee Stadium.

“He has been special since he got here,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I think it is because he is excited to be here. He had fond memories of being here before and enjoyed it so much.”

Soriano’s 34th home run of the season overall was icing on the cake Saturday. The way Nova was pitching the three runs he got in the fourth were plenty sufficient. They came essentially from the bottom third of the order against Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong on singles by Mark Reynolds and Brendan Ryan and a walk to Chris Stewart that loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki, an infield out by Alex Rodriguez and a two-out single by Robinson Cano scored all the runners. Eduardo Nunez contributed a two-run homer in the fourth, two innings before Soriano connected.

In the meantime, Nova (9-5) held the Giants to six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in an efficient, 108-pitch effort. Nova had been the American League Pitcher of the Month for August but was 0-1 with a 7.07 ERA in his first three starts in September before Saturday’s gem. He had better command of his breaking ball and a good sinker that resulted in 14 groundouts. Splendid defense up the middle by Ryan at shortstop made this the kind of day to get ground balls.

So the Yankees pulled even with Baltimore again in the wild-card standings and would pay close attention to the night games to see where they stand heading into Sunday, which will be a special day for Mariano Rivera and they hope for the rest of the team as well.

Momentum from Baltimore stalled in Boston

With a bullpen gasping, the last thing the Yankees needed Friday night was for their starting pitcher to blow up in the early innings. That is precisely what happened to Hiroki Kuroda, who soon after righted himself and pitched into the seventh but that first-inning damage did not go away. Although the Yankees evaporated the four-run deficit stemming from that inning, the weakened bullpen could not keep the Red Sox at bay and help the Yankees to another stirring, come-from-behind victory.

Instead, it turned out to be a night out of, well, Friday the 13th for the Yankees, whose movement in the American League wild-card chase stalled as the result of the 8-4 loss. In essence, the score was the same after the first inning when the Red Sox took a 4-0 lead off Kuroda, who threw 33 pitches and looked as if he might have to make an early exit.

The Red Sox threatened to blow the game wide open by loading the bases with one out in the second inning, but Kuroda worked out of it without giving up a run and did the same in the third after a leadoff double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. In fact, Kuroda retired 12 of the next 13 batters and was in a tie game by the time he reached the seventh inning.

John Lackey, who has had run-support issues all season, allowed the Yankees to chip away at the four-run spread. The Boston righthander gave up a Green Monster home run to Brendan Ryan in the third and needed a splendid, running catch from hamstrung right fielder Shane Victorino on a sacrifice fly by Lyle Overbay in the sixth to prevent that from becoming a much bigger inning.

The bottom of the Yankees’ order – Ryan and Chris Stewart – pushed Lackey out of the game in the seventh with one-out singles, and left-handed reliever Craig Breslow lost the lead as Robinson Cano drove in two runs with his third double and fourth hit of the game.

The Yankees came from behind in two of their three victories in Baltimore leading into this series and appeared bound to do so again before the Red Sox started putting runners on base in the bottom of the seventh beginning with a scorching single off Kuroda that Eduardo Nunez at third base could not handle.

The back end of the Yankees’ bullpen was not up to the task. Manager Joe Girardi, with Mariano Rivera and David Robertson unavailable because of recent use and Boone Logan disabled, went with a pair of rookies. Lefthander Cesar Cabral hit the only batter he faced, David Ortiz. Righthander Preston Claiborne walked the bases loaded and after a big strikeout of Daniel Nava got creamed on a 0-1 fastball to Saltalamacchia for a grand slam.

So all the positives the Yankees achieved in Baltimore blew up in one bad night in Boston. The Rays shut out the Twins to maintain a 1 ½-game lead for the second wild-card spot over the Indians, who moved a half-game ahead of the Yankees. Looking at just the loss column, the Yanks, Orioles and Royals all have 69 losses, three more than the Rays, and the days are withering down.

Yanks accept gift-wrapped victory from Orioles

The Yankees did what they needed to do by winning three of four games at Baltimore, which was to leap-frog over the Orioles in the American League wild-card chase. The Yanks remain one game behind (two in the loss column) to the Rays but put the Orioles in their rearview mirror by 1 ½ games.

Thursday night’s 6-5 victory was an out-and-out gift, but they’ll take it. It was gift-wrapped by Baltimore’s closer, Jim Johnson, who was not in a save situation as the score was 5-5 when he took the mound in the top of the ninth. Johnson got off to a rocky start by giving up a single to .189-hitting Brendan Ryan, who had not been able to buy a hit in his first two games with the Yankees.

Johnson next threw away a sure out when Chris Stewart sacrificing bunted the ball directly back to the reliever, who had a clear shot at forcing Ryan at second base – until he threw the ball into center field. Curtis Granderson bunted successfully to advance the runners with Alex Rodriguez coming up. Johnson then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Ryan to break the tie.

Rodriguez was eventually walked intentionally and Alfonso Soriano grounded into an inning-ending double play. But the damage was done, and Mariano Rivera with a scoreless ninth made sure that the Orioles paid for it.

This game was on the verge of being a major downer for the Yankees when the O’s came back from being down 5-2 in the eighth to tie the score on Danny Valencia’s three-run home run off David Robertson, who pitched so poorly that inning that the official scorer in his discretion did not credit him with the winning decision after the Yankees went ahead in the ninth.

That decision, which I did not agree with by the way, cost Rivera his 44th save since he was awarded the victory instead. Call it a victory or call it a save, it was the third straight rescue effort by Mo in the series.

Soriano might get partial credit for saving the game as well. His fence-climbing, one-handed grab of a drive by Manny Machado at the start of the eighth robbed the third baseman of what appeared a sure home run. Things just got worse for D-Rob as he gave up singles to Adam Jones and Nick Markakis and the homer to Valencia on a first-pitch fastball. J.J. Hardy followed with a double that put the potential go-ahead run in scoring position, but Robertson ended the inning by striking out Matt Wieters.

Official scorer Mark Jacobson used the rule that a pitcher can be denied a victory if his performance is “brief and ineffective.” No one could argue that Robertson was effective, however, there was nothing about his relief outing that could be considered brief. He pitched to seven batters and got three outs, including a crucial third out with a runner in scoring position. As shabby as the inning was for Robertson, I am not sure the official scorer’s ruling was fair.

But all of that is mere paperwork as far as the Yankees are concerned. No matter what pitcher was credited with the victory, it belonged to the whole team and was a nice springboard for the trip to Boston.

Pettitte comes up big but not bullpen

On a night when the Yankees were in a must-win situation and with the knowledge that neither setup reliever David Robertson nor closer Mariano Rivera was available, Andy Pettitte handled the pressure of coming up big time in a big situation. This should come as no surprise, of course, considering the pitcher in question has logged 276 2/3 innings in postseason play and is used to stressful workloads.

Pettitte would like to add to his postseason resume and did his part to help the Yankees remain in contention toward that goal Friday night with six sturdy innings that continued a successful run for the lefthander that belies his age, 41, and adds to his reputation as a go-to guy. The Yankees helped his cause by continuing to put up multiple-run innings – four two-run frames during his six innings of work.

It also did not hurt the Yanks’ cause that Red Sox starter Felix Doubront handed out free passes on a regular basis. Doubront walked six batters in his 3 2/3 innings and four of them scored. Alfonso Soriano got the Yankees off to a quick start with his 30th home run of the season, a two-run shot to left, in the first inning.

Doubront walked Vernon Wells to start the second inning, and Eduardo Nunez tripled him home. Chris Stewart’s sacrifice fly scored Nunez. Doubront walked two more batters with two out in the fourth and both scored on a triple by Brett Gardner. The Yanks didn’t need any walks to score twice in the fifth off righthander Rubby De La Rosa on a double by Robinson Cano and singles by Wells, Nunez and Mark Reynolds.

Pettitte was masterful. He allowed three runs, five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts and left with the Yankees ahead, 8-3, through six. Over his past six starts, Andy has pitched to a 1.75 ERA in 36 innings in lowering his season ERA from 4.71 to 4.03. He is 3-0 over that stretch with three no-decisions. Unfortunately, one of those no-decisions was Friday night.

Phil Hughes took the ball from Pettitte and, well, dropped it. In his first relief appearance of the season, Hughes gave up three hits and a walk and left the game in the seventh with the bases full, one run in and one out. Boone Logan did a nice job of striking out David Ortiz, but Mike Napoli proved stiffer competition.

Napoli worked the count full and fouled off two fastballs in the mid-90s before driving a third one to right field off the top of the wall just beyond the reach of Ichiro Suzuki. It was the sixth career grand slam and third this season for Napoli, who victimized Hughes earlier this season.

With that one swing, the score was tied. It only got worse. Preston Claiborne gave up a two-run home run to Shane Victorino in the eighth, and Joba Chamberlain had another rough outing in allowing the Red Sox two more runs.

All of Pettitte’s work went for naught, which was an absolute shame.

Nova does just what the skipper ordered

In assessing the explosive offense after Friday night’s 8-5 victory, Yankees manager Joe Girardi added, “And let’s get the pitchers right, too. We have to click on all cylinders, basically. One night, we might score eight runs. The next night, we may not. And that’s when the pitchers have got to pick up the hitters.”

Give the skipper a swami turban.

Ivan Nova’s three-hit, complete-game shutout Saturday was just the kind of performance the manager had talked about. For a while there, it looked as if the Yankees’ run in the first inning on doubles by Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano off Scott Feldman was all they would get before Cano made the score 2-0 with a home run into the right field bleachers off lefthander Troy Patton in the eighth.

Nova was certainly uplifted by Cano’s 25th homer of the year. He hoped Girard would let him go out for the ninth inning and not be tempted to bring in Mariano Rivera. The second run helped.

“I told the guys I don’t want a 1-0 game; get me another run,” Nova said. “I’m happy that Joe gave me the opportunity.”

Nova earned the chance to finish this one out. He walked one batter and hit two but allowed only three hits. The third was a leadoff single in the ninth inning by Nate McLouth on a chopper to the mound that Nova knocked down but could not recover in time to throw him out. And Girardi still stayed with Nova.

“If it had been a walk, it might have been different,” Girardi said. “But he got a ground ball. And what we needed after that was another ground ball.”

Nova did not get another grounder, however. McLouth getting on added drama to the situation because the third hitter due up that inning was the major-league home run leader, Chris Davis. One swing could have tied the score. After Manny Machado flied out to left, Davis had the Yankee Stadium crowd gasping when he hit a towering fly ball to right field.

That was when it was discovered that Ichiro Suzuki is pretty good at playing possum, which I though was strictly an American trait. Ichiro did not move at first, an indication that the ball was behind him and in the seats. Then after a tantalizingly long moment, he held his glove up over his head and made the catch on the warning track. Suzuki knew he was playing with the crowd.

“Humans want to come from a bad place to a good place,” he said. “Of course, you have to make the play.”

Unlike many of the 42,836 in attendance, Nova didn’t think the ball was going out. The look on Davis’ face told him that, a look that said, “I didn’t get it.” Catcher Chris Stewart said Davis hit the ball off the end of his bat, another good sign of the sinking movement on Nova’s fastball.

There was still another dangerous hitter to go, but Adam Jones’ line drive ended up in the glove of shortstop Derek Jeter.

“He picked up the hitters and the bullpen,” Girardi said of Nova, who won his fourth consecutive start in improving his record to 8-4 with a 2.88 ERA.

With CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda showing signs of fatigue and Phil Hughes winless in nearly two months, Nova has been the rotation’s savior in the second half. The Yankees will go for the series sweep Sunday afternoon behind Andy Pettitte, who is also on a winning streak with three straight victories.

“The key to me for Nova is that he is keeping his fastball down in the zone,” Girardi said. “He has a good curve, but it is even better because he can keep hitters off balance with that fastball down in the zone.”

Girardi also gave Nova credit for “finding himself” during his time in the minor leagues last year and this following his 16-victory season in 2011. Nova agreed.

“I went to Tampa where I worked to do the things I needed to do to prove what kind of pitcher I can be,” Nova said.

It comes down to maturity. Nova was a pretty green kid when he surprised people in 2011. The league catches up to young pitchers if they are not careful, and Nova took his lumps. Saturday, he showed what kind of pitcher he can be.

It was an uplifting day for the Yankees, who jumped over Baltimore into third place in the American League East after a 47-game period since July 7 in fourth place and also positioned themselves ahead of Cleveland in the wild-card chase where they still trail Tampa Bay and Oakland, but as Girardi pointed out, “It sure beats four or five” teams ahead of them.

Losing series in Toronto unexpected

Who would have thought the Yankees would stall in Toronto? They came to Rogers Centre having won 12 of 13 games against the Blue Jays this year but dropped two of three after having done the same in the previous stop at St. Petersburg, Fla. As the calendar days wear down, the Yankees can ill afford losing series.

The 7-2 loss Wednesday night pushed the Yankees 5 ½ games behind in the wild-card chase, which is their only realistic shot at a piece of the postseason since they are 8 ½ games out of first place in the American League East. This loss was especially painful considering the pitching matchup.

The Yankees had Hiroki Kuroda, who has emerged as their ace this season, going against Todd Redmond, a 28-year-old journeyman righthander who has spent nine years in the minor leagues. You’d have bet the ranch on Kuroda – and you would have lost.

It is fair to say now after three subpar starts that Kuroda has hit a wall. The righthander was down 7-0 by the third inning, although two of the runs were unearned due to a bizarre play by the normally reliable Chris Stewart behind the plate. After a passed ball that went back to the screen, Stewart threw wildly to first base for an error that allowed two runners to score.

Kuroda was already in trouble by then. A terrific, diving play by shortstop Derek Jeter kept the first inning from being truly disastrous as if four runs were not enough. Before Stew’s blunder, Kuroda gave up hard-hit doubles to Ryan Goins and Brett Lawrie, walked one batter and hit another.

A four-run, deficit with eight innings to go is not the uphill climb that would have faced the Yankees before their lineup became fortified by the returns of Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez and the additions of Alfonso Soriano and Mark Reynolds. Redmond (2-2) gave up run-scoring hits to A-Rod and Reynolds but shut down most of the rest of the order for 5 2/3 innings. Three relievers stopped the Yankees on two hits over the next 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

The Yankees were poised for a big inning in the fourth but a questionable send of A-Rod by third base coach Rob Thompson choked the rally. Rodriguez after two hip surgeries does not run the way he once did and was thrown out at the plate.

Reynolds, the nouveau second baseman, had three of the Yankees’ five hits. He made his first start at the position since he was in the minors eight years ago and did a respectable job. If nothing else, manager Joe Girardi found out he can use Reynolds at that position in the future if an emergency calls for it. Eduardo Nunez was in the original lineup but was a late scratch due to soreness in his right knee that he injured Tuesday night. Robinson Cano, who was hit in the left hand by a pitch Tuesday night, is expected back in the lineup Friday night when the Yankees open a weekend series against the Orioles.

As for Kuroda, he made it through five innings, but the results were not pleasant – nine hits, seven runs (five earned), one walk, four strikeouts, one home run (by Edwin Encarnacion, his 34th, an absolute bomb).

It was the third straight shaky start for Kuroda, whose ERA over that stretch has gone from 2.33 to 2.89. In his past three starts, Kuroda is 1-2 with an 8.10 ERA in 16 2/3 innings. Thursday’s open date allows Girardi to give his starting pitchers an extra day of rest in the rotation. Kuroda certainly seems in need of it.

Soriano’s legs help Yanks avoid sweep

To be honest, I contemplated getting on Alfonso Soriano’s case for styling when he hits a long drive instead of running hard out of the box in the event the ball does not clear the fence. Robinson Cano has a history of doing the same thing.

But how dumb would that have looked on the day the Yankees won an 11-inning game because of Soriano’s legs and Cano’s sizzling bat?

Soriano’s base running Sunday helped the Yankees to a 3-2, 11-inning victory over the Rays that avoided a three-game sweep at Tropicana Field. He ran hard from the box to second base to get a one-out double off Tampa Bay righthander Jamie Wright and even harder to third base for a key steal that made it possible for him to break the tie on Curtis Granderson’s flyout to right-center that proved a game-winning sacrifice fly after Mariano Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half for his 38th save of the season and career No. 646.

Regular readers are aware of my high regard for Soriano, but one element of his game that I find disturbing is his tendency to hot dog it at the plate when he hits a ball into the air and deep. If the ball goes over the fence, fine. When it doesn’t, which was the case in one of his at-bats Saturday night, it is an embarrassment if Soriano is unable to take the extra base because he was too late to move into high gear as a runner.

Considering his speed, Soriano should never look flat-footed on the field. He certainly did not look that way in the 11th inning Sunday. This was a big victory for the Yankees, who are in a positive frame of mind heading to Toronto for a three-game set against a club they have beaten in 12 of 13 previous meetings.

Cano, who was 1-for-8 in the first two games of the series, both losses, broke free with his 24th home run, plus a double and a single. He drove in both Yankees runs in regulation. Cano has hit safely in 17 of past 20 games, batting .410 with 11 runs, seven doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI in 78 at-bats.

For the Rays, Evan Longoria was responsible for both their runs as well with an RBI single in the first and his 28th homer in the sixth. It was the seventh homer of the season against the Yankees by Longoria, who is batting .299 with four doubles and 12 RBI in 64 at-bats against them this year. The homer was the 23rd of Longoria’s career against the Yankees, the most he has off a single club.

The Yankees had confidence that Ivan Nova would help them avoid a sweep by the Rays. And why not? Nova was on a personal three-game winning streak and along with Hiroki Kuroda has been a very reliable arm in the rotation.

Nova did a commendable job and kept the Yankees in the game during his 6 2/3 innings. At the outset it appeared it might be a miserable day for the Yanks. Tampa Bay scored in the first inning and threatened to add on by loading the bases with none out. Nova was still trying to get control of his breaking ball, but the first indication that his sinking fastball would be a major weapon for him was when James Loney swung late on a 94-mph heater and hit a ground ball to third baseman Mark Reynolds, who began an around-the-horn double play to squash the rally.

Nova continued to have some issues with his curve displayed by his six walks (one intentional), but the sinker remained an ally as the righthander got 14 of his 20 outs on ground balls. Only two outs were recorded in the air. Nova also struck out three batters and got an out from his catcher, Chris Stewart, who caught a base runner attempting to steal second (Stew got a second one after Nova came out of the game in the seventh).

The Yankees had the leadoff hitter reach base in the eighth and 10th innings but did not capitalize. In the 10th, Alex Rodriguez got the first pinch hit of his career (in 15 at-bats), but he ended up being doubled off second base. The double play proved more an ally for the Yankees, who turned four of them in the game.

The bullpen did a magnificent ensemble job. Shawn Kelley, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan (4-2) and Rivera combined for 4 1/3 hitless innings. Only one of the 12 Tampa Bay hitters faced by the Yanks’ relievers reached base, on a one-out walk by Chamberlain in the 10th, and he was erased on a double play.

So off to Toronto go the Yankees where their captain, Derek Jeter, will be waiting to rejoin them.

Cano wallops 200th career home run

So what is the best thing to do after a hitting streak ends? Start another one, of course.

Robinson Cano had an 11-game hitting streak stopped Saturday night at Boston. He came right back the next night at Fenway Park and went 3-for-5. Tuesday at Yankee Stadium in the first game of a split-admission doubleheader against the Blue Jays, Cano had 4-for-4 in helping to spark the Yankees to an 8-4 victory, their ninth in 10 games against Toronto this season.

Cano singled to right with two out in the first inning. His second hit proved more significant. Batting in the third inning with one out and two on and the Yankees trailing, 4-0, Cano jumped on a 1-0 fastball from righthander Esmil Rogers and drove it into the netting above Monument Park for a three-run home run that made it a one-run game.

The homer was the 200th of Cano’s career as he became the 16th Yankees player to reach that plateau. He needs two more home runs to tie Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey for 15th place on the franchise’s all-time list.

Cano also singled in the fifth and doubled home a run in the seventh. He has hit safely in 13 of his past 14 games, batting .453 with eight runs, five doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI in 53 at-bats.

“He got us back in the game with that home run,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

There was a time and not that long ago that a 4-0 deficit would have seemed insurmountable to the Yankees when their offense was struggling. Not anymore. It has certainly helped Cano to have Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson supporting him in the lineup.

“It’s a lot different,” Girardi said. “We’re hitting the ball out of the park more and getting hits in bunches.”

Cano’s homer was one of two big ones for the Yankees Tuesday. The other was by catcher Chris Stewart, a three-run shot in the sixth inning that put the Yankees ahead. It ended a drought of 173 at-bats without a home run for Stewart, who had previously homered May 15 against the Mariners at the Stadium.

The Yankees also got a strong game from Jayson Nix, who played shortstop in place of Eduardo Nunez out with an ankle injury. Nix handled six plays flawlessly in the field and also reached base three times with a hit and two walks and stole a base.

CC still deep in the woods

Splitting the two-game series with the Dodgers was a plus for the Yankees. Naturally, a sweep was preferable but considering how hot Los Angeles had been making up 10 ½ games in the standings in a little over a month winning one of the two games was a positive first step for the Yankees on this trip because the next two stops appeared to be soft spots on the schedule.

After the three-game weekend series at San Diego against the Padres, who are next to last in the National League West, the Yankees will move on to Chicago to play the last-place White Sox of the American League Central. The start of the supposedly soft stretch turned out a rough patch as the Yankees lost to the Padres, 7-2.

Friday night was a golden opportunity for CC Sabathia to straighten himself out. If the Yankees are going to make a serious run at the AL East title or at least a wild-card playoff berth they need their ace to pitch like one. Unfortunately, Sabathia’s struggles continued as he remained winless in five starts since July 3.

The lefthander did end a stretch of three straight starts in which he allowed at least seven runs, but it was close. The Padres scored five runs off Sabathia, who left the game with two down in the sixth and two runners on base, so had they scored it would have been yet another 7-spot against him. Preston Claiborne walked the first batter he faced intentionally to load the bases and struck out Jesus Guzman to end the threat.

It was another messy outing for Sabathia, who gave up two runs in a 28-pitch first inning and continued to slide downhill after that. The Padres stroked 11 hits off CC, equaling the highest total he has allowed this year (May 20 at Baltimore). Over his past five starts in which he is 0-4 with a 7.85 ERA, Sabathia has allowed 44 hits, including six home runs, in 28 2/3 innings. For the season, opponents are batting .277 against Sabathia, who in 152 2/3 innings has given up 168 hits, including a career-high 24 home runs. CC, who has never had a losing record over a full season, is 9-10.

The best thing Sabathia did in the game was drive in one of the two runs in the second inning that tied the score. He allowed the Padres to regain the lead in the fourth when taken deep by Logan Forsythe. Even worse, CC failed to cover first base on a grounder to the right side by opposing pitcher Andrew Cashner, who was credited with a single and soon after scored on a triple by Everth Cabrera, one of four hits in the game for the San Diego shortstop.

It might have been worse for Sabathia if not for an excellent play by his catcher, Chris Stewart, who after grabbing Brett Gardner’s one-hop throw from center field took a blow to the head in tagging out Chase Headley at the plate in the third inning. That was the only real highlight in the game for the Yankees.

In their first appearance at Petco Park, the Yankees did not give a sellout crowd of 44,124 much to appreciate. They failed to take advantage of Red Sox and Rays losses and fell four games out of the wild-card chase. Curtis Granderson returned to the lineup but looked rusty without getting a ball out of the infield and striking out twice in a 0-for-4 game.

Eduardo Nunez, who became the eighth different player to start at third base for the Yankees this year, doubled in a run, made a good tag to catch Cabrera trying to steal third, handled three grounders without incident but needed two throws saved by Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay. Nunez also did a terrific piece of base running in the second by scoring from third base easily on the contact play for Sabathia’s RBI.