Results tagged ‘ Joe Nathan ’

Yanks can’t handle Garza this time

The Rangers got an immediate dividend in their trade for Matt Garza Wednesday night at the expense of the Yankees. Garza had trouble with the Yankees (1-4, 4.48 ERA) in his years with the Rays, but in his first start against the Bombers in four years the only one who hurt him was himself.

The run off Garza in Texas’ 3-1 victory was not earned, although it was his two-base error with a bad throw to first base on an infield single by Brett Gardner in the sixth inning that led to the run that scored on a single by Robinson Cano. But that would be it for the Yankees, who were back to hitting only singles – five of them – as they got only two runners past first base after the first inning. It was back in the first inning that the Yankees had a chance to go some damage against Garza. Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki each singled, but Garza came back to strike out Cano and Lyle Overbay and get Vernon Wells on a ground ball.

The momentum the Yankees felt after Tuesday night’s somewhat miraculous victory ebbed quickly, which can happen when a pitcher is on his game as was Garza (7-1), who pitched into the eighth inning with no walks and five strikeouts.

Andy Pettitte (7-8) took the loss, a tough one. He gave up eight hits but only two runs, both driven in by A.J. Pierzynski on a two-out single in the first inning and his 10th home run in the sixth. Give Pettitte credit. It was not a fat pitch to Pierzynski for the homer but a 1-2 slider that the Rangers’ designated hitter caught just above his shoelaces and got up into the humid Texas air.

Pettitte had two strikeouts with both coming in succession in the second inning that pushed him past Sandy Koufax and tied him with former teammate Kevin Brown for 39th place on the career list with 2,397. For the fifth consecutive game, Pettitte was scored upon in the first inning, but he pitched well enough to win.

David Murphy provided an insurance run with a home run off Shawn Kelley in the eighth. Texas manager Ron Washington elected to have lefthander Neal Cotts, who had gotten the last two outs of the Yankees eighth, to face the left-handed Cano and Overbay in the ninth. Cotts retired both before Washington brought in his closer Joe Nathan, who blew Tuesday night’s game.

The move looked questionable when Wells greeted Nathan with a single that brought the potential tying run to the plate in Eduardo Nunez, who hit a game-tying triple off Nathan the night before. No such luck this time as Nunez made the final out on a soft liner to shortstop.

Gardner had two hits and a stolen base, the 154th of his career, which shot him past Mickey Mantle into eighth place on the Yankees’ all-time list.

I’ll be heading for Cooperstown, N.Y., Thursday for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend and will file reports on the induction of former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and the ceremonies honoring former Yankees pitcher Tommy John and Dr. Frank Jobe and Lou Gehrig, who will finally officially be part of an induction ceremony. More on that in my next report.

Yanks ride rollercoaster to victory

The momentum swings in Tuesday night’s game resembled the rollercoaster at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park across the highway from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Yankees went up to a 3-0 lead, then down to a 4-3 deficit and then up again to a 5-4 victory.

Just a week after getting a save in the All-Star Game where Mariano Rivera served as his setup man, Joe Nathan sustained only his second blown save in 33 opportunities this year as the Yanks staged a dramatic rally that sent Texas to its first loss in 52 games this season when the Rangers were leading after eight innings.

To finish things off, Rivera returned to his normal role and got his 32nd save of the season and 640th of his career with a 1-2-3 ninth featuring two strikeouts, a perfect end to an absolutely startling comeback for the Yankees, who appeared down for the count against the Rangers’ impressive bullpen.

Texas relievers recorded 10 consecutive outs before Nathan walked Vernon Wells with one out in the ninth. Nathan further improved the Yankees’ condition with a wild pitch that not only advanced Wells to second base but also forced the Rangers to bring their outfielders in shallower for a possible play at the plate.

Eduardo Nunez benefitted from the altered defense with a drive to the wall in left-center for an RBI triple, the Yanks’ first hit since the fourth inning. The run scored by Wells ended a streak of 25 2/3 scoreless innings by the Texas pen dating to July 11. Brent Lillibridge then atoned for an earlier damaging error with a single to left that scored Nunez with what proved the winning run.

Phil Hughes has had somewhat surprising success at Rangers Ballpark despite its being a hitters’ paradise. Tuesday night it appeared that success would continue as the Yankees gave Hughes an early lead and he was doing a good job at protecting it. For five innings anyway.

Everything fell apart for Hughes, however, in the sixth. An error by Lillibridge at third base with one out opened the door for the Rangers, who came back from being down 3-0 to take a 4-3 lead. Adrian Beltre followed the error with a double for Texas’ first run. Hughes got the second out on a fly to center by A.J. Pierzynski but gave up a single to Elvis Andrus that got Texas to 3-2.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a quick hook of Hughes (80 pitches) for lefthander Boone Logan, who faced left-handed batting Mitch Moreland, who drove a home run over the center field fence. Only one of the three runs charged to Hughes was earned as his ERA at Rangers Ballpark fell to 1.90 over 23 2/3 innings.

The Yankees also had an exceptional defensive game with second baseman Robinson Cano making one of his patented across-the-body throws to first on a far-ranging play to his right in the seventh and center fielder Brett Gardner belly-flopping in right-center to haul down a drive by Andrus.

Nova did his job, rest of the Yanks didn’t

The Yankees were looking to Ivan Nova to continue his hot hand Monday night on a 99-degree night at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington. Nova has worked himself back into the rotation nicely in recent weeks and seemed up to the responsibility to bounce his club back from a tough loss the night before and a long, somber flight through the wee hours.

And Nova did his job, too, a good one despite less than commanding stuff that he has displayed lately. That is a sign of a maturing pitcher, someone who can get outs on a night when the curve isn’t as sharp nor the fastball as zippy.

Nova was not the problem Monday night. Yu Darvish was. Coming off the disabled list from a trapezius strain, Darvish got right back to where he left off two weeks ago with 6 1/3 innings of two-hit, shutout pitching in the Rangers’ 3-0 victory.

The Yankees did not get a hit until the fifth inning, a bloop single by Lyle Overbay, and added only two more singles (by Overbay and Ichiro Suzuki) the rest of the way. They have now gone 21 innings without an extra-base hit. Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 as his 12-game hitting streak came to an end.

With so tight a margin for error, Nova did remarkably well. He walked three batters, two of whom scored, and gave up a long home run to Nelson Cruz in the seventh, his last inning. The righthander pitched well enough to win but no pitcher can chalk up a ‘W’ if his teammates do not score. The Yankees were shut out for the eighth time this season.

In five appearances since coming off the DL, Nova is 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. He was clearly one of the few highlights for the Yankees in the game. Third baseman Luis Cruz made the defensive play of the night with a running, back-to-the-infield catch along the left field line to rob Mitch Moreland of a hit in the third inning.

Brett Gardner tried to wear out Rangers closer Joe Nathan in the ninth by leading off the inning with a 14-pitch at-bat that unfortunately ended in an out on a fly to center. Ichiro’s hit followed, but Nathan struck out Cano and retired Overbay on a fly to deep center for his 31st save as Texas halted a four-game losing streak.

Cano knocked out of All-Star Game; Mo honored

How bad has the Yankees’ luck been this year? In terms of health, I mean. The disabled list has been almost as crowded as the dugout. Even in the All-Star Game, the Yankees could not stay healthy.

Robinson Cano, the American League second baseman and one of the few Yankees regulars to stay on the field all season, made an early exit Tuesday night from Citi Field. Cano, the second hitter in the AL order, came up after a leadoff double by the Angels’ Mike Trout and was struck on the side of his right knee by a 96-miles-per-hour fastball from Mets righthander Matt Harvey.

Cano winced in pain and tried to stay in the game. He went to first base but after Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera struck out Cano came off the field and was replaced by pinch runner Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox. As Cano walked off the field, he had a friendly exchange with Harvey.

“He said, ‘My bad,’ ” Cano said. “I said, ‘No problem.’ I know he don’t want to hit nobody. It’s part of the game, so what can you do?”

This is just what the Yankees did not need. Managers across baseball watch the All-Star Game with trepidation and hope one of their players does not get hurt. Harvey, the National League starting pitcher who pitched two scoreless innings, said, “I feel bad. I didn’t mean to hit Cano.”

X-rays on Cano’s knee were negative.

“It’s a little tight, but I’m walking good,” Cano said. “You want to play the game and enjoy the nice city in New York with the fans, but that’s part of life. Got to get it better and take it easy. Yeah, I’ll be good for Friday.”

“Obviously, the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and possibly injure somebody,” Harvey said. “As [Cano] was walking by, I was trying to get his attention as he was going to first. He then came off the field, and I apologized and made sure that he was okay. I think he understood that it wasn’t intentional.”

Cano had been enjoying himself at the All-Star Game as opposed to a year ago at Kansas City when he was the target of booing from local fans because as captain of the AL Home Run Derby squad he did not name the Royals’ Billy Butler to the team. Cano got revenge Monday night as a player he promoted for the Home Run Derby team even though he was not on the All-Star squad, Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, won the competition.

Not surprisingly considering the Yankees-Mets rivalry, Cano was booed by most people in the Citi Field crowd in pregame introductions. Conversely, Mariano Rivera was accorded a healthy ovation. In a lot of ways, Mo is his generation’s Yogi Berra, the one Yankee that even fans who hate the Yankees like.

The best was yet to come for Mo. To guarantee that Rivera would pitch in the game, AL manager Jim Leyland of the Tigers put him in the game in the eighth inning. After all, if the NL had gone ahead in the bottom of the eighth and held the lead then there would have been no bottom of the ninth.

Rivera was treated with another standing ovation as he trotted to the mound to his usual entrance song, “Enter Sandman,” by Metallica. When he reached the rubber, Rivera was the only player on the field as the players from both sides stood on the top steps of the dugouts and joined the crowd in showing their appreciation to the game’s all-time saves leader who is calling it a career at the end of this season at the age of 43.

It was quite a sight. Mo acknowledged the applause by removing his cap and waving to each portion of the crowd. Mariano retired the side in order and was given the game ball by first baseman Prince Fielder after the third out of the inning. It was a more pleasant final appearance at Citi Field than the May 28 Subway Series game when he sustained his first blown save of the season in a stunning loss to the Mets.

Mo Mariano Rivera (USA Today photo)

“I wanted to pitch in the game and in baseball anything can happen,” Rivera said of pitching in the eighth instead of the ninth. “The plan worked out perfectly. This was right up there with winning the World Series. To do this in New York with all the fans here and all the players and the coaches and the managers standing in the dugouts. . .that was priceless.”

There turned out to be a bottom of the ninth inning as the AL had a 3-0 lead. Rangers closer Joe Nathan worked the ninth and can always say he earned a save in a game after Mariano Rivera had pitched, which had not happened since 1996 when Mo was the setup man for Yanks closer John Wetteland.

Rivera was voted the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and was able to thank the fans and told them it was a “privilege” to pitch in front of them all these years. Let’s face it, fans, the privilege was ours to watch him.

Andy ties Whitey for K record in loss

Andy Pettitte couldn’t even come away with a consolation prize Wednesday night. A seventh strikeout in the Yankees’ 8-5 loss to the Rangers would have given Pettitte the club record. His strikeout of Adrian Beltre in the fifth inning was career No. 1,957 for Pettitte, who tied Whitey Ford for the most punchouts by a pitcher in franchise history.

Pettitte’s final inning was the sixth. After retiring A.J. Pierzynski, the leadoff hitter that inning, Pettitte got two strikes on the next four hitters but failed to get strike three each time. Lance Berkman grounded out to third. Mitch Moreland singled to center. David Murphy came back from 0-2 to draw a walk. Leonys Martin ended the inning with a popout to shortstop.

The Yankees tried to get Pettitte off the hook in the bottom of the sixth. Trailing, 4-1, the Yanks rallied to make the score 4-3 on RBI singles by Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner but could get no closer. Lyle Overbay, who had homered off Texas starter Justin Grimm for the Yankees’ first run in the second inning, struck out. After a walk to Zoilo Almonte loaded the bases, Jayson Nix grounded into a double play.

Pettitte’s third consecutive loss that dropped his record to 5-6 came down to one bad inning – the third when the Rangers scored four runs, one of which was unearned due to a throwing error by Nix on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus that filled the bases with none out. Petttitte caught Nelson Cruz looking at a third strike, but Beltre and Pierzynski followed with two-run doubles. Pettitte at least stranded Pierzynski at second by retiring Berkman on a groundout and Moreland on a called third strike.

After the Yankees closed the gap, Joba Chamberlain opened it again in the seventh by giving up a two-run homer to Cruz. Chamberlain needed to be bailed out by Preston Claiborne after being touched for another double by Beltre and a two-out single by Berkman. Claiborne got Moreland on an infield pop for the third out after replacing Chamberlain, whose ERA skied to 6.38.

Chamberlain’s stretch of ineffectiveness covers his past seven appearances in which he has given up nine earned runs in 6 2/3 innings (12.15 ERA).

“He is making mistakes in the middle of the plate,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I still have confidence in him. His stuff is too good not to turn it around.”

The Yankees tried to turn it around for them in the seventh when a two-run home run by Ichiro Suzuki off Ross Wolf again made it a one-run game at 6-5. Yet once again, the Yankees let the Rangers stretch their lead with a two-run ninth. Both runs were not earned. An error by center fielder Brett Gardner, who dropped a drive by Pierzynski on the warning track in left-center, put runners on second and third with one out. A single by Berkman and sacrifice fly by Moreland added insurance runs for Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who notched his 26th save with a perfect bottom of the ninth.

The loss dropped the Yankees 3 ½ games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East and in a virtual tie for second place with the Orioles, who also lost.

A game worth playing hooky for

Relatives, friends and other admirers of Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish in Japan probably all showed up late for work Wednesday to watch the popular pitchers oppose each other in a major-league game Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington. The game started there just after 7 p.m. Central time, which was at 8 a.m. in their home country.

Only the seventh pairing of Japanese-born pitchers in a major-league game was a major event in the country of their birth as well as a top attraction between two of the top contending teams in the American League. Darvish proved the better of the two for this one night as Texas ended the Yankees’ four-game winning streak with a 2-0 victory.

The Rangers drew first blood when Ian Kinsler led off the bottom of the first by driving a 1-1 slider to left for his fifth home run. After two hitless innings, Darvish ran into big trouble in the third when the Yankees loaded the bases with none out on a single by Eric Chavez, a walk to Russell Martin and a beauty of a bunt single by Derek Jeter, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games and is hitting .416.

Darvin showed why the Rangers were willing to shell out more than $100 million to sign the righthander as he struck out Curtis Granderson looking at a 2-2 curve and got Alex Rodriguez to ground into an around-the-horn double play.

Kuroda kept the Yankees in the game, but they could not break through against Darvish. Kuroda hurt himself in the third with a two-out walk of Elvis Andrus and a wild pitch that put him into scoring position at second base from where Josh Hamilton got him home with a single to center. Kuroda held the Rangers to two hits after that before departing with two out in the seventh and down by only two runs.

As Yankees manager Joe Girardi had noted, Darvish has more different types of pitches than a catcher has fingers, and he showed off all of them – fastballs of various speeds, curves, sliders, cutters, splits, changes of pace – the whole toolbox.

Watching from his box seat near the Texas dugout, Rangers president Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher and one of the great workhorses, had to love Darvish’s performance, which he applauded when the latest Japanese import came off the field after giving up a one-out single to Nick Swisher in the ninth. Closer Joe Nathan needed only one pitch to end the game as Chavez bounced into a double play.

This one had to remind Ryan of his matchups against Jim Palmer or Catfish Hunter 30-odd years ago when pitching into the ninth was expected of starters. Darvish scattered seven hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts in improving his record to 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA. It was a tough luck loss for Kuroda in a marquee matchup that for a change lived up to its billing.

Pen sticks CC with undeserving ND

The first time he came to bat at Yankee Stadium as a 19-year-old rookie for the Braves in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series, Andruw Jones hit a home run. Jones got his first at-bat at the new Stadium Tuesday night now as a reserve outfielder for the Yankees and also hit a home run, a splendid way to get started with his new team.

I freely admit that I was not all that keen on the Jones signing. He seems limited as a bench player to me. Jones doesn’t move all that well in the field anymore, and he certainly isn’t going to contribute much as a pinch runner. Still, he is an upgrade defensively over Marcus Thames, who did some good things with the bat a year ago, but you couldn’t play him anywhere but DH.

Hitting home runs at the Stadium is something the Yankees are doing a lot of already in 2011 – 13 now in five games. Jones’ solo drive (career No. 408, pushing him past the late Duke Snider for 46th place on the all-time list) in the second came an inning after Mark Teixeira bashed a three-run homer off Brian Duensing with none out. Those blows seemed all the ammunition the Yankees would need, and they were so long as CC Sabathia was in the game.

But the dreaded pitch count had Sabathia departing after seven brilliant innings in which he gave up two measly singles and then proceeded to retire 17 batters in a row. That was stuck with a no-decision is nothing short of criminal. The way CC pitched (7 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts) meant there was no way Mariano Rivera needed to pitch in this game. But come the ninth, there was Mo.

That was because Rafael Soriano had come on in the eighth, the former Rays closer’s new inning of responsibility, and spit up the four-run lead. The Twins, whose futility at the Stadium during Ron Gardenhire’s 10-year tenure as manager is a matter of record, surely were pleased to see Sabathia go away, not that Soriano is any day at the beach, normally, but the righthander did not look like the reliever who saved 45 games a year ago.

That can happen sometimes with pitchers who have the closer mentality, but Soriano knew what was in store for him when the Yankees gave him all those millions of dollars.

“It’s too early to judge that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about whether Soriano will find working the eighth less challenging than the ninth.

Soriano opened up the game for the Twins instead of helping to close it out for the Yankees. He loaded the bases with one out on two walks and a well-struck single by Denard Span. It appeared as if Soriano might get out of it by freezing Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a muscular fastball for the second out before walking Joe Mauer on a diet of cutters to force in Minnesota’s first run.

Girardi had seen enough and summoned David Robertson, who got Delmon Young to hit a slicing pop to right. It was high enough to allow the runners extra time to scoot around the bases, and they all scored when the ball fell free in front of a sliding Nick Swisher. Young was credited with a three-run double, and what seemed a sure victory for Sabathia was gone.

There was some talk after the game that perhaps Girardi would have been better off bringing in Robertson to pitch the eighth and Soriano in the ninth on a night when not having to turn to a 41-year-old closer was possible. That makes no sense. Soriano’s job is to pitch in the eighth, and a 4-0 score at the Stadium these days the way balls are flying is by no means insurmountable.

Swisher faulted himself for a mistake of aggression by diving for the Young ball. Once his feet left the ground, Swisher had no chance to keep Mauer from scoring the tying run. Swisher would have been better off playing the ball on a hop and making a strong throw home. Mauer caught a break being able to run for what is full speed for him because there were two out.

Rivera worked the ninth but left after the Yankees failed to score in the bottom half. The Twins went ahead on Mauer’s single off Boone Logan in the 10th, and Joe Nathan, who didn’t seem destined for this game, closed it out.

So where did all the home runs go? The Yankees had two hits, both singles, after Jones’ bomb, so the offense shares some blame here. But this was primarily a bullpen blunder. Give CC credit for professionalism.

“It’s part of the game,” he said of the no-decision. “You just move on from there.”

Keep post-season out of awards mix

It has been suggested by some columnists that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America should allow its voters for the Manager of the Year Awards to include post-season play. Just as is the case with the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards in the BBWAA jurisdiction, voting is done prior to the start of post-season play and includes only the accomplishments during the regular season.

Some writers argue that while players, pitchers and rookies are eligible for separate awards related to post-season play, managers are not. Also, they add, steering a team throughout the post-season is a function worthy of being included in an honor that recognizes managerial skill.

In my view, the problem with that is that you would no longer need an election, would you? The heck with polling writers, just hand out the trophies to the two guys whose teams reached the World Series every year. I am sure there are some people who though the Giants’ Bruce Bochy and the Rangers’ Ron Washington were more deserving than the managers who won, the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire and the Padres’ Buddy Black.

You have probably read reports that Major League Baseball is toying with the idea of another round of playoffs by adding two more wild-card teams into the post-season mix. That’s just what we need; more November baseball with pitchers already overworked trying to keep their tongues off the mound.

All an additional round of playoffs would do is to continue to weaken the impact of the 162-game schedule, still the most demanding test in team sports. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a hundred times from managers, coaches and players that the post-season is a “crap shoot.” Why base an award that is supposed to honor achievement over the course of a year on a crap shoot?

Managing a team involves more than just what takes place three hours a night during games. It is the day-to-day handling of two dozen-plus players over six months upon which a manager is judged. By adding post-season to the Manager of the Year Award mix, the eight managers whose teams reach post-season play, maybe 10 by 2012, will get a distinct advantage. Isn’t the field already small enough? There are 16 managers in the National League and 14 in the American League.

Again, why bother to have an election if post-season inclusion would likely lead to eliminating nearly three-quarters of the field?

Gardenhire, who won the award for the first time after five second-place finishes in the voting, directed the Twins to a 94-68 record and their sixth AL Central title in his nine seasons at the helm despite the loss to injury of closer Joe Nathan for the whole season and slugging first baseman Justin Morneau for half the schedule. Yet all that good work might have been discarded by voters after the Twins were swept in the Division Series by the Yankees.

Black’s victory in the NL by merely one point over the Reds’ Dusty Baker was a testament to the overachievement of the Padres, whom many thought at season’s start to be a last-place club. In his fourth season in San Diego, Black got the Padres within one game of the NL West title with the fourth best record in franchise history. But if the post-season had been included, mightn’t Cincinnati’s quick exit have hurt Baker so that the vote would not have been so close?

What takes place over a period of less than three weeks should not hold the same weight as what transpires over six months. A manager who does the best job in the post-season will get the best award there is – a championship ring. That is reward enough.