Results tagged ‘ Johnny Cueto ’

Yanks’ offense reaching exasperation level

Even after the grimmest of losses, Joe Girardi can put on a good face and handle questions from the press adroitly. Sunday was different, however. There is no doubt that the Yankees’ manager has become exasperated at what is going on with his hitters these days.

The Yankees’ 5-2 loss to the Reds could have easily been blamed on CC Sabathia, who blew a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning by allowing three runs on solo home runs by a couple of guys named Ryan, Ludwick and Hanigan, and a sudden loss of control that resulted in three straight walks, the last of which forced in what proved the winning run. Sabathia showed rare displeasure with a plate umpire by gesturing at Tony Randazzo after the inning ended, but none of the replays I saw indicated that CC was being squeezed.

Three earned runs in seven innings from a starting pitcher are plenty acceptable any day. Sabathia was working on a three-hit shutout before the seventh and did not get a lead until the sixth when Raul Ibanez, who has become the steadiest productive player in the Yankees’ lineup, slammed a two-run home run in the right field second deck.

Yes, it is important for a pitcher to shut down the opposition the inning following that of his team taking the lead, so CC must share some of the guilt for his seventh-inning turnaround. But the glum expression on Girardi’s face and his dour response to inquiries were not due to what Sabathia did as much as what his lineup did not.

“We didn’t score a lot of runs again,” Girardi said.

The Yankees totaled 11 runs in the three games against the Reds and lost the rubber game in a series in which the pitching staff struck out 35 Cincinnati batters. That the Yankees won only one of those games was due to an offense that continues to struggle with runners in scoring opportunities. They were 3-for-18 (.167) in the series stranding 19 runners and are in a 6-for-59 (.102) funk in the clutch. For the season, the Yankees are batting .231 in those situations.

Almost as loud as the ovation the Bat Day crowd of 45,622 at Yankee Stadium accorded Ibanez for his homer were the shouts throughout the stands when Alex Rodriguez hit a towering drive to left field in the eighth with a runner on that had the look of two-run homer when it came off the bat that would have regained the lead for the Yankees.

The strong wind blowing in from left field on this sunny, breezy afternoon may have had a part in A-Rod’s blast dying on the warning track.

“We thought that ball was gone big time, and he probably thought that ball was gone, too,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “But the elements were with us on that particular play.”

“I thought it was going out when he hit,” Girardi concurred. “I thought we’d get the lead.”

Perhaps it did not matter. The Reds scored two more runs in the ninth on a two-out double by Ludwick off Rafael Soriano. Mark Teixeira, who did not start a game in the series because of his bronchial condition, reached base with one out in the bottom of the ninth as a pinch hitter, but two other pinch hitters, Russell Martin and Andruw Jones, couldn’t handle the 98-mph gas from Aroldis Chapman, who earned his first save of the season.

The Yankees’ first taste of inter-league play this year was bitter. Sabathia was paired with the Reds’ Johnny Cueto, who improved to 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA in winning the top-shelf pitchers’ duel. Games like this often prompt players and managers to say that occasionally you have to tip your cap to the opposing pitchers.

Girardi wore an expression that told everyone in the room that he is getting tired of doing that.

Launching pad brings Gordon back to Earth

Brian Gordon was brought back to Earth Wednesday night. Five days after making a successful major-league debut following 11 seasons in the minors, Gordon was done in by the long ball at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, one of the big leagues’ launching pads.

There had been only one home run (by Jorge Posada) in the first two games of the Yankees-Reds series, but Gordon was taken deep three times in the finale. The righthander gave up a leadoff home run to Chris Heisey on a 3-2 cutter. Gordon has said developing a cut fastball is what has been mostly responsible for the turnaround in his effectiveness that generated the Yanks’ interest in signing him, but he has not had much of a feel for the pitch in either of his starts.

Gordon showed off above-average breaking pitches in his debut last week, but they didn’t break well for him Wednesday night. He hung a curve on a 0-2 count in the second inning to Jonny Gomes, who drove the ball into the second deck in left field. Heisey’s second homer, a two-run shot in the fifth, was off another hanging breaking ball, a first-pitch slider.

That gave the Reds a 4-1 lead and ended Gordon’s night after five innings. The converted outfielder who hit 119 home runs in the minors got to bat twice and walked and struck out. The score was still 4-1 when the Yankees threatened to get back into the game by loading the bases with one down in the seventh, but Ramiro Pena and Posada swung at first pitches and grounded out.

The Yanks’ chances of coming back went awry when the Reds struck for six runs and eight hits in the seventh and eighth against Hector Noesi, who had a rare poor outing. Two of the eighth-inning runs came on the third homer of the night by Heisey, who drove in five runs and scored four. The Yankees just got too much of Heisey in this one.

The balls were carrying well in the humid air around the Ohio River. One of the Yankees’ runs also came on a homer, by Nick Swisher in the second. That was one of only two hits the Yanks managed in seven innings off Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who obviously was recovered from the stiff neck that resulted in his being scratched from his scheduled start Monday night and may have been responsible for the Reds making an early rainout call Tuesday night that forced the teams to play two games Wednesday.

The Yankees won the day game to guarantee a winning trip as they went 4-2 through Chicago and Cincinnati. The loss at night cost the Yanks a chance to take over first place in the American League East, however.

Rainout worked to Yanks’ advantage

The Yankees were not happy about having to play two games Wednesday in Cincinnati. They agreed to play the dual-gate doubleheader rather than lose an off-day Thursday, but to their thinking the Yankees and Reds should have played Tuesday night instead of being rained out.

Conspiracy theories were rampant, especially since the Reds’ scheduled starter, Johnny Cueto, was down with a stiff neck, and although it rained all day in Cincinnati the weather cleared up after 6 p.m., an hour and 10 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.

As it turned out, however, the two games in one day proved a blessing for the Yanks. It allowed manager Joe Girardi the opportunity to rest a couple of veterans, first baseman Mark Teixeira and third baseman Alex Rodriguez, in the afternoon game. This put a bat in Jorge Posada’s hands, which was a good thing, and a glove on Ramiro Pena’s left hand, which was not such a good thing.

Let’s concentrate on the positive, shall we? The toughest thing about inter-league play for an American League club is that it loses one of its regular players, the designated hitter, which is prohibited in National League parks. Posada had gotten three plate appearances in the first four games of the trip to Chicago and Cincinnati just at the time when he was getting hot at the plate.

Getting back in the lineup Wednesday as the first baseman, Posada ended up getting the biggest hit of the game, a two-run home run into the teeth of the wind blowing in from right field in the sixth inning that unlocked a 2-2 score. The timing of the hit was ideal, coming directly after the Yankees had lost a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth when the Reds scored two unearned runs off Freddy Garcia, who had another solid outing.

Both runs were the result of two of the three errors Pena made in the game, a nightmare of a performance from a player known for dependable defense. The two errors in the fifth were on wild throws. Pena actually struck Drew Stubbs in the head with his toss to first base. After a single to left by Edgar Renteria moved Stubbs to third, he scored when Pena’s peg to the plate bounced off the chest protector of catcher Francisco Cervelli. Renteria got to third base on the play and was able to score on Fred Lewis’ sacrifice fly to center.

Pena’s third error also came against Stubbs on a grounder between the infielder’s legs in the seventh. Pena got to atone for that one, however, on the next play by starting a double play against Renteria, who was last year’s World Series hero with the Giants.

But the big atonement job was that of Posada, who put Garcia in place for the victory with one inning apiece of strong relief from David Robertson and Mariano Rivera (19th save). Posada’s seventh home run of the season was his first in nearly two months. It ended a drought of 126 at-bats and 145 plate appearances since April 23 at Baltimore.

Yet even without an abundance of long balls, Posada has turned around his season offensively over the past two weeks. In 13 games and 39 at-bats, Posada has hit .436 with a .590 slugging percentage, three doubles, one home run and six RBI. He has raised his season batting average over that time from .169 to .227.

And there is something about wearing a glove that brings out the best in Posada. He is batting an even .500 (6-for-12) with two doubles, a homer and four RBI in games where he has played first base. Just the same, Jorgie will be glad to get off this NL trip and get back to Yankee Stadium so he can get into the lineup as the DH on a regular basis.

Nova maturing with each start

Ivan Nova has gone from the Yankees’ No. 5 starter coming out of spring training to the point where now he is the rotation’s No. 2 starter. His 5-3 victory Monday night at Cincinnati improved Nova’s record to 7-4. Only ace CC Sabathia (9-4) has won more games than Nova.

Armed with a 4-0 lead before he took the mound, Nova overcame a shaky beginning when he gave up singles to the first two Reds batters to fashion his best outing of the season. Nova was quite willing to trade a run for two outs by getting 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto to ground into a double play. Those were the first two of 15 consecutive outs Nova recorded before Paul Janish ended the string with a two-out single in the fifth. Nova retired nine of the last 10 batters before calling it a game after the eighth for the longest outing of his career.

Nova got 16 outs in the infield and struck out seven batters. Only two outs were to the outfield. Nova recorded 25 outs in eight innings, one more than necessary because Drew Stubbs reached on a third-strike wild pitch in the third. Nova had outstanding control. He did not walk a batter.

With Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon on the disabled list, Nova has been relied on to take up the slack in the rotation and for the most part has come through. He has won three straight starts and lowered his ERA to 4.13. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Nova has a 7-1 career record in games when he has a lead of more than one run, and the Yankees are 11-1 in those games.

Nova’s blending in a changeup to go with his fastball, curve and slider has been a major factor in his current three-start winning streak. Yankees fans are getting to watch a young pitcher mature with each start.

With victories in nine of the past 11 games, the Yankees are 13 games above .500, their high mark of the season, and stayed within 1 ½ games of the first-place Red Sox in the American League East.

The Yankees got clicking in the first inning against Travis Wood, a last-minute replacement for scheduled Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who had a stiff neck and may start Tuesday night against Yankees rookie Brian Gordon.

Great American Ball Park is known as a bandbox, but the Yankees stayed in the yard and used four singles and a double to produce four runs in the top of the first. Their other run came in the eighth without a hit as Curtis Granderson walked, stole second, continued to third on an error by Janish at shortstop and scored on a wild pitch by reliever Jose Arredondo.

Things got a bit hairy in the ninth when Luis Ayala gave up a hit and Boone Logan hit a batter. Both runners scored, but Mariano Rivera restored order for his 18th save. After setting a three-game series attendance record over the weekend at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, the Yankees played to another full house Monday night at Cincinnati. The prime attractions of inter-league play are giving NL audiences their money’s worth.