Results tagged ‘ Jon Lester ’

New faces galore for Yanks and Red Sox

Talk about needing a scorecard to tell who the players are. The Yankees were set to open a three-game series against the Red Sox Friday night at Fenway Park with both clubs showing off new players. The great news for Yankees fans about the series is that the Yanks will not have to deal with Jon Lester or John Lackey, both of whom were traded away this week as Boston decided to be a seller at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline to turn its sights on 2015.

The Yankees were buyers instead of sellers at the deadline and imported Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks and Stephen Drew from the Red Sox. Drew, who just had to switch clubhouses, was in the Friday night lineup ready to make his first major-league start at second base. Passing Drew along the way was Kelly Johnson, who went to Boston in a rare Yankees-Red Sox deal. Prado, who has played a lot of second base in his career, will likely play more often in the outfield for the Yankees. He was en route to Boston and was expected at Fenway at some point during the game.

The Red Sox were in the same situation regarding outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, the outfielder they obtained from the Athletics in the trade for Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. He was not in the starting lineup, but Allen Craig, who was acquired from the Cardinals in the Lackey deal, was batting fifth and playing left field.

Chris Capuano, who pitched in 28 games for the Red Sox last year and was purchased from the Rockies last month by the Yankees, was to make his second start in pinstripes against Anthony Ranaudo, a New Jersey native who was making his major-league debut. The Yanks also added righthander Esmil Rogers, who was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays Thursday, to their 25-man man roster.

To create room for the three new players, the Yankees designated second baseman Brian Roberts for assignment and optioned infielder Zelous Wheeler and outfielder Zoilo Almonte to Triple A Scranton. No one expected Roberts to replace the departed Robinson Cano, but his slash line of .237/.300/.360 was weak as was his defense. Say this for Roberts. He played more games (91) in a season since 2009, avoided serious injury and fit nicely in the clubhouse.

Tanaka bested by Lester in classic pitching duel

Does anyone actually think Masahiro Tanaka should not have pitched the ninth inning for the Yankees Saturday night? I mean, really? Talk about severe second guessing. Yankees manager Joe Girardi was asked why he did not have David Robertson pitch the ninth instead of Tanaka.

Look, if Girardi knew that Tanaka was going to give up a solo home run to Mike Napoli on a ball that barely cleared the right field wall on a 1-2 pitch, then, sure, he would rather have D-Rob out there. But, come on, Tanaka was pitching a gem, deserved a better fate and certainly did not deserve his manager having to be grilled for staying with his best pitcher.

Yes, this one hurt, a 2-1 loss to the Red Sox for the Yankees, who failed to take advantage of Toronto and Baltimore both losing earlier in the day. But as good as Tanaka was, Red Sox starter Jon Lester was slightly better.

For one thing, Lester kept the ball in the yard. Both the runs off Tanaka were on solo homers. The other was by catcher David Ross in the third inning. If a pitcher is going to give up home runs, let them be with nobody on base. You hear that all the time, so cut Tanaka some slack.

Look at what he did in the fourth inning when Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz scorched him for a single and double, respectively. Strikeout, strikeout, groundout to the next three batters, slamming the door.

The Yankees’ only run off Lester was unearned due to an error by Boston shortstop Stephen Drew in the bottom of the third. Lester took a no-hitter into the sixth, withstood three singles that inning and continued to keep the Yankees off balance.

For a wild moment there in the eighth, it appeared as if the Yanks had taken the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury seemed to have stolen second base, continued to third on an errant throw by Ross and then headed for the plate that was uncovered. What Ellsbury and most of the people in the Yankee Stadium sellout crowd of 48,433 did not know was that the pitch Ellsbury stole on was a called third strike by plate umpire Andy Fletcher on Mark Teixeira.

The Red Sox did hit Tanaka hard in the ninth. Pedroia led off the inning with his third hit, a line single to center. Ortiz hit a blistering one-hopper gloved by third baseman Yangervis Solarte on the overshift that became a double play. Tanaka got two strikes on Napoli only to lose the battle when the Boston first baseman hit an opposite-field homer. Koji Uehara closed it out for the Red Sox with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 17th save.

Tanaka has lost consecutive starts for the first time this season. His three complete games are the most for a Yankees rookie since 1998 when Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez had the same total. It was a tough loss for Tanaka, but I for one applaud the manager for leaving him in the game.

Dueling video reviews

With help from a video review, Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester still had a no-hitter through five innings Saturday night. Although the Yankees had a run on the board, they had yet to get a hit when Yangervis Solarte appeared to have broken up Lester’s bid with an infield single with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.

It was an official scorer’s nightmare for Howie Karpin, who ruled the play a single. Solarte hit a dribbler near the third base line. Boston third baseman Zander Bogaerts made a nifty, bare-handed pickup, but his throw to first base was in the dirt. First baseman Mike Napoli stretched for the throw and made a nice scoop, but first base umpire Mark Wegner called Solarte safe.

Karpin was forced to credit Solarte with a hit because of the degree of difficulty Bogaerts had in making the fielding play. It all became incidental when Red Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review. Video replays clearly showed that Napoli’s foot was on the bag before Solarte reached first base, so Wegner’s call was overturned keeping Lester’s no-no in place for the time being.

The Yankees came right back in the sixth with a review request of their own when Dustin Pedroia led off with an apparent double. That call was also overturned when replays showed that Pedroia slid into the tag of second baseman Brian Roberts.

Lester’s no-hit bid did not last for long. Brett Gardner led off the sixth with a ground single through the middle for the Yankees’ first hit. Gardner was quickly erased when thrown out attempting to steal second base. Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury restarted the rally with singles, but Mark Teixeira flied out and Carlos Beltran struck out.

The Yankees had scored in the third inning without a hit. Shortstop Stephen Drew bobbled a grounder by Roberts for an error, and Lester hit Solarte with a pitch. Gardner advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt. Roberts scored as Jeter grounded out to shortstop. Solarte crossed to third base but was stranded as Ellsbury also grounded out to short.

The Red Sox had gotten on the board in the top of the third on a solo home run by David Ross. Masahiro Tanaka showed off a good slider and splitter, but in the fourth Boston hit him hard with Pedroia lining a single to right and David Ortiz almost decapitating Pedroia with another liner to right for a double. Tanaka held firm, however. He struck out Napoli and Drew and retired Bogaerts on an infield grounder.

Tanaka vs. Lester, Round 2

Masahiro Tanaka and Jon Lester, who were paired against each other Saturday night at Yankees Stadium, first hooked up April 22 at Fenway Park. At the time, Tanaka was still an unknown quantity although he had already opened plenty of eyes. But in the tense atmosphere of Boston’s old yard, the Japanese righthander was going to face some strong scrutiny.

He passed with flying colors. Tanaka pitched 7 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs and seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in improving his record to 3-0. The Yankees pounded Lester for 11 hits and eight runs, although five were not earned due to errors by catcher A.J. Pierzynski and first baseman Mike Napoli.

Tanaka’s record was up to 11-2 entering play Saturday night. The Elias Sports Bureau put together some interesting information on the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year candidate.

Tanaka has pitched at least six innings and allowed three runs or fewer in each of his 15 starts. In the past 103 seasons since earned runs became an official statistis in 1912, he is one of only two pitchers to produce such an outing in each of his first 15 major-league games. The other was the Expos’ Steve Rogers, who did so in each of his first 16 games for Montreal in 1973).

Tanaka is the only pitcher to produce such an outing in each of his first 15 starts with the Yankees and one of only three Yankees pitchers to produce such a start in 15 consecutive starts at any point in their careers. The others were CC Sabathia (16 games) in 2010 from June 3 to Aug. 22 and Ron Guidry (15 games) in 1978 from April 8 to June 22.

No pitcher has recorded a longer such streak since the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong had 16 consecutive quality starts in 2012 from May 3 to July 29.

Elias also pointed out that Friday night’s 6-0 victory over the Red Sox marked the first time in franchise history that two non-pitchers each age 40 or older started a game together for the Yankees in shortstop Derek Jeter and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. The last pair of 40-year-olds to start for the Yankees prior to Friday was pitcher Andy Pettitte and outfielder Raul Ibanez in 2012.

Yankees fans should take note that the rainout makeup game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City will be at 7:10 p.m. Aug. 25.

Tanaka, Ellsbury handle pressure at Fenway

The Yankees originally intended to keep Masahiro Tanaka away from the Red Sox in the first two series against their rivals this year until the Japanese righthander had more solid footing in the major leagues. They did not pitch him against Boston in spring training, either.

But last week’s rainout at Yankee Stadium against the Cubs that led to a split-admission doubleheader the next day altered manager Joe Girardi’s rotation and resulted in Tanaka having to start Tuesday night at Fenway Park. He was certainly up to the task in a 9-2 Yankees victory, their fourth in five games against the Red Sox this season.

The Yankees gave Tanaka something of a comfort zone by taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning off Jon Lester, who was not at his best.

In his first game at Fenway since departing the Red Sox and signing with the Yankees as a free agent, Jacoby Ellsbury was celebrated by Boston fans, who cheered a pre-game video tribute to his contributions to two World Series championship teams. Once the game got under way, it was a different story as boos far outnumbered cheers for Ellsbury.

The fleet center fielder responded the best way he could — with his bat and his glove. Ellsbury began the game with a drive off the center field wall that was interfered with by a fan and was awarded a triple. Derek Jeter promptly got Ellsbury home with a single to center. That ran the Captain’s hitting streak to 11 games. It is the 47th double-figure hitting streak of Jeter’s career. That ties him with Hall of Famer Tris Speaker for the third highest total in history. The others in front of them are also Hall of Famers — Ty Cobb with 66 and Hank Aaron with 48.

A passed ball and throwing error by Boston catcher A.J. Pierzynski helped the Yanks to an unearned run later on a single by Carlos Beltran. Surprisingly shoddy defense by the Red Sox did not help Lester. All four rune he allowed in the fifth inning were not earned due to an error by first baseman Mike Napoli. The Yankees earned their two runs in the third off Lester on successive doubles by Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann.

Yankees’ defense was just the opposite. Ellsbury set the tone in the bottom of the first with a sliding catch of a liner that robbed Grady Sizemore of a potential extra-base hit. Dustin Pedroia hit the ball hard as well for a double, but Tanaka came back to strike out David Ortiz and Napoli.

Those same two sluggers took Tanaka deep in back-to-back fashion in the fourth, but that was all the damage he sustained. The Yankees spent a small fortune on Tanaka, but at this point he looks like a bargain. He ran his record to 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA with another 7 1/3 sturdy innings. In 29 1/3 innings, Tanaka has allowed 22 hits and only two walks with 35 strikeouts.

His record in Japan last year was 24-0. Can he go 24-0 here this year?

One bad inning sinks Sabathia

For five innings Friday night, CC Sabathia was pitching as the ace that Yankees fans have come to appreciate. With a fastball that was in the 90-miles-per-hour range and a devastating slider, the big lefthander held the Red Sox in check. He limited them to one hit and two walks, struck out six batters and got eight other outs in the infield.

It was not vintage Sabathia from his Cy Young Award days when the fastball was more muscular, but it was a cagier and slyer Sabathia who had Boston hitters guessing and oft times wrong. The lone hit to that point was a leadoff double by Red Sox catcher David Ross in the third inning. Sabathia retired the next three batters on ground balls to prevent Ross from scoring.

Then came the sixth inning, and everything went wrong for the big guy. Jonny Gomes led off with a home run off a 1-0 fastball that tied the score. Alfonso Soriano had given CC a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a home run off Jon Lester.

After striking out Dustin Pedroia, Sabathia gave up a single to David Ortiz on an excuse-me, half-swing of a dribbler to the vacated left side of the infield as the Yankees were employing an over-shift on Big Papi. Mike Napoli singled on a soft line drove to center field, but there was nothing soft about Grady Sizemore’s drive off a hanging slider on 0-1 that reached the second deck in right field for a demoralizing, three-run homer.

“I thought he had good command and threw the ball decent,” manager Joe Girardi said of Sabathia. “He hung a slider, and Sizemore did not miss it. One pitch in a tight game sometimes it’s going to beat you.”

No one welcomed the offensive display more than Lester, who before that inning had watched his teammates score merely one run in his first 19 1/3 innings on the mound this year, which explains why he entered the game with a record of 0-2 despite a 2.51 ERA.

The Yankees tried to get Sabathia off the hook with a two-out rally in the seventh but got only one run on a Kelly Johnson single that chased Lester.

Sabathia’s ERA actually came down from 7.50 but is still an unseemly 6.63 after three starts as his record fell to 1-2. His nine strikeouts lifted his total with the Yankees to 1,017, which moved him past Roger Clemens into 10th place on the franchise’s career list. Next up in ninth place at 1,028 is Al Downing.

A sorry day for Sori-less Yankees

The Yankees were in trouble Saturday before they even took the field at Fenway Park. Once again – and how often has this happened this year? – a player was scratched from the lineup due to injury. Not just any player, either. Down this time was none other than Alfonso Soriano, the offensive force who has been at the center of the team’s renaissance the past six weeks.

Soriano was unavailable because of a sprained right thumb, which he sustained while making a diving catch Thursday night at Baltimore. He played Friday night but aggravated the condition and could not grip a bat Saturday. X-rays were negative, which was a good sign. A not so good sign, however, was that the thumb was worse Saturday than it was Friday night.

Without Soriano, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to add another left-handed hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, as an outfielder in the batting order against lefthander Jon Lester (14-8), who pitched eight solid innings for the Red Sox. Ironically, two of the Yankees’ three hits were by a left-handed hitter, Curtis Granderson, who tripled and doubled.

Granderson batted out of the leadoff spot the past two games in place of regular center fielder Brett Gardner, who could be lost for the remainder of the regular season because of a left oblique strain. Shortstop Derek Jeter is also gone for the rest of the regular season due to lingering issues with his surgical left ankle.

Yes, the Yankees are pretty beat up, which they have been much of the season. It has been a medical nightmare for them. I teased trainer Steve Donohue the other day that the club must have run out of tape before the All-Star break. Referring to former head trainer Gene Monahan, Stevie said, “Geno sure picked the right time to retire.”

CC Sabathia got beat up Saturday as well. Boston did not enjoy a slugfest but did tag Sabathia (13-13) for five earned runs, nine hits and four walks in six innings. Five different players drove in runs for the Red Sox. CC had another troubling season against the Red Sox. He was 2-2 but had a 7.22 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, including 1-1 with a 9.92 ERA in 16 1/3 innings at Fenway Park.

Conversely, Lester was 2-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 1/3 innings against the Yankees this year. Of the 24 outs Lester recorded Saturday, 16 were in the infield and five were on strikeouts. The Yankees’ only run scored on an infield out as they were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The 2-through-6 hitters were a combined 0-for-18.

Ichiro saves one for Mo

If you didn’t think Sunday’s game was important to the Yankees, consider this: Mariano Rivera was called on for a six-out save. This was something out of postseason play, which is what the Yankees are hopeful for qualifying for this season.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not hesitate in using Mo for such a stretch. One, it is that time of year and, two, what would you save Rivera for? As the skipper said after the game, noting that the career saves leader will retire at the end of the season, “He’s at a point where he’s not saving anything for 2014.”

The only problem is that it didn’t work. Rivera blew the save opportunity for the seventh time this season and the second time in this series when he allowed a leadoff home run to Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks in the ninth inning that made the score 3-3. Perhaps the only people at Yankee Stadium who thought the ball was a homer were those seated in the first two rows of seats in right field. To everybody else, Rivera and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, it seemed as if it were a high fly ball that would eventually become an out instead of going out.

In the bottom of that inning, however, Rivera would have a smile on his face as wide as the Grand Canyon after Suzuki scored from third base on a wild pitch by Brandon Workman that clinched a 4-3 victory.

Eight runs were not enough Thursday night. Eight runs were not enough Friday night. Nine runs were not enough Saturday. As it turned out, four runs were sufficient for the Yankees Sunday.

The ninth-inning run was an Ichiro special. He singled to left-center field with one out and then quickly moved into scoring position with a steal of second base. Vernon Wells’ flyout to right field was deep enough for Suzuki to scamper to third base. Any battery has to be careful about a wild pitch or a passed ball with a player as quick as Ichiro on third base. There was no doubt that when the pitch by Workman eluded catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia that the Yankee would get the run they needed to avoid a four-game sweep by Boston and give them some momentum headed to Baltimore for another challenging, four-game set against an Orioles club that is battling for the same prize as the Yankees, a wild-card postseason berth.

“Anybody could have made it,” Ichiro said of the winning run, “anybody with a good read.”

Well, that does not just happen with anybody but with a player of Suzuki’s instinct on the bases. This was the first time the Yankees had a walk-off victory on a wild pitch since Sept. 27, 1977 against the Indians and Jim Bibby when the run was scored by Thurman Munson, who made up for lack of speed with an abundance of smarts.

The game might have turned into a disaster if not for that play. The Yankees had overcome a 1-0 deficit to Jon Lester, who pitched eight strong innings, to take a 3-1 lead behind Hiroki Kuroda, who threw 117 pitches over six innings. Shawn Kelley worked the seventh without issue before the strains of “Enter Sandman” were heard surprisingly at the start of the eighth.

Rivera had not pitched for two days, so Girard felt confident that he could use him for a lengthier period. Mo had the same confidence and said he will feel the same way Monday night at Camden Yards.

“If they need me, I’ll be there,” Rivera said. “I have to be ready for any situation. We’re trying to get to the playoffs.”

That pursuit can often find players doing odd things. In the second inning with runners on first and second and none out, Mark Reynolds tried to bunt them over and fouled out to the catcher, the same Mark Reynolds who is usually feast or famine with his home run or strikeout mentality.

“We’ll let that go for now,” Girardi said, clearly indicated that Reynolds was bunting on his own and something he will be told never to do again.

The Yankees failed to score that inning, but Reynolds atoned for his mistake by driving in the Yankees’ first run of the game in the fourth with a booming double to center field. A clutch, two-out single by Robinson Cano an inning later gave the Yankees their first lead in the series since that 8-3 spread entering the seventh inning Friday night that the bullpen flushed.

The Red Sox cut it to 3-2 with a run in the sixth on a double by David Ortiz and two infield outs. One-run leads are usually as good as gold for Rivera, but he has proved a bit more vulnerable in his final season. He last blew as many as seven saves in 2001.

Don’t be surprised, however, that if the Yankees need him to nail down a victory Monday night that, in his words, Mo will be there.

5-game suspension slap on wrist for Dempster

There is a real problem with Major League Baseball’s suspension directives when it comes to starting pitchers. MLB suspended Red Sox righthander Ryan Dempster Tuesday for five games for throwing at Alex Rodriguez intentionally and hitting him in the left elbow in the first inning of the Yankees’ 9-3 victory Sunday night at Fenway Park.

Big deal. The way the Red Sox schedule flows over the next week they can essentially skip Dempster one turn in the rotation, so where is the punishment?

Unless Dempster appeals, the suspension will start with Tuesday night’s game against the Giants in San Francisco. But as Ian Browne, the Red Sox beat reporter for MLB.com pointed out, Dempster might not appeal because the discipline comes at a favorable portion of Boston’s schedule.

With open dates Thursday and Monday, the Red Sox could rework their rotation with four pitchers until Dempster’s return. Jon Lester could pitch in Dempster’s previously scheduled turn Saturday on regular rest at Los Angeles. Jake Peavy could pitch Sunday against the Dodgers. Dempster would be eligible to return Aug. 27 when the Red Sox open a homestand against the Orioles.

Talk about a slap on the wrist! Dempster was also fined $2,500, according to the Associated Press, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was ejected for arguing furiously for plate umpire Brian O’Nora to run Dempster out of the game, was hit with a $5,000 fine.

It is another case of blind justice.

Sabathia gets Yankees back on track

Subway Series hangover over. A little dose of CC was a big help.

In this case, the CC wasn’t Canadian Club whiskey but a pitcher named Sabathia, who not only righted the Yankees Friday night but also himself. The lefthander found his rhythm early amid hot and humid conditions and rang bells on the velocity pole he had not reached previously.

“I hadn’t seen a lot of 94s until tonight,” manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees’ 4-1 victory over Boston that ended their five-game losing streak and got Sabathia his first winning decision in six starts since April 27.

Sabathia hit 94 miles per hour on his fastball occasionally and was regularly between 91 and 93 mph with his heater. CC talked after the game more about location than velocity but admitted he felt more like himself than he has for a while.

“It just felt good to get us back on the right track,” Sabathia said. “I always feel like it’s my responsibility to go out and have a good game and give us a chance to win, especially after what happened to us against the Mets.”

Sabathia was not part of the Subway Series sweep, but the five-game losing streak began on his watch with a poor outing last Sunday at Tropicana Field in an 8-3 drubbing by the Rays. Friday night was a different story.

“This is the kind of game we’re used to seeing from CC,” Girardi said. “This is almost where he is every year since he has been with us. When the weather warms up, he gets on a roll.”

Sabathia not only registered a few more ticks on the radar gun but had the bite back on his slider, the pitch he used for six of his 10 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. The only run he allowed was in the seventh on doubles by Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli. CC did not walk a batter.

“Anytime he was in a fastball count, he’d go to his breaking ball or his changeup to keep us off stride,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He didn’t compound an issue by issuing a base on balls.”

Speaking of walks, the Yankees drew four of them off Jon Lester, twice as many as they had in the four games total against the Mets. Mark Teixeira started the Yankees’ two-run second inning with a walk. After Vernon Wells doubled, the Yankees scored on a single by Jayson Nix and one out later on a single by Ichiro Suzuki.

That would be all the support Sabathia would need, but the Yankees pushed across two more runs against Lester, who had defeated them back on Opening Day, on RBI singles by Kevin Youkilis in the fifth and Brett Gardner in the seventh.

It was also important to see Mariano Rivera get back on the bike again. Three nights after his stunning loss at Citi Field, Mo withstood singles by Pedroia and David Ortiz in the ninth to nail down his 19th save in 20 tries and 36th in a row at Yankee Stadium.