Results tagged ‘ Justin Smoak ’

Yanks’ bats remain cold in Toronto

It was another night of offensive futility Tuesday night at Toronto for the Yankees. They managed to score only one run — and that was on an out — as support for CC Sabathia, who was tagged with an underserved losing decision.

The combination of a punchless offense and uncharacteristic relief work by Dellin Betances sent Sabathia to his second straight loss despite six-plus innings of solid pitching (two runs, five hits, one walk, four strikeouts). A home run with two outs in the fourth inning by Justin Smoak that tied the score at 1 was one of the few mistakes made by Sabathia, who gave up a double to Edwin Encarnacion to start the seventh that hastened the call to Betances.

Manager Joe Girardi’s hook despite the fact that Sabathia had thrown just 80 pitches looked like the move to make when Betances struck out Smoak and retired Russell Martin on a fly ball to left field. That drive reached the warning track, which might have been an omen. So, too, was a four-pitch walk to Devon Travis.

There were more blunders to come. Betances got too much of the plate with a fastball to free-swinging Kevin Pillar, who punched a single to right field where Rob Refsnyder made a multi-bounce, offline throw home that failed to prevent Encarnacion from crossing the plate with the go-ahead run. Pillar, who made two sensational fielding plays in center field, made another heads-up play by stealing second base, so when Darwin Barney also singled to right two more runs, not just one, scored.

A three-run deficit in the ninth seemed insurmountable to a Yankees lineup that has gone to sleep lately, and there would be no Brian McCann pinch-hit home run to make things closer than the 4-1 final score.

This marked the 22nd time this season that the Yankees have scored two runs or fewer in a game. They have lost 20 of them, and in one of the two victories (Saturday at St. Pete) they got only one hit. Their only hit in eight at-bats Tuesday night with a runner in scoring position did not drive in a run. A single by Austin Romine only served to move Chase Headley, who had two hits, from second base to third. If Aaron Hicks had not beaten out a potential double play with a spring to first base, the Yankees might have been shut out.

Girardi is running out of rabbits to pull out of his hat to turn things around. Tuesday night, Alex Rodriguez (1-for-16 with nine strikeouts since coming off the disabled list last week) was on the bench for the second consecutive night. A-Rod’s career 0-for-14 record against Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ was all Girardi needed to see to use Carlos Beltran instead as designated hitter.

The manager was not singling out Rodriguez, who these days has looked every bit the 40-year-old not named David Ortiz. McCann (1-for-22) and Brett Gardner (0-for-20) were also on the pine. Refsnyder got a start over Gardner and had a first-inning double but was left stranded. With right-handed Jesse Chavez on base by the eighth, Gardner batted for Refsnyder and was called out on strikes. Girardi might have used A-Rod as a pinch hitter if more than one runner had gotten on base, but that situation did not present itself after the second inning.

The six-game winning streak that brought the Yankees to a .500 record seems like ancient history now that they have lost five of their past seven games to fall three games below par at 24-27.

Toronto takes Round 1 by a knockout

The Blue Jays applied some pressure on the Yankees with a five-homer, 11-5 victory Friday night in the opener of the four-game showdown series at Yankee Stadium. By increasing their lead in the American League East to 2 1/2 games, Toronto put the Yanks in a position of having to win the final three games to knock the Jays out of first place before leaving town after Sunday’s game.

The Blue Jays swept the Yankees in a three-game series at the Stadium in early August and have won five straight games, 10 of their past 15 and 14 of their past 22 games in the Bronx. Toronto, which has an 80-60 overall record, is 35-14 since the All-Star break and 27-9 since the beginning of August. The Jays trailed the Yankees by eight games in the standings July 28 and have made up 10 1/2 games since then.

Luis Severino had his first rough outing for the Yankees. In his first six starts, the rookie righthander did not allow more than three runs in any of them and only a total of two runs in his past three starts covering 18 1/3 innings.

It was a much different story this time as the Blue Jays banged Severino around for five runs and five hits, including four for extra bases, in the first inning. The Yankees were down, 5-0, before about half the people in the Friday night crowd of 40,220 had taken their seats or David Price had taken the mound.

Severino was in trouble immediately as Ben Revere led off with a double, and Josh Donaldson, expanding his AL Most Valuable Player credentials, followed with a home run (No. 38) into the left field bleachers. Severino struck out Jose Bautista but then gave up three straight hits — a double to right-center by Edwin Encarnacio, an RBI single to left by Troy Tulowitzki and a two-run homer to right by Justin Smoak.

Severino seemed to have settled down when he struck out Donaldson and Bautista to strand Revere at second base, but in the third he walked two batters, threw a wild pitch and allowed an RBI single to Russell Martin that prompted manager Joe Girardi to go to his bullpen.

Martin did even more damage in his next two at-bats with a couple of home runs, a solo shot leading off the fifth against Andrew Bailey and a two-run blast in the seventh off Chasen Shreve. Encarnacion also went deep with two out in the fourth off Chris Martin, who was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre prior to the game.

The five home runs were emblematic of the bludgeoning Toronto bats have done to AL pitching this year with 197 homers in 140 games.

The large lead proved beneficial to Price, who was not overwhelming and lasted only five innings. The lefthander gave up two hits, six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in improving his overall record to 15-5 with a 2.46 ERA. Price is 6-1 with a 2.28 ERA in eight starts totaling 55 1/3 innings since being traded to the Blue Jays from the Tigers.

Four of the Yankees’ runs were driven in by Didi Gregorius with a two-out single off Price in the third inning and a three-run homer off LaTroy Hawkins in the sixth that cut the margin to 9-5 and had Yankees fans cheering for a change. Martin’s second homer and the fact that the Yankees made their last nine outs in succession spoiled any chance for a comeback..

Jays continue to flex muscles against Yanks

The Blue Jays are not exactly breathing down the Yankees’ necks, but Toronto has certainly made its presence felt in the American League East race this weekend at Yankee Stadium. As recently as July 28, the Yankees had a seven-game lead in the division. After Saturday’s 6-0 loss to the Jays, the Yanks’ spread is down to 2 1/2 games.

Yes, they are four games up on Toronto in the loss column, which is one consolation, but they have been no match for the Jays’ muscle. The recent offensive slump continued against lefthander David Price, whom they had beaten up twice earlier this season (30.86 ERA in 2 1/3 innings) but who was flawless Saturday with seven brilliant innings (three hits, three walks, seven strikeouts).

The Yankees suffered their fourth shutout loss of the season and ended a stretch of nine non-losing series. They had not lost a series since June 29-July 1 when they dropped two of three games to the Angels at Anaheim. The Yanks are 2-6 against the Jays this year and have lost the first three series between them. There is still plenty of baseball left for these clubs against each other. They will meet up again next weekend at Toronto and seven more times in September.

“There is a long way to go,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi noted after the game. “I called this an important series before it started, but we have two months to go so you can’t get overly concerned about two games.”

Nevertheless, Girardi added that Masahiro Tanaka needs to come up big Sunday against Toronto righthander Marco Estrada as well as an offense that has disappeared during this homestand. Since exploding for 13 runs against the Red Sox to open the homestand five days ago, the Yankees have scored four runs in their past 37 innings and none in their past 17. They are hitless in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position over the past four games, three of them losses.

Ivan Nova was coasting along for five innings matching Price in putting up zeroes until it all came apart in the sixth. Two walks around a single by Jose Bautista, who won Friday night’s game with a 10th-inning home run, filled the bases for Justin Smoak, who belted a 0-1 pitch to right field for his first career grand slam.

Girardi had Adam Warren in the bullpen but counted on Nova’s sinker to get a much-needed ground ball, but the two-seamer had lost its effectiveness by then. Newcomer Troy Tulowitzki was 0-for-7 in the series before he connected in the seventh off Bryan Mitchell for a solo home run.

An error by second baseman Brendan Ryan led to an unearned run in the eighth on a two-out, RBI infield single by Russell Martin, the only one of Toronto’s eight runs in the series that was not the result of a home run.

An 0-for-4 by Mark Teixeira ended his stretch of 24 consecutive games in which he reached base. The Yankees had only five base runners in the game and failed to homer for the first time in 13 games.

Emphasizing the obvious, Girardi said, “We have to start swinging the bats.”

Nice start for Andy but not a nice finish

Now think for a moment if any pitcher other than Andy Pettitte came off the mound with one out in the seventh inning and the Yankees trailing, 4-1, would a standing ovation be warranted?

Of course not, but that was the kind of day Sunday was for Pettitte, who made his first start for the Bombers since Game 3 of the 2010 American League Championship Series against the Rangers and supplied a serviceable if less than spectacular 6 1/3-inning performance against a somewhat placid Seattle lineup.

From the moment he went out to the bullpen to warm up for his Mother’s Day start to his name being announced in the lineup to his trot to the mound to begin the game, Pettitte was the recipient of loud cheers from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 41,631. Clearly, Yankees fans were delighted to see the lefthander back in pinstripes 19 months after his most recent major-league appearance.

“I appreciate the fans,” Pettitte said. “They have been great to me, but I just want to do my job. I was frustrated because I feel I let the game get out of hand.”

Andy was a big embarrassed by the reception as he departed the game. He waved to the crowd before he walked down the dugout steps, but in his mind he had been a disappointment in not helping the Yankees win.

Had the day continued its fairy-tale theme, Pettitte would have come away with a victory. But two-run home runs by Justin Smoak in the fourth inning and Casper Wells in the sixth would results in an ‘L’ behind Andy’s name in the boxscore as the Mariners avoided being swept with a 6-2 victory.

Pettitte did accomplish what manager Joe Girardi had hoped to see.

“I hope he doesn’t try to do too much,” Girardi had said before the game. “You worry about a guy in his situation overthrowing the ball and being up in the zone. I would like to get six innings out of him.”

Girardi got that and a bit more from Pettitte, whose final pitch was his 94th of the afternoon. He gave up seven hits and three walks, threw a wild pitch and had two strikeouts. Vintage Pettitte it was not, but considering his age (39) and the lengthy layoff the outing was encouraging.

“His pitches were sharp; he located well,” Girardi said. “It looked like he didn’t miss a beat.”

Pettitte was rougher on himself in assessing the outing, but that was also in character. Andy has not stopped wearing the hair shirt when it comes to accepting blame.

“The guys got me back in the game and I give up a two-run home run,” Pettitte said. “I got careless with a few pitches.”

He was referring to the sixth inning. The Yankees had closed to 5-1 in the fifth but blew a golden opportunity for a big inning (bases loaded, none out) when after Russell Martin walked with one out to force in a run Derek Jeter grounded into an inning-ending double play, one of three twin killings that came to the aid of Kevin Millwood, 37, something of an ancient Mariner himself who won for the first time this season in five decisions.

Seattle quickly pushed the score to 4-1 on a single by Dustin Ackley and the homer by Wells the very next inning.

“I wasn’t able to locate my four-seamer inside to right-handed hitters,” Pettitte said. “Because of that, my cutter wasn’t as effective. My command was off, and I made some mental mistakes.”

Andy did not get much support from his teammates. The Yankees were hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position. They stranded the bases loaded in the eighth when Seattle manager Eric Wedge used four relievers to get through the inning after foolishly (I thought) removing Millwood. Nick Swisher was thrown out trying to stretch a leadoff double in the ninth into a triple to wound a potential rally.

Now the question is how Pettitte will feel after this start. If he holds to form, there should be no setbacks that would prevent him from taking his regular turn Friday night when the Yankees come back to the Stadium after the four-game trip this week to Baltimore and Toronto.

“It was exactly what I thought it would be,” Pettitte said of his first game back from retirement. “I felt great. I felt like I never left. It was not as emotional as I thought it was going to be. I did get a little tired in the seventh, but I can’t believe how comfortable it was for me. I won’t be able to say if this [comeback] was a success or not until October.”

Yanks seek to exploit Montero

The Yankees were expected to run on catcher Jesus Montero Friday night, and they did not waste any time in their former teammate’s first game back at Yankee Stadium since the off-season deal that sent him and pitcher Hector Noesi to Seattle for pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

Montero’s strength as a top prospect was his offensive ability, not his work behind the plate. He and John Jaso are alternating at catcher and designated hitter. Curtis Granderson, who singled to right with one out in the first inning off Felix Hernandez, stole second with two out.

That put Granderson in position to score on a single to right by Robinson Cano, who extended his hitting streak to nine games but was thrown out trying to advance to second on the throw to the plate that was cut off by first baseman Justin Smoak.

The run allowed by Hernandez that inning equaled the amount he had yielded in his previous 24 innings over three starts at the current Yankee Stadium. It also brought the Yankees even at 1-1 with Seattle, which got a leadoff home run from Dustin Ackley off Hiroki Kuroda.

Mark Teixeira should have taken note of how many cheap hits he might get if he decides to bunt against the over-shift so many clubs utilize against him. You don’t want a 5-hole hitter doing that with runners on base, but leading off an inning, why not? Teixeira took a full cut at a slider from Hernandez, but the ball dribbled toward , the equivalent of a bunt. He beat it out for a single, a good way for a hitter regardless of power to start of an inning by getting on base. Just a thought.

Yanks turn to CC, who does them a good turn

Did the Yankees ever need what they got from CC Sabathia Sunday? That is rhetorical question, of course. After two one-run losses, the second coming in a 12-inning game, the Yankees needed what the ace of a staff is paid the big money to do – to stop losing streaks and instill confidence.

Sabathia did all that and more as the Yankees salvaged the finale of the series and avoided being swept by a team with the weakest offense in the American League with a convincing 7-1 victory. Seattle proved resilient in the first two games by coming back from deficits each time and even winning Saturday night against the great Mariano Rivera, but the hole the Mariners got into this time was too deep against CC.

The Yankees had more hits with runners in scoring position (3-for-6) in the five-run third inning than they did in the first two games combined (2-for-16). That gave Sabathia a 6-0 bulge, and no lead ever appeared safer as he punished the Mariners for eight innings allowing only one run on a home run by Justin Smoak in the sixth.

The Mariners should be familiar with all this. Sabathia has pretty much had his way against the Mariners, particularly at Seattle. He improved his career record there to 8-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 10-4 with a 2.49 ERA against them overall.

The Yankees still had trouble generating an offense against Seattle’s improved bullpen, but it did not matter all that much Sunday. Their only run in 15 innings against the Mariners’ pen came in the fourth inning Sunday on a double by Curtis Granderson and a single by Mark Teixeira that swelled the Yankees’ lead to 7-0. These were the same two guys who became the first teammates to hit 15 or more home runs through the first 50 games since Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle 50 years ago. Granderson has 16 and Teixeira 15.

A home run by Nick Swisher in the second got the Yankees started, but the fifth-inning rally was marked by good situational hitting that the team has lacked as it has come to rely on long balls. A huge blow was a bases-clearing double by Andruw Jones, whose appearance in the lineup will be more on a regular basis. Jones subsequently scored on the first major-league triple from Eduardo Nunez, whose name will be showing up regularly as well against left-handed pitching.

The Yankees’ batting order will have a different look depending on the starting pitcher, which was evident Sunday as they faced a left-handed starter in the Mariners’ Jason Vargas, who they disposed of after three innings.

The continuing struggles of the switch-hitting Swisher and Jorge Posada have forced manager Joe Girardi’s hand. The duo is no longer guaranteed to be in the lineup. Posada, still hitless in 26 at-bats from the right side, has been benched against lefthanders as Girardi has various options at designated hitter, either by using Jones in that spot or what the manager did Sunday by playing Jones in the outfield and using Nunez at shortstop to provide Derek Jeter a half-day off as the DH. Girardi can also use Nunez at third base and give Alex Rodriguez a turn at DH.

Swisher’s home run was his first in 61 at-bats since May 7 and his first from the right side all year. He is batting .298 with seven RBI in 47 at-bats as a right-handed hitter but .174 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 115 at-bats as a left-handed hitter. If Swish doesn’t turn it around, there is a chance left-handed hitting Chris Dickerson could get some at-bats against righthanders. At this time a year ago, Swisher was batting .317 with nine home runs. He is hitting .210 with three home runs this year.

Girardi has made a bold move by benching Posada against lefties. He may do something similar with Swisher against righties.

Greenberg ‘chucked’

Good riddance to Chuck Greenberg is the way Yankees fans should look at his departure from a brief run (seven months) as chief executive officer of the Rangers. As if getting to the World Series last year for the first time in the franchise’s 50-season history wasn’t enough, Greenberg felt compelled to insult Yankees fans with his remarks about the behavior of some boisterous individuals who took verbal aim at some wives of Texas personnel during the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.

You may recall Greenberg’s comments: “I thought Yankee fans, frankly, were awful. They were either violent or apathetic, neither of which is good. So I thought Yankee fans were by far the worst of any I’ve seen in the postseason. I thought they were an embarrassment.”

I love that “I’ve ever seen in the post-season,” as if the Rangers have made a habit of getting to the dance. All the whining did was to get Greenberg a rebuke from commissioner Bud Selig, who ordered him to apologize.

Even worse, though, was the boast that by extending the contract talks with free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, Greenberg opened the door for the Phillies to come along and snatch the lefthander away from the outstretched arms of the Yankees. Greenberg’s chest was swelling over the Rangers having outmaneuvered the Yankees in obtaining Lee in a trade from the Mariners last summer. That deal cost Texas its top prospect, first baseman Justin Smoak, as Yankees general manager hung on to infield prospect Eduardo Nunez.

Lee’s return to Philadelphia left the Rangers with nothing to show for giving up Smoak, but Greenberg chose to pat himself on the back with the consolation that at least the pitcher did not go to the Yankees. Some in the media felt Yankees president Randy Levine lowered himself by responding to Greenberg’s characterization, but I for one was amused and bolstered by the retort.

“He has been in the game for a few minutes and yet he thinks he knows what everyone is thinking,” Levine said. “He could really impress us when he keeps the Rangers off of welfare and keeps them from receiving revenue sharing the next three years.”

Greenberg deserved to hear that, but Randy could have held his breath because the loud-mouthed newcomer had no chance to survive in the Texas organization if he got on the wrong side of Nolan Ryan, which Greenberg apparently did. The Hall of Fame pitcher can do no wrong in the Lone Star State and could probably get elected governor there without having to spend one minute on a campaign trail.

In point of fact, it was Greenberg’s third visit to Lee in Arkansas – without Ryan, this time – that hurt the Rangers’ chances of re-signing him. As for swaying him from the Yankees, Lee made it clear that the Phillies were always his priority based on the good feeling he had pitching for them in their pennant-winning 2009 season. That he rejected a seven-year contract offer from the Yankees for a five-year deal from the Phillies was a pretty good indication where Lee’s heart lay, and it had nothing to do with Greenberg, whose 15 minutes are now up.

Cliff Lee’s seven-year itch

I realize I am in the minority here, but so what. I believe the Yankees caught a big break with Cliff Lee going to the Phillies.

Huh?

OK, hear me out. It would have been terrific to have Cliff Lee paired with CC Sabathia to give the Yankees a 1-2 punch that would be something out of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens or David Cone and Jimmy Key or Whitey Ford and Bob Turley or Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez. Yes, for 2011 and 2012 and 2013 and maybe 2014, it may have been a beautiful thing to watch Sabathia and Lee try to outdo each other with every start.

Then again, something could have gone wrong. Sabathia, after all, is coming off knee surgery. Lee is 32 years old, and that is no small thing when you consider the Yankees’ offer was for seven years for money believed guaranteed at $138 million.

Forget about the money for a minute and look at the term – a seven-year contract. That was what the Yankees gave Sabathia after the 2008 season (for 161 large) when the big guy was 28, four years younger than Lee is now. CC’s deal will take him to age 35, but Lee’s would have gone until he was 39. I am uncomfortable signing any pitcher any age to a seven-year contract, but a 32-year-old who had some back issues last year?

Everyone expected Lee to stay in Texas if he decided against coming to New York, but again, the Yankees caught a break. He went to the National League where he can be a major headache for the Mets. Speaking of the Mets; how is that seven-year contract they gave Johann Santana a few years back looking now?

It is now up to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to be creative in improving the rotation after being rejected by Lee. Cash is skillful enough an executive to do this. It could have been worse. Think of the Rangers having given up a major prospect in first baseman Justin Smoak to get Lee from the Mariners and having nothing now to show for it. The Yankees at least still have Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez.

Cliff notes

The Yankees ended up with the consolation prize in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. He did not pitch against them Friday night.

The coveted lefthander had been scheduled to start for the Mariners at Safeco Field. For a while Friday, Lee thought he might be in the Yankees’ dugout, so much so that he talked to former Indians teammate CC Sabathia about places to live in New York.

By midday, however, Lee was bound for Texas. From all appearances, the Yankees’ willingness to part with highly-touted catching prospect Jesus Montero and two other minor leaguers, Double A second baseman David Adams and Triple A pitcher Zach McAllister, motivated the Rangers to agree to deal first baseman Justin Smoak. The powerful switch hitter had been high on Seattle’s wish list, but Texas had refused to include him in a package before Friday.

Part of the deal is that the Mariners sent $2.25 million to the bankrupt Rangers to help pay part of the $4.2 million remaining of Lee’s 2010 salary. He could very well end up with the Yankees if they continue to have interest in the off-season when he may be eligible as a free agent. That is likely since it is doubtful the Rangers can afford to keep him beyond this season.

The Yankees jumped into the bidding for Lee probably to ensure he not wind up with a possible post-season foe, especially the Twins, who had been thought to have the inner track for the pitcher’s services. The Rangers have opened a 5 -game lead in the American League West in their quest to reach the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Lee is a mighty strong insurance policy.

Although the Yankees came away disappointed, their pursuit of Lee was another example to their fans that they will do all that is possible to improve the team. Starting pitching has been a strength this year for the Yankees, but with Phil Hughes facing reduced workload in the second half to conserve innings and A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez dealing with inconsistency the possibility of adding a quality pitcher like Lee was too tempting not to explore.

Once again, as often occurs when targeting a free agent, the Yankees appear to have been used to goose up the price from another suitor. In future dealings with the Mariners, it is something the Yankees will not forget.