Results tagged ‘ Matt Garza ’

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.

Granderson found power stroke

Watching Curtis Granderson at the plate much of this year made one wonder how it was that this guy hit 30 home runs last year, especially playing half his games at Detroit’s Comerica Park, hardly a power hitter’s haven.

When the Yankees acquired Granderson in an off-season trade from the Tigers, it was thought that he might be a regular 30-homer guy what with the friendlier dimensions at Yankee Stadium for left-handed batters.

At the midway point of the season, however, Granderson had seven home runs and was batting .240. The idea that he could approach 30 homers seemed out of the question. Now look at him. There are only two weeks left in the regular season, so Granderson won’t get to 30, but he just may get close.

The center fielder is up to 21 after his two-homer performance Monday night in the Yankees’ 8-6 victory over the Rays that kicked off the four-game series between the American League East contenders on the occasion of George Steinbrenner’s plaque being added to Monument Park.

Granderson thrust the Yankees into a 2-0 lead with a two-run shot in the second inning off Matt Garza. The second home run, a three-run blast off a 2-1 changeup from Grant Balfour in the sixth, was pivotal and majestic.

The Yankees had blown all of a 4-0 lead in a four-run Tampa Bay sixth when their pitchers struggled to satisfy plate umpire Tim McClelland’s strike zone. Of 42 pitches thrown that inning by three Yankees pitchers, 24 were balls. The Yankees walked three batters, including one with the bases loaded, and had another hitter, Carl Crawford, reach base on catcher’s interference. The hardest hit ball by the Rays was a grounder by Evan Longoria that was turned into a double play.

The Yankees came back in the bottom half and regained the lead on a singles by Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and Derek Jeter. Granderson added on big time with his second dinger. The ball hit the foul pole next to the fourth deck. Mark Teixeira is the only player to hit a fair ball into the seats there, which is where Granderson’s would have landed if it had not struck the pole. This was a Ruthian clout for a guy generously listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds.

“People ask me a lot about home runs,” Granderson said later, “and I say, ‘Hey, I’m the fourth lightest guy on the team. ‘ “

For all his power in 2009, Granderson produced only a .249 batting average, which is also what it is right now. He hit over .300 in 2007 but hasn’t come close to that since. Yet this is the fourth straight year that he has hit at least 20 home runs.

Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has worked with Granderson in the second half to calm down an overly busy approach and has gotten some results, mostly related to power.

As late as Aug. 11, Granderson was batting .239. He entered September with a .243 average and began the month with a 5-for-10 only to suffer a 0-for-14 stretch not long after that. Overall, however, the month has been a good one for Granderson. In 62 September at-bats, he is hitting .290 with four doubles, six home runs and 17 RBI. He has 14 home runs and 41 RBI in the second half.

“I feel with my swing more contact I can get to the ball quicker,” Granderson said. “I’m not pulling off the ball as much.”

“Every since Grandy made that minor adjustment, he has played really well,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “That second home run was huge for us.”

“He just got hot right now and has been hitting home runs the whole month,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He was able to keep that sucker fair.”

No defense for Nova

Ivan Nova has no beef this time.

Back on Sept. 3, the rookie righthander was not pleased about coming out of a game against the Blue Jays with two outs in the fifth inning, one out shy of what is required for a starting pitcher to qualify for a winning decision. Nova found himself in the same boat Tuesday night, but this time he was responsible for a huge leak and left manager Joe Girardi no choice but to take him out in a similar spot again.

Girardi’s hook of Nova two starts ago may have seemed swift, but not this time. Nova entered the fifth the beneficiary of a 6-0 lead as the Yankees knocked Rays starter Matt Garza out of the game in the top half. TV cameras showed Girardi pacing in the dugout as Tampa Bay worked itself back into the game that inning, starting with Carlos Pena’s 27th home run and continuing with a double, three singles and a walk.

At one point, it appeared that bench coach Tony Pena was pleading Nova’s case to Girardi, who waited one more batter, but when Matt Joyce singled to cut the deficit to 6-4 the Yankees skipper had no recourse. The move did not pay off, however, as lefthander Boone Logan surrendered a three-run home run to Willie Aybar that wiped out all of the Yankees’ advantage and put the Rays ahead, 7-6. It was the first time in 25 appearances since June 21 that Logan was scored on.

This was a whole different game from Monday night, a 1-0, 11-inning Rays victory that featured an eight-inning, scoreless duel between American League Cy Young Award candidates CC Sabathia and David Price. The second game of this three-game set between AL East contenders turned into a bullpen game.

Still playing without Brett Gardner (sore right wrist) and Nick Swisher (bruised left knee), the Yankees’ offense came alive. Robinson Cano reached base in each of his first four plate appearances, including his 27th home run and a double that tied the score at 7 in the sixth. Alex Rodriguez drove in two runs with a single and his 23rd home run (career No. 606). Curtis Granderson whacked a pair of doubles.

That seemed enough support for Nova, who allowed one hit and one walk in the first four innings and seemed to be pitching himself into consideration for possibly breaking into the post-season rotation. But that was before he had to be rescued by his manager.

Tampa Bay closing in

There is nothing a visiting team in a major matchup likes to do more than take the home fans out of the game early. The Yankees seemed to have done that Friday night when Derek Jeter led off the opener of a three-game showdown against the Rays with a single and Nick Swisher drove a first-pitch fastball from Wade Davis for his 19th home run.

Two batters into the game, the Yankees were up 2-0, and Rays fans had to take pause. Tampa Bay had been on a roll lately but unable to get any closer to the first-place Yankees in the American League East than two games. For five innings, Phil Hughes made the two-run spread seem enormous as he held the Rays to two hits and a walk with one of his strongest outings of the season.

Hughes’ fastball appeared particularly muscular, more so than has been evident in recent starts. Ironically, it was the heat that did Hughes in when the Rays awoke their fans in the sixth inning. Matt Joyce turned around a 2-2 blazer for a three-run home run that made the Yankees take pause. They did precious little against Davis after Swisher’s bomb, and the only drama left came in the ninth when Alex Rodriguez made one more shot at career homer No. 600.

A-Rod could not have asked for a better setting. A leadoff home run in the ninth would have not only made history but also gotten the Yankees back in a game that had they won would have guaranteed they would leave Tropicana Field in first place. That is not the case now. A-Rod fouled out to finish a 0-for-4 night and the Rays prevailed for their seventh straight victory to close to one game of the Yankees.

Davis, a rookie righthander, displayed poise and stuff after the first-inning shock and allowed only one hit after that through the seventh. He is on a roll of his own with four straight winning decisions and a 2.22 ERA in that period. Davis mixed in curves and changeups with his fastball to keep the Yankees off balance most of the night.

For Hughes, that one bad inning proved costly. Joyce’s blow was the 16th home run yielded by Hughes, the first on the road, and the fifth in his past three starts. He is 1-2 with a 6.61 ERA since the All-Star break and 2-3 with a 6.17 ERA in his past six starts. Despite those stats, Hughes’ first five innings indicated he will remain a positive factor for the Yankees.

Another positive sign – and the first for the pitcher in question for a while – was the work of Joba Chamberlain, who pitched a perfect seventh and eighth innings with three strikeouts and not a ball leaving the infield. Here was a stint out of 2007. What remains to be seen is whether he can do that consistently.

The signs Rodriguez showed were quite different. So long as the Yankees were winning and he was contributing in some way with run-scoring hits and alert fielding plays, A-Rod has been able to deal with a home run drought that has now reached 34 at-bats since No. 599. His familiar smile was missing most of Friday night, and he snapped at plate umpire Tim Welke twice over strike calls on borderline pitches.

Behind the scenes, the Yankees announced the completion of one trade and were holding off until Saturday the probable announcement of another. The Yankees got outfielder Austin Kearns from the Indians and are rumored to be adding first baseman Lance Berkman from the Astros as well. Kearns will provide depth in the outfield and is much better defensively than Marcus Thames.

Berkman, who is having an off year, is a switch hitter with power who will likely become the full-time designated hitter, except for those days when A-Rod or catcher Jorge Posada needs a blow. The Yankees have been getting by with rookies Colin Curtis and Juan Miranda on the bench, but as Friday night suggested they need reinforcements to deal with an opponent as potent as Tampa Bay.

How potent? Well, the Rays’ starting pitcher Saturday night will be Matt Garza, who threw a no-hitter in his past start and will become the umpteenth hurler to chase Johnny Vander Meer’s record of back-to-back no-no’s in 1938.