Results tagged ‘ Matt Joyce ’

Yanks barely over .500 at halfway point

There was a point Monday night when it seemed like Joe Girardi was managing as if this was Game 7 of the World Series instead of a game in late June.

The score was 2-2 in the eighth inning. Dellin Betances, the third of six Yankees pitchers in the game, had just walked two batters after two were out. Girardi hopped out of the dugout and made the call to David Robertson. Using his closer in the eighth inning of a tie game was certainly an indication that Girardi wanted to win this game badly.

Robertson and Betances have been the Yankees’ best relievers, but on this night neither got the job done. Robertson gave up a single to Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan that gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.

You cannot fault Girardi. After losing two of three games to American League East rivals in each of their previous three series, the skipper wanted very much to get a victory at the start of this series, the fifth straight against division foes.

Brian Roberts gave the Yankees that opportunity with his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to right with one out in the ninth off Joel Peralta, whose blown save cost Yankee killer Chris Archer a winning decision.

Archer gave the Yankees his usual hard time, although he did blow a 2-0 lead on solo homers by Matt Joyce and Kevin Kiermaier by giving up two runs in the bottom of the third. Archer asked for trouble by hitting Ichiro Suzuki with a 1-2 pitch to start the inning. He came around to score on a triple to right by Brett Gardner. The Rays conceded a run by playing the infield back against Derek Jeter, who obliged with one of his four ground balls to second base in the game that scored Gardner.

And there it stood until the eighth when the Rays scratched that run off Betances and Robertson. David Phelps had started for the Yankees and gave up the two long balls but otherwise was solid. Roberts’ homer hung a no-decision on Archer, who is 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA against the Yankees in his career, including 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Whatever lift Roberts’ shot gave the Yankees was short-lived. The Rays scored a run with two out in the 12th to send the Yankees to their third straight loss and put their record at 41-40 at the halfway mark of the season.

“It has been up and down,” Girardi said. “We have had our share of issues in the first half, but we’re still in the thick of it.”

Rookie Jose Ramirez walked Brandon Guyer with two out in the 12th. Guyer’s steal of second base was crucial, putting him in position to score on a single to center by Logan Forsythe. Rays reliever Brad Boxberger retired the Yankees in order in both the 11th and the 12th and was the winning pitcher.

Tampa Bay has been hit hardest in the division by injuries but still presented a problem for the Yankees Monday night.

Yankees’ condition is critical

As if the Yankees didn’t have enough trouble Tuesday night, a former teammate added to their misery. Jason Giambi put the finishing touch on a wild, 5-4 Indians victory over the White Sox in Cleveland while the Yankees were going down quietly, 7-0, to the Rays at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees’ situation is now critical. They trail the Indians for the second wild-card playoff berth by five games with five to play. Do the math and it comes out to the Yankees’ tragic number being down to one. One more Yankees loss or Indians victory will keep the Bombers home during the postseason for only the second time in the past 19 seasons.

Tampa Bay kept a sturdy hold on the first wild-card spot with the victory despite a shaky start by Matt Moore (16-4). The lefthander struggled with command (six walks, three wild pitches, one of which put a strikeout victim on base) but gave up only three hits in five innings. The Yankees were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base against Moore and were 0-for-10 with 11 stranded runners for the game.

Runs have been hard to come by for the Yankees lately. They have scored one in their past 20 innings on Mark Reynolds’ third-inning home run Sunday against the Giants. The Yanks were shut out for the 11th time this season, the most in one year since they were blanked 15 times in 1990. This was the third time the Yankees were held scoreless this year by Tampa Bay.

As has been in the case in his recent starts, Hiroki Kuroda took a while to get into a rhythm on the mound. The Rays had a 3-0 lead four batters into the game. Kuroda gave up a leadoff home run to Matt Joyce, a single to Wil Myers, a double to David De Jesus (who took third on the throw home) and a sacrifice fly to Evan Longoria. The way the Yankees’ offense has sputtered lately, that was probably the game right there.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had lefthander Boone Logan up in the bullpen in the sixth inning but curiously did not bring him into the game to face left-handed batting James Loney with the bases loaded and one out. Loney lined a double to right-center for two runs that pretty much sealed the deal for the Rays.

Meanwhile, the Indians had one of those inspiring victories that can propel a club into postseason play. Cleveland closer Chris Perez blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth by giving up two solo home runs. The Tribe had the last laugh, however, when Giambi went yard as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth with two out and a runner on second base.

It was tough going all around for the crowd of 43,407 at the Stadium. The truck carrying Mariano Rivera bobblehead dolls for Tuesday night’s giveaway was late, which created long lines for ticketholders to collect their gift.

Kuroda overpowered by Rays

Hiroki Kuroda has picked up the Yankees all season. Now his teammates can pay him back by picking up the rest of this series for him. Kuroda simply was not himself Friday night in a 7-2 loss to the Rays that stifled the momentum the Yankees were thriving on after sweeping a four-game series from Toronto that alerted other contenders that they intend to be in the thick of the race for a postseason berth.

The Yankees came from behind in all four games against the Blue Jays, but there would be no heroics at Tropicana Field as the Rays kept hitting balls over the fences to push the Yankees further behind over the first five innings.

Kuroda gave the Yankees innings – six – and little else. The seven runs and the four home runs were the most allowed in a game this year by Kuroda, who has yielded 20 hits in his past 11 2/3 innings. The Yanks gave Kuroda a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out, RBI single by Alfonso Soriano crossing up Rays manager Joe Maddon’s over-shift, but in the second the righthander was jolted by a three-run home run by Rays catcher Jose Lobaton that ended Kuroda’s homerless streak of 58 1/3 innings.

Tampa Bay kept it up with solo shots by Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce back-to-back in the third inning and Ben Zobrist leading off the fifth. Along the way, Lobaton picked up a fourth RBI on a single in the fourth. Kuroda entered the game leading the American League in earned run average but dropped into fifth place and surrendered the lead to the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez.

The offensive surge was more than enough support for Chris Archer, another impressive young pitcher in the Rays’ corral who has been murder on the Yankees this year. The righthander held the Yankees to two runs, four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in seven innings to run his record against them this season to 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Archer, who pitched a two-hit shutout against the Yankees in his previous start against them July 27 at Yankee Stadium, became the first rookie pitcher to win three games against them in one season since 1989 by Kevin Brown, then with the Rangers.

The Yankees’ big bats were awfully quiet. Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Soriano and Alex Rodriguez combined for that one hit by Soriano in 16 at-bats with three strikeouts. Leadoff man Brett Gardner had a hand – rather, legs – in scoring both the Yankees’ runs.

He led off the game with a walk, stole second, crossed to third on a deep flyout by Granderson and scored on the hit by Soriano. Gardner tripled leading off the fifth and scored on an infield out by Cano. Gardner suffered an embarrassing moment in the eighth, which he led off with an infield single, by getting picked off first base by reliever Jamey Wright.

So the five-game winning streak is over, but the Yankees still have a chance to win the series, which they have done in each of their past four series. Saturday night’s second game of the set pairs former AL Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia and David Price. It will mark the ninth matchup between the two lefthanders. Price has had the upper hand in the rivalry with a 4-2 record and 2.52 ERA with the Rays winning six of the eight games.

No safety net for Robertson

David Robertson said it himself the night Mariano Rivera went down in Kansas City and would be lost for the remainder of the season. The Yankees had lost their safety net, none more so than Robertson, who was accustomed to working the eighth inning of tight games with the knowledge that Rivera was the best backup a pitcher could have.

For the second night in a row, the call came to Robertson to fill the void left by Rivera’s absence. Mo said he had watched Tuesday night’s game on television and screamed at Robertson through the set when he loaded the bases but eventually worked out of the jam for his first save this year. Lord knows what Mo was yelling at his TV set Wednesday night.

Brought on to preserve a 1-0 lead against a Tampa Bay offense defanged by the loss to injury of third baseman Evan Longoria, Robertson again loaded the bases, which is nothing new for him, but there was no magic this time to make the situation disappear. A sacrifice fly by B.J. Upton tied the score. Blown save. A three-run home run by Matt Joyce gave the Rays a 4-1 lead. Blown game.

“I blew it; I can’t say anything else about it,” Robertson said. “Mo talked to me earlier tonight and told me, ‘You can do it.’ I didn’t do it tonight.”

He was not exactly alone. The Yankees’ offense has to share the blame for this one. They got one run in the first inning on a single by Derek Jeter and two-out double by Robinson Cano and nothing else against Jeff Niemann for seven innings and Fernando Rodney for two. The Yanks were hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Although not as shocking as the few times Rivera blew a save (such as the season opener against these same Rays), Robertson getting tagged for four runs in one inning was a stunner. After all, he had not allowed a run in the regular season since last Sept. 1, a period covering 27 innings, the equivalent of three consecutive shutouts.

Robertson detected that the Rays took a different approach against him than the previous night when they showed more patience at the plate. They were aggressive this time. Sean Rodriguez and pinch hitter Brandon Allen swung early in the count for singles. They got to second and third because of an unwise decision by right fielder Nick Swisher to throw to third base, which not only failed to get Rodriguez but also allowed Allen to take second base.

Pitching carefully to Ben Zobrist with a base open, Robertson walked him on four pitches to fill the bags. Carlos Pena, one of those homer-of-strikeout guys, was the latter as Robertson went cutter, curve, cutter for three called strikes. Upton got the ball in the air, however, deep enough to right to get Rodriguez home from third. Robertson used breaking balls to get ahead 1-2 in the count to Joyce and tried to put him away with a fastball. Kaboom.

“I threw him a lot of curveballs and thought I could get him with a fastball low and away but got too much of the plate” Robertson said. “I’m not always going to be perfect. I’ve got to come back the next time.”

That’s what Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to hear. He responded to a lot of questions about Robertson in the closer role and maintained his faith in him.

“It’s obviously an adjustment,” Girardi said. “It was one of those nights. We might be over-evaluating things pretty early. He has been tremendous for us, and we have counted heavily on him. It’s important for him to bounce back. It happens to the best of guys. That’s the life of a closer.”

No day off for A-Rod

One possible concession to the Yankees’ 0-2 start may have been the appearance of Alex Rodriguez in the starting lineup Sunday. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had been hinting for two days that he would give A-Rod a break from Tropicana Field’s artificial surface with a day off, but he was back at third base for the Easter game as the Yankees still sought their first victory of the new season.

Girardi might have considered using Rodriguez as the designated hitter but felt Nick Swisher, who battled groin problems during spring training, would be better served getting off the turf and used him in the role instead. That gave Raul Ibanez his first start in the outfield, but his lack of familiarity with right field came into play and resulted in the Rays scoring in the first inning for the third straight game.

Ibanez, 39, has played right field in 153 of his 1,406 career games, but Sunday’s appearance was his first in a regular-season game since 2005. He had been primarily a left fielder the past six seasons. Ibanez took a somewhat tentative approach to a line drive by Matt Joyce that fell in front of him and then skipped past him for a triple that scored Evan Longoria, who had doubled with two out. Tampa Bay outscored the Yankees, 7-0, in the first inning during the series.

Girardi also gave new backup catcher Chris Stewart his first start working with Phil Hughes, whose fastball averaged in the low 90s, a far cry from the weakness he showed at this time a year ago.

0-2 doesn’t have to mean ‘Oh, no’

All right, don’t get carried away by a second straight Yankees loss at the start of the season. Try to remember that the last time the Yankees began a season 0-2 was in 2009. Remember how that season ended? The Yankees won the World Series. The time before that when the Yankees started 0-2 was in 1998. Yep, they won the World Series that year, too, following a regular season in which they won a franchise-record 114 games.

After Friday’s shocking, ninth-inning loss with Mariano Rivera blowing a save, the Yankees fell behind early again to the Rays Saturday night and could not make a significant dent against lefthander David Price, who improved his career record against them to 5-2 with the 8-6 Tampa Bay victory.

About the best thing that happened to the Yankees was that an apparent two-run home run by Evan Longoria, who has been on fire in this series, was overturned and changed into a double in the seventh inning after umpires viewed a video replay that clearly showed a fan — a Yankees fan at that — had reached over the fence to catch the ball and prevented right fielder Nick Swisher from attempting a play. But the Rays got two runs anyway on a subsequent single by Matt Joyce, who had struck out four times in Friday’s game only to find himself batting cleanup Saturday night.

The Yankees finally showed some life in the ninth inning against a Tampa Bay bullpen that had been so impressive Friday. Entering the last frame trailing by six runs, the Yankees brought the tying run to the plate before Alex Rodriguez grounded out to leave the Yankees two runs short. Raul Ibanez picked up his fifth RBI in two games with a sacrifice fly as a pinch hitter, and Swisher clouted a three-run homer to give the Yankees hope.

For the second straight game, it was a lackluster performance by a starting pitcher that hampered the Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda’s inconsistency had the Yankees running uphill the rest of the game. The Rays scored two key runs off rookie Clay Rapada, who was used in a left-handed relief role normally assigned to Boone Logan, who has a back ailment. Much more effective in relief was righthander Cory Wade, who retired all five batters he faced, three on strikeouts.

The killer at-bat for the Yankees was in the eighth when they had runners on second and third with one out and Mark Teixeira smoked a liner to right that was gloved by second baseman Sean Rodriguez in an exaggerated shift and turned a double play on Robinson Cano breaking off second base. A similar shift also turned A-Rod’s grounder through the middle into the final out of the game.

The Yankees could use a different kind of shift Sunday, one that results in a W.

Rough welcome to AL East for Kuroda

Welcome to the American League East, Hiroki Kuroda. The Japanese righthander, who signed with the Yankees as a free agent from the Dodgers, got a taste of what baseball’s most competitive division is like Saturday night as the Rays jumped on him for two first-inning runs and built a 6-2 lead by the time Kuroda departed with two outs in the fifth.

Kuroda’s signature pitch, a split-finger fastball, was not as evident as he pitched behind in the count much of the night. He walked four batters, including two in the first inning when the Rays drew first blood. The runs were not earned off Kuroda because of  an error by Eduardo Nunez, who started at shortstop as Derek Jeter was the designated hitter.

Nunez, who made 20 errors in 112 games last year, got off to an inauspicious start by bobbling the first ground ball hit to him, by Desmond Jennings, who reached on the boot. A two-out single by Luke Scott, who had three hits off Kuroda — all on first-pitch fastballs — drove in the first two runs.

Another two-out, RBI hit — a single by Carlos Pena in the second — and a home run by Matt Joyce in the third made it 4-0 Rays before the Yankees halved the lead with two runs off David Price in the fourth. Andruw Jones, starting in left field against the left-handed Price, singled in one run. Nunez atoned in part for his error to single home the second run.

Kuroda settled down somewhat before being touched for successive doubles by Ben Zobrist and Scott in the sixth and lost a battle with Jennings, whose two-out single made the score 6-2. The Yankees got out of that inning because of bad base running by Tampa Bay after Kuroda was removed.

How Kuroda would make the transfer to the AL East from the National League West was a matter of concern when he was signed. He’s a fly-ball pitcher, which can be dangerous at Yankee Stadium where Kuroda is on turn to start the home opener Friday against the Angels.

Assessments cannot be made after merely one game. Kuroda did not seem flustered at all, even when the larger portion of a shattered bat sailed over his head in the sixth. Unfortunately, it was his own escape act of the game.

Rays fans salute Soriano for different reason

Rays fans cheered Rafael Soriano throughout the 2010 season as he registered a league-leading 45 saves for Tampa Bay that earned him a multi-year, mega-bucks contract as a free agent with the Yankees. He was the object of a joyful Tropicana Field audience Tuesday night when Soriano gave up a three-run home run to Matt Joyce in the seventh inning that sent the Rays toward a 5-3 victory that kept alive their hopes for a wild-card playoff berth.

Three was the key number for the Rays in this one. Joyce’s three-run bomb followed by one inning a triple play pulled off by the Tampa Bay infield that snuffed out a Yankees rally that threatened to break the game open. The Yanks had taken a 3-2 lead on a walk and doubles by Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher.

An intentional walk to Jorge Posada loaded the bases for Russell Martin, who had homered off Rays rookie Jeremy Hellickson earlier in the game. Martin hit a hard grounder to third base where Evan Longoria gloved it, stepped on the bag and instead of throwing home for the lead runner shot the ball to second base where Ben Zobrist relayed to first for the triple killing. That was a tremendously heady play by Longoria, who realized the guy who hit the ball was a catcher and gave the triple play attempt a try.

The play seemed to revive the Rays, who were able to score only two runs in 5 1/3 innings off a so-so Bartolo Colon, who remained winless in 10 starts since July 30 (0-4, 5.37 ERA). After the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke of Colon’s contributions this season in the past tense, which seemed to indicate that the veteran righthander might not be on the staff for the first round of the playoffs.

The Yankees are still trying to decide what to do to prepare for the Division Series because they do not yet know who they will play, either Detroit or Texas. As for the wild card, that will go down to the last game. The Red Sox hung on for an 8-7 victory in Baltimore. David Price will start for Tampa Bay Wednesday night against a collection of Yankees pitchers who will not be on the postseason roster.

Girardi warned the Red Sox this was going to happen. With the American League East and home-field advantage for the first two rounds in place, the Yankees don’t owe Boston anything.

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.