Results tagged ‘ Rafael Soriano ’

Yanks must continue on without the Captain

The one sight no Yankees fan ever wants to see was the one remaining from Saturday night’s ALCS Game 1 loss to the Tigers. Derek Jeter was assisted off the field by manager Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue. It was not difficult to determine which loss was greater.

The Yanks’ extra-inning magic this postseason hit a snag as Detroit atoned for blowing a 4-0, ninth ninth-inning lead by winning, 6-4, in the 12th. That was also the inning when Jeter fell to the ground in pain while fielding a ground ball that became an infield single for Jhonny Peralta.

X-rays revealed a fractured left ankle, which knocks the game’s greatest postseason player from the postseason. It is a crushing blow for the Yankees, who had stirring moments Saturday night, all in the ninth inning when two-run home runs by Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez (yes, that man again) off Tigers closer Jose Valverde evaporated a 4-0 deficit.

Jeter’s left foot has presented problems for several weeks. He has been playing with a bone bruise since mid-September, fouled a ball off another portion of the foot during the ALDS. Now this. There was no talk of surgery yet, but the prognosis with or without an operation is a three-month recovering period.

“Jeet has always been as tough a player as I’ve ever seen,” Girardi said. “And you know what he showed was toughness. I mean, even when we went to the field, and I was going to carry him in, he said, “No, do not carry me.’ He is going to play through injuries and everything. And you can see the disappointment in his face.”

Girardi had a flashback to when Mariano Rivera collapsed on the warning track in Kansas City back in May while shagging a fly ball that resulted in a blown-out anterior cruciate ligament that ended his season.

“It brought me back there,” Girardi said. “Oh, boy, if he is not getting up, something’s wrong. We have seen what he played through in the last month and a half and the pain he has been in and how he found a way to get it done. Just like Mo said, we have to move on. Some people left us for dead when Mo went down, and here we are in the ALCS. I’m said for him because I know how much he loves to play and play in these type of situations, but he would tell us, “Let’s go!”

How the Yankees will go remains to be seen. They will activate Eduardo Nunez to take Jeter’s ALCS roster spot, but Girardi did not say whether Nunez or Jayson Nix will play shortstop. It is likely that Suzuki would inherit the leadoff spot, but that is only speculation. Not to belittle the ability of Nunez or Nix, neither is anywhere near comparable to Jeter. Even when Mo got hurt, the Yankees could turn to someone like Rafael Soriano, who led the league in saves one year.

The truth is, there is simply no way to replace Derek Jeter. The Yankees will just have to figure out a way to overcome this loss the rest of the way.

Yankees close it out against Orioles’ closer

It has been a characteristic of the Yankees since Mariano Rivera has been with them – especially during postseason play – that they find a way to beat up an opponent’s closer while the opponent seldom, almost never, gets to touch Mo. Be it a Kent Mercker or an Arthur Rhodes or a Trevor Hoffman or an Armando Benitez or a practically anybody, the Yankees never feared the other team’s closer as much as the other guys feared Rivera.

Now the great Rivera is on the sidelines for this postseason, but his mates followed their history Sunday night by mugging Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the ninth inning to put up a 5-spot that turned a 2-2 nail biter into a 7-2 laugher in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. The Yankees did not even need Mo’s replacement, Rafael Soriano, to get into the game as starter CC Sabathia came within one out of his first career postseason complete game.

Make no mistake; Sabathia played the major role in this victory. The lefthander was hurt by one pitch, a hanging slider that Nate McLouth lined into right field for a two-run single in the third inning. CC was at his best in the eighth after giving up a leadoff double to right by J.J. Hardy. Sabathia got a huge strikeout of Adam Jones, sawed off the bat of Matt Wieters, who fouled out to first baseman Mark Teixeira, and ended the threat by getting a grounder to shortstop by Mark Reynolds, who smacked seven home runs off Yankees pitching during the regular season with CC among the victims.

Frankly, it was the kind of performance that Johnson routinely gave the Orioles all season when the righthander posted a league-leading 51 saves. Big deal, the Yankees might have thought. They have found ways to clobber other closers. Now it was their turn to do it to Johnson. It did not take long, either.

Johnson was stunned early. Russell Martin got ahead in the count 2-0 and zeroed in on a 93-mph fastball and slammed it to left for a home run, the first Johnson had ever yielded to the Yankees. Martin had been one of three Yankees players thrown out on the bases during the game, but he ignited the rally and was the first of five guys to touch the plate in the final inning.

Raul Ibanez followed Martin’s blow with a single. He raced to third on a hit-and-run single to right by Derek Jeter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a timely substitution at that point by having Eduardo Nunez, 25, run for Ibanez, 40. Nunez was able to score on a dribbler along the first base line by Ichiro Suzuki that became the Yankees’ fourth straight hit and produced what appeared to be an important insurance run.

But there would be much more insurance to come. Robinson Cano, who finished the regular season on a 24-for-39 (.615) tear but was hitless in his first four at-bats Sunday night, lined a 95-mph heater to the opposite field for a two-run double that knocked Johnson out of the game. An error by Hardy on the play allowed Cano to reach third from where he scored on Nick Swisher’s fly ball to center off Tommy Hunter.

How great was it to see Sabathia come out for the ninth and pitch count be damned? But when Lew Ford doubled with two down, Girardi decided 120 pitchers were enough for Sabathia and David Robertson finished off a game that the Orioles’ closer could not contain.

Yanks clinch tie for division title in dramatic fashion

The Yankees could not have picked a better time to win their first game of the season when they trailed after eight innings. They had been 0-58 in those situations this year before Tuesday night when they fashioned a tremendous comeback for a 4-3, 12-inning victory over the Red Sox.

On a night when the Orioles pulled off a 1-0 victory over the Rays and James Shields (two-hitter, 15 strikeouts), the Yankees needed a come-from-behind victory to maintain their one-game lead over Baltimore in the American League East. And they did, with the guy who tied the score with a dramatic home run in the ninth inning knocking in the deciding run in the 12th.

Raul Ibanez was doused with a bucket of Gatorade after his clutch hit that brought the Yankees all the way back to clinch at least a tie for the division crown. Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller walked Francisco Cervelli and Curtis Granderson on eight straight pitches after two were out before yielding a single through the left side to Ibanez, who was allowed to hit despite facing a lefthander. It was an at-bat that might have been given to Andruw Jones, but he has struggled in the second half.

It all comes to Game 162 Wednesday night, for the Yankees against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium and for the Orioles against the Rays at Tropicana Field. The Yankees can win the AL East with a victory over Boston. Baltimore needs to beat the Rays Wednesday night and for the Yankees to lose to the Red Sox to force a one-game playoff Thursday at Camden Yards. That is what was so huge about the Yanks’ overtime victory Tuesday night.

Say this for David Phelps: he did his job. The rookie righthander took Ivan Nova’s place in the rotation and pitched into the sixth inning. He was touched for two first-inning runs but left with the score 2-1, keeping his teammates in a game they desperately wanted to win.

The Yankees kept pounding out hits but could not push another runner across the plate until the bottom of the ninth. The Red Sox made it 3-1 in the top half on a solo home run by James Loney off Rafael Soriano.

It looked grim for the Yanks, but they got a huge hit from their best pinch hitter to get even. Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey, who was sidelined for three months of the season due to right thumb surgery, gave up a leadoff single to Granderson and then served up a tasty, 1-2 fastball to Ibanez, who crushed it for a game-tying, two-run home run.

Pinch hitting may be a National League specialty, but Ibanez has some NL service time in his career. He is batting .320 with two home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats as a pinch hitter for the Yanks this season.

The Yankees looked like they would complete the comeback that inning when Derek Jeter lined a double into the right field corner with one out. An intentional walk to Nick Swisher and an unintentional walk to Alex Rodriguez loaded the bases. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine made the move to Mark Melancon, who failed so miserably in the closer role earlier this season while Bailey was on the disabled list.

Not this time, though. Mark Teixeira, who had a miserable night, flied out and Robinson Cano grounded out to push the game into extras. Teixeira was 0-for-6 and grounded into two double plays. The Yankees had 16 hits but left 14 runners on base. Derek Lowe, who got important outs in a big victory Sunday at Toronto, supplied shutout innings of relief to earn his first victory with the Yankees.

And for all those critics of Yankees manager Joe Girardi for letting CC Sabathia pitch eight innings Monday night to spare his bullpen, how does that decision look now? He got 6 2/3 innings of relief combined from six pitchers. Ironically, the pitcher warming up in the pen at the end of the game was the same one who was supposed to start, Nova.

Perfect timing for Yanks to collect timely hits

Technically, it was not a save situation for Rafael Soriano in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. The closer was summoned to pitch with the Yankees up by four runs, one more than the qualifying total in one inning for a save. Yet in ways other than technicalities, it was a save situation because the Yankees needed to save their season.

After a debilitating 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays Saturday, the Yankees’ season was on a precipice. With the Orioles having already defeated the Red Sox, the Yankees needed to maintain that lead to remain tied with Baltimore for first place in the American League East. It was a shaky outing for Soriano as the Jays loaded the bases with none out, but a couple of ground balls, one a big double play, later, the Yanks had what they needed, a hard-fought, 9-6 victory to salvage a split of the four-game set against one of the division’s also-rans.

The Yankees showed an abundance of resiliency in coming back from the 5-1 deficit Phil Hughes put them in over a struggling 4 2/3-inning performance. Derek Lowe brought order to the pitching side for the Yankees, who one day after being shut out for six innings by the Toronto bullpen came back to score seven runs with eight hits and three walks in three innings against seven relievers.

And the Yankees did all that damage without a home run. Their lone homer was a solo shot by Eric Chavez (No. 16) in the third inning off starter Henderson Alvarez, who limited the Yankees to two runs over the first six innings. The Yanks got some help with two runs coming on wild pitches, but for the most part they kept the line moving with timely hitting.

Robinson Cano, who got hot on this trip, had three hits – two of them doubles, including a gapper to right-center in the seventh to drive in one of the three runs the Yankees scored that inning to tie the game. Eduardo Nunez, who began that rally with a pinch-hit single, drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly. Derek Jeter added an insurance run with a single, one of his three hits that raised his major-league-leading season hit total to 213.

Cano contributed a well-placed bunt single to a two-run ninth inning. The Blue Jays were employing an over-shift on Cano, who was batting with none out and Alex Rodriguez on first base after a leadoff single. It was a good idea by Cano. I have often wondered why more hitters don’t do this. Take what the defense will give you. The rally-fueling bunt hit preceded a walk to Nick Swisher that loaded the bases and a two-run single by Curtis Granderson, who pushed his season RBI total to 100, which is pretty impressive for a guy hitting .226 (of course, 40 home runs helped him get there).

With six straight multi-hit games, Cano is batting .625 with five doubles and five RBI in 24 at-bats. He hit .343 with 18 doubles and 11 home runs in day games this season. The Yanks’ remaining three games of the season will be at night, at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Orioles will finish up at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., against the Rays, who have won 10 of their past 11 games and are still in the wild-card hunt.

So after 159 games, the Yankees’ season comes down to the final series. A Yankees-Red Sox series usually has dramatic implications, but it will be decidedly one-sided this time.

CC OK with ND after Martin walk-off

CC Sabathia answered the questions about CC Sabathia Friday night.

The big question was whether the lefthander could still be the staff ace. A resounding yes was the big guy’s response.

Unfortunately, Sabathia had nothing on his personal ledger to account for his eight brilliant innings against an Oakland team that has been as much a surprising success story this season in the American League West as Baltimore has been in the AL East.

CC got hung with a hard no-decision as Rafael Soriano failed to nail down a save for only the fourth time in 46 opportunities this year. A home run by pinch hitter Brandon Moss with one out in the ninth inning wiped out the Yankees’ 1-0 lead that Soriano was brought in to protect after Sabathia had limited the Athletics to three singles and two walks with 11 strikeouts over the first eight in an efficient 113 pitches.

Sabathia was in a joyful mood after the game because his catcher, Russell Martin, kept the Yanks in first place with a walk-off home run in the 10th off A’s lefthander Sean Doolittle.

“With a day game [Saturday], I didn’t want us to play all night,” Martin quipped.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi called Martin’s 18th home run the biggest of the season. Such superlatives are common when a team get down to the last dozen games of the schedule. A loss would have been crushing for the Yankees because it would have allowed the Orioles, who won in Boston, to pull into a first-place tie.

Sabathia took a no-hitter into the sixth and already had eight K’s to that point. A single to center by Stephen Drew leading off the sixth was Oakland’s first hit and its only one until the eighth when Sabathia got into his singular jam. A second hit by Drew, a two-out infield single by Collin Cowgill and a hit batter loaded the bases, but Josh Reddick flied out to left off a tailing fastball from Sabathia. That was the only contact Reddick made as he struck out four times.

“He had a good slider, good changeup, good fastball,” Martin said of Sabathia. “Everything was good.”

“You never want to be the guy that messes things up,” Sabathia said, referring to the Yankees’ winning streak that has stretched to six games. “I was able to make pitches when I needed to. The other guy [A’s starter Jarrod Parker] was throwing a great game against us, so I couldn’t let up.”

There may have been a sense of déjà vu for Soriano. Back on July 22, he gave up a home run to Seth Smith in the ninth inning at Oakland that sent the game into extra innings that the A’s won in 12. The starting pitcher that day was also CC Sabathia.

That was then. This is now and where Sabathia despite not winning in five starts since Aug. 24 wants to be.

“This game was important to him and important to us,” Girardi said. “If CC is going to get into a hot streak, this is the time to do it.”

Ichiro excites fans, pleases teammates in 7-for-8 day

Ichiro Suzuki’s request for a trade from the Mariners nearly two months ago was based on his desire to have a shot at postseason play, which he has not experienced since his rookie season in Seattle in 2001. The Yankees presented him with that opportunity, and his performance in their split-admission doubleheader sweep of the Blue Jays Wednesday was like a dream come true for both him and the Yankees.

“I’m very sad that this day is over,” Suzuki said in the understatement of the year. “Now I have to prepare to come back to the ballpark [Thursday night] and be ready to play.”

Suzuki’s wish has been granted, to be in the thick of a division race. He did more than his share Wednesday in helping the Yankees keep a hold on first place in the American League East. A 7-for-8 day that featured a game-saving catch in the afternoon and a game-winning hit at night was the sort of occurrence the Yankees envisioned when they made the trade June 23 for two minor-league pitchers that put Suzuki in pinstripes.

“It was an incredible day,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He has been swinging the bat well for us lately. I feel good when he’s up there. We have moved him all over the place in the outfield. We can’t ask any more from him.”

Ichiro batted leadoff in the afternoon game as Girardi gave Derek Jeter the matinee off and had a double and two singles and scored two runs. He also made a sliding catch in left field for a rally-snuffing out on a hard liner by Rajai Davis in the eighth inning. Suzuki then outdid himself in the nightcap with a 4-for-4 game at the plate and on the bases. He had two doubles and two singles and stole four bases in as many attempts.

The last of Ichiro’s hits was a two-out single in the eighth off lefthander Aaron Loup that scored Curtis Granderson, who had led off the inning with one of eight walks allowed by Blue Jays pitchers. Jayson Nix bunted Granderson to second. The center fielder swiped third, one of seven steals in the game for the Yankees, but pitch hitter Steve Pearce struck out.

So it was up to Suzuki, who on another occasion might have been lifted for a pinch hitter like Andruw Jones. But Ichiro earned the chance to hit in that spot after getting hit in each of his three at-bats against Toronto starter Ricky Romero, another lefthander. Suzuki poked a liner to left for what proved the decisive run after Rafael Soriano earned his 42nd save of the season and second of the day with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Asked to compare making a game-saving catch against getting a game-winning hit, Suzuki declined to make a choice, which is to his credit. “In both cases, the fans were excited and my teammates were happy,” he said.

Romero, who left after six innings, remained winless in 15 starts since June 22. He was 8-1 with a 4.34 ERA in 15 starts on that date and is 0-13 with a 6.62 ERA since in as up-and-down a year a pitcher could have.

David Phelps was stuck with a no-decision, too, but not a no-appreciation from his teammates. In the game after the Yankees used seven pitchers, Phelps pitched into the seventh inning to give the bullpen a break.

Despite drawing eight walks and stealing seven bases, the Yankees were locked in a tight game because they stranded 12 runners. Ichiro supplied the key that opened the game for the Yankees. He is batting .317 in 164 at-bats with the Yanks and is hitting .277 overall, a raise of 15 points in his season average since the trade, which is proving to the great benefit of him and his new team.

Yanks push troublesome Rays aside

It is still too early to think that the Yankees buried the Rays by taking two of three games over the weekend at Yankee Stadium, but Tampa Bay has definitely been pushed aside. The Rays have fallen five games out of first place in the American League East and four games out of the second wild-card spot and time is running out.

When a team is in first place as are the Yankees this late in the season, time becomes an ally. Every game played is a game lopped off the schedule, one fewer game for the team behind you to catch up.

The Yankees are finished with the Rays for the regular season and are probably thankful. The Yanks were 8-10 against Tampa Bay. Its home base of Tropicana Field was the big problem as the Yankees were 2-7 there.

The schedule is one reason why you cannot say the Rays are done. They go home this week to play the Red Sox and Blue Jays, both of whom are trying to avoid last place. However, Tampa Bay still has three more games against Baltimore at home on the last series of the year. Another reason you cannot count out the Rays is to look at last year when they earned a playoff berth by coming back from a 7-0 deficit against the Yankees to win while the Red Sox folded against the Orioles.

Sunday’s 6-4 victory was huge for the Yanks not only in pushing the third-place Rays farther back but also putting pressure on the second-place Orioles, who had a late-afternoon start at Oakland. The Yankees climbed on struggling lefthander Matt Moore early and gave Hiroki Kuroda a comfort zone for a change.

Kuroda posted his career-high 14th victory with a 10-strikeout, six-inning effort. The three runs he allowed in the sixth inning were somewhat tainted since two scored on a bad-hop single over third baseman Alex Rodriguez by Evan Longoria and the other on a double play.

The Yankees used their legs (four stolen bases) as much as their bats in scoring six runs on only five hits. Six walks from Tampa Bay pitchers helped. With an open date Monday, manager Joe Girardi was able to dip deep into his bullpen with four relievers combining for three scoreless, one-hit innings.

Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his 40th save as he joined Mariano Rivera (eight times), Dave Righetti and John Wetteland (once each) as the only Yanks relievers to reach that plateau.

“When Mo went down, a lot of people wondered what would happen to the New York Yankees in the ninth inning,” Girardi said. “Soriano has been tremendous for us.”

Derek Jeter got through the series as the designated hitter okay, going 4-for-13 (.308) with two RBI, but that left ankle is still a problem. He might have easily scored from first base on a two-out fly ball to left by Robinson Cano that Desmond Jennings lost in the sun for a gift double in the fourth inning but has been told to be careful running the bases. Also, the longer Jeter is restricted to DH duty only the less Girardi can use the spot for other aging veterans in need of a half-day off.

Let’s stay positive, though. The Yankees get their last day off of the regular season Monday and come back Tuesday night against the Blue Jays with staff mentor Andy Pettitte back on the hill after nearly three months.

“We got on a roll when he joined us the last time,” Girardi said.

The Yankees wouldn’t mind going on another roll.

Keep an eye on the scoreboard

September is just around the corner, so it is time to start watching the scoreboard regularly. And never believe it if you read or hear a player say that he doesn’t pay attention to the scoreboard. Of course, they do. As Dennis Eckersley used to say, “That’s why they put the scoreboards out there, right?”

So with a little more than a month left in the season, scoreboard-watching becomes a sport of its own, especially now that there is an additional wild card team in each league, a wrinkle that puts a premium on finishing first in your division. The wild cards will face off in a one-game playoff game to qualify for the Division Series. You can be sure that the Yankees and the other division leaders have no desire to be involved in a one-game win or go home scenario.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been somewhat defensive about his managerial philosophy in September and maintained that he would never ease off the pedal regardless of circumstances. It did seem, however, that in 2010 he rested players quite a bit knowing that the Yankees despite being in a division race with the Rays were guaranteed a postseason berth anyway and preferred to get there without being exhausted. That is not an option anymore. Finish second, and you need to win another game to go to the postseason dance.

First place is the Yankees’ goal. Girardi has emphasized that since the start of spring training. With the Yankees playing within the American League East for three weeks, close attention will be paid to the scoreboard.

Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays was an antidote the Yankees needed after Monday night’s extra-inning loss. Rafael Soriano atoned for his blown save with a clean ninth inning for his 34th save, but the main pitching contribution came from starter Phil Hughes, who limited Toronto to one run and four hits over seven innings.

Matters got a bit wobbly in the sixth when Hughes walked the first two batters and nearly had Adam Lind take him deep before the drive off a changeup died on the right field warning track. Yunel Escobar hit the ball much harder, a liner on which Robinson Cano made a leaping catch and topped it off with a strong throw to third base that doubled up Colby Rasmus.

“I thought he had no chance to catch the ball, and then he gets a double play for icing on the cake,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure any other second baseman could have made that play.”

The only run Hughes allowed, not surprisingly, came on a home run, the 30th he has yielded this year, and the first career jack for rookie third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria, in the fifth. Hughes needed to be sharp because the Yankees had as weak a batting order as Girardi could have put together with newcomer Steve Pearce, who has bounced between the majors and minors, in the cleanup spot and .195-hitting Russell Martin in the 5-hole.

Ironically, Pearce and Martin helped build the run in the fourth inning that proved the difference maker. Pearce drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch by hard-luck loser Ricky Romero. Martin moved Pearce to third with a ground ball to the right side, which enabled Curtis Granderson to score Pearce with a fly ball to center.

The Yankees’ other run was on a single in the third by Swisher off Romero, who lost his 11th consecutive decision. The lefthander opened the season with an 8-1 record and is now 8-12. The Jays have scored merely 17 runs over Romero’s past 10 starts. Jayson Nix, who played for the Blue Jays last year, had two hits and is batting .400 in 25 at-bats this season against his old team.

It was the second of 22 straight games for the Yankees within the AL East, which will include 13 games combined against their closest divisional competitors, Baltimore and Tampa Bay. The Yankees could see that the Orioles shut out the White Sox to remain 3 ½ games behind them in the standings. The 6-0 final was right there on the scoreboard.

Pitcher’s mound a disaster area

The pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium was a rough place to be Monday night. Baseballs seemed to be aimed at the area all night. Two Toronto pitchers were removed from the game after being hit by line drives. Rafael Soriano, who was struck in the right hand by a liner Sunday at Cleveland, had the roughest time on the mound, however.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi kidded reporters before the game when asked about Soriano’s condition. “I just shook hands with him, and he’s fine,” Girardi said.

The skipper didn’t get to shake Soriano’s hand after the last out, which is customary after a relief pitcher notches a save. Soriano blew a save for only the third time in 36 opportunities this year as he gave up a three-run home run to Colby Rasmus with two out in the ninth inning that turned a 6-4 Yankees lead into a 7-6 deficit.

Fortunately for Soriano and the Yankees, Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run off Casey Janssen that sent the game into extra innings. It was not a good night for closers.

And it was from the mound that Derek Lowe made a costly error as pinch runner Mike McCoy went all the way to third base after a wild pickoff attempt at first base. Excellent base running by McCoy on a slow roller by Adeiny Hechavarrria resulted in the deciding run. Third baseman Jayson Nix made a fine, charging play, and McCoy broke for the plate the moment Nix released his throw to first base. Eric Chavez playing first base threw home but had no shot at McCoy.

The Blue Jays stopped a seven-game losing streak with the 8-7, 11-inning victory. The Yanks had their lead in the American League East shrink to 3 ½ games over the Orioles, who jumped over the Rays and into second place.

Even worse news for the Yankees was the possible loss of Mark Teixeira for the remainder of the homestand and perhaps even longer. Tex came out of the game after scoring a run in the fourth inning because of a left calf strain.

“I’m concerned,” Girardi said after the game. “It is hard to replace middle-of-the-lineup guys, especially a switch hitter who helps to break up our lefties.”

On the positive side, Alex Rodriguez, another middle-of-the-order guy who has been disabled since July 25 with a broken bone in his left hand, got the okay to take batting practice Tuesday.

Soriano’s failure took a deserving victory away from David Phelps, who had another solid if not spectacular outing for the Yankees as a spot starter. Phelps was victimized by the long ball as home runs by Adam Lind and Yorvit Torrealba accounted for three of the four runs he allowed in 6 1/3 innings.

The ball was carrying well in the humid air. Robinson Cano smacked two home runs and Nick Swisher one. Yet in the eighth the Yanks played some small-ball as Russell Martin sacrificed Chavez into scoring position. Chavez had singled on another ball off a pitcher. An insurance run there would have been nice, but Andruw Jones and Ichiro Suzuki both grounded out.

Yanks end bumpy trip on high note

Every game is important. Managers say that all the time. But it is also true that some games are more important than others. Managers convey that by how they handle their personnel. Sunday was a very important game for the Yankees, and it showed as Joe Girardi pulled out all stops to get them a victory to end a potentially disastrous trip on a high note.

A 2-4 trip does not sound good, but it is acceptable when the team starts out 0-3 as the Yankees did in getting swept at Chicago. Cleveland was a different story, but taking two of three from the Indians wasn’t all that easy for the Yankees, who scored only eight runs in the series with each games decided by two runs.

For the second straight start, Freddy Garcia pitched four solid innings only to come apart in the fifth. It was not as grim as his previous start against the White Sox when after getting the first out of the fifth Garcia gave up single, home run, single, walk and walk to the next five batters, all of whom scored.

Pitching with a 3-0 lead entering the fifth, Garcia got the first two batters out without incident. It was a fluke hit that sort of unglued Freddy as Jason Kipnis, who had three hits and stole three bases, got a double on a ground ball that struck the bag at first base and bounded down the right field line.

Garcia never got that third out to complete the inning and be in position for a winning decision. He hit Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch and then walked Shin-Soo Choo to load the bases. Carlos Santana sealed Freddy’s fate with a two-run single, and Girard did not hesitate to make a move. Thanks to Hiroki Kuroda’s compete game Saturday night and seven-plus inning starts from CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes before that, the Yankees’ bullpen was thoroughly rested.

Boone Logan was summoned to get the third out Garcia could not and earned his fifth victory in seven decisions with 1 2/3 innings of shutout relief. David Robertson kept the ball rolling with 1 1/3 scoreless innings, but Girardi called on Rafael Soriano to get a four-out save, his third of the season among his 33 total, another indication of how much the skipper wanted to nail this game down.

Soriano took a blow on the right hand from a line drive by Kipnis but remained in the game to do what Girardi expected of him. After pitching to a 6.75 ERA in 6 2/3 innings at Chicago, the pen pitched to a 0.00 ERA in six innings at Cleveland.

With Tampa Bay off because the Republican convention is in town and Baltimore postponed by rain, the Yankees picked up a half-game in the American League East standings and now lead the Rays by 4 games and the Orioles by 4 ½. Despite their losing record on the trip, the Yankees lost only one game in the standings over a week’s time.

After a night when their offense fizzled in failing to support Kuroda, the Yankees put together a sustained rally for three runs in the second inning against righthander Ubaldo Jimenez. A single by Eric Chavez and a walk to Raul Ibanez preceded a run-scoring single by Ichiro Suzuki, who had a quiet trip. Chris Stewart’s sacrifice help set up the next two runs on an infield out by Derek Jeter, who took a rare 0-for-5, and a two-out, RBI single by Nick Swisher, who kept up his hot hitting on the trip with a .429 batting average in 21 at-bats with two doubles, one home run, four RBI, four runs and five walks.

With three left-handed batters due up in the sixth for the Yanks, Indians manager Manny Acta brought in lefthander Tony Sipp, a move that backfired when Curtis Granderson led off with his 33rd home run of the season and 200th of his career. He became the eighth player on the Yankees’ roster with 200 or more homers, a major league record. Granderson joined Ibanez, Jeter, Chavez, Swisher, Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Mark Teixeira.