Results tagged ‘ Ricky Romero ’

Yanks more than umps at fault for one-run loss

Some questionable decisions by umpires Saturday went against the Yankees, but they really had no one but themselves to blame for a 3-2 loss at Toronto that cost them the opportunity to be in a position to clinch a postseason berth. Instead, the Yanks faced the possibility of falling back into a tie for first place in the American League East with the Orioles, who were scheduled Saturday night at home against the Red Sox.

If the Yankees had broken the game open when they had the chance in the early innings, then the calls that went against them later on would not have mattered. Their record in one-run games fell to 21-25, but this should never have been a one-run game for the Yankees.

They had the bases loaded with none out twice and came away with their only two runs, both on sacrifice flies in the first inning by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. When they filled the bags with none out in the third, they failed to score at all. Eduardo Nunez in making the third out at least hit the ball hard, but Blue Jays second baseman Adeiny Hecchavarria made a diving grab.

The Yankees even caught a break when Jays starter Ricky Romero was forced out of the game with an aching left knee, but five Toronto relievers combined to shut them down on three hits and two walks over the last six innings. The Yankees had 2-for-11 (.182) with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners – eight over the first five innings and five in scoring position.

Andy Pettitte gave up his first run in his third start since returning from a fractured left fibula in the first inning on a home run by Rajai Davis, who is on fire in this series (7-for-8). Pettitte had problems working hitters inside and was not as sharp as his previous two starts but got his pitch count up to 94 and appeared perfectly healthy, both positive signs.

The bad calls? Toronto tied the score in the fifth on an infield hit by Davis that looked to be a foul ball. Both plate umpire Mike Everitt and third base ump Paul Schrieber signaled “fair” on the chopper down the third base line that Alex Rodriguez gloved while charging. It seemed to me that A-Rod caught the ball in foul ground, but obviously the umpires thought otherwise. It might have been better for Rodriguez to have let the ball go past him and into foul territory, but that is hindsight, which is always 20-20.

Pettitte came close to working out of a first-and-second, none-out situation by getting two fly balls to Granderson in center. Yanks manager Joe Girardi decided to lift Pettitte to have Joba Chamberlain face Hechavarria, who put the Blue Jays in front with a double off the right field wall. First baseman Nick Swisher made an alert play as the cutoff man and threw to A-Rod at third base to nail Yan Gomes, who had rounded the bag too far.

The second umpires’ decision that hurt the Yankees came in the ninth when Brett Gardner, pinch running, was caught attempting to steal second base. Video replays indicated that Gardner’s left hand hit the bag before shortstop Yunel Escobar tagged him, but second base umpire Tim Welke called him out.

Those are calls that are killers in one-run games, but this was a one-run game that the Yankees brought on themselves.

Nunez back in utility role with Nix injured

Considering his career record against Toronto lefthander Ricky Romero, the Blue Jays’ starting pitcher Saturday, Jayson Nix would have been expected to be in the Yankees’ lineup. Nix had 7-for-14 (.500) with a double against Romero. Not only was Nix not in the lineup, he was not even in Toronto.

The Yankees sent Nix back to New York so that he could have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination on a sore left hip flexor which he incurred while playing third base Thursday night on the Rogers Centre artificial surface. Nix played for the Blue Jays last year and had a big year against his former teammates by hitting .353 with five doubles and three RBI in 12 games and 34 at-bats.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi in wanting to give Derek Jeter a day off the turf had to use Eduardo Nunez instead of Nix at shortstop. Girardi indicated to reporters before the game that Nix could be sidelined for some time, which means that Nunez becomes the utility infielder, the role he failed to handle earlier in the season when he was optioned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Nunez’s erratic defense was behind Girardi’s decision to put Jeter on the field in the sixth inning and thereby losing the designated hitter for the rest of the game, although that is not as much a detriment in September with rosters expanded past the 25-man limit. The bench at this time has no shortage of pinch hitters.

Eric Chavez’s 15th home run of the season in Friday night’s 11-4 victory gave the Yankees nine players with at least that many, which established a franchise record. The others are Curtis Granderson with 40, Robinson Cano 30, Nick Swisher 24, Mark Teixeira 23, Russell Martin 20, Raul Ibanez 18, Alex Rodriguez 18 and Jeter 15. One more home run by Andruw Jones, who has 14, and the Yankees would set a major-league record.

They are currently tied for the big-league mark of nine 15-plus homer hitters with two American League clubs that did it in the 2005 season, the Indians (Travis Hafner 33, Jhonny Peralta 24, Casey Blake 23, Grady Sizemore 22, Victor Martinez 20, Ben Broussard 19, Ronnie Belliard 17, Aaron Boone 16, Coco Crisp 16) and the Rangers (Teixeira 43, Alfonso Soriano 36, David Dellucci 29, Hank Blalock 25, Ken Mensch 25, Michael Young 24, Rod Barajas 21, Gary Matthews Jr. 17, Richard Hidalgo 16).

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.

Jeter reaches 200 hits for 8th time

For those who thought Derek Jeter’s 200-hit seasons were well behind him, think again. The Captain rapped a single to center off Blue Jays lefthander Ricky Romero for his 200th hit of the season.

It marked the eighth time DJ has gone two-ding-ding in hits, taking control of the club record for 200-hit seasons that he had shared with Lou Gehrig. The only active major-league player with more 200-hit seasons than Jeter is his teammate, Ichiro Suzuki, who reached the plateau in 10 consecutive seasons (2001-10) with the Mariners.

Jeter got to 200 hits in his 145th game (and the Yankees’ 148th), which matches the earliest he has reached that level, in 1999 and 2009. He is seeking to become the first Yankees player to lead the American League in hits since Alfonso Soriano had 209 in 2002 when he also had the highest total in the major leagues.

Jeter led the majors in hits with 219 in 1999 and could become the first Yankees player to be the major-league leader in hits in multiple seasons. Entering play Wednesday night, Jeter had a 10-hit lead over Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera in the AL and was 18 hits up on the National League leader, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.

Other Yankees players to have led the majors in hits other than Jeter and Soriano were third baseman Red Rolfe with 213 in 1939, second baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss with 205 in 1944 and first baseman Don Mattingly with 238 in 1986.

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.

New man is Yanks’ new cleanup hitter

The Yankees did not waste any time integrating Steve Pearce into the framework. Pearce, who was acquired from the Astros for cash considerations Monday, arrived at Yankee Stadium late Tuesday afternoon and discovered he was batting cleanup in his first game for them.

It may seem a strange spot for a .237 career hitter in part of six major-league seasons, but the Yankees are pretty beaten up these days and are lacking in right-handed hitting with third baseman Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list and switch-hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira expected to be sidelined the rest of the homestand while nursing a strained left calf muscle.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi noted that Pearce has a reputation for hitting left-handed pitching. Toronto started lefty Ricky Romero Tuesday night. Pearce took the roster spot of Casey McGehee, who hit .186 in 13 games and 43 at-bats for the Yankees since his trade from Pittsburgh July 31 for pitcher Chad Qualls. McGehee, who was optioned to Class A Charleston, had two hits in his past 24 at-bats (.083).

Teixeira said he felt just as sore Tuesday as he did Monday night when he hurt the calf breaking out of the batter’s box in his first-inning at-bat and aggravating it scoring from second base in the fourth inning on a single by Russell Martin. Tex said he hoped to be sidelined for only a week. A similar injury shut Derek Jeter down for the full 15-day DL period last year.

“I don’t think my injury is as severe as Derek’s was,” Teixeira said. “I don’t expect to be out as long.”

The Yankees decided to gamble on not disabling Teixeira by playing a man short until Saturday when rosters can expand beyond 25 players. With Thursday an open date, it means the Yankees will be in that situation for only three games. Of course, it someone else gets hurt, a roster move would likely be made.

One piece of good news is that Rodriguez took a regular session of batting practice to test his left hand, which sustained a broken bone when he was hit by a pitch July 24 at Seattle. “I am hoping to come back as quick as possible,” A-Rod said.

Yanks muscle up for CC

Every so often, the Yankees just break out the muscle. Sunday was such a time. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher clubbed home runs to account for six of the runs in a 9-3 victory over the Blue Jays that completed the Yankees’ eighth series sweep of the season, two more than they all of last year.

That was more than enough support for CC Sabathia, who followed a 128-pitch effort five days ago in Boston with a commanding, 111-pitch effort Sunday to improve his record to 19-7. “The only reason I took him out [one out into the eighth inning] was because he had thrown so many pitches his last game,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Depth is something you get on a regular basis from Sabathia, who has pitched into the seventh inning or longer in 25 of his 30 starts.

Jeter’s home run, his first in 137 at-bats, was a three-run shot in the third off Brett Cecil, and the shortstop added a two-run single in the eighth. The five-RBI game matched Jeter’s career high, which he has done four times, most recently June 18, 2005 in an inter-league game against the Cubs.

Someone came up with the statistic that Jeter is a .371 hitter in games that follow days off. He did not play Saturday. Girardi is back in his September-let’s-give-guys-some-time-off mode, so Curtis Granderson got a blow Sunday.

Jeter does not want to hear too much about this days-off stuff. He was on the disabled list for three weeks from June 14 to July 3 and missed 18 games. Sitting on the bench is not something he ever wants to do, especially not in September.

“I am sure there are days when I’ve gotten two or three hits after having played the day before, so what’s the big deal?” Jeter said. “That doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

Jeet got a good laugh at the answer he gave to a question as to why he has hit so well since coming off the DL. “Days off,” he said.

The numbers are impressive. Since coming off the DL July 4, the Captain is batting .346 with 11 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs and 34 RBI in 50 games and 208 at-bats. He is on fire at Yankee Stadium batting .500 (15-for-30) with 3 doubles, 3 home runs and 10 RBI since May 25.

Rodriguez is getting his power stroke back. It was his second home run in four games. It was also the 28th time he and Jeter have homered in the same game as teammates and the first time since July 22 last year at Kansas City. The Yankees are 25-3 in those games.

Swisher’s 28th homer, a two-run blow in the eighth, was his seventh home run in his past 13 games. Eight of his past 16 hits have been home runs. Swish also reached 80 RBI for the third consecutive season and fourth time in his career (also 2006).

But it isn’t all about muscle. Take Brett Gardner, for example. He reached base four times without a hit (three walks, one hit by pitch), stole a base and scored two runs out of the leadoff spot. Gardner had quite a series. He reached base nine times in 13 plate appearances (.692 on-base percentage) with 1 home run, 3 runs scored, 2 runs batted in, 5 walks and 4 stolen bases.

Blue Jays pitcher Ricky Romero paid Gardner quite a compliment, saying, “He is probably the most underrated player in the league. He’s quick, he’s pesky and you can get him 0-2 and the next thing you know you’re thinking what are you going to throw him in a full count? They’re strong 1-through-9, but it all starts at the top.”

Freddy’s string of zeroes snapped

Freddy Garcia’s scoreless string came to an abrupt end in the third inning Friday night at Yankee Stadium. He had pitched 14 innings without yielding a run before Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista creamed a 3-2 slider into the second deck in left field for his ninth home run.

There is no shame for a pitcher to be damaged by Bautista, who led the majors in home runs last year with 54 and is proving that 2010 was no fluke with a continued display of offensive muscle in 2011. Bautista entered the game leading the American League in batting average, home runs, runs, times on base, walks, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS (on-base plus slugging).

Bautista’s two-run shot wiped out a 1-0 Yankees lead achieved on Russell Martin’s two-out double in the second that scored Robinson Cano, who led off the inning by working a walk in a nine-pitch at-bat off Toronto lefthander Ricky Romero.

Garcia struggled with his control. He walked two batters in the second but worked out of a jam and also walked the hitter in front of Bautista in the third. Considering how regularly Bautista loses baseballs, walking the guy ahead of him is not smart. What is smart is walking Bautista on purpose with a runner at second if first base is open. That was what Garcia did in the fourth. It was the 27th walk in April for Bautista, setting a Blue Jays club record for the month.

Quite unintentionally, Garcia walked Adam Lind, which loaded the bases. The Jays already had a run in that inning on the leadoff home run by J.P. Arenicibia. Garcia held the damage to that by striking out Juan Rivera looking at a cut fastball on a 3-2 count. The Blue Jays may have had a 3-1 lead, but it could have been worse. Toronto was hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners in the first four innings.

Girardi stays with hot hands

Yankees manager Joe Girardi tinkered with his lineup again for Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays, here in town this weekend for a three-game set. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira were back in the order after having been rested Thursday night. This time, Jorge Posada was given the night off.

It was a case of the computer biting Jorgie a bit. With Toronto starting a left-handed pitcher, Ricky Romero, Andruw Jones was expected to be in the starting lineup, which he was but this time at designated hitter and not in left field. Normally, Girardi sits down one of his left-handed hitting outfielders, Curtis Granderson or Brett Gardner, when a left starts against the Yankees to get Jones in the lineup.

The skipper was reluctant to go without Granderson, who leads the Yankees in home runs with seven and is batting .318 with three home runs and five RBI in 22 at-bats against lefties this year. Girardi then noticed that Gardner had good numbers against Romero, batting .444 (4-for-9) with a double and a home run. Gardner was also off a big game against the White Sox in which he homered, doubled, stole a base and scored three runs.

In addition, one of the unwritten rules for any Yankees manager preparing for games at Yankee Stadium is to be careful about taking left-handed hitters out of the batting order.

So the switch-hitting Posada was the odd man out this time. Jorgie is still familiarizing himself with the DH role after nearly 15 years of catching on a daily basis. Catchers normally consider a day at first base or the outfield a holiday, so imagine what the DH role feels like. Posada has put up big power numbers (six home runs, 12 RBI) but has only three other hits and is hitting .130.

Girardi has made it clear that Posada’s catching days are over. The Yankees welcomed back Francisco Cervelli Friday as Gustavo Molina was optioned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cervelli, who was disabled because of a fractured foot, will start Sunday behind the plate with Ivan Nova pitching.

One thing about baseball that never changes is that you go with the hot hand. It seems as if the manager did precisely that Friday night.

Yanks drop to second best

Maybe Joe Girardi should re-think that lineup against left-handed pitching that he unveiled Tuesday night. Although Girardi said nothing about the order was written in stone, there’s a good chance this will be the way the Yankees set up when the opposing starter is a lefty.

There was no change in the first five spots. Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano were in their proper places. After that, things look much different.

Marcus Thames was the designated hitter batting sixth and not Lance Berkman, a switch hitter who has been a feeble hitter this year against lefties (.188). Austin Kearns started in left field batting seventh, pushing Brett Gardner, the 9-hole hitter, from left to center. Out of the picture was center fielder Curtis Granderson, a .214 hitter against lefthanders.

Francisco Cervelli, batting .313 against lefties as opposed to .228 off righties, was the catcher batting eighth. Except for Jorge Posada, who batted for Cervelli in the eighth inning and stayed in the game, perhaps working into the mix, this is likely to be the Yanks’ lineup against lefties much of the rest of the way.

Girardi says he likes to pick his spots about when to rest players, and Granderson and Berkman can be expected to sit when lefthanders start against the Yankees.

Not even Murderers Row would have done anything against the Blue Jays’ Ricky Romero, who was nothing short of brilliant in an 8-2 Toronto victory that knocked the Yankees out of first place in the American League East for the first time since June 12.

The Yankees actually had a 2-0 lead in this one, courtesy of Teixeira’s 23rd home run in the first inning. After that, the Yankees managed one hit, an infield single by Thames leading off the fifth, the rest of the way. Rodriguez was 0-for-3 as the quest for 600 continues. He was left in the on-deck circle when Teixeira made the final out.

Yankees bench coach Tony Pena may have had a word or two with Cervelli in the fifth after the catcher threw wildly over first base on a pickoff attempt that allowed Jose Bautista to get all the way to third base. No damage was done because Vernon Wells flied to center for the third out.

In his catching days, Pena was one of the best in the business at trapping runners off base, often throwing while his rump was on the ground. His quick release gave many runners pause about taking too big a lead. Cervelli did not get a good grip on the ball and should not have let it go. Had someone like Ichiro Suzuki or Carl Crawford been on base, they might have made it all the way around the bases to score.

Dustin Moseley looked as if he might make the early lead hold up until the fourth when with two out he struck Aaron Hill with a pitch. That opened the door to a run-scoring double by John Buck and a two-run home run by Travis Snider, one of four jacks in the game for the Jays, who lead the majors with 167. Moseley gave up a second home run in the eighth, and the Jays also unloaded on Sergio Mitre and Kerry Wood.

Romero didn’t need all that artillery, as it turned out. Except for Teixeira, the Yankees all turned into A-Rod, who is deep in the weeds with this slump that has stretched to 17 at-bats without a hit and 46 without a home run. Girardi gave him a blow Sunday, a move that was criticized in many circles, and it would be hard to sit him down now that the team is home with 46,000-plus fans showing up every night ready to record history with their cameras.

In the meantime, the team is descending in the standings and is barely above the .500 level (10-8) since the All-Star break. The Red Sox, five games behind the Yankees, will arrive Friday night for a four-game series, making it seem like the walls are closing in around Yankee Stadium.

“No one ever said this was going to be easy,” Girardi said. “We’re in a tough division.”

And right now a tough spot as well.