Results tagged ‘ Scott Kazmir ’

Teixeira off to hot start — in June

It was only natural for attention to be focused on Mark Teixeira when he came off the disabled list late last week. The Yankees were floundering after a double series sweep by the Mets and stuck in a five-game losing streak, their longest of the season. Teixeira had been on the DL due to a right wrist injury the type of which pretty much wiped out Jose Bautista’s season a year ago with the Blue Jays.

Some Yankees fans were a bit too harsh on Teixeira as he struggled in his first two games with merely one hit in nine at-bats (.111) and seven strikeouts. One of the game’s most prominent switch hitters has been a notoriously slow starter during his career and even though the calendar switched over to June this past weekend it was very much like April for Teixeira.

Well, he is back to swinging as if he already had two months of major-league at-bats under his belt. One night after he gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead with his eighth career grand slam, Teixeira opened up a 4-0 advantage in the third inning Tuesday night with a three-run home run off Scott Kazmir. That makes seven RBI in two days for Tex. Beat that for production.

“I hope so,” Tex said after the game about whether he is ready to go on a roll. “I am trying not to get too high about it just the way I try not to get too low when things aren’t going well. The win is what is important. A three-run homer early is great for a starting pitcher.”

It was just the sort of run support David Phelps needed as he negotiated his way back from a dismal prior start against the Mets last week when he couldn’t get out of the first inning. The righthander rebounded with a one-hit shutout through six innings but with four walks to go with his seven strikeouts Phelps’ pitch count reached 102.

An infield single by Drew Stubbs in the third inning was the lone hit off Phelps, who lowered his ERA to 4.15. He nearly lost a shot at a winning decision when he walked the first two batters of the fifth, which resulted in a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Whatever the message was, Phelps received it as he set down the next three batters and followed with a 1-2-3 sixth.

“Even before Larry came out, Chris [catcher Stewart] told me to go for the center of the plate and let the ball behave however it does,” Phelps said. “The point was to throw more strikes.”

“He kind of ran the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Phelps. “He mixed everything up, and we didn’t have anything to show for it. We made him work. We took our walks. We couldn’t push any runs across. It’s rare that you get one hit and look up and see a bunch of pitches like that. He did a very good job of not giving in, mixing things up, elevating and cutting.”

The Elias Sports Bureau was at it again. Phelps became the first Yankees pitcher to throw at least six scoreless innings in a start immediately following a start in which he recorded one out or fewer since Jim “Catfish” Hunter in 1978. Hunter allowed six runs without getting an out July 27, 1978 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Indians and then tossed eight shutout innings in his next start Aug. 8, 1978 against the Rangers.

Things got a bit tight for the Yankees in the seventh inning when Joba Chamberlain was stung for a three-run home run by Stubbs after two were out. Boone Logan got the final out of that inning before David Robertson danced out of a two-on, none-out situation in the eighth aided by Nick Swisher lining into a double play. Mariano Rivera finished it off with a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 21st save.

Robinson Cano got a half-day off as the designated hitter with rookie David Adams getting his first start at second base. Both took a collar, however. Lyle Overbay had another quiet night in right field, at least defensively. He made some noise offensively with a double in the third and scored on a single by Ichiro Suzuki.

Rotation concerns

All of a sudden, a lot of dents are showing in the armor of the Yankees’ rotation. A team strength for most of the first half of the season, the starting unit has had a rough time of it since the All-Star break.

It actually began the night of the All-Star Game when Phil Hughes was the losing pitcher, although he was not the starter for the American League, which lost to the National League for the first time since 1996 and won’t have the home-field advantage in the World Series for the first time since 2003 when it didn’t do the Yankees much good, as it turned out.

In the Yankees’ four games since the break, their starters have pitched to an 8.82 ERA and combined to allow 17 runs (16 earned) and 27 hits in 16 1/3 innings with 10 walks, 10 strikeouts, a wild pitch, two hit batters and four home runs. Two starters – A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte – failed to get out of the third inning, and one of them – Pettitte – wound up on the disabled list with a left groin strain that will keep him sidelined for at least a month.

Hughes, in his first appearance in a week since Anaheim, was hit hard for five innings and lucky to have given up only six runs in five-plus innings. The Angels hit into two double plays, one on a rare asleep on the bases maneuver by Torii Hunter. Hughes yielded nine hits, including home runs by Maicer Izturis and Mike Napoli, and three walks.

This was perceived as a mismatch favoring the Yankees with the Angels bringing up righthander Sean O’Sullivan, 22, from Triple A Salt Lake City to start in place of lefthander Scott Kazmir, disabled with a fatigued arm, not to mention a fatigued record (7-9, 6.92 ERA).

The game appeared headed that way when Nick Swisher homered in the first and the Yankees picked up a second run that inning. Once O’Sullivan got his sea legs, the Yankees did not get a hit from the second through the sixth with O’Sullivan pitching to the minimum number of batters each inning. So desperate were the Yankees for a hit that manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game in the sixth for arguing a bang-bang play at first base that went against Mark Teixeira’s bid for a single.

The mismatch turned out to be against the Yankees, 10-2. Girardi suggested that perhaps the layoff did in Hughes, who had scant command of his fastball and left his cutter up. He has allowed nine home runs in his past six starts, and all 13 home runs he has given up this year have come at Yankee Stadium.

Girardi noted that Hughes struggled the previous time he pitched after a long layoff. He was skipped a rotation turn last month to keep his innings total down and in his first game back allowed six earned runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings, figures similar to Tuesday night’s.

“We have to manage his innings,” Girardi said. “The bottom line he has a limitation for the long term.”

There is a Catch-22 here. Hughes has pitched 106 innings, 20 more than he did last year, his major-league high. He is believed to be limited to between 175 and 180 innings by the Yankees this year, which means Girardi will have to skip him occasionally in the rotation again at times. While the long-term result is to protect a young pitcher’s arm by easing his workload, the short-term result so far has been to render Hughes ineffective upon return from a long rest.

It is one of the dilemmas in a rotation that presently seems to be growing them.

Rotating 2-hole

With Nick Johnson still nursing an ailing if slightly improving back, the 2-hole is becoming a rotation spot in the Yankees’ batting order. The temptation is to put Curtis Granderson there, but manager Joe Girardi likes what he sees of the center fielder lower in the order. It is hard to disagree with him.

There would be no chance of Granderson batting second Sunday at Angel Stadium at Anaheim with the Halos starting a lefthander, Scott Kazmir. Granderson is a .211 career hitter against lefties and bunted against Kazmir in the second inning with a runner on second base.

One day after giving Brett Gardner a shot batting second, Girardi went with switch-hitter Nick Swisher from the right side against Kazmir. Gardner came close to looking like Johnny Damon in that spot Saturday with a triple, two singles and two runs scored, but he was the pine Sunday with Marcus Thames starting in left field against the lefty.

Kazmir clearly took note of Robinson Cano’s four-hit game Saturday and pitched him high and tight with his first delivery to him leading off the second. Kazmir’s next pitch was even closer to Cano. It hit him. It turned out to burn Kazmir because Jorge Posada hit the next pitch for a two-run home run.

One more thought on Johnson. Not to pick on a guy who is hurt, but once he returns it would be nice if that vaunted .375 on-base average of his led to productivity. Lots of people in the game love that OBP stat, and I’m not opposed to it by any means, but getting on base and just standing there doesn’t cut it. The Yankees have played 18 games, and Johnson has scored seven runs. That projects to 63 runs for the season, pretty low for someone with so high an OBP.