Results tagged ‘ Sergio Mitre ’

Yanks add lefty to bullpen

The Yankees finally have another lefthander in the bullpen. After going all season with Boone Logan as the only lefty out of the pen, the Yankees called up Steve Garrison from Double A Trenton Tuesday and placed righthander Sergio Mitre on the disabled list.

Mitre, who has struggled since rejoining the Yankees (11.81 ERA in four appearances), has right shoulder tendinitis and is also beset by a bacterial infection. Garrison, a native of Trenton, made 11 appearances, all but one as a starter, for his hometown team this season and had a 3-6 record with a 6.26 ERA.

Across the Howard Frankland Bridge from St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Yankees were playing the Rays, reliever Rafael Soriano and infielder Eric Chavez were playing for Class A Tampa on injury rehabilitation. Soriano, who hopes to rejoin the Yankees this month, got roughed up a bit (1 1/3 innings, 2 hits, 2 earned runs, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 1 home run).

There was also disturbing news from another Yankees minor-league affiliate as Ivan Nova had to come out of his start for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Columbus after 1 1/3 innings because of a leg injury while fielding a ground ball.

Hughes working himself back

For all the attention Derek Jeter’s chase for 3,000 hits has received, the bigger story from the Yankees’ standpoint Wednesday night was the return of Phil Hughes after 12 weeks on the disabled list due to a dead arm caused by right shoulder inflammation.

An All-Star and 18-game winner in 2010, Hughes was supposed to be a major piece of the puzzle on the Yankees’ pitching staff this year but raised question marks as early as spring training when the velocity on his fastball barely passed the tepid stage.

The amazing comeback of Bartolo Colon, who will start Thursday night against the Rays at Yankee Stadium, allowed Hughes time on the DL to sort out his problems. It is fair to say that the results of his first start back from injury, a 5-3 loss to the Indians, were mixed.

It was certainly Hughes’ best outing of the season, but that is hardly overwhelming praise since he entered the game with a 13.94 ERA, which is an indication of how poor his first three starts were before he was disabled. The righthander pitched the five innings required of a starter for a winning decision for the first time this year but left the game with the Yankees trailing, 2-0.

All the damage was in the first inning in which Hughes took a while to get settled. He walked the leadoff hitter, gave up two singles for a run, threw a wild pitch and watched the second run score on an errant throw to third base by catcher Russell Martin.

Hughes gained some composure and got out of the inning without further damage. Despite the Indians getting the leadoff man on base in three of the next four innings, they did not score and stranded eight runners while Hughes was on the mound, a situation that would continue for the Tribe throughout the game.

The Indians left the bases loaded in the sixth inning against reliever Boone Logan with Alex Rodriguez making a sprawling play to his left at third base to glove a hot grounder by Carlos Santana and throwing him out at first base. Another big defensive play that inning was left fielder Brett Gardner’s throw to Martin at the plate on the fly to keep a runner at third base.

Cleveland had six hits and two walks off Hughes, who also hit two batters. His fastball topped out at 93 mph, although he was mostly in the 89-91 range and threw an assortment of breaking pitches and an occasional cutter not relying on it as much as he had in his earlier starts, which is an encouraging sign.

One night after banging out 17 hits in a 9-2 victory, the Yankees managed only three hits in eight innings off the Tribe’s hard-throwing Justin Masterson, including a double by Jeter in the eighth for career hit No. 2,997. Happy to see Masterson leave, the Yankees jumped on reliever Vinnie Pestano in the ninth on singles by Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and a double by Nick Swisher, all of whom scored.

That rally put more of an onus on relievers Logan and Sergio Mitre than Hughes for the runs they allowed late. Logan, still struggling against lefthanders, hit Travis Hafner with a pitch before A-Rod’s run-saving play and gave up the first major-league home run to lefty-swinging rookie Lonnie Chrisenhall in the seventh. The Indians, who stranded 13 runners and had 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, scored two runs in the eighth against Mitre with a hit and three walks, including one with the bases loaded.

A-Rod praises Reyes, then makes him pay

Before the game, Alex Rodriguez paid Mets shortstop Jose Reyes a major compliment. During the game, Reyes tried to live up to it but ended up making a big out on the bases in the seventh inning as the Yankees were clinging to a 3-1 lead.

“They have the world’s greatest player playing shortstop over there, and the most exciting,” A-Rod said in reference to Reyes, who entered the game leading the National League in batting, runs, hits and triples. “I turn on the TV every time I get a chance to watch him.”

Rodriguez got a close-up view of the speedy leadoff hitter without need of a television Friday night in the opening game of Subway Series II at Citi Field. They were right next to each other in what proved a pivotal play, not to mention a disputed one and perhaps a mistaken one.

Reyes certainly showed off his wheels on an attempt to go from first base to third base on an outfield fly. He had led off the seventh with a single off Yankees reliever Corey Wade. When Justin Turner flied out to deep center, Reyes tagged up and headed for second after the catch by Curtis Granderson.

Shortstop Eduardo Nunez mishandled Granderson’s throw, and the ball trickled behind him. Reyes slid hands first into second, picked himself up and darted for third when he saw that the ball was loose. Nunez made a strong throw to Rodriguez, who applied the tag. Or did he?

Plate umpire Jerry Layne, who made the ruling at third, thought so and called Reyes out. Reyes and third base coach Chip Hale argued the ruling claiming that A-Rod did not tag Reyes. They were soon joined by Mets manager Terry Collins, who was ejected from the game by Layne.

Video replays were a bit inconclusive. One angle seemed to verify that Rodriguez had tagged Reyes on the left hip before he reached third base. Another angle was less convincing. Clearly, Reyes did not feel the tag, which is why he protested so demonstratively. But having already reached scoring position and with the heart of the order coming up, Reyes may have been smart not to try for third.

For this one night anyway, before a Citi Field record crowd of 42,020, Reyes had to take a back seat to another shortstop in New York because Nunez had four hits. The last of them was an RBI single in the eighth to score Russell Martin, who had reached on an error by first baseman Daniel Murphy and advanced on a sacrifice by Brett Gardner.

Pitchers Ivan Nova and Boone Logan also dropped down successful sacrifice bunts as the Yanks did a good job playing the NL game. Nunez was actually spared an error in the first inning due to Reyes’ speed. He was credited with a single for beating out a grounder to short ahead of a throw by Nunez that sailed over first baseman Mark Teixeira. Official scorer Jordan Sprechman wisely took into account Reyes’ jets in not charging Nunez with an error.

The Yankees had an incredible 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position but only four hits in those situations, so the score could have been a lot worse than 5-1. Rodriguez doubled in a run in the ninth that cost Mariano Rivera a save opportunity.

With the lead up to four runs, Yankees manager Joe Girardi started the bottom of the ninth with Hector Noesi, who sported a new uniform number. He switched to No. 64 so that new teammate Sergio Mitre could have the No. 45 he wore in his previous sting with the Yankees. Rivera was eventually summoned after Josh Thole singled with one out to face – who else? – Reyes.

The at-bat lacked drama as Reyes grounded out meekly to the guy who said so many nice things about him earlier in the evening.

Huge start for Hughes

Phil Hughes was back at zero Saturday night. No more concern about his workload now that the Yankees are in the post-season.

The Yankees kept close watch all season on the innings total for Hughes, who had pitched mostly out of the bullpen last year. He beat out Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre in spring training for the fifth starter’s job and had such a good year that he passed Javier Vazquez and A.J. Burnett on the rotation ladder and finished with the second highest victory total on the staff with 18, three behind ace CC Sabathia.

Hughes enjoyed the finest run support among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title at 7.45 runs per nine innings (7.49 in his starts; he also won one game in relief), and Game 3 of the American League Division Series was no different. The Yankees had to come from behind to win the first two games of the series but this time they had a 5-0 lead by the fourth inning.

Hughes didn’t pitch to the scoreboard but rather to the situation. His focus was such that the game may as well have been scoreless as far as he was concerned. The Yankees were poised to push him beyond 100 pitches, but Hughes dusted off the Twins on nine pitches in the seventh to keep the total at 99.

After three perfect innings, Hughes gave up a leadoff single in the fourth to Denard Span, who was quickly erased on a double play. Armed with the five-run lead, Hughes faced his first tough situation in the fifth after Delmon Young singled and Jim Thome walked. Hughes struck out Michael Cuddyer on a foul tip off a 94-mph fastball and got Danny Valencia on a popup.

In the sixth, the Twins put runners on first and second with two-out singles by Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer. Hughes then went to work on Jason Kubel, spinning a breaking ball for a called strike one, getting a foul ball off a 91-mph fastball and burning 93-mph heat past him for strike three.

Four singles and a walk were all the Twins could manage in seven innings against Hughes, who even outdid Sabathia and Andy Pettitte in his first career post-season start, a magnificent job.

Vazquez comes up small

If Javier Vazquez was pitching Wednesday night for a spot on the Yankees’ post-season roster – and he almost certainly was – it was not an ideal audition in Toronto. The Yankees showed they placed value on the game by starting an 80-percent A-list lineup on the night after clinching a playoff berth.

Manager Joe Girardi decided to hold Andy Pettitte back to Friday night at Boston and handed the ball to Vazquez, who began the season in the rotation but eventually pitched himself into the second tier of the bullpen because of too many outings that resembled this last start. The Blue Jays jumped on Vazquez for seven runs and 10 hits, including three home runs, in 4 2/3 innings. Javy walked two batters, threw a wild pitch and had no strikeouts, but at least he did not hit any batters as he did in his previous appearance Sunday night when he plunked three Red Sox in a row.

Girardi still has decisions to make about his post-season staff, but it would appear the locks are starters CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett and relievers David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera. Assuming that the Yankees will go with an 11-man staff, that would leave two openings with the candidates being Vazquez, Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, Dustin Moseley, Ivan Nova and Royce Ring.

Perhaps I am making a big assumption about Burnett, who has been horrid in the second half, but the Yankees will need four starters. There has been some good talk about Nova, but he is a rookie with no post-season experience. As inconsistent as A.J. has been, his track record is superior to the others, including Vazquez, who did not advance his case in the 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays.

There is a good chance the Yankees will take several looks this week at Ring, who spent most of the year at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but has big-league experience and would give Girardi a second left-handed option out of the pen along with Logan, an option most managers would love. Ring retired the only batter he faced Wednesday night. The most impressive inning from an auditioning pitcher was by Mitre, who struck out the side in the eighth.

Vazquez needed to prove he can be an effective innings soaker but was little more than a punching bag and put the Yankees in a 7-0 hole in the fifth. Like many other games this September, the Yankees had to go uphill throughout the evening.

Toronto lefthander Brett Cecil shut them down for five innings before making the mistake of hitting Robinson Cano with a pitch after Alex Rodriguez had homered leading off the sixth. That’s 14 seasons of at least 30 homers and 100 RBI for A-Rod. The Yankees tagged Cecil for two more runs, but the rally died on a double play. The Jays hung on to improve Cecil’s record against the Yankees this year to 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA, which is Roy Halladay territory.

The loss ruined the Yankees’ opportunity to move ahead of the Rays in the American League East standings. Tampa Bay maintains a one-game edge in the loss column.

More rotation woes

No matter how you look at it, Andy Pettitte is not close to returning to the Yankees’ rotation, which has unraveled without him. Javier Vazquez has already pitched himself into the bullpen. Can A.J. Burnett be far behind?

Pettitte threw a 25-pitch bullpen session before Friday night’s game in Chicago and estimated his effort was 75 percent and that he did not push off his left leg very hard so as not to aggravate his left groin strain. What all that means is that Pettitte, who was shut down completely a week ago, is still a ways from returning to the mound.

He would have to make at least two starts on injury rehabilitation, but with the minor league season nearing a close Andy might be able to make only one rehab start and perhaps a simulated game or two. Any kind of setback would jeopardize his chances to get back in shape before the end of the regular season.

And do the Yankees ever need help in the rotation? Burnett’s miserable August continued Friday night in a 9-4 loss to the White Sox. He quickly lost a 1-0 lead in a 33-pitch first inning in which Chicago scored four runs. Burnett failed to get through the fourth inning and was charged with nine runs (eight earned). He yielded nine hits, walked three batters and unleashed two wild pitches.

In his five starts this month, Burnett is 0-4 with a 7.80 ERA. He has given up 38 hits and 13 walks in 30 innings and has watched his ERA rise from 4.52 to 5.17. The Yankees have a .609 winning percentage, yet Burnett’s record is 9-12 (.429).

The righthander’s 3 1/3 messy innings were part of an usually sloppy game overall for the Yankees. One of his wild pitches scored a run. Sergio Mitre also wild-pitched a runner home in an otherwise strong relief effort (no runs, one hit in 4 2/3 innings). Burnett failed to back up the plate when Nick Swisher airmailed a throw home from right field. Francisco Cervelli committed his 10th error on a wild throw of his own. The Yankees were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and grounded into two double plays.

The Yankees remained tied for first place in the American League East with Tampa Bay, which lost at home to the Red Sox. Boston has moved to 4 games of the Yankees and Rays. Despite all their injuries, the Sox simply will not go away.

The Yankees will not have to contend with Manny Ramirez this weekend. The White Sox were awarded the claim on Ramirez from the Dodgers, who have until Tuesday to work out a deal with Chicago or pull Ramirez back. Los Angeles began play Friday 11 games behind in the National League West and five games out of the wild-card race.

As expected, the Rays also put in a claim for Ramirez. So did the Rangers, which was somewhat surprising because Texas has a full-time designated hitter in Vlad Guerrero. Waiver claims are based on the reverse order of standings, so the White Sox, with the poorest record of the three, got the shot at Ramirez, who would fit in nicely as their DH.

With the AL wild card likely be the second-place finisher in the East, the White Sox’ chance for the playoffs will be to win the Central Division. They were three games behind the Twins, who made a major pickup by obtaining relief pitcher Brian Fuentes from the Angels.

HOPE Week: Arias sisters, homeless survivors

The Yankees concluded 2010 HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Friday by reaching out to the Arias sisters – Johanna and Melida – who have overcome hardships and homelessness and made their lives better through education and hard work.

Pitchers Sergio Mitre and David Robertson, catcher Francisco Cervelli, second baseman Robinson Cano, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, infielder Ramiro Pena and bench coach Tony Pena surprised Melida at her job at Wendy’s on Third Avenue in the Bronx and took the sisters on a shopping spree at DKNY on Madison Avenue in Manhattan to outfit Melida for her freshman year of college and Johanna for future professional opportunities.

For 16 years, the Arias women traveled from boardinghouse to rented room to homeless shelter and back again. Melida Arias, her older sister, Johanna, and her mother, Maria, were inseparable. They pooled their change to put food on whatever makeshift dinner table was in front of them. They never went hungry, even if it meant eating tuna fish and rice every day for a week at a time.

Despite the obvious hardship of their situation, the sisters’ dedication to academics did not waver. They remained committed to creating a better life for themselves. For many homeless teens, college is a fairy tale. For Melida and Johanna, it was a fixed object in the distance, becoming clearer and closer every day. If they continued to apply themselves, they would become the first members of their family to go to college.

As a freshman in high school, Melida confided the intimate details regarding her homelessness to fellow classmates, who then posted her personal secrets for the world to read online. Shamed by the gossip of her peers and angered at such a cruel betrayal, Melida decided to rise above the bullying and intimidation. Rather than letting the talk of others steal her self-worth, she left her school and transferred to Bronx Leadership Academy High School, where she immediately thrived in accepting and supportive new surroundings.

With the assistance of the organization Women in Need, the Arias women finally found housing during Melida’s junior year. Ever since, the scars of their experience fade by the day. Their triumph has not come without sacrifice. Soon after Johanna was accepted to Syracuse University two years ago, her mother became physically unable to continue work as a cab driver. So instead of going off to college, Johanna began working at McDonald’s in a job she still has today.

In June, Melida graduated in the top third of her class at the Bronx Leadership Academy, and she begins the next step of her education next spring with her freshman year at Baruch College in Manhattan. Her compassion is reflected in her course load as she embarks on the road to becoming a school psychologist. Her dream is to help children who are growing up under challenging circumstances, similar to her own.

Offense and roster dwindling

Man, it sure got quiet around here. The Yankees can’t seem to score, and now they are running out of players.

They avoided a second straight shutout because Tigers closer Jose Valverde walked the yard in the ninth inning and forced in the only run the Yankees have scored since Saturday. A sensational turn at second base by Carlos Guillen with Brett Gardner crashing into his left knee completed a double play on Derek Jeter to end a game that crawled along at 3 hours, 48 minutes.

The game didn’t lack for base runners. The Tigers stranded 12 and the Yankees 9. Detroit was only 1-for10 with runners in scoring position but scored three runs on two long balls, a two-run homer in the second by Ray Raburn and a solo shot by Miguel Cabrera (No. 28) in the ninth off Joba Chamberlain, who was scored upon for the first time in 10 outings.

The Yankees were hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position and are 11-for-72 (.153) in those situations over the past eight games. They are 6-9 in August and have fallen into a first-place tie in the American League East with the Rays, who upended the Rangers and Cliff Lee Monday night with a four-run eighth inning.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Yankees finished up the game with Francisco Cervelli playing third base. They were without Lance Berkman (sprained right ankle) from the start and along the way lost Alex Rodriguez (tight left calf) and Nick Swisher (bruised right bicep). The same might be said for starting pitcher Javier Vazquez, whose lifeless limb struggled to get fastballs anywhere near 90 mph and was lucky to have yielded merely two runs in his four laborious innings, his briefest start since May 1.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi got defensive after the game about Vazquez’s lack of velocity saying when he was winning games he was throwing 88 mph. Uh, not really. Vazquez in his winning starts was getting it up to 91 on a regular basis. The word being spread is that Javy is in a dead-arm period, which affects pitchers at some point during the season. Vazquez is 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA in his past four starts, but the Yankees managed to win two of them.

With the bats silent, the Yankees cannot afford to send a pitcher to the mound with worthless stuff. They may have to consider skipping Vazquez a start and going with Sergio Mitre, who pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief of Javy and allowed no runs and one hit.

Cervelli was pressed into duty at third base because Girardi needed Marcus Thames to pinch hit for Ramiro Pena, who had replaced A-Rod. Thames could have played third, of course, but we have seen that act before. How serious the injuries to A-Rod and Swish remain to be seen.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t wait to see Tuesday night’s lineup.

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.

All even in AL East

A.J. Burnett sort of reached back to June Monday night and put the Yankees in a swoon. You remember A.J. in June, the 0-5, 11.35 ERA A.J. That guy seemed to go away in July (3-1, 2.00 ERA), but in his first start of August he went back in time instead of forward.

With no feel for his breaking ball, Burnett tried to get by with his fastball that flattened out in the fifth inning that became a nightmare for the righthander. The Blue Jays combined a jolting home run by Edwin Encarnacion and an American League record-tying six doubles to put up seven runs and drive Burnett from the game.

The bullpen did a splendid job as Sergio Mitre, David Robertson, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain teamed for 4 1/3 scoreless innings, but the hole Burnett dug for the Yankees was too great to overcome.

Not that they didn’t try. Mark Teixeira clubbed a two-run home run, and Lance Berkman got his first RBI with the Yankees on a single. And it was good to see Nick Swisher back in the 2-hole where he homered in the first inning to give Burnett a 2-0 lead and got a second homer in the ninth that still left the Yankees two runs shy. Swisher’s home run also guaranteed a fifth at-bat for Alex Rodriguez going for career home run No. 600, but he grounded out to extend his hitless string to 14 at-bats and homerless stretch to 43 at-bats.

Swisher had been moved to sixth in the order the previous two games as Yankees manager Joe Girardi had Berkman in the 2-hole. I guess the Yankees see Berkman the same way they saw Nick Johnson. Give me the other Nick batting second. In that spot, Swisher is hitting .296 with 14 home runs and 38 RBI in 213 at-bats. If it ain’t broke. . .

Berkman batted seventh in the order in his first home game at Yankee Stadium (he was there with the Astros in June) and got a mixed reaction from the crowd, sort of a New York show-us-what-you-got kind of thing. He didn’t show much until the sixth when he drilled a single to center to score a run.

Curtis Granderson was due to bat next, but with left-handed reliever Scott Downs on the mound Girardi went with righty-swinging Marcus Thames as a pinch hitter. He came through with a hit. Girardi also had newcomer Austin Kearns bat for Brett Gardner. That didn’t work out as well as Kearns was called out on strikes. The inning was an eye-opener to Yankees fans, not to mention Granderson and Gardner.

The Yankees knew when they left Florida’s gulf coast that they had a race on their hands, and the Rays’ ending Minnesota’s eight-game winning streak pushed them into a tie for first in the American League East. It is the first time since June 19 that the Yankees are not atop the division alone. They had been tied for first the six days before that. The Yankees have lost four games in the standings since July 23, the day after A-Rod hit home run No. 599.

I would call that a connection. What this team needs is to get that home run over with; the pursuit of 600 has become a distinct distraction.