Results tagged ‘ Yasiel Puig ’

Wild night at Dodger, er, Yankee Stadium

The Yankees find fans all over the map as they travel around North America during the season. The boosters are akin to Notre Dame’s famed subway alumni.

I recall a game at Anaheim in the early 1990s when Don Mattingly came off the bench at whacked a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning that pushed the Yankees into the lead of a game they eventually won. As Mattingly rounded the bases, the cheers from the Big A’s stands were so loud you would have sworn you were in the Bronx, which is about as far from Orange County, California, as you can get.

Whatever the venue, be it Baltimore’s Camden Yards, certainly Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field or even Boston’s Fenway Park, pockets of Yankees fans abound in the stands. Well, a collection of boisterous Dodgers fans gave the Yankees at taste of their own medicine Monday night at Yankee Stadium in the opener of a three-game, inter-league series.

A cluster of Dodgers fans filled a sizeable portion of the seats along the third base to left field line. The group went even so far as to mimic the roll call of the Yankees’ bleacher creatures but by calling out the names of the Dodgers instead. When the Dodgers rallied for a run right off the bat in the first inning, it seemed more like Dodger Stadium than Yankee Stadium.

Yankees fans finally responded with loud boos when fans near the left field foul pole unveiled a blue “LA” banner amid a three-run rally by the Dodgers.

There is plenty of history between these clubs. After all, they have been paired in 11 World Series, the most of any two teams. When the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn prior to 1958, they faced the Yanks seven times in the Series and won only once, in 1955. Since they made Southern California home, the Dodgers split four Series against the Yankees, winning in 1963 and ’81 and losing in 1977 and ’78.

Unfortunately, the Yankees did not give their fans much reason to retaliate in the 8-2 loss that caused them to lose ground in the Wild Card race. The Yanks remained two games behind the Orioles and dropped a game behind the Tigers for the second Wild Card berth.

It was a rough night for the Baby Bombers. Right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez made errors that led to runs. Starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell could not get out of the third inning, although four of the six runs against him were not earned, due to the two errors. Tyler Austin wore the golden sombrero with four strikeouts. The most effective Yankees pitcher was lefthander Richard Bleier, who tossed four shutout innings of hitless relief. He walked one batter, hit one and struck out three.

The Yankees’ runs came on two long home runs. Starlin Castro’s 21st dinger of the season landed in the second deck in left field in the second inning. Judge bashed a 432-foot bomb into the left-center field bleachers in the fifth. The Dodgers countered with late-inning home runs by Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner, to the absolute delight of the Dodgers Blue crowd than drowned out Yankees Universe at least for one night.

No decision for Pettitte as Dodgers rally late

For his sixth straight start, Andy Pettitte was scored upon in the first inning, one of those “uh-oh” moments for Yankees fans. That turned out a minor blemish for the lefthander in what proved a solid outing Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

Pettitte was not able to get his record (7-8) back to .500 because the score was 2-2 when he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Andy allowed eight hits but did not walk a batter and struck out three in seven innings. As is often the case with starting pitchers, the early innings can post problems as they search for a rhythm.

Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig jolted Pettitte with one out in the first inning with a booming double to center field. He crossed to third base on a fly ball to right field and scored on a two-out single through the middle by Hanley Ramirez, one of the hottest hitters in the majors (.383).

Lyle Overbay got the run back leading off the second inning with a home run off Zack Greinke, the third jack in 24 career at-bats against the righthander. Juan Uribe matched that, however, with his sixth home run, a 441-foot bomb into the second deck in left field off a hanging 0-2 curve by Pettitte in the bottom half.

Ichiro Suzuki saved Pettitte a run in the third with a tracer’s bullet of a throw home that nailed Ramirez trying to score from second base with two out on a single to right by A.J. Ellis. Catcher Chris Stewart completed the play with a quick tag on Ramirez’s left thigh before his foot touched the plate. That was the first of five straight scoreless innings for Pettitte, who gave his teammates a chance to stay in the game.

The Yankees drew even in the fourth on another RBI by Overbay. A wild pitch by Greinke that allowed Alfonso Soriano, who led off the inning with a double down the left field line, to move up to third base helped set up the run. With the infield back, all Overbay had to do was make contact, which he did with a grounder to the left side as Soriano crossed the plate.

Pettitte’s work turned out to be most encouraging sign for the Yankees, who had only one hit after Soriano’s double. Ichiro doubled to left with one out in the seventh, but Greinke struck out Jayson Nix and retired Stewart on a ground ball.

It was a bullpen game after that, and the Dodgers won it, 3-2, in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out single by Mark Ellis off Shawn Kelley (3-1). It scored Andre Ethier, who had singled with one down and got a big stolen base two pitches before Ellis dropped a single into left-center. Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen (4-3) pitched a perfect inning apiece. David Robertson did the same for the Yankees in the eighth before Kelley took over in the ninth.

Aware that the Yankees had no left-handed bat on the bench, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly used his hard-throwing righthanders out of the pen. With five straight games on National League soil and no designated hitter in play, that situation hurts the Yankees. There is a chance Curtis Granderson could rejoin the Yankees at the end of the week when they move on to San Diego, which will surely help. Keep your fingers crossed.

Fans appreciate rookie’s big night

Before Friday night’s game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not care to make a commitment beyond this game as to how often Zoilo Almonte would play. The rookie outfielder was making his first major-league start is as far as Girardi would go. The skipper did point out, however, that sometimes a player does so well he keeps himself in the lineup.

That could be the case with Almonte. Who knows? He won over the Yankee Stadium crowd in the Yankees’ 6-2 victory over loss to the Blue Jays; that’s for sure. When is the last time you saw a rookie urged out of the dugout for a curtain call?

That is what happened with Almonte in the sixth inning after he crushed a 0-1 fastball from Tampa Bay righthander Roberto Hernandez into the Yankees bullpen for his first big-league home run. It was the fourth straight hit for Almonte, who got his first major-league knock as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning Thursday night and had singles his first two times up Friday night. Since 1916, the only other Yankees player to get at least three hits and a home run in a single game within his first three major league games was Oscar Azocar Sept. 18, 1990 against the Royals in his second career game.

“You don’t expect a kid to get three hits in his first game,” Girardi said. “That can give a kid a lot of confidence.”

“I felt a little nervous,” Almonte said through translator Kenny Leandry. “I always thought this day would come, God willing, and when that day would come, I would be grateful.”

Asked if this was the best day of his life, Almonte said, “Today and when my son was born.”

The crowd also liked the throw he made from left field in the fourth inning that discouraged Luke Scott from attempting to score from third base after the Rays had loaded the bases with one out that helped David Phelps work out of the jam.

“That was an important inning,” Girardi said. “When they didn’t score after loading the bases; that turned the whole game around.”

Perhaps during a week at the Stadium in which the Dodgers showed off Yasiel Puig and the Rays displayed Wil Myers, Yankees fans wanted to get excited about an up-and-coming young player in pinstripes. Almonte, who turned 24 earlier this month, is a switch hitter from the Dominican Republic who has been on the Yankees’ radar for some time. Girardi felt the youngster pressed a bit in spring training but rebounded with strong numbers at Triple A Scranton (.297, six homers, 36 RBI).

Someone in the crowd even chanted “MVP” when Almonte came to bat in the eighth inning. He struck out. Hey, noboby’s perfect.

Mattingly’s return a split decision

Don Mattingly’s return to Yankee Stadium was a half-empty, half-full experience in one day for the popular former Yankees favorite. The Dodgers manager had to be embarrassed by his team’s performance in a 6-4 loss in the afternoon, but the club saved face with a 6-0 victory in the night game.

It was another uneven outing at the Stadium for Phil Hughes, who was touched for two runs and five hits in the very first inning and slogged his way through six innings by yielding five earned runs and 10 hits. His record fell to 3-6 with a 5.09 ERA. It is even worse at the Stadium where Hughes is 1-4 with a 6.69 ERA. He has given up 49 hits, including seven home runs, in 35 home innings.

“I struggled to find a rhythm and my pitch count went up,” Hughes said. “I have to do better; that’s for sure.”

Of course, Hughes would have needed to pitch shutout ball to have any chance to win the second game because the Yankees’ bats went silent after the first-game victory. They scraped for three hits, all singles, off Dodgers starter Chris Capuano and fared no better against two relievers. Two of the Yankees’ hits were in the infield. They had one runner advance past second base and only one base runner at all after the fourth inning as the Dodgers retired 16 batters in a row. This was the sixth shutout loss of the season for the Yankees.

Hughes allowed at least five runs in a start for the fifth time. Although manager Joe Girardi said he has not been thinking about moving him out of the rotation, Hughes has cause for concern. The Yankees have two starting pitchers with major-league backgrounds at Triple A Scranton in Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, so there may be other options for Girardi down the road. With the two games Wednesday, the Yankees will need a starting pitcher out of the rotation Sunday.

Asked if he felt his spot in the rotation is in jeopardy, Hughes said, “My only concern is pitching well. Things I can’t control I can’t concern myself with.”

The Dodgers have struggled all year, but they were on all cylinders in the night game. Their first four batters got hits off Hughes. Hanley Ramirez, who was 6-for-8 (.750) with four RBI in the two games, had RBI singles in the first and fifth innings.

Yankees fans at both games definitely came away with a positive impression of Cuban-born rookie Yasiel Puig, who was 4-for-9 (.444) with one double, one home run, one RBI, one stolen base and four runs scored. He also played flawless defense in right field.

Perfect finish: Mo vs. Puig (guess who won?)

How painful it must have been for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, winner of nine Gold Gloves at first base during his playing days with the Yankees, to watch his club make so many fielding mistakes in the day game of Wednesday’s split-admission doubleheader. The Dodgers made four errors, two coming on a bizarre play by relief pitcher Ronald Belisario in the seventh inning as the Yankees took charge with three runs en route to a 6-4 victory.

Dodgers second baseman Skip Shumacher twice bobbled ground balls by Robinson Cano, but neither error was costly. The seventh-inning double blunder by Belisario was another story. With runners on first and second and one out, Vernon Wells hit a soft popup between the plate and the mound. Belisario appeared to let the ball drop in hopes of getting a double play. He kicked the ball instead for the first error, then tried to recover and threw wildly for a second error and a run scored.

Ichiro Suzuki, who was all over this game, lofted a single down the left field line that gave the Yankees a four-run lead, which proved important an inning later when Hanley Ramirez, who had four hits for the Dodgers, smoked a two-run home run off Preston Claiborne.

In a pitching match-up of two Asians, Yankees righthander Hiroki Kuroda (Japan) and Dodgers lefthander Hyun-Jin Ryu (South Korea), Ichiro stole the show. He ended a 115-at-bat homerless streak in the sixth with a leadoff dinger off Ryu. After getting that two-run single, Suzuki saved a run with a leaping catch on the warning track of a drive by Adrian Gonzalez that almost surely would have scored Yasiel Puig, who had led off the inning with a double.

“I knew the ball was not going to be a home run, that it was still in the park,” Ichiro said of the Gonzalez drive. “The only question for me was which way I would turn because the ball was hit right over my head.”

Ichiro turned to his right, leaped and reached for the ball all in one motion. His 3-for-4 day at the plate continued a hot stretch that began on the West Coast trip. Suzuki has 10 hits in his past 22 at-bats, a .455 run that has raised his season batting average to .274. The Yankees’ left-handed hitters did a good job against Ryu. Their other two runs were the result of a double in the second inning by Lyle Overbay.

“Ichiro has been swinging the bat extremely well,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He has the ability to get hot. When we got Lyle, we didn’t anticipate his getting so many at-bats against left-handed pitching, but we have really needed him.”

After David Robertson did one of his Houdini acts in the eighth (walk two batters, get the next two out), Mariano Rivera went for his 25th save in the ninth, and no one was leaving Yankee Stadium until they saw him go for the third out against Puig. Mo fell behind 2-0 in the count before coming back to strike him out.

Puig made quite an impression in his first game at the Stadium. He had two hits and in each case attempted to stretch a single into a double, once successfully and once not. But his aggressiveness was noted and appreciated, not the least of which by Rivera.

“I like to see young boys played hard like that,” he said. “That is the way he played to get to the major leagues and the way he should play in the major leagues.”

Rivera stopped short of saying he could appreciate the drama of the ninth inning: the worldly veteran closer against the up-and-coming youngster, any more than he did Sunday at Anaheim when he faced three-time Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols with the bases loaded to get the final out of that game.

“I cannot think about that because I have a job to do in either case,” Rivera said. “It is important for me to concentrate on getting the job done.”

And nobody does it better.

Dodger Blue vs. Yankee Pinstripes

I ran into an old pal on the way into Yankee Stadium Wednesday for what was the beginning of a long day with a split-admission doubleheader courtesy of Tuesday night’s rainout. None other than Tommy Lasorda had come to the Stadium to make the Yankees-Dodgers match-up official.

In his 21 seasons as manager of the Dodgers, Lasorda was a baseball writer’s best friend. He enjoyed the byplay with the press and filled out notebooks with material while he preached bleeding “Dodger Blue.” Still hearty at 85, Lasorda was looking forward to a day at the Stadium. In the lobby of Gate 2, he watched a video of Hall of Fame pitcher Red Ruffing pitching against the New York Giants in the 1937 World Series.

Lasorda, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997, and I have worked together on a couple of Veterans Committees for the Hall. We were on the committees that elected managers Billy Southworth and Dick Williams and third baseman Ron Santo. Tommy and I campaigned hard for former Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges, but he fell three votes short.

Tommy is also a major proponent for the election of former Yankees manager Ralph Houk, the only major-league skipper to win pennants in his first three seasons on the job (1961-63). “He was a great manager,” Lasorda said. “Unfortunately, he was here when the franchise was going through a transition, but Ralph was an important link in the years between Casey Stengel and George Steinbrenner.”

Lasorda was involved in my favorite singular memory of spring training. The year was 1990. The Yankees still trained in Fort Lauderdale and the Dodgers in Vero Beach in those days. The Yankees were in Vero, and Tommy invited me and three other New York writers – Moss Klein, Bill Madden and Joe Donnelly – to have dinner with him after the game.

I got stuck in a lengthy interview with former Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry, who was in his first spring with the Dodgers, and told the other writers that I would catch up with them later. We would need a designated driver anyway for the 2 1/2/-hour trek home, so I volunteered.

By the time I joined them, Tommy had explained that then Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley was throwing a luau for a contingent from Mexico and that he wanted the manager to stay on the premises.

“You can invite the writers to the luau,” O’Malley told Lasorda.

We were delighted. Vin Scully joined us, and we sat on a veranda with plenty to eat and drink (coffee for me) and listened to two of the great story tellers in the major leagues for several hours. Spring training doesn’t get better than that.

Don Mattingly’s return to the Stadium was celebrated by the bleacher creatures who added the Dodgers manager to the roll call in the first inning. Donnie acknowledged them with a tip of his cap. He did so again in the second inning when a video of his Yankees career was shown on the center field screen.

There was a sizeable number of Dodgers fans in the afternoon crowd, many cheering Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, who started for Los Angeles in an all-Asian pairing with Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees’ Japanese righthander. Yankees fans got their first chance to drown out Dodgers fans in the bottom of the second when Lyle Overbay doubled over center fielder Andre Ethier’s head for a two-run double.

Yankees fans also got their first view of Cuban right fielder Yasiel Puig, who is off to a strong start in the majors. In the first two innings, Puig evoked the memory of two former Brooklyn Dodgers favorites from the 1940s and ‘50s, Jackie Robinson and Carl Furillo.

Puig singled with one out in the first and bolted for second as center fielder Brett Gardner fielded the ball. Puig was out trying to stretch the hit into a double, but it took a perfect throw from Gardner and a perfect tag by shortstop Jayson Nix to get him.

Thomas Neal led off the New York second with a single to right. Again not taking anything for granted, Puig noticed Neal jogging to first and rifled a throw there that skipped by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez but no advance for Neal. That was a favored ploy of Furillo, particularly when pitchers got a rare hit and occasionally would get a 9-3 putout.

This is the sort of stuff long promised by inter-league play but rarely on display.