Results tagged ‘ Zack Greinke ’

Homestand momentum wilting in desert

The momentum the Yankees derived from the recent 7-3 homestand against the Red Sox, Royals and White Sox has wilted in the Phoenix heat. The Diamondbacks, floundering in the National League West, have gotten first-rate starts from Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke to keep the Yankees in last place in the American League East.

Greinke, who left the Dodgers as a free agent for the Arizona desert, has rebounded from a shaky start to improve his record to 4-3 despite a 5.08 ERA. A solo home run by Starlin Castro in the second inning was all the offense the Yanks mustered against Greinke until the seventh when the former Cy Young Award winner gave up singles to Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to start the inning. Both eventually scored on an infield out and an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury that got the Yankees to 5-3 before Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira struck out to defuse the rally.

Michael Pineda had another head-scratching outing. He struck out nine batters in five innings but gave up five earned runs and nine hits as his ERA soared to 6.60. He gave up the 1-0 lead Castro’s homer gave him in the bottom of the second with two outs on a triple by Chris Owings and a single off a wayward slider by Nick Ahmed.

The D-backs stung him for two runs and four hits in the third inning. Two innings later, Jake Lamb crushed a two-run homer that seemingly put the game out of reach considering the work of Greinke, who retired 12 batters in a row after the Castro homer on four strikeouts and eight infield outs.

It was also a sloppy game defensively for the Yankees, who committed two errors and a passed ball. They at least posed a threat in Tuesday night’s game as opposed to Monday night when Arizona pounded them into submission, 12-2. Chad Green, a Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up, was pounded for six runs (four earned) and eight hits, including homers by Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt.

MLB, union to support youth baseball initiative

CINCINNATI — While officials were hopeful that a series of severe thunderstorms that hit this area Monday would not interfere with the Home Run Derby at night on the eve of the All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark, Major League Baseball in conjunction with the Major League Players Association announced plans to allocate $30 million towards a youth baseball and softball initiative throughout North America entitled “Play Ball.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement at Monday’s press conference at which American League manager Ned Yost of the Royals and National League manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants announced their starting lineups, including pitchers Dallas Keuchel of the Astros and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

“Accessibility is an essential step toward not only strengthening the connection with fan, but also developing talent at the amateur level,” Manfred said. “Through initiatives like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, the MLB Urban Youth Academies and the Breakthrough Series, Major League Baseball has provided opportunities for thousands of young people to play the game and showcase their skills. This joint commitment with the MLBPA and its current and former members is a significant step toward expanding our focus on ensuring the future growth and prosperity of our sport.”

The commissioner also singled out Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira for his tireless efforts on behalf of the Harlem RBI youth program in New York. Teixeira, a member of the AL All-Star team along with teammates Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances, attended the new conference with fellow All-Stars Chris Archer of the Rays, David Price of the Tigers, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates.

MLB and the PA will also create a 501(c)(3) organization to accept donations from players, clubs, corporations and other interested parties to help fund programs. One of the first major programs under the initiative will be the first Elite Development Invitational, operated by USA Baseball, July 18-30 at the old Dodgertown complex in Vero Beach, Fla. Approximately 150 players, ages 13-16, will participate in the two-week program that will provide player development opportunities to top prospects from minority or underserved backgrounds.

“For as long as the game has been played, generations of major leaguers have been passionate about sharing the game they love with others, especially youth,” PA executive director Tony Clark said. “Many current and former players are already actively involved with programs designed to not only teach the game at the youth level and develop future ballplayers but also help excite the next generation of fans. This initiative will help advance and enhance those efforts. Despite their never-ending determination to preserve and grow interest in baseball, players have long known that reseeding the game at the grassroots level requires the cooperation and support of the entire baseball community. Today’s announcement is great news to all players, and we look forward to working with Major League Baseball to make serious strides to ensure that every kid in the United States and Canada who wants to play baseball has an equal opportunity to do so.”

Two Yankees farmhands made contributions in Sunday’s Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game. Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Aaron Judge, the designated hitter for the U.S. Team, had 1-for-4 and scored a run in its 10-1 victory over the World Team. Double A Trenton catcher Gary Sanchez started behind the plate for the World Team and had a double in two at-bats.

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.

Yanks too much for sloppy Brew Crew

The Zack Greinke the Yankees faced Tuesday night was not the Zack Greinke who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009. Now in the National League with the Brewers, Greinke went into the game with a good record – 7-2 – but a poor ERA – 4.77 – which only got worse – 5.63 – after his two dreadful innings.

The Yankees had success against Greinke in his years with Kansas City when he was 2-3 with a 5.27 ERA against them, but Tuesday night was simply ridiculous. They knocked him out with seven runs on five hits and three walks in two innings. Greinke also hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and gave up a well-struck home run to Nick Swisher, who has been on fire lately.

The first inning was truly bizarre. Greinke began it by hitting Brett Gardner with a pitch. Curtis Granderson followed with a fly ball that center fielder Nyjer Morgan misplayed into a triple. Morgan turned the wrong way and then tripped as the ball fell free without his touching it. The Brewers played the infield back conceding the second run as Granderson scored on a grounder to second by Mark Teixeira.

Milwaukee next applied a shift defense against Alex Rodriguez with the second baseman, Rickie Weeks, playing behind the bag. This didn’t make sense to me since A-Rod has been hitting the ball to the right side quite a bit lately. Sure enough, he hit a grounder to the right side for a gift single.

One out later, the Yankees had the bases loaded after a walk to Swisher and a weird fielder’s choice on a grounder inside third by Jorge Posada. Third baseman Casey McGehee made a diving, back-handed stop but instead of going straight to the bag for the third out on a force he tried to tag Rodriguez, who eluded him and arrived safely.

Greinke avoided further damage when Russell Martin flied out to end the inning, but the Yanks started up quickly again in the second. Eduardo Nunez led off with a single. Gardner won a nine-pitch at-bat and walked. The two pulled off a double steal. Teixeira got his second RBI grounder, which was the second out, but Greinke couldn’t finish the inning off. He walked A-Rod, gave up a run-scoring single to Robinson Cano and grooved a 2-0 fastball to Swisher, who connected for his 10th home run.

Swish hit .213 with three home runs and 20 RBI over the first two months of the season in 169 at-bats. His low point was May 27 when he was batting .204. In 29 games since then, Swish has batted .320 with 14 runs, 8 doubles, 8 home runs, 23 RBI and 23 walks in 97 at-bats. The switch-hitter had been atrocious from the left side, but he has gradually worked those stats up to where he is finally over .200 (.211) with 7 home runs and 29 RBI in 175 at-bats.

Swisher, who got a fourth RBI with a double in the eighth, was active on both sides of the field Tuesday night. He threw out Corey Hart trying to score to end the sixth and was part of another inning-ending play in which a Brewers runner, Mat Gamel, was thrown out on the bases in the fourth.

After getting two RBI on balls that did not leave the infield, Teixeira picked up two more RBI in the sixth on a ball that left the yard, for his 24th home run. That kept Tex in a tie for the home run lead with the Blue Jays’ Juan Bautista, who also slugged his 24th at Toronto.

The Yankees poured it on to the extent that by the seventh when he was trailing, 11-2, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke started emptying his bench. So did Yanks manager Joe Girardi. That same inning, Hector Noesi took over for Freddy Garcia and threw 34 pitches – 24 combined to only two batters. Jonathan Lucroy got a well-earned single in a 13-pitch at-bat, and Noesi struck out Weeks on the 11th pitch of that at-bat.

There was plenty of weird stuff to go around in this one, but it was a great night all around for the Yankees, who pushed their lead in the AL East to 1 ½ games over the Red Sox, who were shut out by Cliff Lee at Philadelphia, and moved to a season-high 15 games over .500.

No reward to CC for 21 Ws

Yankees fans have reason to be upset that CC Sabathia did not win the American League Cy Young Award that was given instead by the Baseball Writers’ Association to the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez. Heck, the big guy didn’t even finish second as the Rays’ David Price was the runner-up.

One of the arguments made last year when the Royals’ Zack Greinke won in the AL with only 16 victories and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum in the National League with merely 15 was that there were no 20-game winners, so the field was much more open.

That was not the case this year. Sabathia was 21-7 and had plenty of other good numbers, too, including a 3.18 ERA, which is not shabby for a guy pitching in the AL East and hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. That Hernandez won despite posting a record of 13-12 seems absurd until you look a bit deeper into his season and not just at the statistics that a lot of people believe are too esoteric but to which the increasing numbers-conscious are devoted.

Hernandez led the league in ERA (2.27) and innings (249 2/3) and was second in strikeouts (232), only one behind league leader Jered Weaver of the Angels. These are not intangible stats. They are pretty tangible, one might even say traditional.

Think of how Hernandez felt last year. He went 19-5 and couldn’t beat out Greinke. Hernandez said Thursday from his home in Venezuela that he did not know how to gauge this year’s balloting after what happened last year. “Are they going to tell me that I didn’t win enough games this year but that I won too many last year?” he asked me.

I told him one year to the next is different, which I still believe even though the recent voting indicates a trend may be developing. I hope not. The day when victories aren’t considered the important part of the pitching equation is the day you might as well stop keeping score. I mean, if pitching victories don’t mean anything, why are they still kept? Imagine trying to tell the Major League Players Association that pitching victories won’t be totaled any more? Good luck explaining that to the union.

It is interesting that the list of pitchers who have 300 or more career victories are all in the Hall of Fame except for those not yet eligible, whose names are Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. It would seem that winning a lot of games is a big deal, huh?

This is all coming from someone who thought Hernandez was the best pitcher he saw this year. No knock on CC, who I probably would have voted for had I been on the committee, but look what Hernandez did in his three starts against the Yankees: 3-0, 0.35 ERA. That is not a misprint. He allowed 1 run, 16 hits and 8 walks with 31 strikeouts in 26 innings.

The only reason he did not pitch 27 innings for a third complete game against the Yankees was that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu did not let him finish the Aug. 20 game at the Stadium while working on a four-hit shutout with 11 Ks. Writers in the press box can recall my reaction to that. I was beside myself, howling that Wakamatsu’s move was akin to grabbing the brush from Picasso before he could complete his painting. It was absolute disregard for artistic endeavor, and the manager deserved to be fired, which he eventually was.

Remember, though, that was a night Hernandez won, not one of the many games in which he pitched splendidly and either lost or got hung with a no-decision because of such scant run support by an offense that scratched out an average of 3.2 runs per game. The Mariners’ run support for Hernandez was 2.4 per game. Seattle scored two runs or fewer in 15 of his 34 starts. He was 2-10 with a 2.84 ERA in those games. In his nine no decisions, Hernandez pitched to a 1.92 ERA.

I kept in mind that in 1972 Steve Carlton won the NL Cy Young Award with a 27-10 record for a Phillies club whose overall mark was 59-97 and also averaged only 3.2 runs per game. The point of view of Sabathia supporters, of which there were three who gave him first-place approval on the ballot, came Tuesday from none other than this year’s NL winner, Roy Halladay, who had the same victory total as CC.

“Obviously, Felix’s numbers are very, very impressive,” Doc said. “But I think, ultimately, you look at how guys are able to win games. Sometimes the run support isn’t there, but you sometimes just find ways to win games. I think the guys that are winning and helping their teams deserve a strong look, regardless of how good Felix’s numbers are. It definitely could go either way; it’s going to be interesting. But I think when teams bring guys over, they want them to, ultimately at the end of the day, help them win games.”

It is hard to argue with that logic.

CC vs. the stat geeks

This is probably not the best time to discuss CC Sabathia’s American League Cy Young Award candidacy. It will be a topic for the rest of the season as the question that will face voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is: can a pitcher with a record barely above .500 win the Cy Young Award?

Sabathia’s main opponent for the award, which he won in 2007 with the Indians, is Mariners righthander Felix Hernandez, who has become the darling of the stat geeks. Hernandez is a terrific pitcher who is putting up some impressive numbers for a last-place team. Seattle is not only bringing up the rear in the AL West but also in just about every offensive category as a team.

The Mariners’ extraordinarily poor run support for Hernandez is the main explanation that despite leading the AL in innings pitched (219 1/3) and strikeouts (209) and running a close second in ERA (2.30) his record is merely 11-10.

That pales in comparison to Sabathia, who took to the mound Tuesday night in search of his 20th victory only to fall instead to 19-6. That’s how good the Orioles are going; not even CC could beat them as he has done routinely in his career against Baltimore, which has been rejuvenated since the arrival of manager Buck Showalter, whose record is 21-13.

The Orioles’ 6-2 victory over the Yankees was only the second loss in 15 career decisions for Sabathia against Baltimore and the first in five this season. It also ended CC’s 21-start string of non-losing starts at Yankee Stadium as he lost in the Bronx for the first time since July 2, 2009 in 17 decisions.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi came to his ace’s side in the competition.

“Felix Hernandez has had a great year,” Girardi said. “We have seen enough of him, I can tell you that. But I think our guy has had an amazing year as well. Right now, if I was to vote, it would be for CC.”

Ironically, the best part of Hernandez’s platform is his work against the Yankees. In three starts against them, King Felix was 3-0 with two complete games (including one shutout), 31 strikeouts in 26 innings and an ERA of 0.35.

Although Girardi tried to help CC’s cause, it didn’t help that the manager’s answer when asked what pitching stats he most favors by saying “ERA and innings pitched.”

Hernandez has the edge on both of those scores over Sabathia, who has a 3.14 ERA and 170 strikeouts. Girardi said that he also values innings, but again, Hernandez has it over CC, 219 1/3 to 209. Opponents are batting .219 against Hernandez and .242 against Sabathia. In every statistical category, Sabathia trails Hernandez except that of victories and winning percentage.

Last year, the victory column for pitchers didn’t factor very much in Cy Young voting. AL winner Zack Greinke of the Royals was 16-8. In the National League, the Giants’ Tim Lincecum was 15-7, compiling the fewest victories of any starting pitcher in a complete season that won the Cy Young Award. Think of it. The baseball writers honored two pitchers whose combined number of victories equaled the amount of games Denny McLain won all by himself in 1968.

Say this for Greinke and Lincecum: they at least had winning percentages well over .600. Hernandez is at .524, Sabathia .760. For all his brilliance, the basic tenant of the game has not been satisfied often enough when Hernandez pitches. Despite Tuesday night’s loss, Sabathia’s chances for a second Cy Young Award remain pretty strong. His stats may not be as glowing as Hernandez’s, but they are very good.

I also believe that if some pitcher had been a 20-game winner last year the Cy Young Award voting might have been different. Sabathia, Hernandez and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander all won 19 in the AL, the same total that topped the NL by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. A 20-game winner still has stature. If CC doesn’t get there (he has at least four more starts left), he would not deserve the award anyway.