Tonight had a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling; in a way it’s almost as if we were brought back to 2009, a year that the Yankees won the World Series. A year that wasn’t that long ago, yet right now seems it was ages ago.
The Yankees were 1-18 when trailing after eight innings coming into tonight’s game, and as fate would have it, they were down 4-3 in the ninth inning at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays in tonight’s game at home. It looked as if they would be 1-19, but the Yanks made up their minds: they weren’t losing.
Following a double by pinch-hitter Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson came to the plate and came up with a clutch, two-out base hit to tie the game at four, bringing home Chris Dickerson, who pinch-ran for Posada.
Granderson promptly stole second base setting up the moment.
Mystique and aura made an appearance when Mark Teixeira stepped up to the plate and squeaked a hit past Jays’ first baseman Juan Rivera. The ball trickled into right field as Granderson made his way to the plate, giving the Yanks a 5-4 walk-off win over their division rivals.
A pie to the face for Teixeira and a win for the Bronx Bombers.
In the eighth inning the Yanks scored two runs, receiving an RBI double off the bat of Robinson Cano which plated Granderson. Russell Martin then singled to bring home Cano.
The Yanks got their first run in the third when Martin crushed a solo home run into the left field stands, his ninth of the season.
CC Sabathia did a nice job on the mound tonight, tossing a complete game to save a depleted bullpen (ask Rafael Soriano, who is going to see Dr. James Andrews and is now shut down indefinitely).
He gave up four earned runs on eight hits, walked one batter, and struck out three. Really the only blemish on his ledger was a 3-run fourth inning, but he retired the last 16 batters he faced.
Sabathia hasn’t been as overly dominant this year, but nonetheless is now 5-3 with an ERA of 3.17. His struggles have defined the Yankees’ play as of late:
It’s really not a stretch to say the Yanks have been playing very inconsistently lately. After dropping six games in a row – the longest losing streak since April of 2007 – they came alive with three consecutive wins. Then they lost one to the Mets, only to win their next two.
Following their Subway Series win, they dropped their series opener to the Blue Jays yesterday, only to win in their final at-bat tonight.
If that doesn’t define a hot-cold streak, I don’t know what does.
It’s easy to point out some of the losses that rest on the shoulders of the offense. The one that sticks out like a sore thumb is Friday May 20 vs. the Mets, a 2-1 loss. Freddy Garcia, the Yanks’ starter, gave his team a quality start: seven innings pitched, two earned runs on five hits, two walks and two Ks.
Not for nothing, it was a good outing. The offense on the other hand was a different story.
The Yanks left seven runners on base and were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Each time they had a chance to score, it somehow got away from them – and I will be the first to say the Mets’ pitching did a solid job of holding the Yankee hitters down. They knew the Yanks were scuffling in terms of scoring runs and took advantage.
My friend’s dad went as far as saying the Yankees made R.A. Dickey look like Bert Blyleven.
But other games, like yesterday’s 7-3 loss to Toronto, are more or less on the shoulders of the pitching. Bartolo Colon seemed to be cruising, despite surrendering a first inning home run to the Blue Jays’ version of Mickey Mantle, AKA Jose Bautista, MLB’s leading home run slugger.
Joey Bats took Colon deep in the first, but the Yanks recovered and tied the game at one in the fourth. However the Blue Jays exploded on Colon in the sixth, scoring five runs and putting the Yanks in a hole they were never able to climb out of.
Colon’s line: six innings pitched, six earned runs on seven hits, four walks and eight strikeouts.
Other than the eight Ks, it’s not a pretty sight.
The bottom line is, the Yanks collectively have to step up if they want to win it all this season, they way they did in 2009. The AL East is not going to be an easy division to claim and this three-horse race (among the Yanks, Rays, and Red Sox) could even become a four-horse race.
The Blue Jays are 24-24, only 2 ½ games out of first place. If they continue to keep their heads above water, and play the way they did against the Yanks yesterday night, they may have a shot to raise a few eyebrows and finish near the top of the division – not saying they will win the east, but at the very least, they could create problems for the Yankees as a spoiler team.
Heck, even Baltimore is only 3 ½ games out at 22-24, as they won their game over the Kansas City Royals tonight. This really could be anyone’s division to win if things keep going the way they are now.
But time will tell our division winner.
As for tonight…tonight reminded me of 2009. Only because the Yankees did not die when they had odds and numbers stacked against them. The ’09 Yanks recorded walk-off victory after walk-off victory, and it never mattered if they were down late in the game.
In a close game, you could not beat them in the late innings. And tonight, they were down in the late innings…and they didn’t get beat.
Tomorrow afternoon the Yanks will look to win the rubber game vs. Toronto and will get a much-needed day off on Thursday.
Garcia (2-4, 3.12 ERA) will gun for the win, opposed by Jo-Jo Reyes (0-3, 4.07 ERA).
The Yankees played a spirited game of long ball yesterday, smacking a total of five home runs en route to beating the Texas Rangers 12-5, taking the weekend series in Arlington.
The offensive explosion was capped with a six-run eighth inning. Four of those six runs came off the bat of Francisco Cervelli, who clobbered a grand slam home run to straight away centerfield. It was only Cervelli’s second career home run (his first came in June 2009 against Atlanta).
Mark Teixeira supplied the power for the other two runs in the eighth, clubbing a two-run homer following Cervelli’s slam. It marked Teixeira’s ninth home run on the year.
Curtis Granderson also went yard, his 11th home run of the year. Granderson now leads the American League in home runs, his swing reinvented. It’s safe to say Granderson, who clipped together a 30-homer year in 2009, has a legitimate chance to do it again this year.
But the real home run story of the day was Derek Jeter. The Captain, who had no home runs coming into yesterday’s game, went deep twice; two solo home runs, one in the fifth and the other in the seventh.
Jeter has now hit safely in eight of his last 10 games and has pushed his season average up to a somewhat respectable .276. The Captain is also 40 hits away from joining the exclusive 3,000 hits club, sitting on 2,960 hits for his career.
Scott Stanford, a sports anchor for WNBC New York who covers the Yankees, tweeted, “Jeter! The guy dates numbers 2-7 on Maxim’s Hot 100 List, has more money than some countries, 5 Titles, and just when you think he’s done…”
I couldn’t agree more. He had a Renaissance or a rebirth; it was shades of old for the Captain, swinging the bat like he did when he was younger. Jeter was, what you could call, the Renaissance man yesterday. However, what most people sometimes fail to understand is that the term Renaissance man has a certain meaning and connotation.
“Renaissance man” is used to describe a person who is well-educated, and excels at a wide variety of subjects or fields. There’s no question, the Yankee Captain fits that description.
There is no need to explain Jeter’s numerous accomplishments on the baseball diamond. They speak for themselves. I could go on all day listing every title and every award he has ever won.
But his love life; as Stanford elegantly said, “The guy dates numbers 2-7 on the Maxim Top 100 list.” There is certainly a level of success when you consider every model and every beautiful woman Jeter has been romantically linked to.
That, to me, is what makes him a Renaissance man.
Like his titles and accolades, it’s like a broken needle (pointless) listing every woman the Captain has dated. From Mariah Carey to Vanessa Minnillo; from Jessica Biel to Jessica Alba, the man has been with the best of them.
But now, in the final years of his career, has he finally settled down with one?
Minka Kelly has been Jeter’s girlfriend since May 2008. By my estimation, of all the Jeter girls, she has been with him for the longest amount of time. Rumors swirled in January of 2010 the two were going to wed in November after the season ended, but Kelly told GQ Magazine that “she wasn’t tying the knot anytime soon.”
The Editor-in-Chief of Hollywoodlife.com said of Kelly, “It’s clear she is devoted to him (Jeter). She goes to probably every game of his that her schedule allows. Being a celebrity herself, she’ll understand the pressures of fame. It’s helpful when you’re as under the spotlight as Derek Jeter is, to have a girlfriend who does understand what that’s like.”
Here is my interpretation:
They will get married, but not until he is done playing.
This month marks their fourth year together and after this year, Jeter only has two years (potentially three) left on his contract with the Yankees. I think they will remain together for those final two or three years and when he retires, they will go to the altar and say “I do” to one another.
Right now, Jeter just doesn’t have enough time to be a husband. The baseball season starts in April (in this year’s case late March) and ends in September. The Yankees are usually playing in the postseason in October, giving Jeter another month of work.
During the months of the off-season, Jeter probably has time for her; I’m sure they spend Christmas and Thanksgiving together and with their respective families.
But just because it’s the off-season, it doesn’t mean he isn’t working.
Jeter has his Turn 2 Foundation, a philanthropic endeavor he set up to help kids stay away from drugs and alcohol. He wanted to reward kids who turned away from drugs and alcohol and chose healthy lifestyles. The Turn 2 Foundation also features programs that reward kids for excelling in academic studies and extracurricular activities.
The Captain has to attend a number of events his foundation puts on. Most of those events, in all likelihood, go on during the off-season when Jeter has time.
Not only that, but he (and every player, for that matter) needs to go to the gym to prep for Spring Training, which starts in February. Jeter must keep his body in shape for the season; especially at his age of 36 (he will turn 37 on June 26 this year). Maintaining a good body is a huge part of an athlete’s life, and Jeter is no exception.
Even when he isn’t working, he’s working. And it goes both ways.
Kelly is an actress and a model. As the Editor of Hollywoodlife.com said, “She goes to as many of his games as her schedule allows.” Undoubtedly she is just as busy as he is. Photo shoots and time in front of the camera make up her schedule at this point in her life.
When Jeter retires there’s no telling what he will do. He has said he will never be a manager; he has no desire to lead a team in that way. As Captain of the Yankees he leads by example and a manager cannot go out and play the game for the team.
Broadcasting? Doubtful. Jeter has always been a soft-spoken individual; he has never been all that critical or analytical of anything he or the team does. I cannot picture him sitting in a broadcast booth looking out at the infield dirt of Yankee Stadium, knowing the fans in the seats once worshipped him while he stood there.
Perhaps he will continue with his Turn 2 Foundation and continue to pursue philanthropy. He can also serve as a special instructor or advisor to the Yankees – just as some other Yankee greats such as Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra do.
Whatever he does, I get the feeling he will find work. And when he is finished with his daily grind, the Captain will be able to come home and utter that oh-so-familiar phrase, and that question all spouses ask, to Kelly:
“Honey, I’m home. So, how was your day?”
Before this season began, many folks called the Yankees’ starting rotation “comically thin.” Those same folks praised the Yankee bullpen, calling them dynamic and strong. Rightfully so, considering they have Mariano Rivera, and they bolstered the ‘pen with the signing of Rafael Soriano, who led the American League in saves last year with 45 for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right now, it’s almost as if everyone had it backwards.
A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia have been pitching great, giving the Yankees length and quality. Each of the starters, who everyone thought were going to pitch terribly, are doing their part. The bullpen on the other hand has been faltering and failing.
Case in point: tonight.
With the Yankees leading 2-1 in the eighth, Soriano plunked Carlos Quentin, who was quickly replaced by pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge (more from him later). The next batter, Paul Konerko, pulled a home run over the left field wall, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead.
The Yankees tried to stage a comeback in the ninth; Derek Jeter singled, Curtis Granderson sacrifice bunted him over to second, and then Mark Teixeira walked.
Then it became the Lillibridge defense show.
Alex Rodriguez took a pitch to deep right field, all the way to the wall. On his horse, Lillibridge ran and tracked the ball down at the wall for the second out.
Robinson Cano, as the Yanks’ last hope, lined a falling blooper to right, again setting up another excellent play for Lillibridge; he dove, caught the ball, and ended the game.
The only two runs the Yankees generated were by solo home runs, off the bats of Cano (in the second inning) and Brett Gardner (in the fifth).
As a team the Yanks only had four hits tonight and two of them went over the wall. The Yankees collectively have 38 homers, and it’s evident they are relying heavily on the home run.
And as they say: if you live by the home run, there’s a chance you can die by the home run.
Tonight, that was the case.
But it probably should not have come to that in the first place. The Yankees brought Soriano to New York to fill the void in the eighth inning. He was meant to get big outs in the eighth inning; to hold close leads late in the game and set up Rivera, but so far he hasn’t done much of that.
In fact, Raphael the Ninja Turtle seems to be doing more for the Yankees than Rafael Soriano.
He is 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA and he has more walks (8) than strikeouts (7). He left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths last night, not going for that popup behind the mound. Tonight he blew a tremendous outing by Nova, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up one earned run on five hits.
Nova walked two and struck out three, the longest outing of his young career.
It was unfortunate for Nova, because if he had won he would have moved to 2-2 on the year. Instead Soriano blew the game and his chance at his second win of the season. Soriano’s body language has also been rubbing certain people the wrong way.
When he surrendered the home run to Konerko, he didn’t look fazed; he remained stoic and it didn’t look as though he cared he had blown the lead. There are some pitchers who do not show emotion, but with the way Soriano has been recently pitching, it wouldn’t kill him to look a little upset with himself.
Yet as poor as Soriano has been pitching, he isn’t alone. Rivera has blown his last two save opportunities, both after good performances from the starters.
On April 19 in Toronto, Burnett gave the Yanks a great outing, turning in 5 1/3 innings and only allowing two earned runs. Rivera blew a 5-3 lead in the ninth and the Blue Jays went on to win 6-5 in 10 innings. Fast forward five days later in Baltimore, and another quality start, this one by Garcia.
Six innings and no earned runs by the starter and Rivera came in and once again let go of the lead. The Yankee offense bailed him out, taking the game into extra innings to beat the Orioles 6-3 in 11 frames, but it still goes as a blown save for Rivera.
The Yankee bullpen, as dynamic and strong as it can be, is not doing the job.
The only bright spot seems to be David Robertson, who has five holds so far this year. Robertson is 1-0 and has not allowed a run in 8 1/3 innings pitched. Tonight he tossed 2/3 of an inning, struck out one, and did not issue a walk.
It’s nice to know we have one guy out there doing his job, but the rest of the relievers are ghosts.
Tomorrow night Colon (1-1, 3.50 ERA) will take the hill for the Yankees (12-8), looking to get them back in the win column. He will face Chicago ace Mark Buehrle (1-2, 5.40 ERA).
As for the bullpen, minus Robertson, I have one closing thought for you:
Act like you care. Get your heads in the game. Start doing work and taking care of business.
The Chicago White Sox had lost 10 of their last 11 games going into last night’s game with the Yankees. Behind a masterful performance by Philip Humber, they changed that, beating the Bombers 2-0 last night.
It was the first time since May 16, 2000 the White Sox have shutout the Yankees.
Humber took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, when Alex Rodriguez broke it up with a seeing-eye single up the middle. The Bronx Bombers finished the night with just three hits.
The Yankees are now 12-7 on the season, still in first place in the AL East holding a 2 ½ game lead over the second place Tampa Bay Rays.
A lot to take away from this game. First…
The lanky right-hander tossed eight strong innings, only giving up one run on three hits. He walked two batters and struck out two.
The Yanks’ number two man threw a solid game, and it was business as usual for him, being that the calendar still reads April. Burnett was 8-0 in April games coming into last night’s game, now 8-1 overall.
Burnett still leads the Yankee staff in wins (3-1) and he needs to keep pitching in top form for the rest of the season. He has enjoyed a great amount of success in April, which is good in terms of getting off to a quick start. Last year Burnett started at 4-0, and everything quickly caved in on him.
8-1 in April is nice to look at, but Burnett is 18-24 with the Yanks in all other months.
The Yankees cannot afford to have Burnett lose it, not with their current pitching situation. Yesterday things got worse for…
So far this season Phil Hughes is 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA. The Yankees have lost each of his three starts and in those three starts, he never made it out of the fifth inning.
He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 15 with a tired arm and seemed to be making progress; getting healthier and ready to make another start. In fact, he threw around 90 pitches in Baltimore and was set to make a minor league rehab start. Things were looking up.
That is until yesterday.
Hughes threw a bullpen session and had to stop after just 12 pitches, saying he felt “deadness” in his arm. He compared the sensation in his arm to getting punched in the leg and receiving a numb feeling.
It’s hard to say why this is happening to him. Some are theorizing that his 2010 workload is the reason for his dead arm period right now. Hughes logged 176 1/3 innings last year, the most innings pitched in one season in his career.
Prior to last year, the most innings he had ever thrown in one season was 86 in 2009, a year Hughes pitched primarily out of the bullpen.
Was the move to the rotation in 2010 the reason Hughes has lost it?
Again, it’s hard to say. All signs point to yes, but there really is no way of knowing for sure. Hughes himself can’t even explain it, saying he needs to figure out what is going on and then take it from there.
He will go for an MRI today and maybe that will give him and the Yankees some answers. Until he comes back, the Yankees will need to continue to get stellar pitching out of Burnett, Bartolo Colon (who took Hughes’s spot in the rotation), Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova.
Rafael Soriano, Derek Jeter, and the Strange Play
In the ninth inning last night, the Yankees called on Rafael Soriano to do what he was brought here to do: hold teams down and not allow them to score in the late innings.
Alexei Ramirez stood at the plate and cracked an infield popup, throwing his bat down in disgust as he ran it out toward first base. Soriano pointed straight up as Derek Jeter, playing back at short, raced in to attempt to catch the ball.
The Captain didn’t get there in time, as the ball dropped between him and the back of the pitcher’s mound, falling in for an infield hit.
The White Sox capitalized and scored in the frame, taking a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
After the game Soriano said it wasn’t his ball. In his owns words, “You think I could catch that ball? I don’t think so. I thought Jeter or Alex was going to catch it.”
A little bloop,” Jeter said. “Right behind the mound, not much you can do about it.”
Pitchers are oftentimes uncomfortable fielding popups, scared of colliding with a teammate, stumbling over the mound, and ultimately getting injured. Soriano obviously was not keen on taking that risk.
Manager Joe Girardi said the only player who had a fair shot at catching the ball was Soriano – but added that he might not have gotten there, either.
It was a weird play, that’s the best way to characterize it. The ball was hit so softly and it was just well-placed. It didn’t have a whole lot of hang time and with Jeter and Rodriguez playing back at their positions, there was no way for them to get the ball.
Jeter, in his prime, may have been able to catch up to it. But even so, it would have been difficult given the placement of the ball.
Soriano could have done more to take charge, but I understand why he didn’t. If he had gone for it, fell, and gotten hurt, I would be writing about what a foolish decision it was to go after the ball.
Bear in mind, Soriano sat out on Sunday with a strained lower back. He stated, however, that he was fine to pitch yesterday and just needed a day off.
That run cost the Yanks, somewhat, as Curtis Granderson smacked a single to leadoff the bottom of the ninth inning. He would have represented the tying run on first base if that run had not come around to score in the top half of the frame.
It didn’t matter anyway as Mark Teixeira, on a 2-0 count, bounced into a 3-6-1 double play to end the threat.
Clearly it wasn’t the Yankees’ night.
Tonight it could be, though. Ivan Nova (1-2, 7.63 ERA) will take the rock for the Bombers, battling Gavin Floyd (2-1, 4.00 ERA).
The Yankees had a rare game on Tuesday – a complete meltdown of the bullpen, taking a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Yesterday’s game was rained out, making this afternoon’s game a rubber game. The Bombers came out on top, beating the Twins 4-3 in the series finale.
The Yankees and Twins will make up Wednesday’s rainout in September.
A three-run fourth inning by the Yankees gave them the lead, which they never gave up. Down 2-1, Andruw Jones blasted a double to score Alex Rodriguez, tying the game up at two. Russell Martin then grounded out to first base, allowing Robinson Cano to come to the plate.
Jones came home on a bloop single by Brett Gardner, finishing off the scoring in the frame.
The Yankees built a run in the bottom of the third, with Gardner ultimately coming home on a sacrifice fly to right field by Nick Swisher.
Speaking of Swisher, he took out Twins’ second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the seventh, sliding hard into second base to break up what would have been a Mark Teixeira double play.
Swisher broke it up, but in the process, fractured Nishioka’s fibula. The Yankees’ right fielder looked visibly disappointed in himself after Nishioka was removed from the game. He is headed to the disabled list.
Next time the Yankees meet the Twins…watch your back, Swish. (Although Swisher did apologize after the game. Will the Twins will get back at him? We’ll have to wait and see).
In another storyline, Derek Jeter had two hits and he passed Rogers Hornsby and Jake Beckley for 33rd place on baseball’s all-time hits list. The Captain now has 2,931 hits, just 69 base hits away from 3,000.
The Twins scored two in the top of the fourth receiving RBI doubles by Jim Thome and Jason Kubel. They plated their final run in the top of the seventh on a groundout by Denard Span to score Alexi Casilla.
A.J. Burnett pitched for the Yankees and turned in a good performance. The lanky right-hander tossed six innings and gave up two earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out five, mixing pitches and using his curveball with confidence.
He was backed by the combination of Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera who put the Twins away in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, respectively. It was certainly an improvement over Tuesday’s collapse. The only blemish was a run given up by Chamberlain – Span’s groundout to score Casilla was on him.
Burnett improved to 2-0 on the season and he is now 7-0 in 12 April starts as a member of the Yankees. He leads the Yankee staff in wins this year.
Rivera has saved all four games the Yankees have won this season, as the Bombers are 4-2.
Now they will head into Boston for the weekend, where things have not gone according to plan. While the Yankees have a winning record, the Red Sox have started the season 0-6, losing their first three games to the Rangers and their next three to the Indians.
Boston has only started two other seasons at 0-6 (1905 and 1927) and statistically it’s the worst start they have ever seen since 1945. Baseball analysts are asking themselves, “What have happened to these guys?” After all, many experts predicted the Red Sox to win it all this year, considering their huge off-season acquisitions. They added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to help bolster an already-potent lineup.
Although the BoSox are scuffling, they cannot blame Gonzalez. He is hitting .304 with five RBIs and he has a home run. Crawford on the other hand is not producing, hitting .174 with no extra base hits, only one RBI, and six strikeouts.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who is Boston’s leadoff hitter, is only batting .167 and has struck out seven times this year. Kevin Youkilis, one of the Red Sox main RBI producers in the middle of the lineup, is hitting a meager .105 with just one RBI and five strikeouts. Dustin Pedroia is batting .227 with no extra base hits and no RBIs.
After their 1-0 loss to the Indians today, Pedroia said he was going to go home and his wife was going to tell him “he stinks.”
Yet, it isn’t just the dead offense. Boston’s pitching hasn’t been much better.
John Lackey, who will start tomorrow afternoon against Phil Hughes (0-1, 11.25 ERA) was shelled in his first start of the year against Texas. He tossed only 3 2/3 innings and surrendered nine earned runs on ten hits. He walked two batters, struck out three, and served up two homers. Lackey’s ERA right now is 22.09.
On Saturday the Yankees will send Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) to the hill to face Clay Buchholz, who was touched up for four homers in his first start of the season against the Rangers. He pitched 6 1/3 innings on the way to a loss in Texas, as he is 0-1 right now with a 5.68 ERA.
The series will conclude on Sunday night with CC Sabathia (0-0, 1.38 ERA) squaring off against Josh Beckett – once the Boston ace, now throwing out of the number four spot in the rotation. Beckett only tossed five innings in Cleveland on Tuesday, giving up three earned runs on five hits. He walked four batters and struck out four, on the way to his first loss of 2011.
Look at it this way: tomorrow is Opening Day at Fenway Park. The Red Sox fans are going to be excited and hoping their team can put the abysmal 0-6 start behind them with a win over the Yankees. During the opening ceremonies, the fans will be cheering and going wild for their players, new life and rebirth fresh in their heads.
If the Yankees jump all over Lackey for a few runs early on, they might turn on their team and get angry. The Boston fans might be getting restless, witnessing their team – that everyone thought was going be dominant – struggle so mightily in the early-going.
And with the way the Yankees have been going ahead early, getting on base, and putting pressure on the other team, it could make for a long weekend for the Red Sox.
As the people in Boston continue to scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with the Red Sox, New York would love nothing more than to keep the ongoing Boston Massacre alive.
Today, God let there be baseball. And life.
And with it all came a 6-3 Yankee win over the Tigers, as the Bombers have now won 13 of their last 14 home openers. Today’s win also snapped a two-game Opening Day losing streak, as the Yanks dropped their road openers in 2010 and 2009 – to the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, respectively.
Where to start?
How nice was he? He made three outstanding catches in center, highlighting the day on defense. Along with notching a few web gems, he was a force at the plate. In the bottom of the seventh Granderson broke a 3-3 tie with a solo home run to deep right field, a shot that landed in the second deck.
It was Granderson’s first home run of the year and it marked the third consecutive time he homered on Opening Day. Last year he took Josh Beckett deep on Opening Night at Fenway Park vs. the Red Sox and as a member of the Tigers in 2009, he homered in a 12-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ironically enough, Granderson went deep off the same pitcher he was traded for – Phil Coke. Coke took the loss and Granderson was pretty much the player of the game.
Knowing that, it must be tough to be the Tigers.
Granderson homered off Coke, a left-handed pitcher. Last year he scuffled against lefties (.234 batting average), so the fact that he took a southpaw deep today is hopefully a good sign of things to come.
Not to mention he hurt his oblique during Spring Training and showed no lingering signs of an injury.
Overall, Granderson stole the Opening Day show. And if nothing else, he ushered in the Yankees’ first win of 2011 – hopefully the first of many.
CC Sabathia ended the day with a good line: six innings pitched, six hits, three runs (two earned), two walks, and seven strikeouts. Overall it was respectable, considering it was the first game of the year and Sabathia hasn’t had a fair amount of success to open up the season.
The big man provided the Yanks with a quality start, but the real story was the perfect bullpen.
Joba Chamberlain relieved Sabathia and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, recording one strikeout. He was very effective, although he was only hitting the low-90s on the speed gun.
After Chamberlain was Rafael Soriano, who tossed a scoreless, hitless eighth. The new setup man got the chance to strut his stuff, and I’m sure I can speak for every Yankee fan when say I loved what I saw.
Following him was who else but the great Mariano Rivera. With a new regular season look, sporting his socks high – the same look we saw in Spring Training – Rivera came on to shut down the Tigers in the ninth, 1-2-3 for his 560th career save and first of 2011.
Chamberlain picked up the win while Soriano recorded a hold.
The game has been shortened when it comes to Yankee pitching. If each starter gives the Yankees what Sabathia gave them today, the Bronx Bombers are going to win a heck of a lot of ballgames.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Mark Teixeira blasted a three-run homer to right field, his first of the year, to put the Yanks ahead, 3-1. Like Granderson’s homer, it landed in the second porch in right field.
Teixeira was 1-for-3, as his homer was the only hit he had. But if he swings the bat the way he did today, he might possibly be able to exorcise his “slow start demons.”
Derek Jeter is still 74 hits away from 3,000 for his career, not reaching base by way of a hit today. He did however draw a walk and he drove in Russell Martin with a sacrifice fly.
Speaking of Martin, he scored two runs today and stole a base. That’s right, a catcher stole a base.
Nick Swisher knocked in the Yankees’ sixth run of the afternoon with an RBI single to score Alex Rodriguez. Swisher hit a blooper into right field and tried to stretch it into a double. He was put out 9-3-6-3, but not before Rodriguez crossed the plate.
Rodriguez had a monster double in the sixth that, on any other day, would have gone out for a home run. It caromed off the wall in right-center field, as A-Rod just missed it. The slugging third baseman quite possibly could have had a triple, but he was in his home run trot when he left the box.
Overall, the Yankees played a great game. It was a hard-fought win, because the Tigers kept chipping away at their lead. Finally Granderson was able to put the Tigers away with one swing of the bat and from there it snowballed.
Tomorrow the Yanks will have their traditional off-day following Opening Day. They will be back at it on Saturday afternoon against Detroit.
A.J. Burnett, who is battling a cold, will make his first start of 2011. The number two man is hoping to erase his 10-15 record last year, and what better way to do that than by beginning this season with a win?
He will face Brad Penny of the Tigers.
Today the Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 in Tampa, leaving only three more Grapefruit League games left on the schedule before they start playing for real on Thursday. The highlight of the afternoon was a towering, two-run homer off the bat of Alex Rodriguez that flew over the batter’s eye in centerfield, his sixth round-tripper of the spring.
A few decisions and moves were made recently, most notably the trade of Sergio Mitre, the signing of Kevin Millwood, and the naming of the fourth and fifth starting pitchers.
Yesterday Mitre was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Chris Dickerson. In this afternoon’s win over the Bucs, Dickerson made his Yankee debut and put on quite a hitting show. The 28 year-old pounded out three hits (including a double) in three at-bats while knocking in a run.
Unfortunately Dickerson was forced to leave the game with an apparent hamstring injury after notching his third hit. As of this point, the Yankee medical staff can only diagnose his injury as “spasms and cramping.”
Tough luck for the kid to go down – especially following such an impressive debut. What’s more, it hurts the Yankees, being that Curtis Granderson is not yet confirmed to be playing on Opening Day in light of his oblique injury. Yesterday Granderson did some running and agility drills, as he hopes to avoid beginning the 2011 season on the disabled list.
Millwood, 36, was signed just yesterday. He owned the worst record in baseball last year, going 4-16 for the Baltimore Orioles with a 5.10 ERA. However, he has been a dominant pitcher in the past, leading the league with the lowest ERA in 2005 (2.86), making the All-Star team in 1999, and finishing third in the N.L. Cy Young voting in 1999 as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
Even though he has proven himself in the past, he hasn’t proven anything yet. He will probably have to go through extended Spring Training and wouldn’t make the team unless he flourishes, another pitcher struggles, or another pitcher gets hurt.
Along with the trade and the signing, it was announced that Ivan Nova will be the Yankees’ number four starter this year, and Freddy Garcia will pitch every fifth day. Bartolo Colon, who many people feel had a better spring than Garcia, will pitch out of the bullpen.
Garcia owned a 5.93 ERA in four spring outings, throwing 13 2/3 innings. Colon held down a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings, giving most people the impression Colon should have won the number five job.
Yankee Manager Joe Girardi maintained that Garcia, 35, was the favorite to win the spot because Colon, 37, hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since 2009. Girardi added that, for his standards, Garcia had a good spring.
Now that we are only six days away from Opening Day, here is how Girardi should build his roster. Only 25 players can be at Yankee Stadium on Thursday and these men (I feel) have earned the honor of making the trek from Tampa to the Bronx.
1) Derek Jeter – SS
2) Alex Rodriguez – 3B
3) Robinson Cano – 2B
4) Mark Teixeira – 1B
5) Jorge Posada – DH
6) Russell Martin – C
7) Brett Gardner – LF
8) Nick Swisher – RF
9) Curtis Granderson* -CF (*if he does not start the season on the DL)
10) Andruw Jones – Fourth Outfielder
11) Eric Chavez – Backup IF/Utility
12) Eduardo Nunez – Backup IF/Utility
13) Jesus Montero – Backup Catcher
14) CC Sabathia – No. 1 Starter
15) A.J. Burnett -No. 2 Starter
16) Phil Hughes – No. 3 Starter
17) Ivan Nova – No. 4 Starter
18) Freddy Garcia – No. 5 Starter
19) Bartolo Colon – Long Relief
20) Mark Prior – Middle/Long Relief (he is interchangeable; can be used for both)
21) Joba Chamberlain – Middle Relief
22) David Robertson – Middle Relief
23) Rafael Soriano – Setup Man
24) Boone Logan* (*Pedro Feliciano will most likely start the season on the DL) – Lefty specialist(s)
25) Mariano Rivera – Closer
Most of these players will be in the Bronx next week and all of them deserve to be. Girardi will probably make a few modifications to my Opening Day roster, but expect to see most of these names called during the pregame ceremony on Thursday.
Mark Prior deserves to be on the roster because of how well he pitched this spring (eight games, 7 2/3 innings pitched, three hits, three runs, one earned run, 1.17 ERA, 11 Ks, and five walks).
He earned the chance to prove himself and could provide the Yanks with some solid middle and/or long relief. I’m not sure if Girardi will send Prior to the Bronx, but if they don’t call him up, at least at some point in the season, they are making a mistake.
If Granderson does start the season on the DL, obviously a spot will be open and it’ll be a toss up. I would expect someone like Justin Maxwell (.206 in Spring Training, but he only had 34 at-bats, three RBIs, and four runs scored) or even Dickerson (if he is healthy, given his injury today) to backup Jones in centerfield. That spot would only be open until Granderson returns, anyway.
Another position in question is the backup catcher role. I feel it is time for Montero to at least gain some experience on the Major League level. Today it was reported that Gustavo Molina could back up Martin at catcher, until Francisco Cervelli returns from his foot injury.
If you ask me though, Montero needs a taste of the big leagues – even if he doesn’t spend the entire season in the show.
Whichever way it goes, in a matter of days, anticipate Girardi giving the official word on who is going to the Bronx and who will be heading to the minors.