The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Archive for May, 2011

Postgame notes: Early runs and late losses05.29.11

These first two games in Seattle, the Mariners starters seemed to be the greatest concern for the Yankees. But in two straight Yankees losses, Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez have not been the problem. The Yankees haven’t been able to beat the Mariners bullpen.

“We had leads in both of the games,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s the frustrating part.”

Tonight brought was some redemption for Boone Logan and Luis Ayala, and Hector Noesi, Dave Robertson and Joba Chamberlain gave the Yankees all they could ask for, but a couple of bloop hits off Mariano Rivera decided the game in the 12th inning. The Mariners hit the ball hard once that inning, but it was enough to setup Adam Kennedy’s looping game-winner into no-man’s land.

“You can’t describe that,” Rivera said. “To me it’s a hit, period. We lost the game. Made good pitches and the ball finds places. You can’t do nothing against that. I wish we would still be playing, but it’s done.”

Good as the Seattle bullpen has been, it’s certainly hurt the Yankees that they haven’t been able to get any significant distance out of their starters. Back-to-back nights the Yankees have taken a lead against terrific Mariners starters, only to see their own starters bow out after a total of 8.2 innings. Last night it was A.J. Burnett lasting only five innings, failing to create his own bridge to the the Robertson-Chamberlain-Rivera trio. Tonight it was Ivan Nova, leaving the Yankees bullpen to pitch eight innings before the Mariners finally got their big, little hit.

“I feel like I was the one to lose the game,” Nova said. “Because I should have stayed more in the game. I just threw three innings and two thirds. It looked like a long game for me.”

Here’s Girardi postgame. He was clearly frustrated (obviously).

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• If you’re curious, Girardi really had little choice but to give Rivera the ball in that 12th inning. It was either that or stick with Ayala for a second straight night of multiple innings. The only pitchers available were Rivera and Lance Pendleton, and Girardi couldn’t put himself in a situation where Rivera was the only pitcher left. The last guy standing has to be a long man who can pitch deep into the night if necessary.

• The only well-hit ball in that final inning was Jack Cust’s double, but Rivera said he was happy with the pitch. He said it was the right pitch, Cust just hit it well down the line.

• Nova’s problem was all about command, especially with his offspeed stuff. Girardi said it wasn’t there from the very beginning, but Nova managed to sneak through those first three innings. When Girardi saw it finally unraveling in the fourth, he went to Noesi who once again gave the Yankees all they could have asked for.

• Derek Jeter set the Yankees franchise record for stolen bases with his fourth steal of the season. It was the 327th of his career, moving him ahead of Rickey Henderson on the Yankees’ list.

• The offensive bright spot for the Yankees had to be Robinson Cano, who actually had some good at-bats tonight and showed a little bit of patience. He had three hits and said his second-inning home run against Hernandez might have been his best swing and best at-bat of the year. “I laid of some pitches that I’ve been swinging at all year,” he said.

• Cano’s home run was his first since May 12 and only his second of this month. He’s the third Yankee to reach double digit home runs this season after Granderson and Teixeira.

• Speaking of Mark Teixeira, he went deep again tonight. He has eight home runs in his past 17 games at Safeco Field and now has 14 career homers at the Seattle ballpark. Among opposing players, only Eric Chavez has more (15).

• Teixeira has homered in three straight games.

• The Yankees are 3-4 in extra-inning games this season.

• The Yankees were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

• Four fans ran onto the field tonight, including one of them who was completely naked and ran through the infield before being tackled near the shortstop position. Joba Chamberlain was on the mound at the time and said there were fans waving the guy’s clothes in the stands. Girardi said he’d seen a streaker only once before, during a game in Chicago.

Associated Press photos

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Yankees outlast the King, still can’t beat the Mariners05.29.11

Felix Hernandez was long gone by the time this one was decided. Tonight’s game turned into a battle of the bullpens, and it was decided by the Yankees’ best. Mariano Rivera gave up a bloop, bases-loaded single in the 12th inning, giving the Mariners a 5-4 win. Yankees starter Ivan Nova lasted just 3.2 innings, and Hernandez coughed up the lead in the seventh. Hector Noesi, Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan and Luis Ayala kept the tie intact before Adam Kennedy won it off the Yankees closer.

Associated Press photo

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Game 50: Yankees at Mariners05.28.11

YANKEES (27-22)
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Russell Martin C
Jorge Posada DH
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner LF

RHP Ivan Nova (4-3, 4.29)
Nova vs. Mariners

MARINERS (25-25)
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Justin Smoak 1B
Jack Cust DH
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Adam Kennedy 2B
Miguel Olivo C
Carlos Peguero LF
Brendan Ryan SS

RHP Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.01)
Hernandez vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 10:10 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network

WEATHER: This was a very nice day here in Seattle. No rain, just a few clouds. Not cold, just cool enough to feel comfortable in a long-sleeved shirt.

UMPIRES: HP Sam Holbrook, 1B Gerry Davis, 2B Greg Gibson, 3B Todd Tichenor

GROUNDED: All four Mariners runs last night were scored on ground outs, with no sacrifice flies or RBI hits allowed. According to Elias, it was the Yankees first such loss when allowing at least four runs since July 1, 1990 against the White Sox when Andy Hawkins did not allow a hit but gave up four runs with the help of two errors.

ON THE RUN: Derek Jeter is tied with Rickey Henderson for the most stolen bases in franchise history with 326. He’s still eight hits away from tying Sam Rice for 28th on baseball’s all-time list. He’s seven runs away from tying Willie Keeler for 22nd most all time.

THE GUY’S GOOD: The Yankees have not beaten Felix Hernandez since May 3, 2008 at the original Yankee Stadium.

ON THIS DATE: On May 28, 1948, the original Yankee Stadium hosted its first night game. A crowd of 49,917 showed up to watch the Yankees lose to Washington, 2-1.

UPDATE, 10:06 p.m.: Not easy to hit a home run in this park on a good night, but on this night it’s going to get pretty chilly, and right now the wind is blowing in from left-center field.

UPDATE, 10:24 p.m.: Less than 20 minutes after I wrote that it would be hard to hit a ball out tonight, Robinson Cano has gone deep for a 1-0 Yankees lead in the second inning. It would be really difficult for someone to give me a million dollars tonight, too!

UPDATE, 10:46 p.m.: Leadoff walk came back to hurt Nova in the bottom of the second. He got three straight ground balls after that, but one went for an infield single, and the Yankees couldn’t quite turn two on the others. It’s now tied at 1.

UPDATE, 10:52 p.m.: Well there ya go. Derek Jeter is now the Yankees all-time stolen base leader. Meanwhile, he and Granderson did a nice job there make sure Granderson replaced Jeter at second on that comebacker.

UPDATE, 10:54 p.m.: Teixeira actually has solid numbers are Hernandez, and he just went deep for a 3-0 Yankees lead in the third.

UPDATE, 11:01 p.m.: I believe Ivan Nova just set a record for the most players hit in the head by one pitch.

UPDATE, 11:18 p.m.: Nova was putting on a ground ball show, but a single and back-to-back doubles have tied the game at 3 in the fourth.

UPDATE, 11:26 p.m.: And now it’s Seattle in front. A ground ball up the middle goes for an RBI single and the Mariners have a 4-3 lead in the fourth.

UPDATE, 11:28 p.m.: Ground balls are usually a great, great sign for Nova. But now he’s laboring a little bit and Hector Noesi is already getting loose in the fourth inning. That’s rarely a good sign.

UPDATE, 11:32 p.m.: And here’s Noesi.

UPDATE, 12:03 p.m.: Cano trying to steal second. That made sense.

UPDATE, 12:26 p.m.: It honestly felt like the Yankees were losing this game by seven. Now it’s a tied game on Jeter’s walk and Granderson’s game-tying triple.

UPDATE, 12:43 p.m.: Dave Robertson. Very good. Very, very good.

UPDATE, 1:03 a.m.: Third fan on the field tonight, and this one was naked. I have no idea what they’re serving here tonight, but there must have been plenty of it.

UPDATE, 1:11 a.m.: Not sure TV will do it justice. That was a great play by Rodriguez to end the eighth.

UPDATE, 1:49 a.m.: A little redemption for Boone Logan? I think so.

UPDATE, 2:08 a.m.: And there’s some redemption for Ayala. I’m tired.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 1,059 Comments →

Pregame notes: Hughes feeling good on a loud day in Seattle05.28.11

Very, very slow day at the ballpark.

Across the street, Mexico and Ecuador played a soccer game at the Seahawks’ stadium, and the sound of vuvuzela’s was carrying over to Safeco. They’re annoying on television and worse in person.

By the way, I wasn’t sure how to spell vuvuzela so I Googled, “world cup horn.” It worked.

Anyway, if there’s any news coming out of pregame today it’s that Phil Hughes feels good one day after throwing a 20-pitch bullpen on Friday. He threw all fastballs, then did some light throwing today.

“Everything feels good and it’s pain-free,” he said. “That’s really all I can look at. I just have to make sure I keep having these positive days and no issues and just keep moving in a positive direction. It feels good. That’s all I can say. No pain. No issues.”

Hughes said it was similar to his first time on a mound during the offseason, but he’s assuming the process will move much quicker.

“I have been throwing, sort of, the past month and not coming off not throwing for two and a half months,” he said. “At least I hope so, because I don’t want to sit for another month and a half before I go… When I come in, I ask what I’m doing that day. That’s it. I don’t get too caught up in the schedule.”

Here’s Girardi’s pregame interview.

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• About two hours ago, Joe Girardi said he still hadn’t sat down to talk to Eduardo Nunez about his base running last night. Girardi still believes Nunez would have been stuck had his hand not been stuck in the dirt on his slide back into the bag, but Girardi said it shouldn’t have been that close in the first place. “I still think it’s probably too close of a play in that situation,” Girardi said. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re going to be safe.”

• Even though Nunez is a rookie, Girardi said he always has a green light to run. He had a green light last night and stole second base before the deflating pickoff. “There are times that I will shut him down if I feel it is warranted,” Girardi said. “But this is a kid that knows how to steal bases. He’s been successful for us. We saw it in spring training. We saw it last year. This kid is aggressive, and there are things that sometimes you might shut it down, but sometimes guys have a hard time getting a jump when you say, ‘Go.’ Because they’re used to their timing and the great base stealers try to time guys and do those sort of things, so I turn him loose.”

• Girardi said there was never serious consideration of changing the lineup against Felix Hernandez. “This is what we were intending to go with,” he said. “We have some guys that have decent numbers off of Felix, even though last year it seemed like we didn’t score any. I don’t know if we got a run off him last year. Maybe one. These are the guys that have got to get it done.”

• Is Hernandez a discouraging sight for guys who are struggling? “You get a couple hits off of Felix, it might be what gets you going,” Girardi said.

• Ivan Nova seemed calm and relaxed while he was joking with guys in the clubhouse pregame. Girardi didn’t seem too worried about Nova feeling like he has to be perfect because he’s facing Hernandez. “You hope that he takes the attitude that I’m going to shut a team down no matter what,” Girardi said.

• Girardi said there are no new updates on any of the other rehab guys. Only Hughes and Colin Curtis made this trip, and of those two, only Hughes is realistically looking at playing this year.

• Girardi on Robinson Cano: “I think he’s searching a little bit, but he’s run into some bad luck. We didn’t get a lot of hits last night. That’s the bottom line. He gets robbed of an RBI double, and he’s still found ways to get his RBIs, in a sense, but he necessarily hasn’t been on base as much and you go through that. But he’s an important part of our offense.”

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Justin Smoak 1B
Jack Cust DH
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Adam Kennedy 2B
Miguel Olivo C
Carlos Peguero LF
Brendan Ryan SS

Associated Press photos

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Same lineup as last night05.28.11

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Russell Martin C
Jorge Posada DH
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner LF

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 58 Comments →

Up next: King Felix05.28.11

In this West Coast parade of elite starting pitching, the Yankees next opponent might be the very best: Defending Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.

“To me, he’s the perfect pitcher,” Mark Teixeira said. “You have a guy who throws hard, ball moves, who can hit the corners with three different pitches. And his breaking stuff is so good that you just hope he makes a mistake. He’s one of those guys where you have to hit a mistake because if he hits his pitch, you’re not going to get many hits off him.”

Individually, some of the Yankees have had success against Hernandez. Teixeira and Curtis Granderson have legitimately hit pretty well against him. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada have hit him for average with little power, Nick Swisher has hit for power but a low average. Russell Martin has two hits and two RBI in two at-bats.

On the whole, though, Hernandez has a 2.73 career ERA against the Yankees. Last season he faced them three times, and one each game. He pitched 26 innings, struck out 31 and allowed just one earned run.

“It seemed like whenever we matched up against him last year, he was dominant,” Girardi said. “Hopefully that’s not the case this year… He can throw any pitch at any time, and he’s got more than one swing-and-miss. He can locate his fastball, (and) we’ve seen it as hard as 97-98. He’s got a good curveball, he’s got a good slider and he’s got a great changeup. It’s not like you can say, ‘Okay, when he gets ahead of me, this might be what he’s going to do.’ He can get you out a different way every at-bat.”

Said Teixeira: “When he’s on, he’s the best. I’ve always said, consistently, Halladay’s the best. But now that he’s in the National League I don’t get to face him as much. But yeah, I’ll put those guys at the top of the list.”

Associated Press photo

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Robertson: “I’m going to do everything I can”05.28.11

Dave Robertson left Alabama early Friday morning. He clearly left a little bit of himself behind.

“I wasn’t prepared,” he said before last night’s game. “I didn’t think it was going to be that bad. I knew the fatalities and stuff I knew was terrible, and I knew the area it hit, but I didn’t know it kept going that far. I’ve seen damage in Mississippi from Katrina, and that was sad too, but that wasn’t an area that I grew up in, so I didn’t know what to expect. Seeing my hometown destroyed, it’s difficult. It’s disturbing.”

The place where Robertson bought a Christmas tree last winter was gone. So was the barbeque restaurant that used to have his picture on the wall. So was the elementary school that he remembered being built not so long ago. Robertson met a woman who’s father refused to leave his home and was killed, and he ran into an old friend who rode out the storm in his bathtub.

“He was in a bathtub holding his dog, and his dog almost got sucked out of his arms,” Robertson said. “When it passed by, he opens his door, and there’s not anything left of his house except the bathroom.”

Robertson has said before that he’s not a very emotional guy, but there was plenty of emotion on his face and in his voice yesterday. He couldn’t believe that the path of destruction went for miles, in some places leveling a house on one side of the street, while leaving the other side with only a few broken windows.

That’s why I’ll probably mention just about anything Robertson does to raise money for relief in Tuscalossa. Because that just as easily could have been my hometown that was destroyed. When a tornado touches down, the difference between being hit and being spared is complete luck, and they happen too quickly to prepare. I think about that when I think about Alabama, and I think about that when I think about the tornado that hit Joplin back in my home state. I’m lucky my parents and friends aren’t among those picking up the pieces.

“I wish I could go down there and use my hands and help people rebuild,” Robertson said. “But I’m not able to, so I’m going to do everything I can on the other hand to raise money so that I can get supplies and things to people down there who can do that for other people.”

One more time, the website is One hundred percent of the donations go to the recovery effort. Robertson said he met some good people down there, people he trusts to help him send the money to the people and places that need it the most.

Here’s Robertson speaking before last night’s game.

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* By the way, Robertson said that it was his wife, Erin, who came up with the brilliant name, High Socks For Hope. “I’d put that one on the smart wife,” Robertson said. “She said it and I was like, that’s perfect.”

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Swisher: “I just need to get those hits to start coming”05.28.11

The cruelty of it was that Nick Swisher had just crushed a ball off a very good right-handed pitcher.

It was exactly what he wanted, and it was exactly what the Yankees were looking for when they gave Swisher a few days off to clear his mind and work on his swing. He was in the lineup against a right-handed starter for the first time in a week, and in his second at-bat against Michael Pineda, Swisher smoked a ball over the wall in center field.

That’s where Franklin Gutierrez went up and over to rob the home run.

“No chance,” Swisher said. “I hit that ball really well, but what are you going to do? He looked like Michael Jordan on that play.”

Later, Swisher said he never actually saw the catch, only saw the reaction of shortstop Brendan Ryan.

“My swing feels good,” Swisher said. “So it’s not like I’m worried about that right now. I just need to get those hits to start coming a little bit. It seems like I’ve been putting some good swings on some balls of late and haven’t really had anything drop in. What are you going to do? Just shake your head and move on.”

Swisher’s hit a lot of line drives this season, and his batting average on balls in play is lower than it should be. He’s run into some bad luck, and there’s no doubt last night’s Gold Glove catch by a Gold Glove center fielder was some of that bad luck hurting him once again.

But Swisher knows that results matter, and right now the results aren’t there.

“I know it’s going to change,” he said. “I’m the type of guy, I like being good at something. If I just keep grinding, keep doing the things I know I can, I’m not worried about a thing.”

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: Bullpen falters in series opener05.28.11

In the city where Damaso Marte and Rafael Soriano began their Major League careers, the Yankees could have used their injured relief pitchers tonight.

With a bullpen that’s not nearly as deep as it could be, the Yankees went into tonight’s sixth inning with a one-run lead, knowing they were going to face a left-handed hitter who doesn’t hit left-handed pitchers, followed by the bottom third of a weak Seattle lineup.

“We just thought we’d go to Boone for one out, and then go to Ayala and try to set it up for Robertson, Chamberlain and Mo,” Joe Girardi said. “But we didn’t get there.”

Logan missed with a slider to Adam Kennedy, Ayala allowed a single and a walk, and the rest was history. A two-run sixth-inning was the difference between a win and a loss.

Maybe Girardi should have kept A.J. Burnett in the game, but 97 pitches through five innings is all the proof you need that he labored. He’d allowed two runs in the fifth and Girardi thought his starter was on the edge after walking a tightrope all night. Girardi didn’t need to save Logan for a different lefty, because his top three relievers were going to handle the last three innings. Girardi has to pick and choose the times when he asks Robertson and Chamberlain to give more than one inning, and the bottom of a bad lineup didn’t seem like a time he absolutely had to lean heavily on those two.

“(The bullpen)’s been what it’s been for the past two weeks, two and a half weeks,” Girardi said. “You understand what it is, so it’s not tricky. Some guys are going to be expected to do a little bit more. That’s the bottom line.”

Girardi’s bullpen usage is going to be second guessed again, and rightfully so. He could have gone any number of ways, but there was certainly logic to the way he did it. A bullpen has to be more than three pitchers deep, so the Yankees need Logan and Ayala to handle a spot like tonight. Logan has looked better recently, and Ayala has been pretty much what you’d expect a sixth-inning guy to be. Tonight they didn’t get it done, and that hurt.

• Of course, plenty of blame is also going to fall on Eduardo Nunez, who did a terrific job pinch running and immediately stealing a base with two outs. But then he was picked off. Both Nunez and Girardi said he would have been safe had his hand not been oddly stuck in the dirt as he slid into the bag. Nunez said he wasn’t taking a larger than normal lead, he just got picked off. “Just can’t get picked there,” Girardi said.

• Girardi said he would wait until Saturday to talk to Nunez about the play. “If he slides normal, if his arm doesn’t stick there, he’s safe,” Girardi said. “I think every player knows you can’t get picked off in that situation. But maybe it is inexperience. Maybe it is just trying to be a little too aggressive.”

• Girardi said Nunez had a green light in the ninth inning. He seemed to indicate that Nunez was running on his own, not running because of a call from the bench. That’s a good and gutsy steal by the kid, followed by a deflating pickoff.

• Nick Swisher drew a walk and had a hit tonight, but his deep drive to center field was robbed by a terrific Franklin Gutierrez catch over the wall. “I thought that ball was five rows deep, no doubt,” Swisher said.

• Burnett said he had a good curveball and a good changeup, but he was kicking himself a little bit because of his fastball command. He made some big outs when he had to, but the command wasn’t there and he was in deep counts most of the night. That crushed his pitch count and contributed to his early exit. “He had to work really hard, especially the first two innings,” Girardi said.

• A left-handed reliever’s job is really odd. One hitter — and often one pitch — determines everything. Tonight Logan didn’t get a slider low enough, and a soft single made his night a disaster. He had been pitching better lately, but it’s impossible to say whether this is a slide back to his earlier struggles. Lefties are 11-for-32 against him. “Only time will tell,” Girardi said. “You can’t make too much out of one outing, whether it’s good or bad.”

• The Yankees actually looked pretty good against early Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Pineda, who had his shortest outing of the year and had a season-high five walks. Girardi was proud of his hitters for staying patient and working the count. Pineda threw 96 pitches. “Heard a lot about him coming in, and I thought we did a great job,” Swisher said.

• Alex Rodriguez has a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .429 with five multi-hit games in his past 10 games.

• The Yankees came into the game with the best bullpen ERA in the American League.

• Mark Teixeira’s home run was his fifth in his past eight games. He has 13 career homers at Safeco Field, tied for the second most among active opposing players. No. 1 on the list, by the way, is Eric Chavez.

• This was the third game of the season in which the Yankees had three stolen bases (Nunez, Granderson, Martin).

Associated Press photos

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Yankees let one slip away05.28.11

The Yankees bullpen’s depth is being tested these days, and this time it couldn’t pass the test. Boone Logan and Luis Ayala combined to allow two runs in the sixth, coughing up a lead and saddling the Yankees with a 4-3 loss against the Mariners in the opening game of this tough West Coast trip. Starter A.J. Burnett allowed only two runs, but his five walks pushed his pitch count to 97 after five innings. Joe Girardi turned to his bullpen with a 3-2 lead in the sixth, and he turned to two relievers forced into more significant roles because of injuries. The Yankees more than held their own against the Mariners rookie phenom Michael Pineda, who had his shortest outing of the year, but it didn’t matter in the end.

Associated Press photo

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