The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Archive for September, 2012

Postgame notes: “A season-defining game”09.30.12

Derek Jeter just might be the most practical person in baseball. Even after a win like this, when the Yankees were three innings away from folding completely and instead made a come-from-behind statement, the Captain refused to acknowledge any sort of larger significance.

“I thought it was important that we continue to fight and came back,” he said. “But all the games are the same now. If you ask me tomorrow, I’ll say the same thing.”

Nick Swisher is not so practical.

“Tonight was a season-defining game for us,” he said.

The Yankees have to hope Swisher is right because, at this point, their season is being redefined every day. A week ago, they’d won seven straight and looked like one of the best teams in baseball again. They’ve since traded wins and losses day by day, going out with a whimper yesterday and showing a ton of fight this afternoon.

Amazingly enough, if the Rangers lose tonight’s second game of a doubleheader against the Angels, then the Yankees, Orioles and Rangers were be in a three-way tie for the best record in the American League, and not a single A.L. playoff spot will be guaranteed.

“It’s hard to avoid that (out-of-town scoreboard),” Robinson Cano said. “You’re going to see it no matter what. Sometimes, it’s good to see those things, so you see (the Orioles) win already, and you know we need to win this game.”

Yesterday the Yankees lost an infinitely winable game. Today they won a game that looked a sure loss. They won with bunts and sac flies and timely hits (and a couple of gift wild pitches). Eric Chavez homered in the third inning, but the comeback itself was nothing but small ball mixed with some fine relief pitching. It might not have meant any more than any other game, but in this situation, it certainly felt bigger. And a loss would have been about as deflating as they come.

If this game will define the Yankees season, they’ll be in good shape.

“For us to be in a spot that we are right now, we control our destiny,” Swisher said. “We win, we go on. We lose, we’re done. It’s exciting, man. I’m juiced up to go back home. I know the Bronx is going to be going crazy, and we’re excited to get there.”

• I’m actually not sure the Yankees want to clinch a playoff spot tonight. They clinch if the Rangers beat the Angels, but surely they’d rather the Angels win and give the Yankees a shot at the best record in the American League. “It means we’re in the playoffs,” Jeter said. “But you celebrate for winning the division. That’s what you’re trying to do. Our goal going into the season isn’t to clinch a wild card, it’s to win a division, and we still haven’t done that.”

• Up next for the Orioles, the third-place Rays. Up next for the Yankees, the last-place Red Sox. “They would like nothing better than to spoil our season,” Russell Martin said. “Us knowing that, I don’t think anybody is going to take them lightly.”

• Girardi called the Cano bunt single a “heads-up play” and Cano smiled when asked about it. “You’re up by two so you just want to get a (bigger) lead in the situation,” Cano said. “The third baseman was back, so I figured I get a sacrifice, move the runner, (or) we get first and second.”

• Cano and Jeter each had three hits, including some big ones late. The biggest hit of the day might have been Cano’s RBI double off the lefty Delabar in the seventh. It was big for the situation, and also because Cano’s really struggled against lefties this season. “I know he’s a guy who has only two pitches,” Cano said. “So if he throws you a fastball, you hit a foul ball, and you just be ready to hit his splitter, because that’s how he gets guys out. … Those are where you want to get your hit. Doesn’t matter if you go 3-for-4 if you don’t get your hits in big situations.”

• On Jeter’s RBI single in the eighth, pinch runner Brett Gardner was trying to steal third on the play. He and Raul Ibanez both thought Gardner probably would have scored even without running on the pitch, but it certainly didn’t help.

• The Yankees never got much going against Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez. “I thought he was a little more hyped up than he normally is,” Swisher said. “Throwing the ball extremely well and really working that two-seamer. When you’re working at 97-98 mph rather than your typical 92-93, it’s a little different. He did a great job for them, but we were able to get him out of the game early right there which is crucial. We just kind of started the rally from there.”

• Eduardo Nunez continues to hit the ball hard for the Yankees, but it’s hard to imagine him being in the lineup against a right-handers, and the Yankees face just one more lefty this season.

• Phil Hughes lasted just 4.2 innings, his shortest start since August 12 (also in Toronto). This was only his third no-decision in 32 starts this year. “I didn’t throw the ball well and this could have really been a disaster,” Hughes said. “But the other guys battled back, scored some runs and got a win, which is all that matters.”

• Hughes said he wasn’t pitching inside enough in the first inning, and once he made that adjustment, he got on a little bit of a roll before things blew up on him in the fifth. “Some tough locations,” Girardi siad. “Missed some spots and they hit them.”

• Know who didn’t miss his spots? Derek Lowe. This was another good outing for Lowe, and Girardi was praising him quite a bit postgame saying Lowe could get into some bigger situations. “He’s done a good job the last three or four outings,” Girardi said. “He had a really good outing when he first got here and then he kind of went through some up and down periods, but he’s been really good. You pick your hitters that you’re going to use him against. He’s a groundball pitcher for the most part, he has a slider for right handers, so I mean, there’s some value to that, sure.”

• Rafael Soriano was the only Yankees reliever to allow a hit, but after loading the bases with no outs in the ninth, he got out of it with just one run scoring. “A little rusty today,” Girardi said. “We got him a hitter the other day just because he hadn’t worked in a week, but I think it was important and he got out of that with a big double play. He did an outstanding job after getting the bases loaded. He hasn’t pitched much in the last nine days, so I think it was important.”

• Final word goes to Jeter: “We’re trying to win games, we’re trying to win the division. That’s what we’re always trying to do. If we play our games and we win our games, we’ll be where we want to be. That’s the only thing we’re concerned with now.”

Associated Press photos

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Yankees rally to keep pace09.30.12

This one looked bad. Phil Hughes was struggling, the Yankees were down by four and the out-of-town scoreboard showed a big Orioles lead. The Yankees were as close as they’ve come to losing their grip on first place in the American League East, but they put together a late comeback that carried them to a huge 9-6 win in their series finale against Toronto. A three-run seventh inning tied the game, and a two-run eighth put the Yankees in front. Eduardo Nunez had the go-ahead sac fly, and Derek Jeter’s third hit was a cushion-building RBI single (with Brett Gardner running on the play). Curtis Granderson’s ninth-inning single tacked on. Hughes allowed five runs through 4.2 innings, but Derek Lowe, Boone Logan and Dave Robertson delivered 3.1 hitless innings of relief before Rafael Soriano pitched into and out of trouble to seal it.

Associated Press photo

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Game 159: Yankees at Blue Jays09.30.12

YANKEES (91-67)
Derek Jeter SS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Raul Ibanez LF
Russell Martin C
Eric Chavez DH

RHP Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.10)
Hughes vs. Blue Jays

BLUE JAYS (70-88)
Brett Lawrie 3B
Rajai Davis LF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Yunel Escobar SS
Adam Lind 1B
Moises Sierra RF
J.P. Arencibia C
Adeiny Hechavarria 2B
Anthony Gose CF

RHP Henderson Alvarez (9-14, 4.91)
Alvarez vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:07 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Rainy outside so the roof is closed.

UMPIRES: HP Laz Diaz, 1B Tim Welke, 2B Paul Schrieber, 3B Mike Everitt

MAGIC NUMBERS: To make the playoffs: 2. To win the American League East: 5.

WRAPPING UP: The Yankees are 32-18 in series finales and?have won their last five on the road.

HEATING UP: Robinson Cano has collected 12 hits in his last 19 at-bats (.632 average) over his last five games. The five consecutive multi-hit games matches his season-long stretch (also June 30 through July 4) and ties for the third-longest such streak of his career. He is batting .337 (69-for-205) with 16 doubles and 11 home runs in day games this season.

MOVING UP: Derek Jeter needs three more runs to reach 100 for the season. It would be his 14th season of at least 100 runs, breaking a tie with Lou Gehrig, Rickey Henderson and Alex Rodriguez for the second-most all-time behind Hank Aaron. … Alex Rodriguez is one RBI away from tying Stan Musial for the fifth-most RBI all-time. … If Jeter can manage 15 hits in these last four games he would move into a tie with Eddie Collins for the ninth-most hits all-time. Of course, that would be a fairly epic set of four games.

UPDATE, 2:00 p.m.: Had to watch a lot of these first few innings in front of a TV while I dealt with some random travel stuff, but the reality doesn’t really change whether on television or in person. The Yankees are down 2-1 while still playing one of the worst teams in the league. Big homer by Chavez, great catch by Ichiro, but the Yankees just need to win in whatever way possible.

UPDATE, 2:17 p.m.: Hughes has retired seven straight.

UPDATE, 2:25 p.m.: Think Hughes could have gotten out of the way of that linedrive if he weren’t wearing that absurd mustache?

UPDATE, 2:27 p.m.: Two-run homer by Lawrie and it’s a 4-1 lead for the Blue Jays.

UPDATE, 2:37 p.m.: Massive letdown of a start for Hughes, who leaves witha 5-1 deficit after three straight two-out singles in the fifth. Derek Lowe is in here with runners at the corners. Up to him to quiet the Jays and give the Yankees offense a chance to do something. Hard not to notice that the out-of-town scoreboard shows the Orioles winning right now.

UPDATE, 3:05 p.m.: Leadoff pinch hit single by Nunez with the score 5-2 in the seventh. Jeter follows with a ground-rule double — his second hit of the day — and the Yankees have something brewing here. Of course, they had a lot of things brewing last night…

UPDATE, 3:07 p.m.: Sac fly by Ichiro and it’s 5-3 Blue Jays.

UPDATE, 3:18 p.m.: Cano sneaks an RBI double just past the first baseman and it’s now a one-run game. Yankees are showing some fight in this inning.

UPDATE, 3:24 p.m.: Good luck: Wild pitch lets the tying run score. Bad luck: Swisher ropes a line drive, but a diving catch turns into an inning-ending double play. Unreal. It’s 5-5.

UPDATE, 3:41 p.m.: Boone Logan gets through the seventh with the game still tied.

UPDATE, 3:45 p.m.: Ibanez singles off the lefty — no sense pinch hitting because the Blue Jays had a right-hander loose — and there are runners at first and second with no outs in the eighth. Huge opportunity for the Yankees with Martin coming to the plate.

UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.: Deep sac fly by Nunez and it’s a 6-5 Yankees lead. This would be a big win ona  day when it seemed they might completely fold.

UPDATE, 3:53 p.m.: Either a steal attempt or a hit-and-run. Either way, pinch runner Gardner was off with the pitch, letting him score from second on the single by Jeter. It’s now 7-5.

UPDATE, 4:14 p.m.: Bases-loaded single by Granderson and the lead is up to 9-5. Dickerson is going to hit for Gardner.

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Pregame notes: Teixeira expected back tomorrow09.30.12

The Yankees expect Mark Teixeira to be in the lineup and playing first base tomorrow. After playing in an instructional league game yesterday, Teixeira will go through a normal workout today and rejoin the Yankees when they get home for this final three-game series against the Red Sox.

It will be Teixeira’s first game since aggravating his strained calf injury on September 8, and only his second game since originally hurting himself on August 27. His injury through the month of September, and Alex Rodriguez’s injury through the month of August means it’s been a long time since the Yankees have consistently had two of their middle-of-the-order bats in the lineup at the same time.

“Obviously two middle-of-the-order hitters, number one,” Girardi said. “But two, it gives you the ability not to stack left handers, which is something that we’ve had to fight and at times we’ve been vulnerable to that. It seemed like everyone was throwing left handers against us, and Tex is a huge bat against left handers. It’s affected us.”

The Yankees face two right handers (Buchholz and Matsuzaka) and one lefty (Lester) in this final series against the Red Sox.

• Jayson Nix is expected to miss 10-14 days with a Grade 1 strain of his left hip flexor. That’s playing in games in 10-14 days, not working out in 10-14 days. “We’ll have to see how he is when we get back and maybe he could progress a little bit quicker than that,” Giradi said. “If someone was to go down or you wanted to pinch run for someone, it’s a guy that could really play all over the place.”

• If the Yankees have to play a division tie-breaker on Thursday, Andy Pettitte will get the start.

• Girardi said he hasn’t made any changes to the rotation for the upcoming Boston series. That means Ivan Nova is still lined up to start Tuesday. “We’ll just go day-by-day where we’re at,” Girardi said. “As of right now, we’ve made no changes.”

• When the Yankees struggled with runners in scoring position earlier this season, Girardi leaned on the idea that things would even out in the end. But here we are in Game 159, and it’s still an issue. “I am surprised a little bit by it,” Girardi said. “Is there anything I can do about it? Not really. These guys are professional hitters, and they know how to get it done. Some of it probably falls into some bad luck where you hit some balls hard and they just don’t work out. I expect that they’re going to get it done. That’s my expectation every day.”

• Hard to remember after the way the Yankees played Thursday and Saturday, but the Yankees were playing pretty well before coming to Toronto. They’re 5-0-1 in their past six series. “If you were to look at the series that we’ve played over the last three weeks, we’ve played pretty good series,” Girardi said. “Every series has been pretty good. We didn’t score runs Thursday, we didn’t score runs yesterday. Does that mean we’re not going to score runs the rest of the year? No, it doesn’t.”

Associated Press photos

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Rodriguez back at third09.30.12

Derek Jeter SS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Raul Ibanez LF
Russell Martin C
Eric Chavez DH

RHP Phil Hughes

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Postgame notes: “We had plenty of chances”09.29.12

The Yankees keep talking about controlling their own destiny, but that only matters if they take advantage. It only helps them if they win games like this one.

The Blue Jays had two of their more dangerous hitters on the bench. Their 5.77-ERA starter coudln’t pitch beyond the third inning, and his replacement hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2010. The Yankees loaded the bases with no outs in two of the first three innings, the Blue Jays made another laughable baserunning mistake, and Toronto’s game-tying hit seemed to be headed foul before Alex Rodriguez grabbed it and failed to make a play.

It wasn’t the first winnable game that the Yankees let slip away this season, but with four games left on the schedule and the Orioles still in pursuit, it just might have been their most glaring letdown of the season.

“It just wasn’t a good game for us,” Andy Pettitte said. “It wasn’t a good game for me pitching. They hit some balls hard. When you’re seeing your center fielder’s number the whole game, and you’re the starting pitcher, you don’t feel real good about that. We definitely didn’t do a good job with runners in scoring position. We could have added on, for sure.

“We need to play good. When we get opportunities right now, we need to take advantage of them and get runs in. And we’ve got to, as a pitching staff, got to make pitches and grind out there right now. It’s a battle and we’ve just got to continue to fight through. Four games left. Heck, hopefully we can win all four.”

There’s no silver lining to this game, and absolutely no one in the Yankees clubhouse tried to spin it as anything other than what it was.

“Obviously when you got a guy on the ropes early on, you want to capitalize on it,” Alex Rodriguez said. “It’s never a good sign when you let the other team hang around a little bit. But we had plenty of chances.”

The Yankees left 10 men on base and went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Neither of those hits actually drove in a run. Pettitte’s final regular-season tuneup was his least impressive since the ankle injury. He had trouble commanding his fastball and allowed his first runs since coming off the disabled list. Joe Girardi went to Joba Chamberlain with runners at the corners in the sixth, and Chamberlain allowed the game-winning double to the first batter he faced.

It was bad. A bad loss at a bad time.

“We put ourselves in this situation, and destiny is in our own hands,” Nick Swisher said. “We’ve got to go out and take it. No one is going to give us nothing. These guys are fighting just like we are. There’s a lot of guys over there fighting for spots next year, things like that, and we’re fighting to go into the postseason. There’s a lot of battling going on and when it boils down to it, we’ve just gotta pick up those W’s. That’s really all that matters.”

• When the Blue Jays tied the game in the fifth, they did so on Rajai Davis’ two-out infield single down the third-base line. The ball seemed to be hooking foul when Rodriguez grabbed it and tried to get the out at first. “I haven’t seen (a replay),” Rodriguez said. “But 9 out of 10, I think it would have gone foul. But again, with Rajai running, you have a split-second decision and I took my chances. I couldn’t tell, to be honest with you. I was up for the bunt and it was hugging the line, and it was one of those things where you’ve got to make a decision. I just took the more aggressive approach.”

• Aside from two walks, it was another lost day at the plate for Rodriguez. “I don’t feel too bad,” he said. “I’m feel like I’m getting a little bit better. The walks are good, and you build on that. But it really doesn’t matter how we feel right now. We just gotta get it done.”

• Speaking of lost at the plate, Andruw Jones struck out in his only at-bats before being replaced by Raul Ibanez. “It’s a situation where we don’t have Tex today,” Girardi said. “I put Andruw out there. He hit a homer off a lefty the other day and looked pretty good swinging the other day, so I put him out there.”

• Eduardo Nunez hit the ball hard today, but he was lifted for defense after the fifth inning, replaced by Derek Jeter, who had been the DH. “I knew that that spot’s not going to come up again before Andy’s out,” Girardi said. “… I have to do what I feel is best.”

• Looked like a blown call on Brett Gardner’s stolen base attempt in the eighth. “(The umpire) said he waited to make sure he didn’t drop the ball, but he had him,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘No he didn’t. I can see from where I’m at.’”

• Maybe it’s too much of a simplification, but the Yankees really seemed to strikeout in huge spots today. “You just hope they put it in play, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “You just hope they put it in play. Whatever it takes.”

• Girardi on the decision to pull Pettitte in the sixth after 94 pitches: “We had just said 90-95 pitches. We knew we were pushing it at that point. After the last pitch he threw, we just said we’re going to make a change.”

• Pettitte on being pulled: “I never want to come out of a game. Too, you realize he watches you and he sees how balls are being hit, and I definitely was leaving balls in the middle of the plate. Of course, I would have loved to have been able to stay out there and try to get that out.”

• Pettitte on his outing: “I didn’t feel like I was in a real good rhythm. I felt like I was getting there. Maybe the third or fourth inning I felt like maybe I was finding a little something, but just didn’t have real good command. Didn’t have real good command of my fastball, was able to locate it away pretty good, but everything else just wasn’t quite where I wanted it. … When you can’t push guys off the plate and keep them off your offspeed stuff, it makes it really difficult. I was having a real hard time getting the ball in when I wanted to go in. That was a problem today that I was having for sure.”

• Barring a surprise decision to pitch him on short rest, this will be Pettitte’s final start before the playoffs. “I’m ready,” Pettitte said. “Whatever comes my way, I’m ready to do it. I think I’m about where I thought I would be which is a good spot. I got my pitch count up and hopefully we can get our stuff together in the next start.”

• Swisher said he has no desire to check the Baltimore score tonight. “I don’t worry about that,” he said. “I know that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, everything takes care of itself. Tonight was kind of a little lull, but we’ll be back here tomorrow bright and early ready to go.”

• Worth mentioning that Swisher made another nice, heads up play at first base to get Gomes out at third base and end the sixth.

• Girardi said Mark Teixeira remains probable for the upcoming Boston series. “I guess he had a real good day,” Girardi said. “He ran well, said he felt really good. I’ll probably try to get a chance to talk to him today. We could see him maybe against Boston.”

• Final word goes to Girardi: “You feel that you’re going to get more (runs), but you never know. You look at the opportunities that you have and you say, ‘We could have a pretty big lead here.’ We didn’t do it. … We’ll shake it off. We’ll bounce back. We always have.”

Associated Press photos

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Very quick notes: Nunez, Teixeira, Pearce09.29.12

Just a few things real quickly…

• Eduardo Nunez is not hurt. He was pulled strictly for defense.

• Still no word on Jayson Nix’s MRI results.

• Mark Teixeira came through today’s instructional league game with no problems, and it seems likely he’ll join the Yankees against Boston.

• Steve Pearce has been claimed off waivers by — of all teams — the Orioles.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 309 Comments →

Yankees blow one against the Blue Jays09.29.12

The Yankees missed another opportunity this afternoon, and now the Orioles have a chance to pull even tonight. After blowing an early two-run lead, the Yankees lost 3-2 against the Blue Jays. Their offense went quiet after a two-run first inning, and Andy Pettitte gave up his first runs since coming off the disabled list. He was still pitching with a 2-1 lead when Rajai Davis hit a two-out RBI single to tie the game in the fifth. Pettitte left with two outs and runners at the corners in the sixth, and Joba Chamberlain promptly allowed the go-ahead double. The second-place Orioles play tonight with a chance to once again move into a tie for first place in the American League East.

Associated Press photo

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Game 158: Yankees at Blue Jays09.29.12

YANKEES (91-66)
Derek Jeter DH
Ichiro Suzuki LF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Andruw Jones RF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Chris Stewart C

LHP Andy Pettitte (5-3, 2.71)
Pettitte vs. Blue Jays

BLUE JAYS (69-88)
Brett Lawrie 3B
Rajai Davis LF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Yunel Escobar SS
Yan Gomes 1B
Moises Sierra RF
Jeff Mathis C
Adeiny Hechavarria 2B
Anthony Gose LF

LHP Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.76)
Romero vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:07 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Warmer outside. Same inside.

UMPIRES: HP Mike Everitt, 1B Laz Diaz, 2B Tim Welke, 3B Paul Schrieber

MAGIC NUMBERS: To make the playoffs: 2. To win the American League East: 5.

STILL IN THE LINEUP: Robinson Cano has collected 10 hits in his last 16 at-bats over his last four games (all multi-hit affairs). He is batting .332 (67-for-202) with 16 doubles and 11 homers in day games this season.

PART OF THE CLUB: With Eric Chavez’s homer last night, the Yankees now have nine players with at least 15 home runs this season. It?marks the franchise’s most players with at least 15 homers in a single season and ties the Major League record (also the 2005 Indians and 2005 Rangers). The Yankees could set the all-time record. Andruw Jones currently has 14.

JOINING ANOTHER CLUB: Russell Martin hit his 20th home run of the season last night. That’s his single-season career high, and it makes him one of an all-time Major League single-season-high eight catchers in 2012 with at least 20 homers according to Elias.

UPDATE, 1:17 p.m.: Bases loaded with no outs, Cano hits a sac fly for an early Yankees lead.

UPDATE, 1:22 p.m.: Another sac fly for Granderson. Andruw Jones’ strikeout is the only unproductive out of the inning and it’s a 2-0 Yankees lead heading into the bottom of the first.

UPDATE, 1:28 p.m.: Solo homer by Davis is the first run Pettitte has allowed since coming off the disabled list.

UPDATE, 2:04 p.m.: Another strikeout for Jones. He’s really giving the Yankees nothing at this point. Nunez follows with a line out that seemed sure to be an RBI single. Still a 2-1 Yankees lead.

UPDATE, 2:32 p.m.: No kidding, the Cano single was just ruled an error on the pitcher. That call has to be overturned, right?

UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: That Davis hopper might have been heading foul, but Rodriguez tried to get the out at first, couldn’t do it, and the tying run scored. That’s how we got to 2-2 heading into the sixth.

UPDATE, 2:59 p.m.: Well, now Jeter’s at short and the Yankees have no utility infielder.

UPDATE, 3:02 p.m.: Given where he was playing, I’m not sure Cano could have gotten to first base in time for the Yankees to make a play on that bunt.

UPDATE, 3:07 p.m.: Pettitte’s out. Chamberlain is in. There are two outs and runners at the corners in the sixth. Meanwhile, Jeter is warming up at shortstop while Chamberlain throws his final warmup pitches on the mound.

UPDATE, 3:10 p.m.: Chamberlain allows a go-ahead RBI double, and the Yankees get out of the inning only because the Blue Jays are horrific baserunners.

UPDATE, 3:41 p.m.: The throw beat Gardner, but he was definitely safe.

UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.: Steve Pearce has been claimed off waviers. … By the Orioles.

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Pregame notes: Nix sent for MRI on hip flexor09.29.12

Eduardo Nunez might have a playoff roster spot locked up.

Jayson Nix has been sent to New York for an MRI on his left hip flexor, which became sore after making a play to his left on Thursday.

“He didn’t mention it Thursday night, he mentioned it yesterday,” Joe Girardi said. “There’s a possibility we may not have him for a while, and that’s why Nuney becomes all the more important.”

Nunez is back at shortstop this afternoon to give Derek Jeter a break on this turf, and Girardi said he has no plans of playing Nunez at other positions in preparation for returning to a utility role. Girardi said he “absolutely” expects Jeter, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez to be available to play the field every day in the postseason, so Nunez would be strictly a backup at second and short (Eric Chavez would backup at third).

“This is a kid that, when we first brought him up, he played very well at shortstop,” Girardi said. “We know that Jeet needs a day off on the turf. We have to be smart here, we can’t hurt Jeet, so he’s going to have to get it done. … I have (seen improvements from Nunez in the field). We think his ability to turn the page is important, and we think he’s improved on that too.”

• Obviously Robinson Cano’s X-rays came back clean with no break. He showed his left hand in the clubhouse pregame, and it really didn’t look swollen at all. He said it’s fine, but he was initially worried when the pitch hit him. “I’m sure he has a little bit of soreness,” Girardi said. “But there’s not broken bones so we don’t have to worry about that.”

• No matter what the MRI shows, Nix will not rejoin the Yankees here in Toronto. If he’s healthy enough to play, he’ll simply rejoin the team in New York on Monday.

• Of course Jeter will downplay the bruised ankle no matter what, but there is a sense that he’s feeling a little better lately. “I think he’s moving better than he was,” Girardi said. “But it’s still something we have to monitor every day.”

• Girardi said he’s expecting 95-100 pitches from Pettitte today, “depending on how he’s doing.”

• Mark Teixeira will play his instructional league game today. As far as I know — and as far as Girardi knows — it hasn’t happened yet.

• Russell Martin is sitting because it’s a day game after a night game. Girardi said he wanted to give Martin one of these days off in the final week, and this one simply made the most sense.

• Girardi said he absolutely will not rest players if the Yankees clinch a wild card spot but not the division. He’ll keep playing guys as usual as long as the division is in doubt.

• Speaking of which, there’s a chance the Yankees could clinch a playoff spot — wild card — while Girardi is at dinner tonight. “Maybe I’ll have dessert,” Girardi said.

Associated Press photos

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