The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Archive for September, 2012

Cano at second, Nunez at short09.29.12

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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 137 Comments →

Martin: “Feel like I’m helping the team win”09.29.12

Hard to believe, but if Russell Martin keeps this pace through these final five games, his end-of-the-year slash line won’t be all that different from last year’s. In the month of September, Martin has hit .274/.369/.562, and he’s reached 20 homers for the first time in his career. He’s become middle-of-the-order run producer against lefties — something this team badly needs — and he’s shown value beyond what he does behind the plate.

“I feel fresh,” Martin said. “I don’t know how many games I’ve caught, but I feel like I felt in June. It’s definitely thanks to how Joe is managing the lineup and stuff. Early in my career, I wanted to be back there all the time. But now it seems like when I get rest, I feel like I’m helping the team more, so better to have me fresh out there than all beat up.”

Good all-around catchers are hard to find, but Martin does two things well at the plate: He hits homers and takes walks. If that’s enough offense to go with his defensive work, Martin just might turn this rough season into a return to the Yankees next year. For now, they need him to finish off this season and stay production into October.

Joe Girardi
“I never saw him really take his at-bats behind the plate. I never saw him visibly show anger and frustration. He seemed to handle the situation really well. He’s been kind of a bad luck guy too when you look at some of the balls he’s hit, and those are the ones that you tend to show the most frustration on when you hit a ball hard and you don’t get a hit, but he would just put his gear on and go back and catch and focus on what he needed to do back there. So I’ve been really impressed with how he’s handled it, and I think how he’s handled it has allowed him to hit better in the second half.”

Nick Swisher
“It’s crucial. I told him a while ago he had an avalanche of good stuff coming his way. Twenty jacks, a career high, congratulations to Russ. That’s big. The way that him and the staff worked (last night), this team has the ability to put a lot of runs on the board. That’s big.”

Russell Martin
“Just trying to make a bad season better. We’re playing to win at this point, so anything I can do to help the team win, that’s my main focus. This is the type of baseball that I enjoy. It’s high intensity and this is why you play the game. … It’s the first time that I actually struggled this much through a season, but I feel better now and feel like I’m helping the team win. It’s definitely a better feeling.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 79 Comments →

Postgame notes: “I feel like I can still throw a lot of pitches”09.29.12

The Yankees saw the Baltimore score. They knew it was an Orioles blowout, and that mean the Yankees had to win to maintain a division lead. This was a win they needed, and they got it done.

“They put (the Orioles score) on the board,” Russell Martin said. “Everybody saw it I think. It really doesn’t affect how you go about your business. Obviously we want them to lose as much as possible, but they don’t really seem like they want to give in.”

Eleven runs. Alert defensive plays. Clutch hits with two outs. Here and now, this was a good night for the Yankees. But it’s hard to ignore two things: Robinson Cano is going for an X-ray — the Yankees expect it to be negative, but still, it’s Cano — and Hiroki Kuroda has really struggled lately. If not for the Blue Jays horrible baserunning, Kuroda might not have gotten out of here with just two runs through 5.1 innings.

“I’m not 100 percent,” Kuroda said. “… I don’t think it was fatigue. It was something mechanical. I don’t know if it’s tied to physical, but what I can do is prepare for the next start. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Kuroda skipped his between-starts bullpen this week, and tonight he matched his single-season high in innings pitched, matching his 2005 total from Japan. His velocity has been good — pretty much what the Yankees have seen all season — but Kuroda said he’s not getting the usual movement on his two-seamer and his offspeed pitches.

“I’m not (worried),” Joe Girardi said. “Pitchers go through that. I thought he did a really good job and I expect his next outing to be really crisp. … I’ve just seen him bounce back, I’ve seen him bounce back from a start when he hasn’t been as sharp, and I think he will.”

Despite the workload and the rocky results these past five starts, Kuroda said he feels fine. He has one more start this season to try to get things straightened out before the playoffs, when the Yankees are going to need him.

“I feel fine,” Kuroda said. “I feel like I can still throw a lot of pitches.”

• The Yankees scored nine runs with two outs tonight, beginning with Swisher’s two-out, two-run double in the first to give them an early lead. The home runs by Martin and Eric Chavez each came with two outs, as did the RBI singles by Cano and Ichiro Suzuki. “Two-out hits are huge,” Girardi said. “It seems to give your club momentum and take a little bit out of the other club. And I think a lot of times, I always feel too that when you get in situation and you should score runs and don’t score runs, it gives the other club a lift too.”

• Last night was a bad night for the offense, this one was completely different. “Sometimes you kind of come out flat,” Swisher said. “I feel like yesterday we didn’t have a lot of energy. Today we definitely came to the ballpark ready to go. That’s the team I like to see play every day.”

• Swisher’s not-quite-expert opinion on the Cano injury: “I feel like I look at Robbie and that dude’s made of steel. Seems like he plays all the time. Anytime you’re talking about hands, you get a little concerned. But after I saw him staying in the game, I felt a little better.”

• Girardi’s explanation for using Rafael Soriano and Dave Robertson: “You don’t want to give these guys too many days off, that’s the bottom line. Sori hadn’t pitched in a week. Robby, we went through the order and I want to give him a little bit of wiggle room. These are the games you have to make sure you win.”

• Martin’s strong September continues. Tonight he reached 20 home runs for the first time in his career. “It’s nice to get a career high at home in front of my family and friends, absolutely,” Martin said. “It feels good.

• Martin’s snap pickoff throw to third base was all about communication with Alex Rodriguez. “Al just kind of flashed he’s getting a big lead over there,” Martin said. “We haven’t used it much this year, so I guess they don’t really anticipate it. Just a good play. Good tag by Al and a good throw by me.”

• Also a really nice play by Swisher to get Brett Lawrie too far off second base in the first inning. “Rasmus hit a rocket right at me,” Swisher said. “I think Lawrie’s first instinct was just to go to third. Jeet made a great backdoor pick right there, I kinda hit him in stride. Especially in the first inning, a leadoff double, to be able to get him out at second, next thing you know we’re sitting there, runner on first, one out. Situation like that, kind of an instinctive play. Me and Jeet just read each other and made the play.”

• Of Swisher’s 92 RBI this season, 71 have come left-handed. … Chavez’s home run was his 15th of the year. … Kuroda’s 10 runs allowed tied his season-high.

• Last word goes to Swisher: “I think hitting is contagious. It’s like once one guy does it, here it comes. We’ve been on a roll the last couple weeks, playing good baseball. If we just keep going out there and playing our game like we did today – moving runners, or at least having the thought of moving runners, runners on second, we had a couple guys try to drag bunt. We did the little things today, and it’s a lot of fun right now.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 46 Comments →

Cano going for X-ray on left hand09.28.12

After being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning, Robinson Cano stayed in tonight’s game, but he’s now going for X-ray to make sure nothing is broken.

The only test available at Rogers Centre is something called a fluoroscope, which is basically a bad X-ray machine. Cano had a fluoroscopy that revealed no break, but the test isn’t trusted so he’s going for an X-ray to make sure. For the time being, indications are that Cano should be fine, but given what happened to Alex Rodriguez earlier this year — and given the fact Cano is starting to heat up — the Yankees won’t be completely at ease until they know for sure.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 96 Comments →

Yankees maintain one-game lead09.28.12

The Yankees kept pace tonight. After Baltimore finished off a lopsided win against the Red Sox, the Yankees took care of business with an 11-4 win against the Blue Jays. The Yankees and O’s are still separated by a game, with the Yankees remaining atop the American League East. Nick Swisher’s two-out, two-run double gave them a lead in the first inning, but the bigger blow was Russell Martin’s 20th home run of the season, a three-run shot that pushed the lead to 6-1 in the sixth. The Yankees kept tacking on runs, including a two-run homer by Eric Chavez in the ninth. All but two of the Yankees runs scored with two outs. The bad news was Hiroki Kuroda, who got the win despite another so-so start in which he held the Blue Jays to just two runs but also allowed 10 hits through 5.1 innings. It was his shortest start since May 21. Rafael Soriano hadn’t pitched in a week, so he came in for the final out.

Associated Press photo

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Game 157: Yankees at Blue Jays09.28.12

YANKEES (90-66)
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 Hiroki Kuroda (14-11, 3.34)
Kuroda vs. Blue Jays

BLUE JAYS (68-88)
Brett Lawrie 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
J.P. Arencibia C
Adam Lind 1B
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Rajai Davis RF
Anthony Gose LF

RHP Chad Jenkins (0-2, 4.24)
Jenkins vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:07 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Still cold outside, but still cozy under the roof.

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

MAGIC NUMBERS: To make the playoffs: 3. To win the American League East: 6.

GIRARDI MOVING UP: The Yankees’ next win will be the 475th for Joe Girardi as the Yankees manager. That will match Joe McCarthy for the third-most in franchise history. Casey Stengel (1949-53) and Joe Torre (1996-2000) share the record with 487 victories. That’s from Elias.

BOUNCE BACK: The Yankees are 25-9 in games immediately following shutout losses since the start of the 2008 season, winning eight of the last 10 such contests. They are 3-2 in such games this year.

SWINGING AND MISSING: The Yankees have struck out a single-season franchise-record 1,269 batters this year. That surpasses the previous franchise record of 1,266 strikeouts set in 2001.

UPDATE, 7:15 p.m.: Not sure what happened there, the game post just didn’t publish like it’s supposed to. Anyway, it’s a two-out, two-run double for Swisher and a 2-0 lead for the Yankees.

UPDATE, 7:16 p.m.: Line drive knocks Jenkins’ glove off, and he catches the glove for the out. There’s something new.

UPDATE, 7:21 p.m.: Heads up play by Swisher, who’s really played a good first base since moving over there after the Teixeira injury.

UPDATE, 7:50 p.m.: That’s twice a Blue Jays runner has been caught too far off a bag, and they haven’t even gone through the lineup one full turn. It’s a 3-0 Yankees lead in the second — Jeter hitting into a double play brought in a run — and the trouble is minimal here in the bottom of the second because Russell Martin just picked off Yunel Escobar at third.

UPDATE, 7:59 p.m.: Big strikeout by Kuroda to get out of the second without allowing a run. He’s already thrown 43 pitches.

UPDATE, 8:42 p.m.: Solo homer for Rasmus puts the Blue Jays on the board. Despite the score, Kuroda really doesn’t look very good tonight. It’s still a 3-1 Yankees lead.

UPDATE, 8:52 p.m.: Cano hit by a pitch in the left hand. He’s staying in the game, but that could have been pretty much a worst-case scenario for the Yankees.

UPDATE, 9:09 p.m.: Three-run homer for Russell Martin and it’s a 6-1 Yankees lead. Thats a big blow just to create some distance.

UPDATE, 9:16 p.m.: Walk and two straight two-out singles and the Yankees have another run. The Blue Jays are digging deeper into their bullpen.

UPDATE, 9:27 p.m.: Kuroda pulled after 5.1 innings. Right now, he has matched his career-high for innings in a season set in 2005 in Japan.

UPDATE, 9:36 p.m.: Proof that you can never quite give up on a pitching prospect, Homer Bailey just pitched a no-hitter.

UPDATE, 9:43 p.m.: Bad decision by the Blue Jays to throw home, bad decision by Granderson to try to take third. It’s another run and another out for the Yankees. It’s an 8-2 lead.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 780 Comments →

Pregame notes: Yankees part of a tight American League09.28.12

The Yankees lead is back down to one game, which makes them not all that unusual in this tight American League.

In the National League, there’s one playoff spot that’s up for grabs. Atlanta and Washington still have to decide which will win the division and which will be a wild card, but the only postseason spot truly open is the second wild card.

In the American League, nothing is decided. Not a single division champion. Not a single wild card spot.

“I just think teams have improved,” Joe Girardi said. “The group has gotten closer together. People made offseason moves, and trades, and a lot of things. Teams improved.”

Not counting division leaders, four teams are currently within two games of an A.L. wild card spot. The Yankees have a one-game lead in the East, the Tigers have a two-game lead in the Central and the Rangers haven’t quite wrapped up the East, with a four-game lead over Oakland.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are wrapping their season against two of the teams that are out of it completely. Girardi was asked whether he can see a difference in the way a team like the Blue Jays plays vs. a team like the Yankees. Are the Blue Jays more relaxed? Do the Yankees have a greater sense of urgency?

“I think there’s a difference,” Girardi said. “But I think once you get out on the field, everything becomes the same again. It’s the thought process leading up to the game that maybe you think about it a little more. But once you get out there, your instincts just take over.”

• Eric Chavez sat out last night’s game and today he’s at DH. That’s because Girardi doesn’t want to risk hurting his back on this turf. “We’ve seen when he’s played on it he’s needed a couple of days off,” Girardi said. “Could I have put him at a position? Sure. I could have put him at a position, I could have put him at third or first, but I decided to DH him today because my thought is I’d like him to play again on Sunday.”

• Mark Teixeira took six at-bats today. He also ran and fielded ground balls, and the plan is for him to play five innings of an instructional league game tomorrow. Girardi said Teixeira will likely join the Yankees sometime during those final three games at home. “He’s passed every test he was supposed to up to this point,” Girardi said. “He’s on schedule for what was scheduled, so that’s a good thing.”

• As it stands, Ivan Nova is still the Yankees scheduled starter for Tuesday. “We haven’t changed anything,” Girardi said.

• Hiroki Kuroda has been great this season, but not so great his past few times out. “His control has been a little bit off,” Girardi said. “His fastball in to lefties has been a little bit off, and to me that’s been the biggest thing. His fastball command has been a little bit off. You know the last time he went on seven days rest, it was his seventh day. Could that have something to do with it? Maybe. I expect he’ll be good tonight.”

• It’s worth noting that Kuroda is 37 years old and has already reached a career-high in innings. “He’s logged in a lot of innings,” Giradri said. “I haven’t really seen it in the velocity, but obviously there could be (a connection). I’m sure all starting pitchers go through a little bit of that this time of year, whether you’re 25 or 37.”

• Obviously the immediate emphasis is on Kuroda, but hard not to look ahead to Andy Pettitte tomorrow. Girardi said he expects Pettitte to get up to 95-100 pitches. It should be his final appearance before the postseason.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 30 Comments →

Rodriguez at third, Chavez DH09.28.12

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 Hiroki Kuroda

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 31 Comments →

Where does A-Rod fit in this lineup?09.28.12

First things first, Alex Rodriguez deserves a spot in the Yankees lineup. Obviously his numbers are disappointing, and his reputation far exceeds his production at this point, but he still gets on base more regularly than most of his teammates, and he’s still able to drive the ball now and then (although he hasn’t done that in quite some time now).

So the question is simple: What would you do with him?

“I’m still comfortable that he could hit third in a Major League lineup because he’s an on-base guy too,” Joe Girardi said yesterday. “He’s going to take his walks. He can get on base in front of Robbie. I like that as well.”

If he’s more table-setter than run producer, is third the best spot for him? Against lefties, sure. He’s hitting lefties quite well this season, but right-handers are giving him trouble, which brings us to another problem with the Yankees lineup: It’s so left-heavy — with a lot of left-handers who haven’t hit lefties this season — that dropping a guy like Rodriguez makes the team incredibly susceptible to late-inning matchups. Should that matter?

We know Rodriguez is going to play. Where does he fit best?

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Rodriguez: “Take small bites, and take it from there”09.28.12

Since September 9, Alex Rodriguez has come to the plate 74 times. He’s had an extra-base hit exactly once. He’s drawn some walks, and he had that three-hit game over the weekend, but this is the Yankees No. 3 hitter and he’s basically a table-setter.

“Our objective is, we don’t care who does it, we just want to win games,” Rodriguez said. “Swing at strikes, and if they don’t pitch to us, pass the baton to the next guy. We have to trust our nine-man lineup. Not one guy here is going to (do it all). It’s not tennis or golf. Our job here is to take what they give us, take small bites, and take it from there.”

Small bites. That’s what Rodriguez has given the Yankees lately. He had two doubles and two homers in a span of four games earlier this month, and he actually hit .315/.367/.493 in the month of July, but he hasn’t been a run producer lately. That deep fly ball to center field last night, would have that gone out if Rodriguez had the same power as before?

“Sometimes he drives the ball better than others, but there have been some situations I know he’s been up where there’s been a runner at third and he’s just said, ‘I have to get the guy in,’” Joe Girardi said. “He’s done a good job of doing that. He drove a ball the other day to right-center, so maybe that’s a good sign.”

The Yankees lineup badly needs Rodriguez right now. Without Mark Teixeira — and with some of their lefties really struggling against left-handers — the Yankees need Rodriguez to bring some balance. They don’t necessarily need him to be an MVP again — that’s Cano’s job — but they need him to be productive.

“I think for the team, it’s real important,” Girardi said. “For him (as well). He had three hits in that 14-inning game, he had a couple hits or a hit the day before. I don’t know if that took a lot out of him or what happened in that situation, but that’s why I felt it was good to give him the day off (Wednesday). We do need to get him going. When he’s rolling, our lineup can be really potent.”

It’s not all on Rodriguez, but he certainly could make a big difference.

“I’m gonna go out and do the best I can, just like I did (last night),” he said. “You go out, you prepare, you leave it all out there. And that’s all you can do.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 204 Comments →

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