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


Archive for September, 2012

Postgame notes: Last we’ve seen of Nova?09.27.12

A year ago, Ivan Nova was the Yankees No. 2 starter in the playoffs. Today, it’s not certain he’ll make the postseason roster, much less the postseason rotation. If he makes another start this season it would come in the next-to-last game of the year, but Joe Girardi’s commitment to Nova making that start was lukewarm at best.

“I can’t think about that,” Girardi said. “I wish I could worry about that now, but I can’t.”

Can’t worry about that because there’s a lot to worry about between now and then. The Yankees lead is back down to one game. If they’d won, it would have been two games for the first time since September 2. Nova and the Yankees couldn’t beat a last-place team, and now they’re reeling again. When a division race is this tight, the feeling really can change that quickly.

“Especially right now, the position that we’re in, I don’t feel good about it,” Nova said. “We want to win every day, and I’m not doing that. … I think I’m doing everything possible. I’m watching my videos, working really hard between starts, throwing my bullpens the way I want to throw them. I’m working physically and mentally, I’m just not getting the results that I want.”

Everyone seemed to agree that Nova had a great curveball today — “Better than I’ve ever seen it,” Russell Martin said — but there was also no argument that Nova has a been awful since the All-Star break. He had that one strong start when he came back from the shoulder injury, but his past two have been ugly. Girardi had said this afternoon that tonight was an important game — important for the Yankees, important for Nova — but the result was a letdown for everyone.

“That’s why you’re here, why you play the whole year, to be in the postseason,” Nova said. “… I want to be on the roster. I want to help the team to win games in any position. I just want to be there.”

The team has to get there first.

• Goes without saying that this loss wasn’t strictly on Nova’s shoulders. The Yankees were shutout and held to only five hits, all of which came from either Russell Martin or Robinson Cano. “That’s the first time we’ve seen (Brandon Morrow) all year,” Nick Swisher said. “He’s a guy who throws super hard, you know, 97, 98. Tonight he really felt like he wasn’t throwing like that. He was throwing a lot more offspeed pitches, working both sides of the plate, changing speeds.”

• Girardi’s take on the offense: “I didn’t see us chase a ton of pitches, we just didn’t get any hits tonight.”

• If there’s a bright side, it’s Cano, who looks like his bat is starting to show some life again. Of course, that doesn’t mean a whole lot on a night like this.

• Of course, can’t mention Cano without mentioning him getting doubled off at first base in the fourth inning after Anthony Gose made a terrific catch at the wall. “He probably got a little bit too far, but it’s a great play by Gose,” Girardi said. “Robbie was maybe a little aggressive, but you don’t want our guys being passive, and he made a great play.”

• Alex Rodriguez drew a walk and was hit by a pitch. Girardi said he expects Rodriguez to play third base tomorrow. “We’ll see,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll see how this thing wakes up and talk to Joe tomorrow.”

• Maybe he was just backing his pitcher, but Martin was asked three times about Nova’s start and he kept saying that it wasn’t all that bad. “It wasn’t a great performance,” Martin said. “But I liked his stuff. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but I think he’s going to be able to compete. I’m not really worried about him, seeing that curveball. The only thing you have to eliminate right there is making mistakes with his slider. For me, I think if he just tries not to throw the slider for a strike, he’ll be better off. That’s it. It’s a simple adjustment.”

• Nova on his stuff tonight: “The curveball was good the whole night. Encarnacion got two hits with the slider, I threw a fastball that stayed up and he’s a good breaking ball hitter. I know he can hit the curveball, so I wanted to go with the slider and do something else. Unfortunately I couldn’t get him out,.”

• The Lawrie home run came on a fastball. “I don’t think it was a strike. He just left a fastball up and Lawrie jumped all over it. I think it was above the zone, but he got to it, got the barrel to it, and got it out.”

• I honestly didn’t think Aardsma looked too bad tonight. He gave up the home run, and his velocity wasn’t quite as high as it has been in the past, but for a guy who hadn’t pitched in the big leagues in two years, I thought he was fine. More or less what I expected. Clearly not 100 percent, but not a total reclamation project either.

• Blown chance to gain a half game in the standings without watching the scoreboard? “I just think the result’s frustrating,” Martin said. “It doesn’t really matter what the outcome is because of what other teams are doing. I’m not really concerned about other teams. I’m just concerned with our team.”

• Final word goes to Rodriguez: “We want to win every game, but you look at a game like we lost a couple of nights ago, obviously that’s a lot more frustrating when we feel we have a stranglehold on that game and kind of lost it late. Today, you kind of turn the page and come back tomorrow and try to win a game.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 75 Comments →

Nova stumbles again as Yankees lose ground09.27.12

Another rocky start from Ivan Nova came at a bad time on Thursday. Given a chance to gain ground without watching the scoreboard, the Yankees lost 6-0 against the last-place Blue Jays and let the idle Orioles pull within a game in the American League East. Nova pitched his second dud in a row, allowing four runs on six hits through 4.2 innings. Brett Lawrie’s two-run homer and Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run double did more than enough damage against a Yankees offense that had just five hits, all of them from either Robinson Cano or Russell Martin. Derek Lowe and former Mariners closer David Aardsma — who made his Yankees debut — allowed a run apiece to let the game get further out of reach.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 323 Comments →

Game 156: Yankees at Blue Jays09.27.12

YANKEES (90-65)
Derek Jeter SS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Russell Martin C
Raul Ibanez LF
Jayson Nix 3B

RHP Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.94)
Nova vs. Blue Jays

BLUE JAYS (68-87)
Brett Lawrie 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Yunel Escobar SS
Adam Lind 1B
J.P. Arencibia C
Kelly Johnson 2B
Moises Sierra RF
Anthony Gose LF

RHP Brandon Morrow (8-7, 3.28)
Morrow vs. Yankees

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

WEATHER: Cold outside, but cozy under the roof.

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

MAGIC NUMBERS: To make the playoffs: 4. To win the American League East: 6.

GETTING STARTED: The Yankees are 31-19 in series openers in 2012. They have won their last three after a six-game losing streak in openers.

NEXT ON THE LIST: Alex Rodriguez has 1,949 career RBI. His next will tie him with Stan Musial for the fifth-most all-time.

Ks FOR CC: After last night’s 10-strikeout game, CC Sabathia has struck out 21 combined batters over his past two starts. It’s the fourth time he has fanned at least 10 batters in back-to-back starts (third time as a Yankee). He has recorded 15 games of 10-or-more strikeouts as a Yankee, the fourth-most in the Live Ball Era.

UPDATE, 7:23 p.m.: So far, so good for Nova. First inning single is left stranded and it’s a scoreless game heading into the second.

UPDATE, 7:47 p.m.: A walk and a home run. That’s a good way to spoil what had been a good outing so far. The Yankees are now losing 2-0 in the bottom of the third. Their offense hasn’t done much at all against Morrow.

UPDATE, 8:09 p.m.: Granted, this place is empty, but Gose hitting the wall was really loud. He slammed into the fence to take away extra bases from Swisher and double off Cano at first.

UPDATE, 8:26 p.m.: Encarnacion has three hits already and it’s now a 4-0 Blue Jays lead after his two-run double in the fifth. Nova is still in, but there are two pitchers getting loose in the bullpen.

UPDATE, 8:28 p.m.: Here’s Rapada with two outs and a runner at second base in the fifth. Another letdown from Nova.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith 261 Comments →

Pregame notes: “He’s giving me everything he’s got”09.27.12

Is Ivan Nova a good young pitcher having an inconsistent season? Is he an inconsistent pitcher who had a good rookie year? Is he a bottom-of-the-rotation starter who occasionally pitches like a No. 2? Is he a No. 3 starter who occasionally pitches like minor leaguer? Does he have a future in this organization?

“I think you can look at his last two starts and it’s kind of been how his year was,” Joe Girardi said. “He started out great, reeled off a bunch of good starts together, then he kind of went through a funk. Got hurt, came back, had a good start and then a not-so-good start. Tonight’s important. It’s important for us.”

Tonight Nova makes what should be his next-to-last start of the season. Two weeks ago, he was terrific in his return from a sore shoulder. Over the weekend, he was horrible against Oakland. Last year’s second half put him in the Rookie of the Year mix. This year’s second half has him facing uncertainty in the postseason (assuming he makes the postseason roster at all).

There are a lot of unanswered questions with Nova, and one start won’t answer all of them. But right now, the Yankees are in a division race, and they need him tonight.

“This is a tough game,” Girardi said. “It’s a game of adjustments. It’s a game of consistency. Some years are just going to be better years for guys than others. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason. Sometimes it just happens. I know he’s working. I know he’s giving me everything he’s got, so there’s no disappointment. … If he can continue to improve and refine the consistency of his pitches, he’s got good stuff.”

• Alex Rodriguez is at designated hitter tonight and won’t even go through drills in the field. That said, Girardi said it’s entirely possible Rodriguez will be back at third base tomorrow. “Let’s take it one day at a time,” Rodriguez said.

• Girardi also plans to give Derek Jeter “at least” one DH day during this series. “I would like to,” Girardi said. “We’ll have to see. Sometimes plans change because of other people.”

• Mark Teixeira played in a simulated game in Tampa today. He got seven at-bats and played one inning in the field. “Reported that he felt pretty good, and then I’m not sure if he’ll do it again tomorrow, or take a day off,” Girardi said.

• There’s no chance Teixeira will join the Yankees tomorrow. That’s probably obvious, but wanted to clarify.

• Eric Chavez said he’s not hurt at all — he actually was completely puzzled as to why I was even asking — which makes this simply a day of rest despite a right-hander on the mound.

• Brett Gardner is scheduled to take two rounds of live batting practice today. Girardi said he’s still not sure whether Gardner can become a hitter for him by the end of the season. “I really don’t know,” Girardi said. “I don’t think we’ll know until we go through a few days here. Even back then, it wasn’t until he got in games that you really know. I want to see it. I’m curious to see how he does here.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 16 Comments →

Rodriguez at DH, Nix at third09.27.12

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

RHP Ivan Nova

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 44 Comments →

Pitching matchups in Toronto09.27.12

Tonight
RHP Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.94)
vs.
RHP Brandon Morrow (8-7, 3.28)
7:07 p.m., YES Network

Friday
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (14-11, 3.34)
vs.
RHP Chad Jenkins (0-2, 4.24)
7:07 p.m., YES Network

Saturday
LHP Andy Pettitte (5-3, 2.71)
vs.
LHP Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.76)
1:07 p.m., YES Network

Sunday
RHP Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.10)
vs.
RHP Henderson Alvarez (9-14, 4.91)
1:07 p.m., YES Network

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 121 Comments →

Random thoughts on the way to Canada09.27.12

The division lead is still a game and a half, same as it was when the Yankees won their series opener in Minneapolis. The Orioles won big last night to keep pace, and now this tight division race moves into the final week of the season.

“Every win’s big for us right now,” Nick Swisher said. “We feel good. We’ve been playing extremely well.”

The Orioles are off tonight, so the Yankees alone will decide whether they drop back to a one game lead or pull ahead by two for the first time since September 2. Clinching a wild card spot doesn’t mean a whole lot right now. The division is the goal, and the Yankees have a magic number of six to clinch the American League East (they’re also only a game away from the best record in the A.L., but first things first).

A few random thoughts heading into this four-game set in Toronto.

• Amazing how much better the Yankees are when CC Sabathia is rolling. Even with Hiroki Kuroda having a nice season, the team just seems to be lacking something when its ace is off his game. Sabathia’s past two starts give a real sense of the Yankees being a team that could do something in the postseason.

• Not too surprising that Alex Rodriguez missed yesterday’s game. Joe Girardi has been extremely cautious with him this season, and except for the broken hand — an injury that had nothing to do with fatigue — Rodriguez has stayed healthy this season. Is that proof that the DH days and occasional rest have been effective, or is that a case for increasing Rodriguez’s workload?

• It really seems that Chris Dickerson could play a role next season. He made some adjustments against left-handers, and those adjustments worked in Triple-A. He’s always been able to hit righties. Given the outfield uncertainty going forward, Dickerson’s September call-up could be a sort of audition for a part-time role next year.

• Russell Martin said it Tuesday night: Boone Logan’s ineffective slider might very well have been the product of a tired pitcher who couldn’t snap off a breaking ball. Logan’s had a nice year, but workload is an issue for the go-to arms in this bullpen. Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada have been more effective than expected, but carrying two different relievers who are almost exclusively limited to right-on-right or left-on-left situational outings hasn’t helped the workload situation.

• Can you imagine where this lineup would be without Derek Jeter?

• Speaking of guys who just keep getting it done: The new Bob Dylan album is just terrific (but yesterday my walking-to-and-from-the-ballpark album was still Blood on the Tracks).

• There’s something fun about watching Ichiro Suzuki hit. I’ve seen a lot of elite players during my three years on the Yankees beat, but I’ve said many times that I love the way speed plays in baseball. And Ichiro uses his speed unlike anyone else.

• The Tigers have pulled ahead of the White Sox, which seems like bad news for the Yankees. If the season ended right now, the Yankees would play the A.L. Central champion in the division series, and the Tigers seem much more dangerous than the White Sox.

• I still have no idea what the Yankees are going to do with Eduardo Nunez. He’d probably be better off traded to a team that will let him play shortstop everyday and get comfortable at the position, but there’s also obvious value in having a talented guy as a just-in-case option behind Jeter. Even this year, what’s he going to do down the stretch? Can the Yankees trust him in the field? Doesn’t Brett Gardner have to be the top pinch running option?

• The Yankees have to trust that these past two games are a sign that Robinson Cano is snapping out of his funk. He’s too talented to consider moving him out of the middle of the order. Nothing to do but let him do his thing and hope it works.

• Ivan Nova starts tonight, and his next turn comes in the next-to-last game of the season. If he struggles tonight, would you let him make that next start?

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 164 Comments →

Chavez: “I would have made it all the way to the dugout”09.26.12

Truth be told, CC Sabathia said afterward that he thought there were two outs too. Runners at first and second in the fourth inning, Eric Chavez fielded a routine ground ball and began jogging to third base. He stepped on the bag and trotted off the field. When he stopped and realized, his look of absolute shock told the story.

There had been one out, not two, and Chavez had just turned a potential double play ball into an embarrassing out at third.

“I’ve had two things that happened to me this year that have never happened,” Chavez said. “I was picked off in spring training – never been picked off – and then I forgot how many outs there were.”

Sabathia said in the clubhouse that he initially thought there were two outs too — “I really did,” he said — which kind of makes sense because Sabathia was getting so many outs so easily, he probably assumed one of his third-inning strikeouts bled into the fourth. How did Chavez find out there were only two outs? The Twins third base coach told him.

“I told him when I ran (back) out there, I’m like, I’m glad you said something to me,” Chavez said, “because I would have made it all the way to the dugout.”

Chavez said it was a relief “for sure” when Sabathia got out of the inning without a run, and Joe Girardi actually thought Chavez’s mistake might have a saved a run (if the Yankees hadn’t turned two on that play, there would have been a runner at third base for the passed ball that followed). Surprisingly, Chavez said his teammates didn’t give him too much of a hard time.

Speaking of which, hasn’t Chavez made three embarrassing mistakes this year? The pickoff, forgetting the outs, and throwing the ball that hit Cody Eppley in the head earlier this season?

“Yeah, but that was his fault,” Chavez said. “He wasn’t looking.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 93 Comments →

Postgame notes: “If there’s a time, now’s the time”09.26.12

Joe Mauer is hitting .323 with the highest on-base percentage in the Majors. He could get some bottom-of-the-ballot MVP votes, and he’s been red hot in September. The Twins No. 3 hitter came into this afternoon hitting .444 in his past 11 games.

Mauer faced CC Sabathia four times today. In his first three at-bats, he struck out on three pitches. In his last at-bat, he rolled over a first-pitch groundout.

“I think every team looks at their No. 1 and is like, this is the guy we have to win with,” Eric Chavez said. “(Sabathia)’s definitely that guy for us. It was good to see him have back-to-back starts where his stuff was really good. I think if you were to look at one hitter, you look at Mauer and what he was able to do to him today. It tells you how good his stuff is.”

One strong start is good, two is better, and the Yankees now seem to have their ace back. After four starts that raised serious questions about Sabathia’s workload, health and whether he was running out of gas down the stretch, he’s now delivered consecutive gems. Today he struck out 10, walked one and allowed seven hits, all of which were singles. Of his 118 pitches, 89 were strikes.

“This is what he can do, he can string a bunch of good ones together,” Joe Girardi said. “We said if there’s a time, now’s the time. … I’ve never been a guy that didn’t believe in CC. He just wasn’t able to get on that roll that we’ve seen (in the past). He had a couple DL stints that interrupted his season. He had some good months before he went on the DL the first time, and we saw some good starts after he came off the DL the first time, but it’s nice to see him put a couple back-to-back.”

Sabathia’s slider was terrific today, and he was pounding the zone. Chris Stewart said he had no idea what the numbers were, but “it felt like everything he threw was in the strike zone and they were either fouling it off or swinging and missing.”

It was the Sabathia of old, and Sabathia said there was a reason for that. He said nothing has changed. He didn’t make a big mechanical adjustment. He doesn’t feel any different than he did three weeks ago. He can’t tell that his arm feels any more rested because of the missed starts while on the DL.

“It’s a good and bad thing getting time off,” he said. “Everybody said it was a great thing for me to have time off, it got me rested, then I go out and not pitch well and I’m not as sharp. I feel good. I feel the same. And this is the thing, I always feel good, especially late. It’s just one of those where I’ve had the time off, where I don’t have as many innings, but I feel the same. I can’t really tell you that I feel any different than I have the past couple of years.”

For the Yankees, the same thing is a good thing. It means their big man is back.

• Alex Rodriguez said he got “a lot of ice” today, and because the Yankees had the game under control, he never had to test his sore left foot to decide whether he could have pinch hit if necessary. He and Girardi remain hopeful that Rodiguez will be back in the lineup tomorrow. “Even feeling good, four days on turf is a little tough on a lot of our guys,” Rodriguez said. “That’s never something where you have a lot of fun.”

• Mark Teixeira went through his usual drills down in Tampa today, and he could play in an intrasquad game as early as tomorrow. “He ran a little bit harder today and felt pretty good,” Girardi said.

• Twins starter Samuel Deduno left today’s game in the second inning because of some sort of irritation in his left eye. The Twins then called left-hander Brian Duensing out of the bullpen. That meant the Yankees had their left-heavy lineup facing a lefty. “I actually ran up and checked to see the most pitches he had thrown recently in the last month was 40,” Girardi said. “So you figure, it’s one time through your lineup. You start changing, it may be too early, so we decided to kind of stay with it. Some of our lefties had had some success off him.”

• It was against Duensing that the Yankees scored six runs in the third, with the big hits coming from lefties Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. For Cano, it seemed like a significant step forward. He’s struggled lately, especially against left-handers, but he built on yesterday’s three-hit game with two doubles this afternoon. “It’s really hard when you struggle against lefties, because you know all they’re going to do is bring in a lefty from the pen,” Cano said. “But you’ve got to forget about what happened in the past, or the at-bat before, just go in there with a positive mind and try to get a hit.”

• Speaking of lefties having success, Chris Dickerson had another big day with another rare start. He singled off Duensing — he hit lefties much better down in Triple-A this year — then hit a long home run off right-hander Anthony Swarzak. “We had a lot of simulated games that got him at-bats for a while,” Girardi said. “We haven’t had any lately, but I think that really helped, to try to give him some at-bats and somewhat keep him sharp. It’s impressive what he’s done.”

• Rafael Soriano was playing catch on his own in the ninth inning, but Girardi had Dave Robertson legitimately getting loose in the eighth. He told him to just start throwing lightly just in case things got out of hand. “I would do it in June, too,” Girardi said. “You’re not going to let yourself get in that situation where it’s close and you’re scrambling to get guys ready. You tell them to go slow, give them the situation where they might come in — a couple guys get on, I might bring you in — that way they can kind of pace themselves down there.”

• David Aardsma was also getting loose late in the game, but Girardi said he was never really planning to bring him in. He preferred to get Cody Eppley some work. “Epp hasn’t been throwing a lot lately,” Girardi said. “I think it’s important to keep him going.”

• Speaking of guys getting a game. Brett Gardner played an inning of uneventful defense in left field. “I was a little nervous going out there,” Gardner said.

• Eric Chavez on his first reaction upon realizing there were only two outs after he stepped on third base in the fifth inning. “Oh s***!” Hard to argue with that.

• Girardi’s interesting take on the Chavez mistake: “Sometimes things work out right. If he throws the ball to second, I don’t think he turns the double play, then you have first and third. The ball gets by Stewy and they get another run. Sometimes it just works in your favor.”

• Swisher on his crazy spinning, diving, throwing play in the first inning: “I just felt that I had a good read on it, and I knew exactly what I was going to do when I got to the ball, so I felt a little more confident today than I did the other day. I felt like the other day I had a hesitation, and any time you have a little hesitation on a play like that, you either eat it, or throw it in the seats.”

• Final word goes to Swisher, talking about Sabathia’s outing: “I expect that. That’s what he’s brought here to do. He’s been on course for the last four years, and we don’t expect anything different. If he’s pitching great, or he’s pitching bad, the effort level is there. I think tonight shows what he’s capable of doing, and anytime we give him a cushion and some runs early, he really bears down and gets outs. In general, It just feels like those early September woes are out the door. I feel like we’re playing our best ball now, and this is the perfect time to be doing it.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 141 Comments →

Ace09.26.12

CC Sabathia is back. Putting to rest any concerns that he’s run out of gas down the stretch, Sabathia delivered a second consecutive gem this afternoon, beating the Twins 8-2 in this series finale. He struck out 10, walked one and allowed no extra-base hits through eight innings. It was his second straight eight-inning start, a significant step forward after disappointing numbers in his previous four outings. Behind him, the Yankees did most of their damage in a six-run third inning when Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson had back-to-back-to-back RBI hits. Chris Dickerson added a two-run homer in the sixth to put the game further out of reach. Brett Gardner made his first appearance since April, entering as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 333 Comments →

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