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Archive for August, 2013

Postgame notes: “There wasn’t anything I didn’t like” (with video)08.31.13

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It’s most convenient to look back at the demotion — at that moment exactly three months ago when Ivan Nova was shipped to the minor leagues — and assign that as the moment his season turned around. But Nova says you have to go back farther, to the triceps injury that sent him to the disabled list with a 6.48 ERA at the end of April.

“I wasn’t throwing for a couple of days and getting my treatment,” Nova said. “You’ve just got to focus on mentally (being sharp), because I know that part really affected me last year. At the beginning of the year, I was putting pressure on myself to do a good job every time, and sometimes you kind of go away from what you want to do. … I went to Tampa and took that time over there to really think about what I want to do and what I want to be at the end of the season. I forget about the past, get healthy first, and do what I have to do.”

Nova returned at the end of May and was shipped to Triple-A after just two relief appearances. It came as little surprise considering his second half of last season and the way he’d been pitching before the injury. Little did the Yankees know, Nova was already a different pitcher.

“It just seems like his mound presence is a little better when he’s throwing like this,” Derek Jeter said.

Ivan NovaThree months after sending Nova to the minors, Joe Girardi sent Nova to finish off a big win against the Orioles. Even with the heart of the Orioles order coming to the plate, even when the leadoff man reached on an infield single, and even with Mariano Rivera available in the bullpen, Girardi stuck with Nova through the final out.

“We have Mo in the bullpen waiting,” Nova said. “But that made me feel really good because he has confidence in me.”

Said Girardi: “There wasn’t anything I didn’t like. Everything I kept seeing was positive, positive, positive.”

Two things that are easy to notice about Nova’s resurgence:

1. His fastball. “He doesn’t really have to pinpoint location,” Chris Stewart said. “He’s just throwing it to an area and letting it move, let it do what it’s going to do.”

2. His curveball. “When he has that good curveball working, where it’s got the real sharp bite down action, you know he’s going to be successful,” Stewart said.

But the change is deeper than that. It’s a confidence that Nova showed late in 2011; a confidence that showed up again tonight when Nova labeled his past two months as “unbelievable.”

“Part of this game is having success and part of it is struggling,” Girardi said. “When you’re struggling, it’s figuring how to get out of those struggles. In each game, you’re probably going to have a little bit of a struggle, but if you can get out of a monumental struggle, those struggles seem less and you can self-correct yourself when you’re on the mound because pitchers are going to lose it in the course of a game for maybe a hitter or two. To me, he figured out what I have to do to be successful; how I have to keep my fastball down better, and how I have to use my curveball. To me, the struggles will probably help him in the long run.”

Robinson Cano• Giradi on the Rodriguez illness: “He’s got what I got. I finally turned the corner today. I feel better than I did yesterday. He wanted to play. He was sick last night; he was really sick last night, and he played. I texted him this morning and he said he wanted to try. He did some work in the cage, and then we saw him, and he just didn’t look good. He was pale. Hopefully tomorrow he’s a lot better.”

• Good looking out by the Japanese reporters — or one in particular, but I’m sure they all knew — who noticed that Hiroki Kuroda didn’t throw his scheduled bullpen today. Girardi dismissed it as a non-issue, but it’s curious considering Kuroda’s recent struggles. “Sometimes guys just skip their bullpens,” Girardi said. That’s actually true, but it usually has something to do with fatigue or some other issue.

• Eduardo Nunez said he felt fine today and is fully ready to play. “I’m good,” he said.

• Both of Nova’s complete games this season have come against the Orioles. He’s pitched two of the Yankees five complete games this season. CC Sabathia also has two and Hiroki Kuroda has one.

• Nova is 11-2 in 17 career starts in the month of August. He went 4-0 this August and 5-0 in August of 2011. He’s currently undefeated in six straight starts with a 2.08 ERA in those games. He’s pitched into the seventh inning in each of his past 10 starts overall, spanning from his previous complete game to this one.

• Jeter wasn’t fooled by Ichiro’s play on that Chris Davis fly ball in the ninth: “I thought Ichi was deking him, I really did,” Jeter said. “He hit it well, but he hit it high. I didn’t think it would go.”

• Nova said, despite Ichiro’s reaction, he never thought the Davis ball was a home run. That said, it’s Davis hitting a ball hard. “Any time that guy gets the ball in the air, you always hold your breath,” Stewart said.

Derek Jeter• The Yankees had Mariano Rivera warming in the ninth, but Girardi said he was never too tempted to give him the ball. Not even after the leadoff man reached. “To me, if (Nova) walks him, it might be a little bit different,” Girardi said. “But he got a ground ball. And he’d gotten a ton of ground balls, and in that situation you’re looking for a double play, and he’d been getting a lot of ground balls all day so I decided to leave him in.”

• Jeter made a nice play to help turn a double play in the eighth. That was a huge play after Nova’s only walk of the game. How’s Jeter’s defense? “Just good enough to make that play and turn a double play,” Jeter said. “I feel fine. You get more comfortable the more games you play.”

• Remember how good Robinson Cano was down the stretch last year? He’s getting pretty hot again right now, including both RBI today. “Probably in the long run, those couple of days off (after the HBP) will probably help him,” Girardi said.

• Today’s home run moved Cano into a tie with Bill Dickey for the 15th-most homers in Yankees history with 202.

• Subbing into the lineup after Rodriguez was scratched, Lyle Overbay responded with a 2-for-3 that snapped an 0-for-15.

• The Yankees have won a season-high six straight home games, their longest winning streak at Yankee Stadium since seven straight in September of last year. They are no 32-0 in home games in which they have held a lead of at least two runs, according to Elias.

• Final word goes to Girardi: “It’s going to take a real team effort to get to play in October, but you get starts like this, and you score runs like yesterday, you’ve got a shot.”

Associated Press photos

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Ichiro: “I was just having fun”08.31.13

A quick glimpse into the unique experience of playing baseball, watching baseball and covering baseball when Ichiro Suzuki is involved…

In today’s ninth inning, with a runner on base, Chris Davis lifted a deep fly ball to right field. It was extremely high, and while it initially looked like a routine out, Ichiro kept drifting back, back, back. Occasionally, he would turn his body as if preparing to either play the ball off the ball or making a running leap at the fence. He always seemed to be tracking the ball just fine, but he never seemed sure he would have room to make a play.

“I was just having fun,” he explained. “I’m a professional, so it’s good to get things excited. Obviously the result is the most important. If you look like you’re going to get it and it goes over the fence, obviously the fans wouldn’t be excited about it. But if the fans thought, ‘Oh no!’ and then you make a play, I think humans want to come from a bad place to a good place, in general. So that’s all it was.”

Yes, Ichiro was messing with everyone in Yankee Stadium. Did he really know he had it the whole time, and there was no chance of it going over his head? Ichiro nodded silently before answering, without his translator: “Absolutely.”

But what about poor Ivan Nova watching from the mound?

“I kind of feel bad about that, but once again, he feels really good afterwards,” Ichiro said.

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Super Nova! Another brilliant start for another big win08.31.13

Ivan Nova

Exactly three months ago, the Yankees shipped Ivan Nova to Triple-A. Today, they stepped toward the final month of the season with Nova as their most reliable starting pitcher. Brilliant again this afternoon, Nova pitched his second complete game and first shutout in a 2-0 win against the Orioles. For the first time since July 6, the Yankees have moved out of fourth place in the division and now lead the Orioles by a half game in the standings. The Rays and A’s play one another tonight, meaning the Yankees will pick up a game on one of them in the wild card race. They’ve moved up because of Nova, who struck out five and allowed three hits, all singles. He has a 2.28 ERA since returning from the minors and the Yankees won all six of his starts in the month of August. His modest offensive support came from Robinson Cano, who had an RBI double in the first inning and a solo home run in the eighth.

Associated Press photo

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Game 135: Yankees vs. Orioles08.31.13

YANKEES (71-63)
Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano DH
Curtis Granderson LF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Chris Stewart C

RHP Ivan Nova (7-4, 3.14)
Nova vs. Orioles

ORIOLES (71-62)
Nate McLouth LF
Manny Machado 3B
Chris Davis 1B
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Nick Markakis RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Wilson Betemit 3B
Brian Roberts 2B

RHP Scott Feldman (4-3, 4.56)
Feldman vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network

WEATHER: Apparently there’s a chance of rain later in the day. Right now everything looks alright. Little bit cloudy, but nothing to put first pitch at risk.

UMPIRES: HP Chad Fairchild, 1B Jeff Kellogg, 2B Eric Cooper, 3B Paul Schrieber

LEADING MEN: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees are 31-0 this season in home games in which they have held a lead of at least two runs.

ARM STRENGTH: Beginning on Sunday, the Yankees will face four consecutive left-handed starting pitchers. They are 25-18 against lefty starters this season, including 15-7 at home.

HERO’S RECOGNITION: Prior to today’s game, United States Army Staff Sergeant Ty Michael Carter will be recognized on field in a pregame ceremony. He is the most-recent recipient of the nation’s highest military honor, having received the Medal of Honor from President Obama on August 26 for his heroic actions on October 3, 2009 during an attack by enemy forces at Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District of Afghanistan.

UPDATE, 1:20 p.m.: Leadoff double by Gardner, get-him-over at-bat by Jeter and an RBI double by Cano. Quick and easy way to score a run and take a lead.

UPDATE, 1:33 p.m.: Nova gets out of trouble in the second — double play helped — and the Yankees keep a one-run lead.

UPDATE, 1:58 p.m.: Breaking ball that bounced well in front of the plate, then hit the batter. Perhaps not one for the Ivan Nova highlight reel.

UPDATE, 3:04 p.m.: Naturally, the guy who wasn’t supposed to play today has two hits. But the story of this day — so far — is brilliant Ivan Nova. What a start on a day when the offense hasn’t been able to carry its weight.

UPDATE, 3:07 p.m.: Third time Gardner’s been on base today.

UPDATE, 3:18 p.m.: Exactly three months ago, Nova was optioned to Triple-A. Incredible.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 148 Comments →

Rodriguez sick; scratched08.31.13

Alex Rodriguez has been scratched. The Yankees are calling it flu-like symptoms. Mark Reynolds moves to third, Lyle Overbay now playing first.

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano DH
Curtis Granderson LF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Chris Stewart C

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 69 Comments →

Pregame notes: Quiet morning in the Bronx08.31.13

Things are usually quiet before a day after a night game, and today’s pregame clubhouse was nearly silent.

Not that the place was empty — there were a handful of players coming and going — just not a ton of buzz. The situation is what it is, everyone seems to understand it, and the Yankees have another nearly must-win game this afternoon.

In these next five weeks, the Yankees have to hope they go through a lot more days just like this one.

David Adams• September call-ups are coming tomorrow, but Joe Girardi wouldn’t announce any names this morning. “We haven’t made a final decision, so I have to talk to Cash today,” Girardi said. “Obviously the (40-man) roster sometimes comes into play there, so Brian and I will probably talk about it tonight and we’ll see some new faces tomorrow.”

• Just guessing here, but David Adams and Dellin Betances seem to be locks for promotions, and obviously Preston Claiborne will be back after Class-A Tampa’s season ends on Monday. Melky Mesa seems like a safe bet assuming his hamstring issue isn’t serious enough to keep him out of consideration. J.R. Murphy would have to be added to the 40-man, but that’s probably not a significant hurdle for a third catcher who has to be added this offseason anyway. Brett Marshall as a mopup man fits an obvious role, and he’s an easy call-up since he’s on the 40-man. Beyond that, it’s all about what the Yankees want and need. Another utility type? Another lefty? Another middle reliever?

• Another utility man might not be essential because Girardi said today that Eduardo Nunez is available as a backup player and could probably be in the lineup if necessary going forward. “We’ll go through BP today and he could be more than (a reserve) as we go forward,” Girardi said.

• Mark Reynolds how now played two in a row against right-handed pitching. “We like what we see and we’re going to continue to play him,” Girardi said.

• Alfonso Soriano gets a relatively rare turn at DH: “Just throw a day here and there at him,” Girardi said. “The thing is, you want to be able to play him every day, that’s the thing, so if you can get him a little time off his feet, you hope it’s helpful. Day game after a night game, I thought it was a good idea to do. We’re going to see a lot of lefties in a row, so he’s going to be out there.”

Associated Press photo

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Red-hot Reynolds back at first base08.31.13

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Curtis Granderson LF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chris Stewart C

RHP Ivan Nova

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Reynolds: “It’s definitely got me on time more”08.31.13

Mark Reynolds

Mark Reynolds’ first seven games with the Yankees
19 at-bats
Three hits
One extra-base hit
Five strikeouts

Mark Reynolds’ past five games with the Yankees
19 at-bats
Nine hits
Four extra-base hits
Five strikeouts

“I’m getting my foot down earlier, trying to recognize better,” he said. “We looked at video and figured some things out, just basically trying to get my timing earlier and recognize the pitch and see it a little longer. So far it’s worked out. … It’s definitely got me on time more. I’m able to recognize more pitches and not swing at as many balls. I’ve been able to make better contact. Hopefully I can stay consistent with hit.”

Yankees face another right-handed starter today. Will Reynolds be in the lineup?

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “We have to click on all cylinders”08.30.13

Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano in the month of August: .267/.325/.600 with 11 home runs, 31 RBI and six stolen bases.

“He’s playing like an MVP,” Joe Girardi said.

Mark Reynolds since joining the Yankees: .316/.366/.553 with three doubles, two homers and seven RBI in 12 games.

“He’s a guy that can carry a club,” Girardi said.

This was absolutely the type of game the Yankees couldn’t win a couple of months ago. They didn’t have the offensive firepower to make up for CC Sabathia giving a good team two different leads, one of them coming crushingly right after Soriano had put the Yankees in front with yet another home run. That fifth-inning rally started with four straight extra-base hits from the bottom of the order? Did that ever happen in June? Was it even possible in June?

“We feel like our lineup is a lot deeper, and we have some guys who can swing the bat down there,” Girardi said. “… Let’s get the pitchers right, too. We have to click on all cylinders, basically. One night, we may score eight runs, and the next night we may not, and that’s when the pitchers have to pick up the hitters.”

Here’s the question going forward: How many games like this is the offense capable of winning down the stretch? If the Yankees rotation can’t get straightened out — if Sabathia is going to keep pitching like this, if Hiroki Kuroda can’t get back on track, if Phil Hughes can’t keep the ball in the park — is this rejuvenated lineup good enough to carry the team?

Soriano talked about simply swinging at good pitches, and Reynolds talked about his minor mechanical adjustment that’s helped his timing. They made it sound easy, and certainly the Yankees are scoring eight runs a lot easier these days. But games like this are hard to win night after night.

This felt like a big win. The trick is to do it again. And again.

CC Sabathia• Sorry for the somewhat negative tone, but it’s hard to overlook Sabathia on a night like this. Nice win for the offense — and the bullpen — but Sabathia once again failed to pitch out of the sixth inning and was pulled after just 86 pitches. He’s a different pitcher these days, and tonight he was treated that way. “I guess I can’t be surprised by anything that happens this year,” Sabathia said. “… The way the year’s been going, I don’t blame (Girardi).”

• Girardi on the decision to pull Sabathia with two outs in the sixth: “(Danny Valencia) hit a changeup out and he hit a fastball at Alex. That’s his job to fact left-handed pitchers, and he’s swung very well against left-handed pitchers, so I thought I’d bring in the righty.”

• Kind of unusual on a night when he doesn’t seem sharp, Sabathia actually said he felt alright. He usually says his arm felt OK, then picks apart his bad pitches. Tonight he said this: “I feel like I threw the ball pretty well, just a couple of times they were able to get to me and put some balls in play. It kind of turned out to be not as good.”

• The home run to Valencia was a changeup that was supposed to be down. Sabathia was hoping for a double play. He left the pitch up, and Valencia hit his sixth homer. He’s in a five-game hitting streak, batting .611 with four doubles and two homers during that stretch.

• Dave Robertson said he expects to be available again tomorrow after throwing an inning and a third on 25 pitches. “Right now it’s getting tight and we need to win every opportunity that we can,” he said. “I was prepared to come in in the seventh inning, and I”ll be prepared the rest of the year.”

Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner• Girardi seemed to manage this game with a new urgency — going to the pen early, using Kelley in two different innings, giving Robertson four outs — but Girardi said that was at least partially because a rested bullpen gave him that luxury. “You had some guys who had three or four days off,” he said. “When you can do it, I’ll do it, but you can’t do it every day because you’ll wear them out and then they’ll struggle.”

• In the fifth inning, the first seven Yankees batters reached base safely. According to Elias, that’s their longest such streak in one inning since April 21, 2012. Seven straight also reached base in a game earlier this year, but it was spread across two innings because Zoilo Almonte was thrown out trying to stretch a second to a double, which ended an inning with the streak still going.

• Reynolds has back-to-back three-hit games … Soriano has homered three times in his past three games … Ichiro Suzuki snapped a 131 at-bat homerless stretch.

• Girardi on the Curtis Granderson bunt in the seventh when Soriano was out between third and home: “I’m ok with it because Sori can get at least halfway down the line. … It’s a read by Sori and it may have shocked him, I’m not sure what happened, but I don’t have a problem with it.” Girardi said he was fine with both of Granderson’s bunts tonight. “If they’re going to give him a base, we have some guys now that can hit the ball out of the ballpark behind him,” Girardi said.

• Final word goes to Soriano: “I’m working hard with the hitting coach. I’m very aggressive at the home plate, but at the same time, select and wait for my pitch. That’s what I try to do. … We never lost the confidence. Now we know we have a very good lineup and a very good offense.”

Associated Press photos

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Yankees offense picks up the slack to beat Baltimore08.30.13

Ichiro Suzuki, Taylor Teagarden, Paul Schrieber

These were Joe Girardi’s words pregame: “This is going to be a complete team effort if we’re going to get to where we want to go in October. … If the (starting pitcher) doesn’t have it that night, we’ve really got to pick them up offensively.” It was definitely one of those pick-them-up games tonight. After CC Sabathia struggled — again — the Yankees lineup answered for an 8-5 win that pulled the Yankees within a half game of the Orioles and kept them in the hunt for the wild card. After Sabathia blew a lead in the top of the fifth, the Yankees responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning. Ichiro Suzuki had a go-ahead two-run home run, and Robinson Cano delivered a two-run single for some breathing room. Mark Reynolds doubled in the inning and finished with his second straight three-hit game. Sabathia, meanwhile, failed to pitch out of the sixth and was pulled after just 86 pitches, having already allowed five runs in yet another disappointing start. The bullpen provided 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, capped by Mariano Rivera’s 39th save of the year.

Associated Press photo

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