A.J. Burnett has made seven starts since his last win. In six of them he’s allowed either three or four runs. No more, no less. In other words, we’ve seen this start before.
On a night that ended with two fairly stunning moments — Rivera giving up the homer, Granderson being picked off at first — the only thing stunning about Burnett’s outing was its predictability. He’s consistently given the Yankees starts they could win with a pretty good night at the plate, but Burnett has yet to pick this team up and end the winless streak himself.
“Of course it’s frustrating,” he said. “But I’m leaving it all on the field.”
Burnett was having a good night until the sixth. He said he wouldn’t beat himself up too much about the Bobby Abreu homer. “It’s two rows up,” he said. On the walk to Peter Bourjos, Burnett thought he “barely” missed the strike zone. The go-ahead, two-run double was a “pretty good hook” to Jeff Mathis, who came to the plate hitting .180 with one extra-base hit since July 2.
“I wouldn’t change a lot that I did,” Burnett said. “I pretty much pitched with conviction all night.”
As he’s done all year, Joe Girardi left no doubt that Burnett’s spot in the rotation is secure, and Burnett finally seemed agitated when he was asked whether he would expect to be the Yankees No. 2 starter if the playoffs started tomorrow.
“I’m not answering that question,” he said. “I’ll answer that question when the playoffs start. We’ve got a long time.”
Mariano Rivera had not allowed a home run at Yankee Stadium since May 16 of last year. He’d allowed a home run to an ex-teammate only once in his career (Mike Stanley in 1998 according to ESPN Stats and Information). Just two days after his fifth blown save of the season, Rivera took his second loss.
“It can happen any time,” Rivera said. “You have to make sure that a pitch gets there, and this time I didn’t.”
As for Curtis Granderson, there were runners at the corners with two outs and Mark Teixeira at the plate as the winning run. The Angels had already shown the fake-to-third pickoff move twice, and Granderson thought he was playing the odds.
“You never really see too many teams do it that many times in an inning, so the odds are he’s probably not going to do it again,” Granderson said. “There’s two strikes there. I don’t have too many options to get to second base. I just wanted to make it one more step closer, to go ahead and make it into scoring position.”
• The Yankees have lost three in a row for the first time since that three-game sweep against Boston in early June. They haven’t won a season series against the Angels since 2003 and have a 47-56 record against them since 2000, their only losing record against an AL opponent in that span.
• Burnett leads the league with 15 wild pitches. “Russ blocks that 99 percent of the time,” he said.
• Burnett is winless in his last 14 starts in the month of August, going 0-9 with a 6.72 ERA. That stretch started on August 29, 2008, so obviously it includes all of his August starts with the Yankees.
• Granderson leads the league with 101 runs scored after hitting his 29th home run of the season. He’s one shy of his career high of 30 homers, which he reached with Detroit in 2009.
• Brett Gardner has now stolen 22 consecutive bases without being caught. That’s the longest Yankees streak since Derek Jeter stole 22 straight from July 20, 2001 to June 2, 2002. According to Elias, it’s the longest single-season streak by a Yankee since Rickey Henderson stole 28 straight in 1988.
• Jeter has 16 RBI in his past 16 games. Since returning from the disabled list he’s hitting .303 with eight doubles, one triple, two home runs and 21 RBI in 29 games.
• By the way, Jeter had 20 RBI in his 62 games this season.
• Andruw Jones was 0-for-7 with a walk as a pinch hitter this season before singling in the eighth.
Associated Press photos
Today’s pregame topic of discussion was pretty much the same as yesterday’s: What happens to Phil Hughes after tonight’s start? What happens if he pitches well? What happens if he struggles? Where would he go if he lost his spot in the rotation?
Joe Girardi’s answer to all of the above was basically the same: Wait and see.
“There’s a lot of things we gotta talk about,” Girardi said. “The best thing that could happen is that he pitches really well, and then we have a tough decision to make in what we’re going to do. There are some different scenarios. (Ivan) Nova really hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen as much, and we’re going to need a starter August 27 when we go to Baltimore, so you want someone built up. There are some things after today and tomorrow we’re going to have to talk about.”
Hughes has been hit-and-miss since he came off the disabled list. He’s had one really good start, one really bad start, and two so-so starts full of ups and downs. Nova was very good in his return from Triple-A, and he’ll get another start on Thursday to further plead his case.
When the Yankees cut their rotation down to five starters, the most obvious changes would involved Hughes to the bullpen or Nova back to Triple-A. Girardi hasn’t said those are his top options, but he does talk a lot about Hughes’ bullpen experience and the Yankees desire to have someone stretched out for that Baltimore double header.
“What I am saying is that you gotta have someone built up,” Girardi said. “Maybe it’s not even someone here to make that start on the 27th. We’re going to do what’s best for everyone involved, what we think is best for people’s futures, what’s best for this team now, and what’s best for this team in the future. I’m not saying one of them would necessarily go down.”
Basically, anything is possible. Both Hughes and Nova seem to know and accept that.
“I thought (Hughes) made some progress his last start,” Girardi said. “But I think his stuff can even get better. He can give us more distance. His curveball wasn’t as sharp in his last start. CC’s slider wasn’t as sharp (last night) as it’s been, but when it’s Phil, we gotta get this guy on a roll, too. He’s had his struggles this year, so more red flags go up. His curveball wasn’t as sharp and we gotta get that going… It’s something that we have to talk about. You watch how he throws tonight, and you just have to talk about it and decide what’s best for everyone involved.”
• Derek Jeter gave his usual, as-expected responses when asked about his finger. He said it’s fine. He didn’t test it before getting to the ball park today. He feels ready to go. You can pretty much fill in the rest.
• The forecast is no good. No good at all. Word is that the Yankees and White Sox would play a regular double header tomorrow if today’s game is rained out (not a split double header). So far, there’s no rain, but the sky is starting to get a little bit dark.
• Has this rotation situation gotten in Hughes’ head? “I haven’t really noticed it,” Girardi said. “But we pay attention to it if a guy’s trying to do something out there. I haven’t really noticed it.”
• Has it been tough to get Rafael Soriano innings since he came back? “It hasn’t been tough,” Girardi said. “We him in on Saturday. It would be a good thing if we needed him tonight. It hasn’t really been tough… We still want to continue to develop the arm strength, he’s had five appearances (counting rehab), but I think more would be beneficial for him.”
• Alex Rodriguez is still on schedule to begin rehab work on Thursday.
• It seems clear that Brett Gardner has lost platoon status and is now playing pretty much every day regardless of lefty/righty. “It is hard to take him out,” Girardi said. “Even on those days (when he used to sit), I didn’t necessarly want, to but I wanted to get Andruw going and I thought that was the best way to do it.
• Manny Banuelos makes his Triple-A debut tonight, and obviously the Yankees will be paying attention. “We’re looking at anyone and everyone who we feel can help us down this last 50 games or whatever we have left,” Girardi said.
Juan Pierre LF
Omar Vizquel 3B
Carlos Quentin DH
Adam Dunn 1B
Alexi Ramirez SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Alex Rios CF
Alejandro De Aza RF
Gordon Beckham 2B
Associated Press photos
Although it hasn’t happened yet, Joe Girardi said this afternoon that it’s entirely possible he’ll shuffle the Yankees lineup against right-handers so that Brett Gardner moves back into the leadoff spot.
“I might,” he said. “He’s going so well, it’s something I’ll definitely consider. Just wait and see what happens.”
Girardi said that since Alex Rodriguez went down with the knee injury, he’s spent some time thinking about new ways to configure the lineup. He’s thought about moving Gardner back to the top, and he’s considered moving Curtis Granderson into a run-producing spot in the middle of the order.
Before he makes a change, though, Girardi said he would discuss it with everyone involved. There will be no lineup surprises in the clubhouse.
“I think guys like knowing where they’re going to be,” Girardi said. “I think you can get caught up sometimes trying to catch lightning in the bottle. You move a guy up because he’s hot, then you disrupt your whole lineup just because a guy’s hot. I think you can get caught up in that too. There’s something to be said about the consistency of your lineup, and a lot of times it’s how it all works together.”
Would Girardi be afraid to have that conversation with Jeter?
“No,” he said. “I have to do what I feel is best for the team. When you look at a lineup, you look at how it works together, not independent of one guy. No, I’m not afraid to have that conversation.”
• Nick Swisher has been moved from right field to DH, and Andruw Jones has switched from DH to right field. Girardi said it’s strictly to give Swisher a day off his feet. There’s nothing physically wrong, he just changed his mind after the lineup was posted.
• Tests on Ivan Nova’s ankle came back negative. Girardi talked to Nova this afternoon, and Nova said he feels much better today than yesterday. Turns out, he didn’t exactly role the ankle, he just felt some pain in the spot where he was hit by a line drive in his first Triple-A start back on July 7. Donnie Collins texted me to say Nova’s been placed on the disabled list, but Girardi said this doesn’t necessarily rule out Nova starting one of those double header games on July 30.
• The Yankees were encouraged by Eric Chavez’s day in Tampa. “The positive thing there is that he was able to give you five at-bats where the foot didn’t get sore,” Girardi said. “That’s the positive thing for me. Obviously the hits are positive as well. He’s getting his timing back, but that he can continue running the bases and not get sore, that’s important to me.”
• Rafael Soriano is scheduled to pitch again either Thursday or Friday. Girardi said his reports had Soriano at 91-93 mph on Tuesday, and he considered that encouraging velocity for a guy making his first rehab appearance.
• Still no word on when Chavez might play the field. Girardi said he wasn’t sure.
• Girardi on Granderson’s left foot: “I told him to let me know if he could play today. I saw him, and he didn’t say anything.”
• Girardi wasn’t certain, but he thought Alex Rodriguez had started doing some pool work in his recovery from knee surgery.
Associated Press photos
Yankees at the break: Outfield corners • 07.13.11
Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher each started the season with horrible numbers. Gardner lost his grip on the leadoff spot by the end of April, and Swisher sat for two days so that he could get his swing together. Lately, they’ve both been back to last year’s level of production.
As recently as May 25, Swisher was hitting just .208 with just two home runs. He was frustrated and it was beginning to show. Since then, he’s hit .302/.420/.566 with eight homers and the same over-the-top attitude that made him a fan favorite. Gardner was hitting .188 with a .273 on-base percentage at the end of April, but in the past two and a half months he’s hit .292 with a .374 on-base. He’s also become a much more dangerous and effective base stealer. He’s been streaky, but he’s also been productive, and he’s played his usual Gold Glove caliber defense.
Unless the Yankees decide to replace Andruw Jones on the bench, they really have no need for an outfield upgrade. Gardner’s not a typical corner outfielder, but he’s been effective with his unusual approach at the plate and his game-changing speed on the bases. Swisher has regained last year’s form and is once again one of the Yankees most dangerous and versatile hitters. Where they best fit in the lineup might be a legitimate question, but whether to play them regularly shouldn’t be.
Justin Maxwell was crushing the baseball in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and might have hit his way onto the big league roster if not for a season-ending injury. With Maxwell on the DL, Jordan Parraz as been the top corner outfielder in Triple-A, and Tampa left fielder Ziolo Almonte has been the best corner outfielder in the system. Almonte has been hitting for average and power while stealing bases, and he has to be considered a promotion candidate in the second half. Ray Kruml has emerged as a terrific leadoff man in Trenton, while Ramon Flores has lived up to his reputation for outstanding plate discipline for a teenager in Charleston.
Is Gardner about to win his first Gold Glove?
Gardner’s always had great speed, and last year he seemed to slowly make people realize just how well that speed plays in the outfield. This year, he’s also been effective throwing the ball. His four outfield assists aren’t near the AL leaders, but runners seem to be respecting his arm a little bit more this season and not taking as many chances. I’m guessing manager have noticed.
Gardner is heading for his first year of arbitration, so he’s still relatively cheap for next season. Swisher has a $10.25-million club option for next year, and the Yankees have to decide whether to exercise it. Given the money that Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth got this winter, they might not think twice about getting Swisher at that price.
Associated Press photo
CC Sabathia so thoroughly dominated the Rays yesterday, that Curtis Granderson didn’t know where to stand. He was playing center field, with a perfect view of the pitcher and the plate, but he had trouble positioning himself.
“I’m always trying to figure out where I want to be versus this lineup (with) some guys who could potentially pull the ball,” Granderson said. “But with CC keeping guys off balance I had to second-guess myself a lot today. Luckily I had Andruw to my left who has a great deal of experience. I could trust him to say, let’s move the other way, these guys aren’t necessarily going to catch up to what he’s got going on.”
It was an interesting insight into Andruw Jones’ knowledge of the game, but surely the Yankees can get more value than that out of their fourth outfielder.
Jones’ batting average is down to .195 after an 0-for-3 yesterday. He’s hitting .231/.315/.446 against lefties, but he hasn’t had an extra-base hit since May 29, which says a lot about how infrequently he’s played and about how unproductive he’s been when he’s gotten at-bats.
There is a familiar alternative in Triple-A. Greg Golson is hitting .295/.350/.432 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’s been especially productive lately, but he comes with two concerns: 1. He doesn’t have a history of hitting quite like this, and 2: His platoon splits are completely backwards. Golson is hitting just .196 against lefties. Another right-handed Triple-A outfielder, Jordan Parraz, also has impressive numbers with the same unusual splits (though not as extreme). Chris Dickerson is a lefty, which doesn’t let him perfectly fill Jones’ role.
Given the Yankees three outfield regulars, the team don’t need much out of their fourth outfielder. But right now, Jones’ only real value is his experience, and that’s not helping too much.
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: Burnett “probable” for Monday • 07.01.11
Phil Hughes threw his regular between-starts bullpen this afternoon, then he came into the visiting clubhouse in Citi Field and sat with his right shoulder iced. It was a familiar routine. What comes next, though, is still unknown.
“Discussions (about) possibly what’s going to happen in the next few days,” Joe Girardi said. “Bartolo’s pitching tomorrow, so we’re going to see what happens, and we’ll make a decision when we have to.”
The Yankees have announced their probable starters for their upcoming series against the Indians. A.J. Burnett is scheduled to pitch Monday — which would Hughes’ normal day — followed by CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. Girardi said those plans could change, but for now the Yankees are on turn.
Hughes will pitch somewhere early next week, the Yankees just aren’t sure where.
“We have to decide how we get through this weekend,” Girardi said. “Do we want to give him one more start in the minor leagues to build him up even further or do we feel that he is ready to go? That’s the determination we have to make in the next couple of days.”
Girardi seemed to be indicating that Hughes’ status depends on how well Colon gets through tomorrow. It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which Hughes makes another minor league start if Colon stays healthy, but moves into the big league rotation if Colon suffers a setback. But that’s all imagination at this point. The Yankees haven’t announced anything and seem to be waiting to make their decision.
• Goes without saying that the Yankees haven’t decided how their rotation will change with both Colon and Hughes healthy. Girardi stressed that Ivan Nova’s performance tonight won’t be a factor in whether he keeps his job. “His job is not going to be determined whether he pitches great today or doesn’t pitch great today,” Girardi said. “That’s not going to determine. And he’s been in that situation where there was news that Hughesy was coming back and he went out and threw a gem, so he’s been through this before. He needs to focus on what he can do. That’s the important thing, and just go out and pitch.”
• The Yankees don’t have a regular platoon in left field, but that’s been Andruw Jones’ usual spot when he’s been in the lineup. Brett Gardner started against a lefty in Chicago, and he started against a lefty yesterday in the Bronx. He’s not starting today, despite the spacious Citi Field outfield. “I was going to play Jonesy against the lefty today,” Girardi said. “Whether it was a spacious outfield or not, I was still going to play him. Then, you obviously hope that you get that lead and you make that switch defensively. We’re facing a bunch of right-handers in a row after this and (Gardner will) continue to play.”
• Girardi said Derek Jeter is still on schedule to make a rehab appearance tomorrow, despite being rained out today. Jeter is flying to Trenton today and will run there at some point today.
• Doesn’t matter tonight, but Girardi said Colon will be limited to roughly 80 pitches tomorrow. “We’ll see how difficult those 80 pitches are,” Girardi said. “Maybe you let him go a little bit more, but hopefully he’d be able to get through six innings.”
• Jeff Marquez said he’s scheduled to play catch tomorrow. Colin Curtis is also with the team here at Citi Field.
• Girardi on Jose Reyes: “You’ve got to keep him off the bases, and the way he’s swinging the bat, it hasn’t been easy for clubs to do. He’s hitting close to .400 in the month of June. Now it’s July 1, maybe he can go the other way.”
Associated Press photos
After the longest outing of Ivan Nova’s young Major League, the focus in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to be on Nova’s eighth pitch of the night. It was the one pitch that cost him a run, but it might have been his biggest pitch of the night.
There were no outs, runners at the corners and the defending National League MVP had just fouled off a first-pitch fastball. That’s when Nova went to his changeup for a run-scoring double play that started a string of 22 of 24 batters retired.
“The last couple times, I wasn’t throwing too many changeups, maybe one or none in a game,” Nova said. “Tonight, we started with changeups to their third and fourth hitters, the power hitters, because you don’t want to let them hit your fastball. I started mixing from the beginning, and we kept doing that through the end of the game.”
Nova leans heavily on his fastball and curveball, and both are good pitches, but when he was struggling a month ago, it was his reluctance to throw anything beyond those two pitches that got him into trouble. He had to mix it up, and tonight he did that. Russell Martin said it was the first time he remembered Nova having both a sharp curveball and a sharp slider, and Joe Girardi was thrilled to see his 24-year-old going to the changeup, especially against left-handed home run hitters in a homer-friendly ballpark.
“It’s impressive,” Girardi said. “We’ve seen this kid take some steps forward and do some really good things for us, and we’ll continue to work with him and try to teach him. And I think he’s learning on the way. That’s what you do when you’re a young starter, you take what you did the last start and try to learn from it. And I think he’s doing that. He’s making adjustments as he needs to make adjustments.”
Nova didn’t walk anyone tonight, and after those back-to-back singles that opened the bottom of the first inning, he allowed just two more hits the rest of the way. He’s not usually a strikeout pitcher, but he struck out a season-high seven, including the last batter he faced on a nice breaking ball on the outer half.
“He looked poised today,” Martin said. “It looked like he felt confident even though he had to battle that first inning. After that, it looked like a piece of cake for him.”
My audio of Nova is awful — he was standing right underneath a speaker that was blasting some song I’d never heard — so here’s the Martin audio. He’s always pretty good at talking about his pitchers.
• Alex Rodriguez came out of the game just because Girardi wanted to get him off his feet, but Rodriguez admitted that he’s feeling a little banged up lately. “I feel okay,” he said. “Just okay. Nothing north of that, that’s for sure.” He said the shoulder’s not a problem, he’s just played a lot lately, and Girardi said he’s planning to have Rodriguez in the lineup tomorrow.
• Rodriguez said his diving play at third base didn’t bother his shoulder. “A lot of guys are banged up,” he said. “It’s part of the long summer. I don’t think there’s a guy in Major League Baseball that feels 100 percent right now. I’m no exception.?”
• One advantage to having a former National League catcher behind the plate for an interleague series: “When I got here, the first thing I asked (Martin) was, ‘Do you know the hitters well?’” Nova said. “He said yes, so I didn’t shake any time. I trust my catcher, so whatever the sign was, I just threw it.”
• Nova acknowledged that he thought about this ballpark’s reputation while he was throwing in the bullpen pregame. He was especially focused on staying down in the zone, keeping hitters from elevating in a homer-friendly park. “He’s a tough guy to evelvate the ball on because he’s got so much movement,” Martin said. “And for the most part he keeps his fastball down. He’s just really a tough guy to elevate, so when you’ve got a guy who keeps the ball down like that, you’re not really to worried about the long ball.”
• Girardi said he never really considered sticking with Nova for the ninth inning. Nova had already thrown more innings than ever before, and Girardi didn’t want to send him back out there at 105 pitches. Nova said he was surprised to be taken out and thought he could have finished it.
• Girardi’s plan in the ninth was to stick with Luis Ayala until a runner got on base, then he wanted to go to Boone Logan to face a lefty. Logan hadn’t pitched since June 12. “We wanted to get Boone in a game,” Girardi said.
• Logan hit Votto with his first and only pitch, but Girardi didn’t indicate any thought of no longer using Logan. “It’s not what you want to do, but we’ll move forward,” Girardi said.
• After Logan put a second runner on base with no outs, Girardi said it was a no-brainer to go to Mariano Rivera, even though there was another lefty coming to the plate. At that point it was a save situation. “It’s his job,” Girardi said. “That’s what we have him for, and that’s what he’s done for a long time.”
• In a homer-ballpark, the Yankees did most of their scoring with a series of singles — and one double — in the first inning. “I thought our guys were ready to hit right from the start,” Girardi said. “Nobody tried to do too much. There’s all this talk about this ballpark being a home run ballpark. Our guys just took what they gave them, hit hard line drives and we scored runs.”
• Girardi said the decision to replace Jones with Brett Gardner was strictly for defense and had nothing to do with the ankle injury or Jones not running out the play.
• Nova was hilarious talking about his first big league at-bat. He said the first fastball looked like it was 100 mph. “The first pitch he threw me was 85,” Nova said. “The second one was 90-91. I was like, ‘What the hell? What are you trying to do with me? Keep throwing 85.’ I got a chance to hit and pitch in the big-leagues, so I’ll take that. It was a really good experience.”
Associated Press photo
The reactions were probably exactly as you might expect. Alex Rodriguez shrugged, Joba Chamberlain laughed and Derek Jeter really didn’t want to talk about it.
Today, Sports Illustrated released the results of a player poll that ranked the most overrated players in baseball. Rodriguez was first, Chamberlain second and Jeter third.
“That’s good company right there,” Chamberlain said.
Those three have led the overrated poll each of the past three years. Chamberlain was No. 1 last year and Jeter was No. 1 in 2009, the year he went on to finish third in the MVP voting.
“I’ve been on this list many, many times, and I’m sure I’ll be there again next summer,” Rodriguez said. “I will say this: If this is the only thing we’re talking about, we’re doing good.”
I have a hard time getting too worked up about something like this. It’s fun to talk about, but it’s also impossible to say whether players took the word overrated to mean overpaid, overhyped or overly famous. It’s also hard to know how much money and jealously play into something like this. A player in New York, with the Yankees, is naturally going to get more exposure than a player in Milwaukee playing for the Brewers. Does that makes Yankees more susceptible to being overrated? If a player is overrated, doesn’t that say more about the person doing the rating than the player himself?
“I guess I’m disappointed that I’m not No. 1,” Chamberlain said. “I’ve still got a job, so I’m doing something right.”
Jeter said he didn’t vote: “I’m more focused on more positive things,” he said.
• Girardi said he put Russell Martin’s name in the lineup before he had a chance to check with him. Martin will do what he did yesterday, go through stretch and drills to make sure his toe is up to playing.
• Lately, Girardi has been starting Eduardo Nunez against left-handers and using either Jeter or Rodriguez at DH. Today, he decided to DH Andruw Jones and could take advantage of Brett Gardner’s defense in this spacious outfield. “You’re playing in a big outfield and Gardy has hit lefties,” Girardi said. “I just felt, it’s a good day for Gardy to play.”
• What day is good for Rodriguez to get a DH day? “Tomorrow would be a great one,” Girardi said.
• Girardi went further than before in admitting that his DH spot has become a platoon. “You could look at it that way,” Girardi said. “Jorge hasn’t had success right-handed this year, but he’s had success in the past. It’s just kind of worked out that way.”
• Before the game, Phil Hughes did long toss with Ivan Nova. Hughes will throw a bullpen tomorrow.
• Girardi’s scouting report on Brett Anderson: “Outstanding breaking ball. And he’s going to throw it for a strike, and he’s going to try to back foot the right-handers, and you’ve got to try to lay off it. The young man’s got very good stuff. When you face these guys, they know how to expand the zone, and that’s where you have to try to lay off them.”
• Left-handers have a higher batting average than right-handers against Anderson this year, but Anderson has yet to give up an extra-base hit to a lefty this season. “Lefties don’t hit him for power,” Girardi said. “They definitely don’t. And righties, I think, have only hit four homers off him this year, so it’s not a guy that gives up a lot of homers, but the extra-base hits come off of righties.”
Coco Crisp CF
David DeJesus RF
Conor Jackson 1B
Josh Willingham DH
Ryan Sweeney LF
Kurt Suzuki C
Mark Ellis 2B
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Andy LaRoche SS
Associated Press photos
Jones showing his value • 05.31.11
One week ago, Jones’ job seemed to be in danger. If not in danger, certainly in question. He’d been brought to New York to hit against lefties, and he wasn’t hitting against anyone. He had only 50 plate appearances, but the early results were enough to wonder if Justin Maxwell might be a better right-handed outfield option.
Then Jones went 3-for-3 with two home runs on Wednesday. In his next start, he was 1-for-4 with a key three-run double on Sunday. Jones is hitting .268/.318/.610 against left-handers, which is exactly what he was brought here to do.
“I’m feeling good the last two games, for sure,” Jones said. “I had about 20 at-bats that I wish I could erase, but you have to keep working, keep hanging in there and keep working with K-Long, making adjustments. When they call your name, just go out there and get the job done.”
Two games is hardly a sample size that proves anything, but it’s enough to show the potential of a platoon bat like Jones. It’s enough to show that 50 plate appearances might not be an especially meaningful sample size either. It’s not enough to prove that a player is finished.
The Yankees will probably lean on Jones these next two games. They’re facing two of the best left-handers in the American League in Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez. Jones doesn’t have good numbers against either of them — 1-for-10 against Anderson, 1-for-7 against Gonzalez — but if he’s starting to find his swing, he’s probably worth a start.
“We’ve faced some pretty good lefties in our league,” Joe Girardi said. “There are a lot of good lefties in he American League right now. He got off to a hot start, then he went through a little period, but now he’s swinging the bat good and has been very productive. Seven RBI in his last two games, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Associated Press photo
Postgame notes: “He takes it upon himself” • 05.29.11
The biggest out was the one pictured above. It came on a bases-loaded cutter to Ichiro Suzuki, a guy with outstanding career numbers against the Yankees ace. CC Sabathia attacked him, and got a comebacker. He threw home, started a 1-2-3 double play, and walked of the mound with a fist pump. The yankees were already leading by seven, but it was only the fifth inning, and Sabathia seemed to know he’s just halted the biggest threat of the day.
“He just knows how to pitch,” Joe Girardi said. “When he has to give us distance, he knows what he has to do. He takes it upon himself that, ‘I’m going to go out and do it for you.’ If CC gets in a little jam, there’s no panic to him.”
Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Yankees seem to play their best baseball behind their best pitcher. Sure, they’ve had some stinkers behind Sabathia, but in his past eight starts, the Yankees have averaged more than eight runs. Their four highest-scoring games of the season have been Sabathia starts.
“I’ve got no complaints,” Sabathia said. “I don’t think anybody’s realized it yet, but I know.”
This was a good win. It doesn’t make up for Friday and Saturday, but it eases some of the bitterness. The lineup had a game it could be proud of, and the bullpen got a rest after being overworked the past two nights. Sabathia was two outs away from matching the two-day innings total for A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova.
“We’ve got our big boy on the mound,” Nick Swisher said. “You get one or two runs, you feel like you’re going to win the ballgame.”
• There was certainly not a sense of satisfaction in the Yankees clubhouse tonight, but it was certainly more lively than it had been the previous 48 hours or so. “I think these past couple of games have been really hard on us,” Swisher said. “Definitely not the way we would have liked them, but I just think that just goes to show the tenacity of this team to be able to come back today, especially after a late game last night, come in here today, no batting practice, everyone’s in the cage early, getting their swings in. Just that mental focus we had today, and really just did a tremendous job out there.”
• The big hit of the night belonged to Andruw Jones, who had his second double of the season with a two-out, three-run base hit that broke the game open in the third inning. “I thought that was the real turning point in the game,” Girardi said. “For him to get that (double) with the bases loaded and two outs, 5-0 is sure a lot better than 2-0. We wanted to ride CC a long time today because of our bullpen, so I thought that was huge.”
• Sabathia leads the Major Leagues in wins since his debut in 2001. He’s now won 163 games since then, breaking a tie with Roy Halladay who’s won 164. In his past three starts, Sabathia has pitched 25 innings with a 1.80 ERA. He’s won all three of those starts.
• The Yankees hit a home run within the first two innings of every game this series (Teixeira on Friday, Cano on Saturday and Swisher tonight). Of course, this was the first time an early lead actually lasted to the end.
• Swisher talked a little bit about his home run, but he also talked about falling behind and eventually drawing a walk against right-handed reliever Jeff Gray. “It was just a nice step in the right direction,” he said.
• Mark Teixeira has a six-game hitting streak and a five-game RBI streak. In his past 10 games, Teixeira is hitting .262 with six home runs and 13 RBI.
• Another scoreless inning for Lance Pendleton, meaning every Yankees reliever got into this three-game series. Pendleton still hasn’t been charged with a run.
• Curtis Granderson went 3-for-5. He’s hitting .455 in his past five game.
• Eduardo Nunez had an RBI triple (which ended with a not-so-graceful slide into third). He also managed to play an entire game without making a bad throw. After not having an RBI in April, he has seven RBI in May.
• Every Yankees starter had a hit, but only Granderson had more than one.
• The Yankees have not been swept by the Mariners since May 3-5, 2002 in old Yankee Stadium. They haven’t been swept in Seattle since 1996.
Associated Press photos