As the Yankees flew out of Kansas City on Sunday, Joe Girardi made it clear that he was not satisfied. The Yankees had not won a series since late July, and splitting in Kansas City was not going to be enough to win the American League East. The Yankees needed to start winning series, and they needed to that soon.
They did that today.
“Lately we’ve been tying a lot of series,” Girardi said. “As we know, in our division, you need to win series because we’re in an extremely tough division. After losing the first (game), kind of a heartbreaker, it was really good to see.”
After losing the series opener against Detroit, the Yankees weren’t in a particularly good spot. Their offense was struggling even before Alex Rodriguez went down with a calf injury. Add the lingering injury that would eventually land Lance Berkman on the disabled list, and they weren’t in a great spot to finally get a series win.
But Robinson Cano hit a home run in three straight games as the cleanup hitter. Austin Kearns had a two-run double tonight and is hitting .355 since coming to the Yankees. Curtis Granderson drove in the trying run and is rolling with his new mechanics.
“You can’t look too much into it,” Kearns said. “You’re in there, no matter who you are. If you’re filling in for the day, I think everybody has confidence in whoever it is to step in and be able to get it done.”
• Girardi refused to comment on the Roger Clemens situation, but Berkman and Jorge Posada each expressed support for their former teammate. “I don’t care what happens, I love the guy,” Berkman said. “I just feel bad for him and for his family. He’s a big boy. He’ll face up to whatever it is, but it doesn’t change my opinion of him at all.”
• Posada on passing Thurman Munson on the Yankees all-time hits list: “I really got to know him as I got here. I really enjoy the way he played and I really look up to him, especially playing the position that he played. The way he played (and) his leadership, it means a lot to me.”
• Cano had three home runs in the past three games. Miguel Cabrera had four home runs in the four game series. If I had an MVP vote this season — I’m voting ROY — I’d probably be leaning toward Josh Hamilton right now, but those two have been incredible. “It seems like home run and Cabrera kind of go hand-in-hand right now,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of the Cabrera home run, it came on the first curveball of the at-bat. “A 3-2 curveball in the first inning, I thought it was a decent pitch,” Phil Hughes said. “Just shows you how he’s swinging the bat.”
• When he was taken out of the game, Hughes had retired 11 in a row and 15 of the past 16 hitters.
• Girardi on the Granderson’s great catch in the fourth inning: “When Gardy came in the dugout I said, ‘Nice catch Gardy.’ He said, ‘I didn’t catch it, Grandy did.’ So I had to take it back and tell Grandy nice catch.”
• Hughes and CC Sabathia each have 15 wins. It’s the first time since 2006 the Yankees have had two 15-game winners before September. In ’06 it was Randy Johnson and Chien-Ming Wang.
• This is the first time Cano has homered in three straight games.
• Sergio Mitre pitched the final three innings, meaning he picked up his first career save.
• The Yankees lead baseball with 39 come-from-behind wins. That includes 12 of their past 19 wins.
Associated Press photos of Jeter, Cano and Daniel Fratto, who handled the public address announcing for the Yankees two-run fourth inning and did play-by-play during the HOPE Week game afterward. The kid was awesome. It wasn’t even a situation where it was cute that he was trying it. He was just good at it.
Postgame notes: The one that got away • 08.14.10
When he saw Billy Butler drive the ball toward the right-field corner, Austin Kearns’ reaction was to run sideways.
“I broke thinking I was just going to have to go over toward the line, and then I had to turn and go back,” he said. “It seemed like the wind had shifted after those first couple of innings. It was coming in real hard early in the game, and then we came back in and it was blowing out.”
The home run hit off the foul pole — I really thought it hit off that small railing at the top of the wall — and that was just enough for a 4-3 Royals win. Dustin Moseley was erratic early, but he had settled down after the first rain delay and was pitching pretty well when Butler took him deep.
A two-hour, 10-minute delay followed and neither team could score another run.
“When it came off the bat I thought it was definitely going to be foul,” Moseley said. “I didn’t think it was going to go that far, but it just kept going.”
• When he started the game, Moseley’s command was off. Joe Girardi said he thought the problem was Moseley’s curveball, but Moseley said it was pretty much everything. During that 31-minute rain delay in the middle of the third, Moseley looked at video and made some mechanical corrections. “When you’re elevating and you’re not overpowering, I put myself in some bad counts all throughout the first couple of innings,” Moseley said. “That accounts for three runs.”
• The Butler home run was a 2-1 fastball. “Guys are looking for a fastball,” Moseley said. “It wasn’t terrible, but in that count you’ve got to make a really good pitch.”
• Around midnight, when the almost restarted but was quickly delayed again, it looked like Joe Girardi pulled his players off the field himself. That wasn’t the case. “(Crew chief) Gary Cederstrom said, ‘There’s lightning and we’re not going to start in this,'” Girardi said. “‘Go ahead and sit him (Chad Gaudin) down, and when we feel it’s safe, we’ll get back to starting.’ They weren’t anticipating that.”
• Down by one run in the fifth inning, Girardi said he was confident the umpires would not call the game and give the Royals the win. “I didn’t think they would call the game in that situation,” Girardi said. “I thought Gary did a good job (with) us sticking around and trying to play it out.”
• The Yankees had some late chances, but couldn’t score off a weak Royals bullpen (despite some defensive mistakes). “We lined out a few times,” Girardi said. “Our at-bats weren’t bad. We just didn’t get the hit when we needed it tonight.”
• Boone Logan’s birthday was Friday, but he technically didn’t pitch until Saturday.
• Gregor Blanco had a career-high three steals for the Royals. The most recent Royals player to steal four in a bag … wait for it … Angel Berroa.
• Wondering what the Yankees did during that two-hours, 10-minute delay: “We pretty much watched the Boston-Texas game in here,” Lance Berkman said. “A few guys were playing cards. Just tried to keep from eating everything in the kitchen.”
Associated Press photos of Moseley, Jorge Posada and Gary Cederstrom
The other deadline addition • 08.13.10
Lance Berkman was the Yankees big-name traded deadline addition. Kerry Wood was the veteran reliever brought in to solidify the late innings.
Austin Kearns was the other guy.
Kearns made sense for Yankees for two reasons: He’s right-handed, and he can play defense. It’s Kearns who gives the Yankees the ability to sit either Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson without putting Marcus Thames in the field. These are good things for the Yankees.
Since coming over from Cleveland, Kearns is 6-for-19 (.316), and he hit his first home run last night. The night before, he made a shoestring catch in right field to keep the tying run at third base. The night before that, he had two-hits as an emergency fill-in as the No. 5 hitter.
“He’s been swinging the bat really well for us,” Joe Girardi said. “… He’s gotten to play four days in a row, and I think that helps as well because he’s used to playing every day.”
Kearns won’t play every day for the Yankees. That’s not what he was brought here to do, but in his specific role, he’s given the Yankees a boost. And considering all the left-handed talent in the American League, that role could be vital in October.
Associated Press photo of Kearns with Derek Jeter
Cliff Lee and beyond • 08.11.10
The Yankees saw Cliff Lee twice in the World Series, and they couldn’t beat him either time. As they prepare to face him tonight in Texas, Lee looms large as a reality they are surely to face — in one form or another — in this year’s postseason.
Lee is one of the top pitchers in baseball, but every contender in the American League — including the Yankees — has a left-handed ace at the top of the rotation.
David Price in Tampa Bay. Jon Lester in Boston. Francisco Liriano in Minnesota. John Danks (and Mark Buehrle) in Chicago. They aren’t all Lee-level pitchers, but the Yankees are almost certain to face a very good lefty at least once, maybe twice, in both the division series and the ALCS.
“I like the lineup that we throw out against lefties,” Joe Girardi said yesterday. “That’s why we made some of the moves, getting Kearns and some of the things that we did. Our lineup can score a lot of runs off anyone.”
Austin Kearns and Marcus Thames are on the roster specifically to help against guys like this. Tonight’s game won’t be an accurate test because Mark Teixeira won’t be here and Jorge Posada seems unlikely to start, but this is the kind of the matchup the Yankees are going to have to deal with in October.
Pregame notes: Andy Pettitte getting closer • 08.01.10
Andy Pettitte threw 25 pitches off a half mound this morning in Tampa. He threw all of his pitches and said he takes a full stride when he throws of a half mound. His injured groin held up.
“Everything is feeling good,” Pettitte said. “I had a good week down here. My arm feels great. I’ve been able to long toss and throw down here, and stuff like that. Everything’s good.”
In an unexpected test, he was walking with strength coach Dana Cavalea and slipped on the turf. “Dana about had a heart attack,” Pettitte said. No worries, though. Pettitte said he felt no discomfort, and only feels it when he gets up to a full sprint. Side-to-side lateral moves have been no problem.
“Obviously they’re going to say let’s see how I feel tomorrow, but I don’t think there’s any way it’s going to bother me tomorrow,” he said. “I have my plans, but I’m trying to be submissive and listening to what they have to say.”
Pettitte guessed that he’ll need two bullpens before he’s ready to throw a bullpen. Joe Girardi said Pettitte is definitely out for Tuesday’s start and the start after that. It’s that third start that Pettitte might be able to make.
• Alex Rodriguez is getting a standard day of rest. “He’s played 13 days in a row,” Girardi said. “We have to make sure we keep him healthy and strong. We had talked about DHing him, but when we made the move, we got Berkman, and he’s going to DH a lot. When I give Alex and Jeet a day off, instead of DHing them, it might be a full day off.”
• There’s also this: “The last time he played three days in a row on the turf was when he hurt his hip flexor,” Girardi said. “We have to be careful with that.”
• It’s a similar situation with Brett Gardner. Girardi said he wanted to give his speed guy a day off after back-to-back games on the turf. That’s why Austin Kearns is in the lineup.
• Kerry Wood got into Tampa at 4 a.m. Girardi said he hasn’t decided how he’ll use him. He’s “probably not” more than a one-inning guy.
• The original lineup had Mark Teixeira at first base, but Girardi said his plan all along was to DH Teixeira. He decided to post a lineup with Tex at first so that he could check with Teixeira before announcing him as a DH. He just wanted to make sure Teixeira was OK with taking a day away from the field.
• Derek Jeter is likely to get a full day off soon, probably in the next few days.
• Girardi said he talked about giving Robinson Cano a game off this week, but “with all the night games he said, ‘No, I feel good.'” Instead, it’s possible Cano will also have a game off in the next few days. Girardi said Wednesday is a possibility.
• Girardi said he was not tempted to start Marcus Thames at third.
• There was some confusion here about the start time of today’s game. First pitch is at 1:40 p.m.
UPDATE, 1:19 p.m.: Rays lineup
B.J. Upton CF
Carl Crawford LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Willy Aybar DH
Sean Rodriguez 2B
Jason Bartlett SS
Kelly Shoppach C
Gabe Kapler RF
Reid Brignac 2B
Associated Press photos of Pettitte and Rodriguez
The new guys • 08.01.10
A quick reminder that Tuesday is the last day to be entered into a drawing for a signed baseball by registering for the blog.
Now that yesterday’s trade deadline has come and gone, the Yankees clearly made the most significant moves in the American League East. The Rays added reliever Chad Qualls, and the Red Sox added backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Yankees, on the other hand, added three players.
Why: Because Nick Johnson got hurt and the Yankees were without a full-time designated hitter.
Role: Could get some time at first base, but he’ll primarily be a DH, and it sounds like most of those starts will come against right-handed starters. The Yankees are happy with Marcus Thames against lefties.
He said: “My dad’s favorite player was Mickey Mantle – he’s probably one of a billion people that would say that – and one of the reasons I’m a switch-hitter is that he was such a big fan of Mickey Mantle, and he wanted me to switch-hit. I grew up hearing about Mick and the Yankees, so it’s surreal in the sense that with the situation I had in Houston, I never thought there was any way in the world that this could happen. Now that it has happened, it feels good. I think this is a great uniform to put on.”
Girardi said: “He gives you a very accomplished switch-hitter that knows how to hit in the middle of the order. He’s been an RBI guy. He’s been a run-producer. As I said, he gives you versatility.”
Why: Because the Yankees left-heavy outfield needed a right-handed hitter, and Marcus Thames struggled when asked to play the field.
Role: Not an everyday player, but he should get plenty of starts against left-handed starters, and he’s not a bad option against righties.
He said: “I’m definitely excited. It’s the best chance you have to win, obviously, coming here. That’s what it’s all about. I’m happy to be a part of it… Whatever they want. I’m not picky. Just anything to help out.”
Girardi said: “He’s going to play against a lot of left-handers, and he’ll probably play against some right handers as well. We’re in some tough stretches where we’re playing a lot of games, so we want to keep everyone fresh, and if we can get people days off, we will.”
Why: Because the late innings have been tricky. The Yankees had more long relievers than they needed, and it made sense to add another late inning candidate.
Role: Along with Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson, the Yankees have another potential eighth-inning reliever at practically no cost.
He said: “I’m obviously excited to go and pitch in a pennant race and have a chance to get to the postseason and win a championship. That’s why we all play the game… I would have liked to have held up my end of the deal (in Cleveland) more than I did.”
Girardi said: “He’s a guy that’s pitched in the back end as well. As (Brian Cashman) said, people have to earn their spots, and we want him to make all our decisions tough in the later innings… I know him more than I know some of the others guys we acquired because I know his heart. I know he’s a real competitor and that makes me believe he can help us.”
Here’s Girardi talking before last night’s game.
Phil Hughes pitched really well tonight. Except for one pitch in the sixth inning, he gave the Yankees everything they could have asked for in a game like this.
“I felt like my fastball was good,” he said. “My curveball was probably the best its been this year. It’s a positive note to build on going forward, but you can’t take away that pitch. You can’t take away that game.”
The one pitch was a 2-2 fastball to Matt Joyce. Hughes setup the pitch with back-to-back curveballs and thought he had “slowed him down enough” to get a fastball inside. He wasn’t upset with the location up and down — he didn’t want it too low to the lefty — but the fact it got out over the plate made the difference.
“It’s one of those games where whoever makes the bigger mistake is going to lose, and that was us,” he said.
The Rays pulled within a game in the American League East tonight, but the game was clearly a background event. It was hard look past all of the trade rumors swirling.
The Austin Kearns deal is official, and the Lance Berkman deal seems like a matter of time, with Joel Sherman reporting that Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes will go to Houston. I heard from Kevin Russo who said his being out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lineup was a regular day off. As far as he knows, he hasn’t been traded.
Buster Olney says the Yankees aren’t stopping at two trades. He’s heard they’re working on a third, possibly for an infielder.
• Nick Swisher said he never wants to not go after a ball, only to find out he could have caught it if he’d tried. But even he admitted that after seeing a replay, he never had a remote chance of robbing Matt Joyce’s home run. “Unless I was having a Coke and a popcorn up there, I wasn’t going to catch that,” he said.
• For a while, it looked like Swisher’s first-pitch-swinging home run was going to make the difference. “Everybody wants to be the hero,” Swisher said. “But that game for us tonight was lost on one pitch. Hughesy threw an amazing game. No doubt. Just one pitch was the difference. You don’t want to look at it in a negative way because of everything else he did, but it was just one pitch. That’s it.”
• Good outing for Joba Chamberlain, who said he did a better job staying up over the rubber and finishing out front with his delivery. “There’s a difference between going out and throwing and the times you go out and pitch,” Chamberlain said. “Tonight I made some pitches in that second inning to give us a chance to win the ballgame. I just went out and tried to locate my fastball and threw my slider pretty well. I would probably say it’s the best I’ve thrown (the slider) all year.”
• Everyone seemed to agree that Wade Davis found his curveball after the first inning, and that seemed to make all the difference.
• The Rays sold out every game this series, their first sellouts since Opening Day. “I didn’t hear as many cowbells,” Hughes said. “I guess the crowd was louder, and then after that homer, that place really got loud. That was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it.” This is the first time the Rays have ever sold out three straight regular-season games.
• Girardi said Chamberlain threw so few pitches — only 24 — in his two innings that he could probably be used again tomorrow.
• One game is the closest the Rays have been to the Yankees since June 21, when they were a half game back.
• The Joyce home run was the first Hughes had allowed on the road this season.
• Alex Rodriguez has gone 34 at-bats without a home run since hitting No. 599.
Associated Press photos of Hughes, Berkman and Swisher
The Yankees passed along some of the comments from Austin Kearns after tonight’s Indians game in Cleveland. The line that stands out the most is his response to a question about what his role will be with the Yankees.
“I think when you get the opportunity to go there, you don’t really worry about that kind of thing,” he said. “Bigger and better things I’m worried about than playing time.”
Kearns said he didn’t find out he was traded until after the game. He wondered if something might be in the works when he was pulled for a pinch runner, but it was also a blowout so he thought he might be getting a little bit of a rest.
“I’ve only been traded once, but it’s kind of like, you don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I didn’t know anything. Came out of the game and was just hanging out. After the game they brought me in there.”
In there — I assume he meant some sort of office — Kearns was told about the trade, that he was going to play for the team he was just playing against 24 hours earlier.
“You always enjoy playing teams like that,” he said. “Teams that are playoff caliber and World Series caliber teams.”
Yankees trade for Austin Kearns • 07.30.10
The Yankees have officially announced a trade for outfielder Austin Kearns. He was acquired for a player to be named later and will be here tomorrow.
“We can use him in a lot of different ways because he’s used to playing every day,” Joe Girardi said. “It just gives us more depth and more experience… It will give me a chance to rest our left-handed guys, where you don’t have to run the same guys out there every day and you can keep them healthy and strong, because we’re going to need them.”
How quickly did this come together? Girardi said Brian Cashman first mentioned Kearns name today, and it was done by tonight. Girardi said the Yankees will decide tonight and tomorrow who to send down when Kearns is activated.
As I wrote early this morning, the outfield wasn’t a spot where the Yankees absolutely had to add a player, but a guy like Kearns fits. The Yankees have seemed committed to playing Curtis Granderson every day, but this will give them a chance to occasionally sit Granderson against lefties. It should also end any thought of Marcus Thames playing the field.