The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Garcia: “Be myself and get those guys out”10.02.11

Last time Freddy Garcia pitched the playoffs, it was Game 4 of the 2005 World Series, and Garcia pitched seven scoreless. It was his third win in as many starts that postseason.

“It’s been a long time,” Garcia said. “You always remember good times, when I pitched in ’05. I’m ready to pitch, man. I’m going to show up (today) and do my best.”

Truth is, Garcia was a much different pitcher back in 2005. He was 28 back then, still throwing a little bit harder, more than holding his own in a rotation that almost single-handedly gave the White Sox a championship.

Now 34 years old, Garcia has evolved into a different sort of pitcher, one who leans on offspeed pitches, location and guile. In a year that started with a minor league contract and an invitation to big league camp, he’s earned another turn on a postseason mound.

“For me I got to go, you know, one pitch at a time,” Garcia said. “I cannot live in the past when I used to throw hard and whatever. I have to live with what I got right now, and go with my plans. If I do that, I can be successful. So that’s what I want to do, one pitch at a time, and do the best I can… How many pitchers you know throw hard and they don’t get people out in the postseason, the regular season? So for me, I got to go out there and be myself and get those guys out.”

Here’s Garcia speaking before yesterday’s game.

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Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: “You worry about today’s game today”10.01.11

Freddy Garcia will start tomorrow’s rescheduled Game 2, and it sounds like there was never much chance of CC Sabathia getting the ball. In fact, Joe Girardi hasn’t committed to Sabathia pitching on Monday. It’s still possible, he said, the he’ll wait until Tuesday to pitch his ace again.

“You’re asking a guy to pitch on Sunday and Thursday, and he threw on Friday,” Girardi said. “To me, it’s too much… You don’t want to send a guy out there if he’s not physically as good as he can be. I’m not saying that any starting pitcher is going to be 100 percent, but if you have a couple games that you can choose from and he can be 95 percent one day and 80 percent the other day, I’m going to take him at the 95 percent.”

Right now, Girardi expects Sabathia to be his Monday starter, but he won’t set that in stone until Sabathia checks in Sunday and confirms that he feels strong enough to pitch the next day.

As for Tuesday’s Game 4, it’s obvious that A.J. Burnett is the leading candidate to start for the Yankees, but Girardi said he hasn’t discussed it with Burnett. For now, Burnett is available as a long man, and if the Yankees get into a crazy situation tonight, Burnett will be available to pitch multiple innings.

“I think you worry about today’s game today,” Girardi said. “You worry about tomorrow’s game tomorrow. That’s what you do.”

How much has this series changed now that Sabathia and Justin Verlander are, essentially, pitching only once.

“It can potentially change a lot, but I don’t think we’re ever going to know,” Girardi said. “That’s for people to sit around and talk about. You’ve got two aces going, a 1-1 game, and now they’re conceivably only going to pitch once each. It changes the complexion of it, but none of us really know if it would have changed the outcome.”

Here’s Girardi’s press conference.

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• Girardi quickly dismissed any notion that Alex Rodriguez might be bothered by playing four games in a row. He said the fact Rodriguez sat out the regular-season finale is a non-issue. “If it wasn’t New York and it wasn’t Alex this wouldn’t have been such a big deal that a guy was a little cranky,” Girardi said. “He played on turf a couple of days. I think you probably could have askd about 10 of our players in Tampa on Wednesday if any of their knees were a little cranky from playing on the turf and you probably would have gotten about seven yeses. Because it’s Alex, it’s a big deal.”

• Rodriguez actually did early work in the field yesterday and today. When I got to the park this afternoon he was taking grounders at third.

• Same thing for Russell Martin. Even with four days in a row and a day game after a night game, Martin is still expected to start every game behind the plate. “He’s ready to go,” Girardi said.

• The closest Girardi would come to confirming Burnett as his fourth starter was to say he’s a “great candidate” to start that game. “He’s pitched well against this team this year,” Girardi said.

• If not Burnett, Phil Hughes is the obvious alternative. “He’s an option,” Girardi said. “He’s not really stretched out over the last two weeks, but I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen in the next couple games with the rain in the forecast. ”

• Girardi said he never put a real plan together because he was quickly convinced last night’s game was not going to continue, but he probably would have used Burnett had the game resumed after the rain delay. “That’s probably what I would have done,” Girardi said. “I didn’t even think about that, because when I came in, I looked at the radar and it didn’t look too good. I heard TBS say there was a window and I was wondering where that window was.”

• Girardi said it’s not up to him, but his hope is that MLB will postpone the start of tonight’s game if there’s rain in the forecast for the first few innings. He’d rather not burn out a starting pitcher in another delay.

• The Tigers have not changed anything about their lineup. They’d have to lose a player to do so, so they’re going with their vLHP lineup against the right-handed Ivan Nova.

• Andy Pettitte is here, but there’s no ceremonial first pitch tonight, so the thinking seems to be that he could be throwing out the first pitch tomorrow. Could the Yankees have Mariano Rivera throw to Jorge Posada before Game 1, then have Pettitte throw to Derek Jeter before Game 2?

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “Friday’s what we play for, and it’s here”09.29.11

B.J. Upton was at the plate in the 12th inning when the television showed the last step of the Boston collapse. The crowd here at Tropicana Field went berserk, and the volume only increased when the final score was posted on the scoreboard in left field.

Evan Longoria was literally the very next hitter.

It happened that quickly, from Jonathan Papelbon’s meltdown in Baltimore to Longoria’s game winner in St. Pete, eight minutes passed. A night that had already seen the Rangers lockup the No. 2 seed in the American League and the Cardinals clinch the wild card in the National League, ended with an unlikely celebration at the Trop.

“That was one of the best days in baseball’s history probably,” Mark Teixeira said. “Every game tonight all across baseball seemed like it mattered, and there were some great finishes… Give (the Rays) a lot of credit. Down seven runs going into the eighth inning with your season on the line, obviously we don’t want to be on the short end of that stick, but you give them a lot of credit for the way they fought back.”

Funny thing is, none of it really mattered to the Yankees. They didn’t need a win today. They just needed to get through this game with their players healthy, and they more or less did that (more on that in a bit). For the Yankees, the game that really mattered was the Rangers win against the Angels. That’s the game that setup a division series matchup between the Yankees and the Tigers.

“It’s a strange game,” Joe Girardi said. “You never know what’s going to happen from night to night. It’s weird, but Friday’s what we play for, and it’s here.”

Here’s Girardi.

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• Girardi officially named a three-man rotation for the division series: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. “We just like the way that Freddy’s pitched,” Girardi said. “Freddy’s pitched well. We talked about it and debated about it a long time, and we just decided to go with Freddy. We like the way that Freddy has competed all year, and we’re going to send him out there.”

• Sabathia will pitch Games 1 and 4. Nova will pitch Games 2 and 5.

• A.J. Burnett will move to the bullpen for the division series. That’s why he faced a batter in relief tonight, just so he could do it one time before the postseason. “He’s a guy that can get a strikeout for us if we need it, and he’s a guy that can give us some distance if we need that,” Girardi said. “He can do multiple things.”

• Alex Rodriguez is fine. Girardi said his knee was “achy,” but Girardi said he has “no doubt whatsoever” that Rodriguez will be able to play Friday. “I don’t really have a concern about him,” Girardi said. “The turf can do that to you sometimes, and he’ll be ready to go Friday.”

• Jesus Montero was sent for X-rays after a tipped ball hit his throwing hand. The results were negative, and Girardi expects Montero to be sore but available. “My guess is that he’ll be OK,” Girardi said. “We’ll check tomorrow, but the x-ray came out negative”

• Girardi said he used his bullpen according to plan. At one point Hector Noesi seemed to be stretching, but I don’t think he ever threw a pitch. “I had talked about that I wasn’t going to use Robby, Soriano or Mo,” Girardi said. “That was the bottom line, and we tried to close it out. We had a seven-run lead with two (innings to play) and I went to guys with experience, and we didn’t get it done.”

• What does Girardi make of Luis Ayala and Boone Logan — two guys who have actually been in his bullpen all year — giving up six runs in an inning? “I don’t make too much of it,” Girardi said. “You just don’t.”

• Before Logan and Ayala, a total of seven Yankees pitchers — five of them September call-ups — pitched a total of seven scoreless innings.

• Dellin Betances walked two in the first inning, but he got back-to-back strikeouts to strand the runners, and his first big league start spanned two scoreless innings. Not a bad way to bounce back after an rocky debut at home.

• The two teams combined to use 18 pitchers — 11 of them were Yankees — which set a new record at Tropicana Field. The previous high was 15 in a game between the Rays and Red Sox.

• Mark Teixeira hit two home runs and will finish with 39 for the season, one shy of the second 40-homer season of his career. His grand slam in the second inning was the fourth allowed by a Rays pitcher this season (the first was hit by Jorge Posada). It was the Yankees 10th grand slam of the season and the seventh of Teixeira’s career.

• It was Teixeira’s first grand slam on the road since hitting one off Edwar Ramirez in 2008. Did you think you’d read Edwar Ramirez’s name tonight?

• The game-tying home run that Cory Wade allowed in the ninth inning was the first run he had allowed against the Rays in six appearances this season. Wade opened the season on the Rays Triple-A team and came to the Yankees because the Rays wouldn’t give him a shot in the big leagues.

• On the Rays comeback: They were 9 games out of the wild card on September 4, the most games ever overcome in September to get into the postseason in Major League history. The Rays went 16-8 since September 4 while Boston went 6-18. Tonight, the Rays were down by seven runs in the eighth inning, making this the second-largest comeback in franchise history and the largest at Tropicana Field.

Associated Press photos

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Between-game notes: “Why not give him a good headache?”09.25.11

Does one good start in an ultimately meaningless game mean anything?

Since joining the Yankees three years ago, A.J. Burnett had never beaten the Red Sox. He had a 7.36 ERA in two previous starts against them this season, and let there be no doubt, they were certainly playing for something this afternoon. It might have been a meaningless game for the Yankees, but it meant something for the Red Sox.

Did it mean anything for Burnett?

“It’s up to (Joe Girardi),” Burnett said. “I just wanted to come out and give him headaches. I’ve been giving him headaches all year, why not give him a good headache, you know? I got runs early the past month or so and haven’t been able to put it all together, so to go deeper in the game and keep the lead — I still made a couple mistakes to Ellsbury — but for the most part I was able to make pitches when I needed to.”

Burnett pitched 7.2 innings. He allowed two runs on five hits — only Jacoby Ellsbury’s home runs hurt him — and he struck out six. He’s 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA in September, but the last time he pitched this many innings with two runs or less was way back on June 13. He walked off the field to a standing ovation.

“There were lots of (goose bumps), lots of them,” Burnett said. “It means a lot, you know. They’ve been rough, but I’ve given them reason to be rough. That makes up for everything, walking off that mound to that ovation is incredible.”

What does it mean for his spot in the postsaeason?

“We’re going to continue to look at it and talk about it,” Girardi said. “And our opponent has something to do with who we’re going to pitch.”

Burnett hasn’t faced Texas this season, but he made two solid starts against the Tigers, and has pretty good career numbers against the current Detroit roster. Interestingly, Freddy Garcia has much worse career numbers against the current Tigers, and he gave up 10 hits — a season-high — against them earlier this season (Garcia has terrific career numbers against the Rangers and pitched six shutout innings against them this year). Is it possible the Yankees would lean toward Burnett over Garcia if they face Detroit in the first round? Girardi wouldn’t go into specifics.

“I’m just hoping I gave him something to think about, you know,” Burnett said. “He’s been nothing but positive toward me the whole season. He came out and shook my hand on the mound, and it was very professional of him. As many times I’ve gone away mad, he knows I’m not mad at him. He can call Cito (Gaston) and ask him how many times I got mad at Cito. He deals with it well, he deals with me well and when he put his hand out there, it meant a lot.”

Here’s Burnett.

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• Cool pregame ceremony to honor Mariano Rivera’s record-breaking 602nd career save. The Yankees kept it a surprise and announced it to the media pregame with strict orders not to announce it on blogs or Twitter. Rivera was given a fireman’s helmet and a huge picture commemorating the milestone.

• Jorge Posada was out there for the Rivera ceremony, and he got his own moment with a third-inning curtain call after his home run. “The fans have been amazing all through my career, but especially this year,” Posada said. “They’ve been very supportive and for them standing after Andruw gets strike one. I didn’t want to interrupt his at-bat. It’s special to hit a home run and even in the last regular season game.”

• This was the first time that Posada hit cleanup since September 28, 2009. he hit his first cleanup home run since April 10, 2008. Of his 14 home runs this season, 11 have come at Yankee Stadium.

• On the home run, Posada scored his 900th career run. His first-inning walk was No. 934 of his career, moving him past Roy White for sole possession of seventh place on the Yankees all-time franchise list.

• The Yankees scored their first two runs without getting the ball out of the infield thanks to bunt singles by Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. “It had nothing to do with our game plan,” Jeter said. “I’ve faced Wakefield a bunch and I don’t know if I’ve ever bunted off him before. The opportunity presented itself, and I tried it.”

• Jeter’s batting average is up to .300. “I’m not playing for a batting average,” he said. “I’m playing for trying to stay sharp for the playoffs. (Hitting) .300 obviously is better than .200, but I’ve hit .300 before.”

• This is the first time Jeter’s batting average has been .300 or better at the end of a game since he was hitting .333 after the second game of the season.

• The Yankees are an even 16-16 in Burnett’s starts this season.

• Dave Robertson has allowed one run and 11 hits in his past 26 appearances dating back to July 26. He has a 0.35 ERA in that stretch. According to Elias, Robertson has held opponents hitless in his past 21 at-bats with men on base.

• Robertson leads all American League relievers with 99 strikeouts this season. That’s good news for High Socks for Hope.

• Francisco Cervelli went for further tests today but the Yankees haven’t heard back from the doctors.

• Girardi said he’ll probably announce a Tampa rotation after the second game.

• There’s still no plan in place — or, announced anyway — for Phil Hughes. “We’re going to talk about how we’re going to use him in the next couple of days,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees will finish the season 44-12 in day game, the highest all-time day winning percentage by any team since 1900 according to Elias.

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “I needed to pitch good today”09.24.11

Even before Freddy Garcia walked out to the mound and stepped on the rubber, the Yankees had already wrapped up a spot the postseason. But Garcia hadn’t secured a spot in the postseason rotation. He might have done that this afternoon.

“What he did today is what he’s been doing most of the year for us,” Joe Girardi said. “… Freddy’s a guy that’s been there and done all that. As we move forward we’ll continue to look at all those things, but today he pitched great.”

Garcia struggled in his first two games this month, and a couple of bad pitches really hurt him last weekend in Toronto, but today was vintage Garcia. He gave up five hits, but all were singles. He struck out only three, but also walked just one. He gave the Yankees six innings, and he beat the Red Sox, and none of the other third-start candidates has been especially impressive lately.

“I needed to pitch good today because my last three starts I was a little bit struggling,” Garcia said. “I did it. I’m really happy about it, and now I’m looking forward to my next start. I don’t know when, but hopefully I’ll be in the playoffs.”

Girardi said he likes that Garcia mixes his pitches. He likes that Garcia gives a different look than the other Yankees starters. And he likes that Garcia’s been to the playoffs before. Garcia has a 3.11 ERA in 55 postseason innings.

“I’ve been there before and I’ve been successful,” Garcia said. “Hopefully they give me the ball and I’ll be there to pitch. That’s what I do… I always like to prove people wrong. I like that. I like a challenge. If they give me a chance to start the game, I’ll be there.”

Here’s Garcia.

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Jesus Montero’s first big league at-bat came with the bases loaded against Jon Lester, and he struck out. Montero’s first at-bat this afternoon was in the same situation, and Montero singled in the first run of the game. It was the start of a 3-for-4 day that included four RBI and Montero’s fourth home run of the season.

Girardi: “I actually thought he had a pretty good at-bat that day (in his debut). I thought he fouled off some pitches and just missed some pitches. He had the one swing that he swung at over his head, his first pitch. I can completely understand that. First day in the big leagues. At Fenway. Bases loaded. Against Jon Lester. I wouldn’t have thought anything if he swung at three balls over his head, I just wouldn’t have. As that day went on, I thought his at-bats were pretty good. We have seen consistent at-bats against left-handers, there’s no doubt about it.”

Montero: “I was remembering the first time, he was on the mound in Boston. I was like, wow, this is a movie again, or something like that? I have him again with three men on base? You get kind of nervous, I get a little nervous in that moment, but I got the base-hit, thank God.”

Here’s Montero.

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• The Yankees will clinch home-field advantage with one more win, or if Detroit loses tonight against Baltimore.

• The pregame ceremony honoring Roger Maris was really nice. One thing about the Yankees, when they bring out their legends, they aren’t messing around. Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford always bring the house down. And one of the Maris boys looks just like his father.

• This was the first time the Yankees had beaten the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium this season. They are 5-11 against Boston this season.

• After scoring eight runs in the first three innings, the Yankees had just one hit — Montero’s home run — from the fourth inning to the end of the game.

• Today was Garcia’s first scoreless start since July 20. It was his fourth scoreless start of the season, and he’s allowed four earned runs or less in 22 of his 25 starts. He’s 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA in day games.

• Girardi said he’s not sure what Garcia will do next, but he could throw a sim game to keep himself on his routine and sharp for a playoff appearance.

• Girardi still has no next step for Phil Hughes, but Girardi is confident that Hughes came through today’s bullpen just fine. Girardi said it’s “possible” Hughes will start one of the games in Tampa. Earlier, it seemed like Hughes would definitely get one of those starts. Could be that the Yankees want him to work out of the bullpen if that’s going to be his postseason role, but Girardi didn’t commit one way or the other.

• Derek Jeter has a hit in 18 of his past 20 games. He homered on a fastball and has now driven in a run in five of his past nine games against Boston. He’s hitting .332 since coming off the disabled list, and he’s hitting .400 against lefties since coming off the DL.

• Montero is the first Yankees rookie to have four RBI in a game against Boston since Brett Gardner drove in four runs on September 26, 2008 at Fenway.

• According to ESPN Stats and Info: Montero is the fifth Yankee with four or more home runs in his first 15 Major League games. The rest of the list: Shelley Duncan, Oscar Azocar, Kevin Maas and Steve Whitaker.

• Montero on driving the ball to right field: “All the time my approach is to right field, trying to hit the ball to right field all the time. Sometimes it’s not going to happen, but I’m thinking that way because that’s the way I learned to hit in the Yankees (organization). That’s the way they pitch me. Every time I go to bat, that’s the way I think.”

• Maybe Russell Martin shouldn’t hate the Red Sox so much. He has 10 RBI in 11 games against Boston this season, his highest RBI total against any team in 2011. His three home runs against Boston are also his most against any team.

• The Yankees announced an attendance of 49,556, the highest for any regular-season game at the current Yankee Stadium. Today’s number broke the previous record by exactly one person.

Assocaited Press photos

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Postgame notes: “There’s some concern there”09.18.11

Ten starts in a row, Freddy Garcia didn’t allow a single home run. When he finally coughed one up on August 29, it was the only run he allowed all game. Since then, Garcia has allowed multiple home runs in three straight starts, including two tonight to Adam Lind.

“I try to make good pitches, and sometimes I’m not able to do it,” Garcia said. “That’s why I’ve been giving home runs… Last three starts, I don’t be doing my job. I’m really frustrated about it, but that’s part of the game. Sometimes you pitch good. Sometimes you pitch bad. You just have to go continue to try to do the best that you can do, and hopefully everything goes well for you.”

This weekend did little to clarify the Yankees rotation situation. Bartolo Colon couldn’t pitch beyond the fourth inning on Saturday, and Garcia couldn’t get out of the fifth today. At times, one of those two has been the Yankees second-best starter, but they’ve struggled recently.

“Bart had a good start on this road trip and had one that wasn’t so good,” Joe Girardi said. “Freddy’s kept us in the games. We talked at the beginning of the season how we worried about innings for both these guys. There’s some concern there, but they’ve just got to find a way to get it done.”

Garcia said tonight’s home run was a good pitch, a splitter that Lind put a good swing on. The second was a slider that “didn’t do much.”

As good as Garcia has been this season, there is some risk with him. He’s never been an overwhelming or overpowering pitcher. His value is in his experience and savvy, and sometimes that leaves little margin for error.

“He’s just missing some spots, that’s all,” Girardi said. “That’s going to happen. Freddy’s not going to be a huge strikeout guy and they’re going to put the ball in play. If you miss some spots, that’s the chance you’re going to take.”

Here’s Garcia.

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• The Yankees won only four of 10 on this road trip, but they still managed to gain two games in the standings. After today’s game, the team just seemed relieved to be finally going home. “From now on every game is important,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Every game is meaningful. We’re looking forward to playing at home, playing well, start cleaning up some of the small mistakes that we’ve been making. We understand we’ve got to get better.”

• After Monday’s makeup game against the Twins, the Yankees play their final 10 games against the Red Sox and Rays. With seven games at home against those two teams, the Yankees home stand could either put the division away or make it a race to the finish. “It will be a great opportunity to do that there,” Mariano Rivera said. “We still have to perform good and take care of business at home, get this thing over.”

• The Yankees magic number to clinch a playoff spot is five, to clinch the division is seven.

• Obviously Brandon Morrow completely shutdown the Yankees offense today. “He had us baffled all day with his slide,” Rodriguez said. “He probably threw 70 to 75 percent sliders, which is a very high percentage for him. He’s usually the opposite, 70 to 77 percent fastball guy.”

• Of the Yankees five hits, three were by Eduardo Nunez, and Nunez was the only Yankee to advance beyond first base.

• Of course, Nunez also made the second Yankees base-running mistake of the weekend. “He’s just making an aggressive turn,” Girardi said. “In that situation, you’ve got to know the score. You’re not going to get to second unless it really bounces off himn, so you’ve got to be cautious there. He was just overaggressive.”

• Why not pinch hit for Ramiro Pena in the eighth? “Pena’s had some success off him,” Girardi said. “Grandy is 1 for his last 15 with 10 strikeouts. If we had a couple guys on, I might have pinch-hit Grandy and taken a chance.”

• Impressive Yankees debut by Raul Valdes, who retired four of the five batters he faced, including all three left-handers. The Yankees have been giving Aaron Laffey a lot of chances to emerge as a legitimate second lefty candidate, but that Valdes appearance might earn a few more looks. I still don’t think the Yankees will actually carry a second left-hander in the postseason, but I’m sure they’d like to have a backup option in mind.

• Random fact about tonight’s game: The phone from the dugout to the bullpen stopped working for a while. “The phones haven’t worked real good here the last couple days,” Girardi said. “Danny (Iassogna) handled it and we used the policeman’s walkie-talkie for a few minutes, then they got the phones working again.”

• Girardi’s assessment of going 4-6 on the road and still gaining two games in the standings: “I think we are fortunate,” he said. “We’ve got to go home and play better, there’s no doubt about it. At times, we didn’t swing the bats on this trip. Is it good pitching? Is it fatigue? I don’t know, but I know our guys are pretty worn down. Now they’ll get to sleep in their own beds and hopefully catch up a little bit.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 272 Comments →

Game 151: Yankees at Blue Jays09.18.11

YANKEES (91-59)
Brett Gardner CF
Eduardo Nunez 2B
Robinson Cano DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez 1B
Russell Martin C
Chris Dickerson LF
Ramiro Pena SS

RHP Freddy Garcia (11-7, 3.71)
Garcia vs. Blue Jays

BLUE JAYS (75-76)
Mike McCoy SS
Eric Thames LF
Jose Bautista RF
Adam Lind DH
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Kelly Johnson 2B
Brett Lawrie 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
Jose Molina C

RHP Brandon Morrow (9-11, 5.23)
Morrow vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:07 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Might be the nicest day we’ve had here in Toronto.

UMPIRES: HP Dan Iassogna, 1B Dale Scott, 2B Jerry Meals, 3B CB Bucknor

MORE ON MO: Yesterday’s save was Mariano Rivera’s 60th appearance of the season. He’s reached that plateau for the 14 times in his career, passing Mike Stanton for most in baseball history.

MVP? Curtis Granderson ranks second in the Majors with a career-high 40 home runs. He is the third Yankees center field with as many homers in a single season. Mickey Mantle hit 40 four times, and Joe DiMaggio did it twice. Granderson also leads the Majors with 4.46 pitches per play appearance, and he joins Willie Mays (1955 with the Giants) as the only players in Major League history to collect at least 40 homers, 10 triples and 20 stolen bases in a season. Mays had 51 homers, 13 triples and 24 stolen bases that season. Granderson is the ninth Yankee to reach double digits in doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases in a season.

MAGIC NUMBER: To clinch a playoff spot, the magic number is five. To clinch the division, it’s eight.

UPDATE, 1:33 p.m.: Further proof that I’m an idiot… I had just clicked on this blog post just to write something about the slow beginning to the game — not much happening, that kind of thing — and all of a sudden, Adam Lind went deep for a 1-0 Blue Jays lead in the second. The guy has some power, no doubt.

UPDATE, 1:56 p.m.: Still 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third. Morrow has struck out four of the past six Yankees.

UPDATE, 2:12 p.m.: Adam Lind goes deep again. Have to give Gardner credit for getting up over the wall more than I expected, but he never had a chance to make the catch. That’s another solo shot for a 2-0 Blue Jays lead in the fourth.

UPDATE, 2:32 p.m.: Bad throw by Garcia moves the lead runner to third, and a sac fly brings him home. It’s now 3-0 Blue Jays in the fifth.

UPDATE, 2:34 p.m.: Garcia’s chased by a two-out single by Bautista. Here’s Aaron Laffey to face Lind, who was 2-for-2 with a pair of homers off Garcia today.

UPDATE, 2:46 p.m.: Laffey walked his guy, but Ayala got out of the bases loaded jam to keep the score at 3-0. Meanwhile, the Yankees have two hits through five innings

UPDATE, 3:07 p.m.: This diminished Yankees lineup is really struggling to get anything going. Even the regular guys are having a hard time. Cano, Rodriguez and Swisher just went down in order in the seventh, and it’s still a 3-0 Blue Jays lead.

UPDATE, 3:13 p.m.: Thames is out of the game after fouling a ball off his own face. Seemed like he was ready to stay in initially, but Cooper is going to pinch hit.

UPDATE, 3:16 p.m.: Holy cow, it’s Raul Valdes! A September call-up finally making his debut on September 18.

UPDATE, 3:21 p.m.: Valdes struck out Lind looking, now it looks like he’s staying in to face the right-hander Encarnacion. The bases are loaded with two outs, so this is a key at-bat.

UPDATE, 3:23 p.m.: Nice work by Valdes. The Yankees have been giving Laffey plenty of chances. Wonder if two consecutive outs were enough to win Valdes a few more looks in the final week and  a half.

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.: Morrow has been dominant. He’s through eight innings, still a 3-0 lead.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith 533 Comments →

Postgame notes: “I have to be happy”08.29.11

When Freddy Garcia agreed to a minor league deal this winter, the expectation was that he would eventually fall apart. Sure, he’d won some games with Chicago last year, but he was clearly beyond his prime, and clearly a signing based more on heavy desperation than high expectation.

But here we are, about to flip the calendar to September, and Garcia just keeps getting it done. It’s not flashy — he really is a different pitcher than he used to be — but it’s effective. He hadn’t pitched in a big league game since August 7, but there were no signs of rust. He gave up two hits through six innings and picked up his 11th win.

“That’s as good as it gets,” Joe Girardi said. “He hung one slider to Mark Reynolds and gave us six great innings. I would have signed up for that if someone had asked me what we’d get from him tonight. He was excellent tonight. He knows how to pitch.”

The tendency is to be … what’s the word? Shocked? Surprised? Impressed?

Garcia seems … indifferent. He shrugs off the extra rest without any rust. He shrugs off being 11-7 with a 3.09 ERA. He laughs at the notion that he should have any sort of reaction to keeping his spot in the rotation.

“Of course, I have to be happy,” he said. “I wasn’t pitching for almost three weeks, something like that, but I’m glad to do my job and get a win. We need it… I just try to do my job. Go there and do the best I can. When I pitch bad, I pitch bad. I know most guys, excuse. Go out there and perform. If I pitch good, I pitch good. If I pitch bad, I pitch bad. Nothing I can do. Always, if I’ve got a bad start, I have to put away the bad and think about my next one. I’ve got to be really positive about it.”

The Yankees are planning to cut their rotation from six to five at the end of this week. Joe Girardi has committed to no one being locked into a spot, but he did it tonight.

Will Garcia start again in five days?

“Oh yeah,” Girardi said.

Here’s Garcia.

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• Nick Swisher has become a beast. His two-run home run tonight was his sixth homer in seven games. He’s up to 21 for the season. “Once you get that groove, you want to continue to keep it,” he said. “That’s all I’m really trying to do right now.”

• Mark Teixeira’s RBI double in the first inning gave him 100 RBI for the season. He now has 30 homers and 100 RBI in eight straight seasons. He’s the only Major Leaguer to have done that in the past eight years. “He’s just a model of consistency,” Girardi said. “You know when the season starts that you’re going to get 30 and 100 from Tex. That’s great as a manager and as an organization to be able to pencil that in.”

• Curtis Granderson keeps scoring runs. Tonight he scored from first on Teixeira’s double, giving him 122 runs for the season. That matches a career-high for Granderson. He still leads baseball in the category, by a lot.

• Derek Jeter said his sore right knee feels considerably better than it did at this time last night. He expects to play tomorrow. “I hope so,” he said. “That’s the plan, but I haven’t done anything. We’ll see when we get there tomorrow.”

• Jeter said he believes he’ll be able to play shortstop. If he’s healthy enough to play, he’s healthy enough to play the field. He had his knee heavily wrapped yesterday, only moderately today.

• It wasn’t a perfect three innings for the Soriano-Robertson-Rivera trio, but it was good enough. Dave Robertson gave up his first home run of the season — snapping a streak of 68.2 innings without a homer — but those three still kept the slim lead intact. Rafael Soriano had an especially dominant inning. “Velocity was great, location was great,” Girardi said. “He’s a big part of this for us.”

• Speaking of homerless streaks ending: The home run Garcia allowed was his first after 69 innings without one.

• The J.J. Hardy home run off Robertson was also the first run Robertson had allowed on the road this year.

• The Orioles had not allowed a stolen base in seven games, but Brett Gardner stole one in the fifth inning. Gardner is up to 38 steals for the season.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 86 Comments →

Game 132: Yankees at Orioles08.29.11

YANKEES (79-52)
Brett Gardner LF
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez SS

RHP Freddy Garcia (10-7, 3.16)
Garcia vs. Orioles

ORIOLES (53-78)
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 1B
Ryan Adams 2B
Nolan Reimold LF
Robert Andino 3B

RHP Alfredo Simon (4-6, 4.30)
Simon vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Little bit cloudy, but we’ve seen worse this series. It actually feels really nice outside. Not too hot.

UMPIRES: HP Vic Carapazza, 1B Laz Diaz, 2B John Hirschbeck, 3B Wally Bell

SWINGIN’ SWISH: Last night, Nick Swisher hit his 20th home run. He’s now reached 20 homers in seven straight seasons, making him one of just three American League players to do so. David Ortiz and Paul Konerko are the other two.

SCORING IN BUNCHES: Curtis Granderson has the Major League lead with 121 runs this season. That’s 26 more than any other player in baseball, and 45 more than he scored all of last year. With one more run he’ll tie his career high. And it’s not September yet.

GOING DEEP: The Yankees lead the Majors with 186 home runs, and they’ve homered in 11 of their past 12 games. They already have 18 individual multi-homer games — most in the Majors — which is one more than they had all of last year.

UPDATE, 7:26 p.m.: Garcia strands a runner at second in the bottom of the first, and the Yankees have a 1-0 lead heading into the second. They scored on a walk and a double in the top of the inning, with Curtis Granderson going first to home. The guy leads the league in homers, and he can still run.

UPDATE, 7:59 p.m.: Swisher is clobbering the ball lately. He just went deep again, another home run to deep right field. It was a two-run shot and it’s now a 3-0 Yankees lead in the fourth.

UPDATE, 8:26 p.m.: Garcia had retired 11 in a row before allowing a solo home run to Mark Reynolds in the fifth. The Yankees still lead it, 3-1. Garcia looks sharp for a guy who’s hardly pitched the past three weeks.

UPDATE, 8:33 p.m.: Swisher manages to get in the umpire’s face to argue balls and strikes, yet doesn’t get tossed. He must have worded that argument as nicely has humanly possible.

UPDATE, 8:54 p.m.: Garcia is finished after three innings and 88 pitches. Looks like Girardi is going to the Soriano-Robertson-Rivera trio to close out this thing. Garcia was terrific.

UPDATE, 9:15 p.m.: That’s the first run Robertson has allowed on the road this year. It’s also the first home run he’s allowed this season.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith 303 Comments →

Pregame notes: The wait for A-Rod continues08.19.11

Alex Rodriguez was encouraged by a more aggressive workout this afternoon, but his return to the Yankees lineup will likely wait another full day. Joe Girardi said today that he doesn’t expect to activate his third baseman until Sunday at the earliest.

“We’ve got to do the best thing possible,” Rodriguez said. “But I think after today, this is definitely a step in the right direction. We have another big day tomorrow and we’ll take it from there. But I’m definitely not counting this weekend out.”

Girardi said Rodriguez was definitely not ready yesterday, which is why the team wanted to see him go through drills today. They want to see him go through more drills tomorrow before making a decision. Girardi didn’t rule out activating Rodriguez tomorrow, but said he would “lean against doing it.”

“I think everything was better,” Rodriguez said. “I think Mick called me defensively game ready as far as speed. I trust his eyes. He’s my defensive coach. Kevin and I thought our offensive session was really good. But the most drastic thing for me was going from first to third. Skip made me do five first to thirds, pretty much close to 100 percent, and more than anything else the recovery time was much better so Dana was happy about that.”

Rodriguez has been wearing a soft, blue brace on his knee. He said he’ll keep wearing it for a few weeks after he returns, but he expects to get rid of it eventually.

Here’s Alex.

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• Aaron Laffey broke into the big leagues as a starting pitcher, and Girardi said he plans to use him as more than a left-handed specialist. “He’s a guy that can give you multiple innings,” Girardi said. “But he’s another left-hander for us. That’s why we went and got him.”

• Laffey is expected to be here tomorrow. Lefties are hitting .250 against him this season. He had a 1.87 ERA before the all-star break, but a 12.00 since. He was once a fairly highly touted prospect, and he’s still just 26 years old.

• Girardi said Boone Logan’s role won’t change because of Laffey. Logan will still be the top lefty in the bullpen, but it helps that he won’t be the only lefty. “The only time it really limits you is when he throws two or three days in a row,” Girardi said. Now, on days Logan’s not available, the Yankees will have Laffey.

• Freddy Garcia reported no problems throwing his splitfinger today, and it’s pretty clear that he preferred to start in Minnesota on Sunday rather than go to Scranton on Monday. “We just thought it was the safer route,” Girardi said. “When you’re a starter, you’re used to working every fifth or sixth day, and he hasn’t pitched in two weeks. We just thought it would make sense to see how he comes out after today’s bullpen. Have him throw on Monday somewhere and test the finger to make sure it’s OK, and just to get sharp again.”

• The plan is for Garcia to start one of those doubleheader games next Saturday.

• Girardi didn’t have a pitch count for Garcia on Monday. “I’ll see how many pitches Larry wants him to make,” Girardi said. “It will be more than an inning.”

• A possible added bonus of Garcia’s situation: The cut has helped to limit his workload and give him a little rest. “It definitely could help him,” Girardi said. “He was throwing the ball well, and when a guy is throwing the ball well, you hate for him to have all this time. With the rehab start on Monday, that should help. In the long run, this could really help him.”

• Mustaches are 0-for-2 in the Yankees clubhouse. Following Russell Martin’s lead, Eric Chavez has shaved his.

Ben Revere CF
Trevor Plouffe RF
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Jason Kubel DH
Danny Valencia 3B
Rene Tosoni LF
Luke Hughes 2B
Tyuyoshi Nishioka SS

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 249 Comments →

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