After 12 pitches and seven consecutive foul balls, the thing that caught my eye was the reaction of Melky Cabrera. Robinson Cano had just fought through one of the best at-bats of the season, and when it ended with a game-changing, three-run home run to deep right-center field, Cabrera reacted as if he’d been expecting it all along. He took maybe a step and a half, then stopped to watch it fly away.
At some point, when you’ve seen Cano enough times, you know something like this is possible.
“Robbie’s going to hit,” Joe Girardi said. “It seems like Robbie was born to hit.”
In his past 16 games, Cano is hitting .422 with five home runs and 22 RBI. Girardi it’s the best Cano’s ever been, and Cano said he’s felt as good as he did last season when he finished third in MVP voting.
“I’ve been more able to drive the ball the other way, something I wasn’t doing most of the first half,” Cano said. “Now in the second half, I’ve got three or four homers the other way, and that’s something you want. You want power to the whole field, not just pulling things and hitting ground balls to second base.”
That fourth-inning at-bat was a perfect example of just how good he can be. A left-handed pitcher was firing fastballs and sliders, and Cano kept fighting them off — including two fastballs that he said were “on the ground” — until he finally got a slider he could handle. Cano said he had been kicking himself for not taking a walk, but he did better than a free pass.
“It’s as good as it gets,” Girardi said. “That’s just a great at-bat. Even just to foul off that many pitches and continue the at-bat is great. To get a hit is great, then to top it with a homer… To be able to recognize a pitch and foul it off when it’s not your pitch, a guy who’s throwing pretty hard up to 95-96 with a good (breaking ball), that’s not easy to do. That’s where you see the talent in Robbie.”
• Alex Rodriguez played six innings in the field and went 1-for-3 at the plate in his Triple-A rehab appearance. Girardi said he had not yet gotten a full report, but all indications were that Rodriguez came through the game just fine and will play again tomorrow.
• A side note: I wrote yesterday that the Yankees are keeping the Triple-A clubhouse closed to media before Rodriguez’s rehab games. Turns out they did the same thing when Derek Jeter was in Trenton. I don’t remember that ever happening when I was in Scranton, but apparently it’s something the Yankees have started doing to control the chaos. Understandable, just struck me as unusual when I first heard about it.
• Cano was asked whether he feels more pressure when Rodriguez is out of the lineup: “Here is always a feeling of responsibility, even with Alex not here,” he said. “But it’s more with Al here, because you want to make them pitch to him, not just walk him and try and face you. That means you’re not doing your thing.”
• Cano’s at-bat was clearly the turning point, and the Yankees wouldn’t win this game without a big night from the lineup, but the bullpen was beyond outstanding. Yankees relievers faced 11 hitters and retired all of them. “They’ve done a tremendous job in these two games here,” Girardi said. “They’ve been really good. It’s how you draw it up.”
• Derek Jeter is now hitting .352 with 17 runs and 21 RBI in his past 22 games. he’s a career .318 hitter against the Royals… Not to be outdone, Brett Gardner is a career .474 hitter against the Royals (9-for-19).
• Ivan Nova’s two worst starts this year have come against the Royals. “They hit me,” Nova said. “They see my ball really well. That’s why I get hit against this team.”
• Girardi and Nova seemed to have different takes on the problem tonight. Nova felt like he got hit on some good pitches. Girardi thought Nova made some good pitches, but got hit on mistakes that were up in the zone. “He was up,” Girardi said. “You look at the hits he gave up, high slider, high curveball, high fastball. He threw some good sliders and good curveballs, but it seemed like when he made a mistake – sometimes with two strikes – they hit it.”
• Nova has won five straight starts and his 12 wins are the most among Major League rookies. It’s the highest win total for a Yankees rookie since Orlando Hernandez went 12-4 in 1998. He’s already matched the Yankees rookie win record for the past 30 years. “A win is a win,” Nova said. “I don’t think I get paid for my ERA. I think I get paid to win games, so a win’s a win, no matter the way you get it.”
• The Yankees claimed left-handed reliever Raul Valdes off waivers from the Cardinals and assigned him to Triple-A. His lefty splits are pretty bad, but he’s spent parts of two years in the big leagues, so apparently the Yankees aren’t the only team to see something in him.
• To make room on the 40-man, Jeff Marquez was transfered to the 60-day disabled list.
• If for no other reason, click the Cano audio to hear Nick Swisher pleading his case for the early bus to wait for him. He was clearly joking, but it was very funny. Also, the postgame song of choice tonight was Smells Like Teen Spirit. Unusual, but solid.
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said he hasn’t scheduled his starting pitchers beyond the next four games, but right now, the plan is for Brian Gordon to stay in the rotation. Tonight, Gordon took the good with the bad. He didn’t walk anyone, and at one point he retired 10 in a row, but when he made mistakes, the Reds punished him with three home runs.
“He had one good start and one so-so start,” Girardi said. “Obviously he’s gotten an opportunity because we have people that are hurt. Besides the few mistakes he made, he did okay, but his mistakes were big mistakes… He’s in our rotation. I haven’t sat and thought with the extra days off, what do you do? Right now, I have plans for him to start again.”
Girardi said the Yankees will stay on rotation for this weekend series against the Rockies — A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova — then Freddy Garcia will likely get the start in Tuesday’s series opener against the Brewers. Beyond that, Girardi’s not sure how he’ll manipulate the rotation. He could change it around because of Monday’s off day.
Against two of the five highest-scoring lineups in baseball, Gordon hasn’t been overwhelming — and he’s occasionally walked a tightrope — but he’s given the Yankees a chance to win. He had his good moments tonight, but a first-inning cutter, a second-inning curveball and a fifth-inning slider were hammered for home runs to left field.
“Definitely a little disappointed with the outcome,” Gordon said. “I think overall I felt like I executed most of my pitches, and I think I made three mistakes and I paid for all three of them.”
As Russell Martin explained it: “I thought he made a lot of good pitches today. He didn’t always get rewarded for it. I felt like it was a pretty tight zone out there for him, and then with the tight zone you get behind in counts and you have to get back in counts. Left maybe a couple of pitches over the middle of the plate, and they didn’t miss them.”
The Yankees might not need a fifth starter the next time through the rotation, but they’ll need one eventually, and right now Gordon is still in that spot.
Here’s Gordon after tonight’s game.
• As you would probably imagine, this was a pretty short postgame in the Yankees clubhouse. Jorge Posada’s home run in the first game, and the Yankees winning record on the road trip, remained the biggest stories of the day. In the big picture, Gordon and the second-game letdown were pretty secondary today.
• Of course, there was the subject of Hector Noesi. He had his first truly bad outing since coming to the big leagues. The Yankees were still within striking distance before Noesi gave up three runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth. “Missed location, too,” Girardi said. “Left some balls up. Left a slider up to Rolen, an 0-2 slider. He just made mistakes.”
• The good news out of the bullpen was Boone Logan, who faced two very good lefties — Joey Votto and Jay Bruce — and got them both out.
• There wasn’t much discussion about the Yankees missed opportunity in the top of the seventh. Not much to say about it really. Girardi’s strategy spoke for itself — he pinch hit in the spots that he could pinch hit and neither Robinson Cano nor Posada got the big hit — and that was really their last chance to make a dent in the Reds’ lead. Next time the Yankees came to the plate, the game was out of hand.
• Cano’s ninth-inning single did extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
• The Yankees are now 8-19 when the opposition scores first.
• Reds outfielder Chris Heisey had three home runs today. He had five all season before today. “Every mistake that he got, it only took him one pitch,” Martin said. “I remember him from when I used to see him, earlier on, he really didn’t hit breaking balls that well. Today, he got a couple of mistakes on breaking pitches and he hit them.”
• Johnny Cueto is good. “I can’t speak for everybody, but I didn’t really get many pitches to hit today,” Martin said. “He had that fastball working in the bottom of the zone against me and mixing his breaking ball really well. He was tough out there.”
• The Jeff Marquez injury is a mystery. He pitched this weekend in Chicago, seemed fine, then said his shoulder was bothering him while playing catch today. “He came in and played catch today and his arm was sore,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you when he did it. He threw pretty well Sunday for us. I have no idea. He said he played catch today and his arm was sore.”
• The Yankees have signed veterans Terry Tiffee and Mike Lamb to minor league deals to bolster the Triple-A lineup. Just my opinion, but both could quickly become legitimate options for the big league bench as power-hitting corner infielders, kind of filling that Eric Chavez role.
Associated Press photos
Interleague came at exactly the wrong time for Jorge Posada. He’d built a nine-game hitting streak during last week’s home stand, and it seemed he was finally — finally! — finding his swing. Then the team went to Chicago and Cincinnati and Posada was limited to sporadic at-bats, a pinch hit appearance at best.
“Just make the most of it,” Posada said.
Today’s doubleheader changed Posada’s role for the day. Joe Girardi texted Posada last night to tell him he would be playing first base this afternoon, and in Posada’s third plate appearance, he hit his first home run since April 23. It was the game-winner, a game-changing two-run shot immediately after the Yankees had thrown away a two-run lead.
“Home runs happen,” Posada said. “I don’t know when the last time was I hit one, but I wasn’t trying to hit one. They happen for me. I don’t care when they do happen, I’m happy (when they happen), but I’m not trying to go out there and hit a home run.”
Posada’s batting average is up to .227, which isn’t good, but it’s a lot better than his .125 average at the end of April or his .169 at the end of May. He also drew a walk today.
“If you’ve played long enough, you’ve struggled, and you’ve struggled pretty mightily, probably, during the course of your career,” Girardi said. “All players go through it. Jorge’s a tough kid — he’s not a kid any more, I joke with him — but he’s been through tough spells in his career. He’s been through adversity. He’s been through injuries. He always seemed to find a way to come back.”
• We’re almost three months into the season and Freddy Garcia has a 3.30 ERA. I couldn’t see it from the press box, but apparently Brandon Phillips started laughing when he struck out swinging a split-finger in the third inning. “I didn’t want to look at him, because it would make me laugh,” Garcia said. “… I throw a good split, try to hit the spot. When I don’t do that, that’s when I get hit. When I hit my spots, I’m successful.”
• Garcia said he was pitching around Joey Votto in the first inning. He preferred facing Jay Bruce, and he got Bruce to strikeout, a pivotal early at-bat.
• Speaking of Votto at-bats, the biggest Reds at-bat of the night might have been Votto’s strikeout against Dave Robertson in the eighth inning. Phillips had just singled, which meant the NL MVP came to the plate as the potential tying run. Robertson got him on three pitches. “Just be aggressive, but don’t really give him something he can hit out of the ballpark,” Robertson said. “I ended up, 0-2, throwing him a pitch he could hit out of the ballpark and I got away with it, and I feel lucky, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve got to throw strikes and I’ve got to get him out because right behind him is Bruce, and you don’t want to face him either. Just find a way to get him out.”
• Garcia had thrown only 89 pitches, so he could have gone back out for the eighth, but Girardi said he wanted Robertson to face the lefty, Fred Lewis, who would be the second hitter that inning. At most, Garcia was going to face one batter, and Girardi decided he’d rather give Robertson a clean inning.
• Even without sending Garcia for the eighth, the Yankees starter gave them plenty of distance, which was key in the first game of a doubleheader, especially with largely unknown starter going in the second game. “I always think about trying to save the bullpen,” Garcia said. “With two games, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I tried to go deep in the game.”
• Girardi said Robertson is almost certainly unavailable for the second game. He’ll check with Mariano Rivera, but Rivera is probably out as well.
• Ramiro Pena said he couldn’t remember ever having three errors in a game. He’s a legitimately outstanding defensive player, but today was a bad one. “Never in my life, never in my life,” Pena said. “Not even in Little League, minor leagues, nothing. Most was like two, maybe. It was weird, man, but it happened. Good thing we won.”
• Pena’s first error was a throw to first that tailed on him and got away. The second was the throw home, and Pena said he was concentrating on keeping the throw low so that Francisco Cervelli could apply the tag, and he wound up throwing it into the dirt. “Nino’s a great defender and it wasn’t his day,” Girardi said. “I’ll put him out there any time, I have no fear putting him out there. He’s a great defender. Today, just a tough day.”
• By the way, Girardi said he didn’t think the Yankees could have turned two on that ground ball to third when Pena made the bad throw home. If the ball’s on target — as you’d expect — the Yankees have the out at the plate and the double play still in order.
• Other than the Pena plays, the Yankees actually played very good defense today (and even Pena made some nice plays on balls hit to him later in the game).
• Jeff Marquez walked into the clubhouse with his right shoulder wrapped after today’s game. He’s seeing Dr. Ahmad when the Yankees get back to New York. Buddy Carlyle is immediately available in the bullpen.
• Here’s the Reds night game lineup:
Chris Heisey CF
Brandon Phillips 2B
Joey Votto 1B
Jay Bruce RF
Jonny Gomes LF
Ramon Hernandez C
Miguel Cairo 3B
Paul Janish SS
Johnny Cueto RHP
Postgame notes: “They just came and beat us” • 06.10.11
Three games later, the Yankees have fallen from a one-game lead in the American League East to a two-game deficit. They’ve been swept at home by the Red Sox for the second time this season, and along the way they seem to have lost their setup man for the season.
“The old saying, when you’re going good you’re not as good as you think, and when you’re going bad you’re not as bad as you think,” Mark Teixeira said. “They just came and beat us. They swung the bats really well, scored a lot of runs and pitched pretty well, pitched when they needed to. Not much you can do about it. They just beat us.”
Thing is, the Yankees had this game won. Curtis Granderson had homered off Josh Beckett (payback for Beckett hitting Derek Jeter one batter earlier) and CC Sabathia had drilled David Ortiz (payback for the Red Sox beaning six Yankees this series and Ortiz flipping his bat in the opener). The Yankees carried a 2-0 lead into the seventh, which had to be the most deflating inning of the season.
“That’s the outing,” Sabathia said. “We lose the game and get swept. I take total blame for everything that happened in the seventh inning, and I’ll be back out there in five days.”
These teams don’t play one another again until the first weekend in August.
“There’s a lot of baseball to be played until we see them again,” Joe Girardi said. “How we play the next month and a half or two months until we see them is going to have a lot to do with where we’re at. It’s not how you wanted it to end tonight, but it did. You have to move on.”
And here’s Teixeira.
• I wasn’t in the Red Sox clubhouse, but apparently Ortiz blamed the media for him being hit tonight and refused to answer any questions.
• Three Yankees were hit by a pitch tonight, matching the most by an American League team this season. The last time the Yankees had three players hit by a pitch in one game was June 15, 2010 against the Phillies.
• Girardi said he had no problem with Beckett not being ejected for hitting Granderson with a curveball in the fifth. Both benches had been warned, but a curveball in that situation isn’t going to get a pitcher ejected.
• Girardi and Teixeira thought the key at-bat in that pivotal seventh inning was Jed Lowrie’s triple that went right past Teixeira into the right field corner, where Nick Swisher misplayed it and fell down. That hit came immediately after Ortiz singled to lead off the inning, and that made a difference. “That’s one of the craziest plays because if it’s anyone but Ortiz (at first base), I probably am closer to the line,” Teixeira said. “But because I know Ortiz isn’t going to run, I can get off a little bit quicker and I’m one extra step in the hole, and I dive down the line and can’t get it. It goes off the tip of my glove.”
• Sabathia pointed to a different hit as the turning point of that inning: “I think Mike Cameron on that at-bat,” he said. “Just not making a pitch being able to get an out right there, I think, really hurt.” Cameron doubled in Lowrie instead of making the second out of the inning.
• In 21 innings against the Yankees this season, Beckett has allowed only two runs (the Granderson two-run homer). He’s 3-0 against the Yankees, 2-2 against the rest of baseball. “He never gives in,” Teixeira said. “We go down and look at the video a lot, look at where the pitches are. I think he might have left one or two balls over the middle of the plate all game, and one of them was Curtis’s and Curtis made him pay. After that, he didn’t give up much.”
• No one seemed to have an issue with Ortiz doing the Rangers’ claw gesture at second base after his two-run double. Even Robinson Cano, who plays second, said he didn’t see it.
• The Yankees have lost 10 of their past 14 at home.
• The Yankees are now 28-5 when leading after six innings. The seven runs in the seventh marked their highest single-inning total allowed this season. Six straight home losses is the longest single-season home losing streak against Boston since 1912.
• Sabathia matched his season-high for runs allowed and equaled his total earned runs for his past four starts combined. Last time he allowed six runs was his previous start against the Red Sox.
• Derek Jeter moved within 10 of career hit No. 3,000.
• Jeff Marquez made his second major league appearance and first with the Yankees.
Associated Press photos