Category: Alfonso Soriano

Preview of the two-game series between the Yankees and Cubs at Wrigley Field

Alfonso Soriano playing for the Cubs

Alfonso Soriano playing for the Cubs

The Yankees will start their two-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 p.m EST. After playing the Cubs, they will stay in Chicago to play the White Sox for four games, and then go south to St. Louis to play a three-game interleague set against the Cardinals. It is very rare that a team will play six games in a row in an away city.

The Yankees begin their brief series at Wrigley Field with a half-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East. The Yankees come into the series having won four of their previous five games.  The Tampa Bay Rays, who were expected to contend for first place in the division, are currently five games behind in last place.

The Cubs are in last place in the National League Central and are 10.5 games behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers. However, the Cubs have won their previous two games.

Masahiro Tanaka, who is 6-0 with 66 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA, will get the start for the Yankees. The rookie is second in the AL in wins, fourth in the AL in ERA and first in the AL with a 0.97 WHIP. In his start on April 16 against the Cubs at Yankee Stadium, he pitched eight shutout innings and recorded eight strikeouts. His seven walks are also the fewest of any starting pitcher.

Jason Hammel, who is Chicago’s second best starter so far this season after Jeff Samardzija, will get the start for the Cubs. Hammel has a 3.06 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched. In his start last month against the Yankees, Hammel allowed three runs in seven innings, but got the loss as Tanaka did not allow any runs.

Tanaka, who has not lost a regular season game since the 2012 season in Japan, seems like he is poised to go 7-0 based on the weak Cubs offense. They are currently 25th in baseball in runs scored, 27th in batting average (.234) and 27th in on-base percentage.

The Yankees are currently third in baseball with a .264 batting average, ninth in on-base percentage and 10th with 188 runs scored. Yangervis Solarte has come out of nowhere to lead the team in average (.313), RBI, (24) and on-base percentage (.387). Mark Teixeria has performed very well since coming off of the disabled list. His nine homers lead the team, and he didn’t hit his first one until April 24.

Tanaka is by far their most reliable starter right now with CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova all on the disabled list. Chase Whitley, who is taking Sabathia’s spot in the rotation, will start in the second game. In his MLB debut last week against the Mets he threw 4.2 shutout innings.

This will be Alfonso Soriano‘s first time playing back in Wrigley Field since the Cubs traded him to the Yankees on July 26 of last season. Soriano played the first six seasons of his career with the Yankees, so his career has come full circle.

Preview of Yankees vs. Red Sox

Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova

After sweeping the Chicago White Sox, who are in last place in the American League Central, the Yankees will now conclude their 10-game home stand with a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox. It is always a big series when they play their rivals to the north, but this series will have even more significance because they are only 2.5 games out of the wild-card.

The Red Sox have won five out of their past six games. They have virtually looked up the division (the Yankees have a chance since they play them seven more times) and are now playing for home field advantage in the playoffs. Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez on Sunday Night Baseball in the last game that the two teams played and there has been some talk of possible retaliation by the Yankees. The best retaliation that the Bronx Bombers could show at this point is to win three our four games in this series.

Since the Yankees last played the Red Sox they have gone 11-5. It is possible that the game that they came back to win after A-Rod was intentionally hit in the second inning ignited the team but it is also likely that the health of Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter and continued dominance of Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano has spurred the much needed hot streak.

With their game tonight, the Yankees start a streak of 14 games against division rivals. They will play the Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays during these crucial games. A pitcher that will be key during this stretch is Ivan Nova. That Yankees would not be where they are right now without him. Has a 2.28 ERA in 12 starts since returning from the minors on June 23. The command of his curveball and fastball have been much improved. He will start tonight against the Red Sox.

Jake Peavy, who has never defeated the Yankees in his career, will pitch for the Red Sox tonight. He has pitched very well since coming to Boston from the White Sox in the beginning of August.

After a 4-0 record in August, Nova was named the American League pitcher of the month. August also included his first complete-game shutout of his career.

Many offensive players have been playing well of late for the Yankees. Robinson Cano is four for his last eight and going back further has a .367 batting average since August 14. He has driven in 18 runs in the past 20 games. Brett Gardner, who has been a catalyst at the top of the lineup, has a .360 average over the past week with five doubles. Eduardo Nunez, who is not playing tonight, has an outstanding .444 average over the last seven days.

Andy Pettitte (10-9, 4.01 ERA), who has pitched much better recently, will matchup against Felix Doubront, (10-6, 3.89 ERA) on Friday. David Huff (2-0, 3.32 ERA), who has pitched very well out of the bullpen, will make his first start for the Yankees on Saturday, replacing Phil Hughes. For Boston, John Lackey (8-12, 3.22 ERA) will get the start on Saturday. In the series finale, on Sunday, Hiroki Kuroda, who has been the team’s ace this season, will matchup against Jon Lester (13-8, 3.88 ERA).

If the Yankees can win three out of four games it would put them in great position going into their final 19 games of the season.

Soriano’s two homers (including his 400th) and Pettitte led the Yankees to a much needed win

Soriano celebrating after last night's first inning homer.

Soriano celebrating after last night’s first inning homer.

On Tuesday night, at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the Yankees won a much needed game over the Blue Jays, 7-1. Alonso Soriano, who has helped the Yankees win many games with his bat since his return to the team on July 26, recorded his MLB leading sixth multi-homer game of the season. Andy Pettitte also shutout the Blue Jays over seven innings pitched. Effective pitching combined with four homers in a game will almost always lead to a win.

The first inning was dramatic as the Yankees scored half of the runs that they would score in the game. Brett Gardner led off the game with a double off of the wall. He took third on a wild pitch and would score on Derek Jeter’s first of two singles up the middle. The Yankees received a big scare as J.A. Happ hit Robinson Cano on his left hand in the next at-bat. Happ (5.46 ERA) has made a habit of hitting members of the Yankees this season as he was the one who hit Curtis Granderson during the opening game of spring training.

It was later revealed that Cano’s injury was luckily only a contusion and he is now day-to-day after his x-ray was negative. The Yankees would have had to effectively say good-bye to their playoff hopes if his hand was broken. Cano has been an offensive bright spot this season in the midst of many injuries. He leads the team in batting average (.305), RBIs (85) and homers (24). Soriano has hit 26 homers this season but he played for the Chicago Cubs before the end of June.

Continuing with the offensive outburst that was the first inning, after Cano’s hit by pitch put runners on first and second, Soriano hit a deep homer to the second deck in the Rogers Centre. This three-run blast foreshadowed what was to come for Soriano later in the game.

In the third inning, to give the Yankees the 5-0 lead, Soriano hit a solo homer that bounced off the wall in left. That was his 400th homer of his career. If he continues at the rate his is on right now, for another three or four years, he might be put in the Hall of Fame. To go along with his 400 homers, he has 285 steals, 461 doubles and 1,119 RBIs. Soriano now has an outstanding 11 homers in 30 games with the Yankees this season.

Mark Reynolds, for the team’s third homer of the evening, hit a solo shot to the Blue Jays bullpen in the sixth inning. Reynolds has done well so far in his role as a platoon first basemen with Lyle Overbay. After Eduardo Nunez was taken out of the game in the ninth, Reynolds even ended the game defensively by converting the double play from second, which showed his versatility.

Alex Rodriguez would easily hit his 651st homer of his career in the 7th inning to put him 10 away from passing Willie Mays on the all-time homer list and being awarded an extra $6 million. He will surely not hit 10 more this season, and it is not known if/when he will given his upcoming suspension.

Pettitte won his 16th career game in Toronto at the Rogers Centre/Skydome giving him his 10th (10-9) win of the season in the process. Pettitte has struggled at times this season (4.05 ERA), but in his last three starts he has only allowed one earned run in a combined 19.2 innings pitched. He was able to locate all of his pitches last night, which helped him only allow five hits and two walks. Adam Warren, who along with the more likely David Huff, is a candidate to replace the ineffective Phil Hughes in the rotation, allowed a run in two innings of relief while pitching out of damage.

The Yankees desperately needed that win since they can now win the series and since Oakland won they would have fallen even further back in the Wild-Card race. The Bronx Bombers currently have a 4.5 game deficit with 30 games left to play. They will have every opportunity to make up the ground since 13 of their final 30 games are against last place teams, including tonight against Toronto.

The Yankees are 3.5 games out of the Wild-Card with 32 games left to play

Mariano Rivera sculpture from the Rays. It doesn't look like him.

Mariano Rivera sculpture from the Rays. It doesn’t look like him.

The Yankees lost two out of three games to the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend at Tropicana Field.  However, after their 3-2 win on Sunday led by Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Ivan Nova, they are now once again 3.5 games behind the second Wild-Card spot. The Oakland Athletics lost to the Baltimore Orioles causing the Yankees to move up in the standings.

Last night’s win was a big one because the Yankees can’t afford to lose three games in a row for the rest of the season. It was even more important since they were able to gain ground after Oakland’s loss and their extra-inning win.

The Yankees won in dramatic fashion as Curtis Granderson hit a sacrifice fly to deep center that scored Alfonso Soriano in the top of the eleventh, and Mariano Rivera retired the side in order in the bottom of the eleventh for his final save at Tropicana Field. Soriano truly did all he could to score the run that put the Yankees ahead as he doubled and then recorded a clutch steal of third. If the Yankees end up getting a Wild-Card, Soriano’s steal of third could be a key play that pushed the Yankees over the hump.

Granderson made an outstanding catch to end the game in foul territory to allow Rivera to record his 38th save of the season and his 646th save of his Hall of Fame career.

Ivan Nova gave the Yankees a much needed solid start. He only allowed two runs in 6.2 innings, which is much better than his last start where he allowed four runs in 6.1 innings. The one negative is that he walked a season-high six batters (one intentional) in the start against the Rays, which is a number he obviously wants to avoid the rest of the season, but he showed the ability to get out of jams as he has many times previously. Overall, Nova has been the team’s second best starter this season after Hiroki Kuroda.

Robinson Cano gave the Yankees a much needed offensive lift during the afternoon game inside The Trop. Cano was 3-5 with a homer that went just over the wall in left and an RBI double. He drove in two of the team’s three runs and leads the team in homers and RBI. In his last seven games, Cano has recorded two homers and eight RBI.

Another positive offensively was that Soriano had two hits in five at-bats. He had only had two hits in his previous 27 at-bats, which makes it important that his two-hit game is the start of an offensive hot streak. It is hard to really take away from Soriano because he was on fire before this cold streak, but the Yankees surely need Soriano to be an offensive catalyst against the Blue Jays and Orioles in the coming week. (This is not all that surprising because Soriano has been a hot and cold hitter throughout a career, but one who really has the power to carry a team for prolonged stretches.)

The Yankees are 12-1 against the Blue Jays so far this season. It is important that they continue that dominance by sweeping the last place Blue Jays so that they can go into the Orioles series with momentum and make up ground on Oakland.

A positive sign for the Yankees is that their captain, Derek Jeter, will make his return to the team for the third time. Hopefully after playing three games for the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders he will be back for good. Eduardo Nunez, who has shown some flashes this season, will now go back to his more suitable back-up srole.

The schedule will allow the Yankees to have an opportunity to make up the 3.5 games because they have 15 games against last place teams (Toronto, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros) and the rest of their games are against teams that are ahead of them in the division.

The Yankees extended their winning steak to four games after Ichiro’s 4,000th hit and Soriano’s homer

Picture of the field after Ichiro's 4,000th hit

Picture of the field after Ichiro’s 4,000th hit

In the first inning of the 4-2 win over the Blue Jays, Ichiro Suzuki hit a single to left for his 4,000th combined hit between the Orix Blue Wave in Japan, the Seattle Mariners and the Yankees. He drilled the ball past Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie, which was reminiscent of many hits that he has previously had in has Hall of Fame career.

Ichiro joins Ty Cobb and Pete “Charlie Hustle” Rose as the only players to have 4,000 professional hits. Cobb had 4,189 hits in his career with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics. Rose, who had the most hits in MLB history, had 4,256 hits in his career with the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos.

It was great to see all of the players come onto the field after Ichiro achieved the milestone. It makes sense that his 4,000th hit, and 2,722nd hit in Major League Baseball, was a single because his speed and bat control has helped him record so many singles throughout his career.

The Yankees scored their first run of the game after Austin Romine hit a sacrifice fly to deep left that scored Eduardo Nunez. Then, in the third inning, Curtis Granderson’s single to shallow right drove in Robinson Cano. Granderson now has a four-game hitting streak, however, he has one hit in each of those four games.

Overall, the Yankees struggled offensively in this game as they only had six hits against R.A. Dickey, who won the National League CY Young last season. The Yankees had only four hits up until the eighth inning as Dickey had more success early in the game than he had in recent games. He has a 4.49 ERA this season so he has not lived up to his excellent campaign from last season.

However, in the eighth inning Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer that drove in Robinson Cano. That turned out to be the game winning homer as Soriano helped the Yankees win yet another game over the past two weeks. He was previously 0-17, but Soriano ended his slide with a clutch homer to deep left that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Yankees Stadium was truly electric after Ichiro hit his 4,000th hit and after Soriano hit his sixth homer in his past nine games. Soriano currently has 398 homers. After hits two more he will become only the 51st player with 400 or more homers. The trade to reacquire Soriano has been outstanding and he has given the Yankees exactly what they needed.

On the pitching side, the combination of Adam Warren and David Huff combined to allow two runs in eight innings as Huff threw very well in relief of Warren, who was making a spot start. I definitely noticed that the fans in the stadium raised the volume level as Mariano Rivera came in from the bullpen to Enter Sandman. This is his last season and he only has a limited amount of appearances left to perform in front of the home fans.

He allowed one hit and struck out two with his pinpoint control to notch his 37th save of the campaign. Rivera’s save means that the Yankees are now only four games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild-Card. The Athletics have lost three of their last five games and the Baltimore Orioles, who are one game ahead of the Yankees, have lost two of their last three games. After each win the likelihood of the Yankees getting a Wild-Card is increasing.

The Yankees will look to sweep the last place Blue Jays behind Andy Pettitte at 1:05. In his last start, he pitched 6.2 shutout innings against Boston.

Here is video of Ichiro’s 4,000th hit and the reaction to it:

The Yankees swept the doubleheader against Toronto on Tuesday

Ichiro Suzuki tipping his helmet to the crowd.

Ichiro Suzuki tipping his helmet to the crowd.

It happens very infrequently, but Chris Stewart and Jayson Nix both hit homers yesterday to help the Yankees sweep the doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays. In the first game, an easy 8-4 win, Stewart hit a three-run homer for his fourth home run of the campaign, and in the night game, where the Yankees edged the Blue Jays 3-2, Nix hit the walk-off single and slugged his third homer of the season.

A highlight from the first game of the doubleheader was that Robinson Cano hit his 200th homer of his career. This home run was hit to center and landed in the netting above monument park. He is now 16th on the all-time Yankees homer list, and will soon pass legendary Yankees like Roger Maris and Bill Dickey.

When players known for their defense like Stewart and Nix can help lead the Yankees to wins with their bat you know that the team is coming together at the right time. Going back to August 9, the Yankees have now won nine of their last 12 games. This is the result of solid pitching and a much better offensive showing than earlier in the season.

In their previous eight games (six wins), the Yankees have scored more than five runs in six of those games. However, in the games between August 2-10, where they won twice and lost six games, they only scored more than five runs in one game.

The Yankees have recently been led by Alfonso Soriano (he hit .484 and drove in 18 runs last week), Robinson Cano (he is hitting .600 in the last seven games) and Alex Rodriguez (three multi-hit games in his last six games. However, an underrated player who has picked it up offensively is catcher Austin Romine. He was not able to hit earlier in the season and did not appear ready for regular playing time, but after another three hits in the second game, he has been able to raise his average from .165 to .231 since July 24.

Put another way, Romine is 12 for his last 32, which is a .375 batting average. He is turning into a solid all around catcher. He obviously has all of the tools behind the plate as he has a strong arm to throw out base-stealers and calls a solid game behind the plate. The Yankees will need him to continue to hit for a solid average for the rest of the season.

The Yankees were able to take advantage of a shaky Blue Jays pitcher in Esmil Rogers in the first game and then in the second game Nix’s walk-off hit came off of Darren Oliver, who made his MLB debut in 1993. Ichrio Suzuki, who came into the second game as a pinch runner, after recording two hits in the first game, scored the winning run after his steal of third.

Ichiro Suzuki is on the verge of hitting his 4,000th combined hit between his nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave and 13 seasons in the MLB with the Seattle Mariners and Yankees.  He currently has 3,999 hits, so it seems likely that he will reach the milestone in tonight’s game against R.A. Dickey. As a result of Ichiro not losing much of the speed that he had earlier in his career and his ability to virtually hit the ball where he wants it to go, it seems that he will be able to get the 279 more hits that he needs to reach 3,000 in Major League Baseball.

After their two wins yesterday, and the loss by the Orioles, the Yankees are now five games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild-Card spot and one-game behind the Baltimore Orioles.

Yankees vs. Red Sox

Andy Pettitte and A-Rod at Fenway

Andy Pettitte and A-Rod at Fenway

The Yankees begin the three-game series against the Red Sox in Boston trailing their rivals by 8.5 games in the American League East. The Yankees have won five of their last seven games coming into the series and they currently have their best lineup of the season. They need Alfonso Soriano to continue driving in runs and hitting at a consistent rate (he can’t be expected to drive in six or seven games a game like he did earlier this week), and the combination of Soriano, Curtis Granderson (who is hitting .529 in his last five games), Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez form a formidable middle of the order.

The Red Sox come into this series having lost six out of their last 10 games. In that 10-game span half of their wins have come over the Houston Astros, who have the worst record in baseball. Boston has lost three of its last four games and has only scored 11 runs in those games. In comparison, the Yankees have scored 29 runs in their last four games (albeit against inferior competition to the Red Sox). The Yankees appear to be playing the Red Sox at the right time.

After their 8-4 loss last night to the Angels, the Yankees are currently six games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild-Card spot. They are at the point where they need to put together a sustained winning streak to have a chance of passing the four teams that are currently ahead of them. Andy Pettitte, who always seemed to get the Yankees a win following a loss in previous seasons, needs to come through with a vintage Pettitte start. In his last start, he only allowed one run, but he did surrender eight hits and three walks in only 4.1 innings. However, Pettitte does have a 4.19 ERA in away games this season as opposed to a 5.14 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees need to win at least two out of the three games. Mark Reynolds has been added to the 25-man roster in order to give the team another power bat. Lyle Overbay, who has been better than expected offensively, will now likely split time with Reynolds at first base (Reynolds will play against lefties). The Yankees need to hope that a change of scenery will help Reynolds since he was only hitting .215 before being released by the Indians. However, he has always been a slugger that has been more known for his power than his average.

Preston Claiborne has been sent down to Scranton to make room for Reynolds. Granderson will get the night off.

Here are the pitching match-ups for the series at Fenway.

Tonight, 7:10 p.m., on MY9

Andy Pettitte (7-9, 4.62 ERA) vs. LHP Felix Doubront (8-5, 3.66 ERA)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m., on FOX

Hiroki Kuroda (11-7, 2.33 ERA) vs. RHP John Lackey (7-10, 3.32 ERA)

Sunday, 8:05 p.m., ESPN

CC Sabathia (10-10, 4.66 ERA) vs. RHP Ryan Dempster (6-8, 4.50 ERA)