Tagged: Andy Pettitte

CC Sabathia will try to give the Yankees their first winning streak of the season

CC Sabathia during spring training in 2014.

CC Sabathia during spring training in 2014.

The Yankees won their first game of the season on Wednesday night, 4-3, against the Toronto Blue Jays. Michael Pineda pitched six strong innings while only allowing two runs, but he wasn’t able to get the win because the Yankees were only able to score one run while he was pitching. However, he did use his changeup more than in the past and was able to get out of trouble in the third and fifth innings as he limited the Blue Jays to only one run in each inning.

The Yankees offense finally came alive in the sixth inning after they were not able to figure out R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball in the first five. Brett Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Jacoby Ellsbury for their first run, and those two will have to be productive while the middle of the order tries to figure out how to hit like they did a few years ago. They added three more runs in the eighth inning as Chris Young, who hit a double to leadoff the inning, scored on a wild pitch, Ellsbury scored after McCann was hit by a wild pitch and Gardner scored on a Chase Headley single.

They didn’t hit for much power but they were able to take what the Blue Jays gave them. They were helped by an intentional walk, two hit by pitches and a wild pitch, but that tends to happen more in the beginning of the season. A positive sign to take out of this game is that Chris Martin is emerging as a reliable arm in the bullpen as he pitched the seventh inning and didn’t allow a base runner for the second consecutive game.

Dellin Betances struggled with his command by allowing two walks, but he was able to rebound by getting Dalton Pompey and Kevin Pillar to ground out to him to end the inning and prevent more than one run from scoring. Andrew Miller picked up his first save and strikeout as a Yankee in the ninth inning.

CC Sabathia will look to give the Yankees their first winning streak of the season when he gets the start for the Yankees on Thursday night in the Bronx. It will be his first start since May 10 of last season after missing the final four months as a result of getting a stem-cell shot in his knee. He finished last season with a 5.28 ERA in eight starts.

Even though his stats were not impressive during spring training, his velocity was much better than it was last season and he said that he felt much better command wise than he did last season. The Yankees need him to pitch like a No. 3 starter this season and not a No. 5 starter. He will be able to do that if he can locate his changeup and consistently throw in the low 90s and occasionally the mid 90s.

Besides last season, Sabathia had made 30 or more starts in six of his previous seven seasons and he is looking forward to doing so again in 2015. He can’t wait to hear the Yankee Stadium crowd again after not pitching in a game since last May.

I’m excited. Especially getting the chance to pitch at home, first start. It’ll be fun,” Sabathia said before the Yankees’ 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. “It’s similar, just having a year off and not pitching since May, it’s going to be fun, especially to be home and have that energy.

Just playing catch and getting out there throwing the ball out in front. Playing catch these last couple games and throwing a bullpen,” Sabathia said. “I really made sure I could get a feel for my fastball and make sure I can put it in good spots.”

If Sabathia gets lit up in the cold on Thursday night it does not mean that he will not be able to have a bounce back season, but if he can simply allow three runs in six innings that will really help his confidence going forward. A key for him will be locating the inside fastball that Andy Pettitte used to rely on throughout his career.

Andy Pettitte Day will happen in the Bronx on August 23rd

Andy Pettitte pitching at Yankee Stadium

Andy Pettitte pitching at Yankee Stadium

Andy Pettitte will rightfully be honored in the Bronx on August 23rd after pitching for the Yankees for 15 seasons. According to his son Josh, his No. 46 will be retired and he will receive a plaque in Monument Park. The Yankees haven’t made an official announcement yet but will likely do so in the next few days.

He will follow other other notable Yankees who have either received a plaque or had their number retired. Goose Gossage, Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez all received plaques in Monument Park last summer while Joe Torre’s No. 6 was retired during the 2014 season. It has also been announced that Bernie Williams, who won four World Series rings with the Yankees, will be honored in 2015, and Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada are obviously the next candidates to have a day dedicated to them at Yankee Stadium.

Torre was elected into the Hall of Fame last summer based on his four World Series championships with the Yankees, Martinez and O’Neill helped him win those rings in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Gossage pitched for the Yankees for six seasons and part of a seventh, and he was an All-Star four of those seasons while helping the Yankees win the World Series in 1978.

Pettitte was a key member of the pitching staff when the Yankees won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. Throughout his career, the lefty with an intense stare could always be relied on to pitch well after the Yankees had lost a game. The 42-year-old from Louisiana who grew up near Houston embraced pitching for the Yankees, and his fire and desire helped him finish with a record of 219-127 with the Yankees.

In those 15 seasons with the Yankees (he pitched three seasons for his hometown Houston Astros), he had 15 or more wins seven times, started 30 or more games 11 times, pitched 185 innings or more 11 times and had 150 or more strikeouts five times. He could always be relied on to keep the team in the game, get an out or double play when he needed one and come up big under pressure. He was an All-Star three times, finished second in the Cy Young voting in 1996 and had a 3.94 ERA.

He is the team’s all-time leader in strikeouts (2,020). Pettitte is third on the Yankees’ all-time wins list (219), third in innings (2,796.1) and is third in pitching WAR (51.6). A case can be made that he is one of the top-three starting pitchers in franchise history, which makes him deserve having his number retired and having his image live forever in Monument Park. No. 46 will be the team’s 18th retired number, and when Jeter’s No. 2 is retired this season or next season there will officially be no more single digit numbers available.

Yankees traded Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates for a reliever who can have an impact

Francisco Cervelli

Francisco Cervelli

On Wednesday, 11/12, the Yankees traded back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Justin Wilson, who is a left-handed reliever.

After acquiring Chris Stewart and Russell Martin, Cervelli is now the third catcher that the Pirates have received who previously played for the Yankees since November of 2012. This trade makes a lot of sense for the Yankees because they receive a lefty who can have the role out of the bullpen that Boone Logan had from 2010-2012, Wilson is a lefty who throws in the mid 90s and struck out 61 batters in 60 innings last season for the Pirates.

Wilson, who is 27 and in the prime of his career, had a 4.20 ERA in 70 appearances. He has actually held right-handed hitters to an average of only .206 in his career. Wilson is 9-5 with a 2.99 ERA in 136 appearances during his three seasons. He played college baseball at Fresno State University and was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team in his junior season.

It makes sense that the Yankees traded Francisco Cervelli because they had an excess of back-up catchers with him on the roster. Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy both have experience being the back-up catcher with the Yankees for periods of time, and Cervelli was able to get back more in a trade than Romine or Murphy would have been able to. The Yankees were able to deal from a deep position and get back a potentially reliable lefty reliever, which they lacked since Logan signed with the Colorado Rockies.

Briann McCann’s contract with the Yankees lasts for the next four seasons, so there was no point in having a more expensive back-up catcher in Cervelli. He is second-year arbitration eligible and has a career average of .278 after hitting .301 with two homers last season. Cervelli is already 28, so it makes much more sense to have a cheaper and younger back-up catcher.

Murphy has proven to be more talented than Romine, who is more known for his defense. It is not known which way the Yankees will go, and it is still possible one of them could be included in a trade for a shortstop, but Murphy would make sense to start the year behind McCann. Murphy, who is 23 years old, was drafted in 2009, and made his debut with the Yankees as a September call up in 2013. He hit .154 in 26 at-bats in 2013, but played performed a lot better this past season.

In 2014, many of the 32 games that he appeared in were a result of Cervelli’s hamstring injury, and he played well offensively and defensively. In 81 plate appearances, which does not include his four walks, he hit .284, with four doubles, had one homer and drove in nine runs. Defensively, he caught 201 innings behind the plate, had 10 assists and only one error. He needs to work on throwing out base runners since he only retired two out of 12 runners, but that could improve since he threw out half of them in 2013.

Murphy’s claim to fame in his career so far has been being the catcher during Mariano Rivera’s final appearance with the Yankees. He was on the mound when Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came out to take Rivera out of the game for the last time. This past season on April 26, the catcher formerly known as J.R., hit his first career home run against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium. He also had his first multi-RBI game as he combined to drive in three runs.

He has a caught stealing percentage of 26 percent in the minors, and the league average in the majors for this past season was 27 percent. This is a good sign for Murphy, and he should be able to improve on his caught stealing percentage from this past season. The Yankees still have to get the David Robertson situation resolved and acquire a shortstop, among other needs, but this trade got rid of a player who wasn’t needed and added one who could have an impact next season.

Predicting the AL East standings after six games have been played

Brett Gardner running during a game.

Brett Gardner running during a game.

After losing two of their three games in Houston against the Astros, the Yankees rebounded with improved offense and solid pitching to win two out of the three games against the Toronto Blue Jays to finish the road trip.

Yangervis Solarte, who was the last player to make the team, has surprised everyone by being the offensive star so far in his first week in the Major Leagues after eight seasons in the minors with two other organizations. He is playing third base right now as Kelly Johnson is playing first since Mark Teixeira is on the DL with a strained hamstring, and is hitting .471 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Jacoby Ellsbury is also off to a great start to his Yankees career as he has a .333 average, one RBI, three runs scored and three steals.  Brett Gardner has two steals so far and has surprisingly hit the team’s only homer. In Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays, Derek Jeter passed Paul Molitor for eighth place on the all-time hits list.

The Yankees are currently in second place with their 3-3 record heading into their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles. Here is how I think the standings will be in the American League East at the end of the season.

1. Tampa Bay Rays

When you take into consideration their overall team, and that Joe Maddon knows how to get the most out of his roster, their talented pitching, hitting and defense should give them the edge. With David Price, Matt Moore, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and Jake Adorizzi they have the best starting rotation in the division. Each of their starters had an ERA below 3.33 last season except for Adorizzi, who should be replaced by Jeremy Hellickson when he comes off of the 15-day DL. They have established hitters and ones with potential in Wil Myers, who won the Rookie of the Year last season, Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, James Loney and Ben Zobrist. They have a 36-year-old closer in Grant Balfour who is coming off of a season where he saved 38 games. The Rays also have a reliable setup man in Heath Bell, patience at the plate and one of the best defensive catcher combos in Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina. Joe Maddon’s ability to mix and match and play the right players should help the Rays finish in first.

2. New York Yankees

The Yankees need to make the playoffs this season after missing out on the postseason last year for only the second time since 1995. They should be able to do that based on their offseason acquisitions. Brian McCann will be a major upgrade over Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, who were the starters at catcher last season. Masahiro Tanaka, who allowed two earned runs in seven innings in his first start, will make the rotation much better. He will essentially be replacing the retired Andy Pettitte in the rotation. Their rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda has the potential of being one of the best in baseball, if Kuroda stays consistent the whole season and Sabathia is productive. Jacoby Ellsbury will help the Yankees in their outfield with his ability to steal bases and hit homers at Yankee Stadium, while making the Red Sox less talented. A key for the Yankees to finish in second will be for Shawn Kelley or Dellin Betances to develop into reliable setup men, and Mark Teixeria to return at the end of his 15-day DL stint and be productive and for Brian Roberts to stay healthy and resemble how he played to finish last season with the Baltimore Orioles.

3. Baltimore Orioles

They finished last season in a tie for third place with the Yankees at 85-77. Late in the offseason they added slugger Nelson Cruz to their powerful offense and the 30-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez to their pitching staff. Last season for the Indians, Jimenez won 13 games, had a solid 3.30 ERA, 194 strikeouts and 80 walks. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball during his first three full seasons with the Colorado Rockies earlier in his career. He has the ability to greatly help the rotation for the Orioles, which was their weak spot last season. Chris Tillman is another pitcher that the Orioles will be counting on. Their offense is one of the best in all of baseball. They have five players who hit 20 or more homers last season, in Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. Nick Markakis has hit more than 20 homers earlier in his career, and Manny Machado, who is on the 15-day DL right now, is a gold glove caliber third baseman who was second in the majors in doubles last season.

4. Boston Red Sox

All of their offseason signings worked last season, and they stayed away from serious injuries, which lead to them winning the World Series. However, they will likely not have as much luck this season. Their rotation is a question mark after Jon Lester and John Lackey. Lester can be counted on, but Lackey, who is in his 12th season, has had ERAs of 3.52 and 6.41 in his last two seasons. Clay Bucholz has a lot of talent, but he is either Cy Young caliber or below average. Last season he had a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts, but in 2012, he had a 4.56 ERA in 29 starts. Mainstays Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz will continue to make their lineup dangerous, but their outfield is definitely a question mark.

5. Toronto Blue Jays

The 1-4 spots in the division could go in different ways, but the Blue Jays are on track for last place, with not much hope for finishing higher. Toronto was counting on Jose Reyes to be the create havoc at the top of the lineup, but the often injured shortstop is on the DL once again after reinjuring his hamstring on Opening Day. Their offense will once again be led by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but they will likely not receive much offensive production at catcher, second base or left field. Their pitching will be by far their weakness this season. R.A. Dickey had 4.21 ERA in his first season in Toronto, Drew Hutchison has a 4.81 career ERA and missed the 2013 season due to injury, Mark Buerhle is at the end of his career and had a subpar 4.15 ERA last season, Brandon Morrow has a career 4.24 ERA and had a 5.63 ERA in 10 starts last year. Their No. 5 starter, Dustin McGowan, allowed four runs in 2.2 innings in his first start, and in 2008, his last season as a starter, he had a 4.37 ERA. The have the weakest rotation in the division and the bullpen is for the most part unproven.

The Yankees beat the Pirates as Sabathia continued to pitch well

CC and Andy talking to each other during the Sept. 29, 2013, game at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

CC and Andy talking to each other during the Sept. 29, 2013, game at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in spring training action Thursday afternoon with a score of 4-2. Stats normally don’t matter for established players in Grapefruit or Cactus league play, but for players like CC Sabathia, who struggled last season, they can be meaningful.

During this matinee, the lefty who lost weight and put on muscle in the off-season, shutout the Pirates in four innings while recording five ground-ball outs during his final Grapefruit League appearance. Sabathia allowed three runs in three innings in his second appearance of spring training, but since then he has turned it around to throw 17 scoreless innings.

He has now pitched in four games during spring training and his final stats of the exhibition season include an ERA of 1.29, 16 strikeouts, three runs and only three walks. This does not necessarily prove that he has turned the corner from last season’s 4.78 ERA campaign, but it is promising that he has only allowed runs in one game and his effectiveness has increased as the regular season has gotten closer.

In reference to his scoreless innings streak going into the regular season, and the upcoming start of the season, Sabathia said: “Those innings don’t count once the season starts, but I feel good. I feel good going into it. Me an Mac (Brian McCann) have been working really well, the changeup is good, so I am ready to go.”

In reference to how important the 17 scoreless innings were and if they were a confidence builder going into the season, Sabathia said: “Yeah, I guess. I have been playing long enough to know that it is spring training, so I need to go out and pitch better than I did last year, and this is the first step.”

This is what Sabathia had to say about working with McCann for the first time after his arrival as a free agent from the Atlanta Braves: “He has been unbelievable. I always like to have a close relationship with my catchers. The ones in the past that I have had, Russell, Jorge, you know even going back to Victor Martinez in Cleveland, and Mac is right up there, working with them and being able to talk to them. He is a seven-time All Star, he has got it! It feels good to have someone back there that you can count on.”

On if they are on the same page by now: “Yes, I think so. A couple of times today it just showed where I wanted to throw a pitch and he put it right down. That just tells me that he is paying attention to what I am trying to do. It is a good feeling.”

His connection between Brian McCann could be a good sign to go along with his success in Florida based on the overwhelming upgrade McCann is behind the plate over Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, who caught most of his games last season. Sabathia’s fastball is not what it once was, but based on his track record, it seems like he will be able to locate it and find a way to make it work for him.

His changeup and curveball have been pitches that have helped him get outs in the past, and this season based on Andy Pettitte’s help, he will now have the cutter in his arsenal. The retired Pettitte started to teach Sabathia the pitch late last season. Being able to add this pitch to his repertoire can only help him get hitters out at a more consistent rate than last season.


Also, on Thursday morning, these are the players that were reassigned to minor-league camp and will not be coming north with the Yankees: Preston Claiborne, Danny Burawa, David Herndon, Fred Lewis, Chris Leroux, Jim Miller, Yoshinori Tateyama, Russ Canzler, Scott Sizemore and Zoilo Almonte. Some of those players will definitely be called up to help the team at some point. Claiborne had a lot of success in the bullpen during his first two months after being called up last season, but his case was hurt by pitching horribly in spring training, which included allowing six earned runs in Wednesday’s game.

Andy Pettitte went out on top on Saturday with his 219th win as a Yankee

Andy Pettitte going out for a curtain call after his final start.

Andy Pettitte going out for a curtain call after his final start.

The 2-1 win by the Yankees over the Astros at Minute Maid Park gave Andrew Eugene Pettitte a win in his final start for the Yankees. It was the 256th win of his career and 219th with the Yankees (he pitched three seasons for the Astros). His 219 wins are the third most in the illustrious history of the Yankees.

It is only fitting that Andy Pettitte’s final Major League start came in Houston because that is where he is from. He actually lives in Deer Park, and Pettitte said that it is a 20-minute drive from Minute Maid Park. Pettitte said that he left tickets for 50 family and friends to attend this game. Tonight showed how much the city of Houston is behind Pettitte because he got a standing ovation in the eighth inning and again in the ninth inning.

After the game, Joe Girardi said that it was going to be Pettitte’s call when or if he came out of the game. In the ninth inning, with Chris Carter on first base, Giradi came to the mound to see if he had enough in him to get the final out, and Pettitte said he wanted to do it. He ended up allowing only five hits and one run in his final Major League start. It was his first complete game since a start in 2006 for the Astros.

He was able to induce the final two double plays of his career to go along with adding five more strikeouts. His strikeout of Brandon Barnes in the eighth inning was his 2,448th of his career. There were only two innings where the Astros had runners in scoring position, and the only run the Astros scored was on a groundout by Chris Carter.

The Yankees scored both of their runs in the sixth inning. Robinson Cano’s single to shallow right, which was one of his two hits, drove in Chris Stewart. That RBI was Cano’s 107th of the season. Eduardo Nunez scored what ended up being the winning run, as the Astros catcher, Matt Pagnozzi, spiked the ball into the ground as he was trying to throw to second allowing Nunez to score from third.

He finished with 275 wins when you combine his wins from the regular season and the postseason. His 19 playoff wins are the most in MLB history. He has pitched 67.2 innings more in the postseason than the second place finisher, John Smoltz, but it is impressive that he has not let the increased pressure of the playoff games get to him.

One of his best games of his career came in Game 5 of the ’96 World Series where he out-dueled John Smoltz. This was his second season and in a match-up against Smoltz he allowed only five hits in a game the Yankees would win 1-0. 1996 would be the first of Pettitte’s five World Series championships.

Pettitte is retiring after 18 seasons pitched in the major leagues, 15 for the Yankees and three for the Astros. The win on Saturday night had added significance because it meant that he never had a record below .500 in any of his 18 seasons (11-11 this season). He is the only pitcher in baseball history to pitch at least 15 seasons and not have one season under .500. He finished with a career record of 256 and 153 and a 3.85 ERA.  The high ERA and admitted PED usage might keep him out of the Hall of Fame but he would be worthy based on his other numbers.

In his final 10 starts this season, Pettitte had a remarkable 1.94 ERA. His cutter was on point during the whole game. It is fitting that during his final start he had a season-high of 116 pitches since he always wanted to do all he could to get the Yankees a win and that is exactly what he did in this start. He is one of the best competitors in baseball history and that is what he did up until the very end.

Mariano Rivera announced before Saturday’s game that he will not pitch or play the outfield in Sunday’s game. He thought that based on his performance and ceremony during Thursday’s game at Yankee Stadium that that was a perfect way to go out. There were rumors of him getting a few innings in centerfield as he has often put on a show in batting practice but he has developed an injury based on his increased usage to end the season.

However, even though it would have made sense for two of the great winners in MLB history to make the playoffs in their final season, it is great that Rivera and Pettitte were both able to end their careers pitching well.

The Yankees loss to the Giants effectively ended their season

Mariano Rivera with his wife at the retirement ceremony.

Mariano Rivera with his wife at the retirement ceremony.

The Yankees lost to the San Francisco Giants 2-1 Sunday afternoon effectively ending the slim hopes they had of getting a wild-card spot. They are now four games back with six games left to play.

They got vintage performances from Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who both did all they could to get a win for the team during Pettitte’s last start at Yankee Stadium and the day where there was an hour-long ceremony for Rivera before the game, but the offense was not able to come through in clutch situations.

Andy Pettitte, who will likely fall just below qualifying for the Hall of Fame based on his 3.86 career ERA and admitted PED usage, is one of the best pitchers in Yankees history. Pettitte’s 19 wins are the most in playoff history and has been able to come with clutch performances repeatedly throughout his great career. He has pitched in three All-Star Games in his career but has never won a Cy Young award. Pettitte had eight seasons where he won 15 or more games on his way to 255 career wins (as of now). He has won 102 more games than he has lost. During yesterday’s game, he pitched seven excellent innings while only allowing two runs.

Mariano Rivera, who was honored before the game with a live singing of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica will obviously be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a result of being the best closer in baseball history. The Yankees retired his number 42 (he will be the last player to wear the number) before the game with his wife and three sons right next to him. Also in attendance were Jackie Robinson’s widow Rachel Robinson and his daughter, as well as some of his former teammates including Hideki Matsui, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neil, Jorge Posada and Jeff Nelson. Some of the gifts from the Yankees to Rivera included a custom-designed Watorford Crystal of his glove from 2013 that even included his signature and “Phil:13” that he has written on it, a $100,000 check to the Mariano RIvera foundation, a baseball-bat rocking chair and a watercolor artwork by a San Francisco artist depicting Rivera’s appearance at AT&T Park on June 22, 2007. Rivera pitched 1.2 scoreless innings while only allowing one hit.

The game would have been even more special if Pettitte would have been able to have been awarded a win and Rivera a save but at least they did their part. Pettitte took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and the first hit that he allowed was Ehire Adrianza’s first career homer. In the top of the eighth, Pettitte allowed a lead off double to Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval, which prompted Joe Girardi to bring in David Robertson. Tony Abreu hit a double off of Abreu, which accounted for Pettitte’s second earned run. With one start left, in Houston, Pettitte is in danger of finishing under .500 for the season for the first time in his career.

Holding the Giants to only two runs should have been enough to win the game on Mariano Rivera Day, but the Yankees did not convert with runners in scoring position in four different innings. In the seventh inning, the Yankees had an opportunity to put multiple runs on the board after having runners on second and third with one out, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells both struck out swinging. In the eighth inning, after Robinson Cano’s double put runners on second and third with no outs, Alfonso Soriano grounded into a fielder’s choice and Curtis Granderson struck out.

In the eighth inning, adding to the team’s bad luck was that Zoilo Almonte and Cano were both thrown out at home. Almonte was not even close. The only run that the Yankees scored was Mark Reynolds’s 20th homer of the season. In the past week, the Yankees have two losses to the Blue Jays and their loss yesterday to the Giants. They would still have a chance if they would have won those games against sub .500 teams.

It is unfortunate that Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will not be able to play in the playoffs in their final season. Pettitte and Rivera have both won five World Series championships with the Yankees and Rivera has pitched in the playoffs with the Yankees every season from 1996 until 2011, except for 2008 when they missed the playoffs.

Yankees vs. Blue Jays preview

Andy Pettitte throwing a pitch

Andy Pettitte throwing a pitch

The Yankees, who are currently 2.5 games behind the Texas Rangers for the second wild-card spot, play the first of three games in Toronto against the last place Blue Jays tonight at 7:07 p.m. The Yankees are 13-3 against the Blue Jays this season.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who currently have the first wild-card spot, and the Rangers are seemingly doing all they can do allow Mariano Rivera to have a chance of pitching in the postseason during his final season as they are limping to the finish line. This can especially be said for the Rangers who have lost seven games in a row while not holding a lead in any of those games. Since August 29, the Rays have won seven games and lost a grand total of 11 games.

It obviously would have helped the Yankees if they would not have been swept by the Red Sox over the weekend, but Cleveland and Texas both lost last night while they were idle, which helped them gain ground without playing. To have a chance of making up the 2.5 games in the final 12 games they will have to sweep the Blue Jays and have help from the teams ahead. They will have to go 10-2 or better, which is possible because besides the Rays, they play two last place teams (Toronto and Houston) and a team that is half-a-game ahead of last place (San Francisco).

Some of the help they need is for the Rays to sweep the Rangers, which is possible because of the rapid downward spiral that the Rangers are on, because the Yankees play the Rays for three games in their second to last series of the season. The Red Sox will start a series against the Orioles tonight and the Yankees will be rooting for Boston once again because the Orioles half-a-game ahead of them in the standings.

Andy Pettitte, who has been the team’s most reliable starter of last, and has pitched in many must win games over the course of his great career, will get the start for the Yankees tonight at the Rogers Centre. He has a 3.55 ERA in away games this season and against the Blue Jays his ERA is 1.77 in 20.1 innings. The Blue Jays, who have underperformed based on many preseason predictions, have lost five of their last six games.

R.A. Dickey, who won the N.L. Cy Young last season, has pitched well against the Yankees this season. He has struggled in his last two starts, but Dickey does have a 3.38 ERA in 21.1 innings against the Bronx Bombers this season. This will be Dickey’s fourth start against the Yanks this season, so it is crucial that the offense is able to figure out his knuckleball this time.

The offense struggled during the weekend series in Boston, as they scored a combine seven runs, but Alfonso Soriano does come into the series hitting .363 in his past three games. Also, the Yankees have some good news as Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup after having to leave Sunday’s game because of tightness in his right calf. He will DH for the foreseeable future.

The Yankees will have to overcome the injuries to Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, which will likely keep both of them out for the rest of the season.

Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.07 ERA) will pitch on Wednesday and Hiroki Kuroda (11-11, 3.13 ERA) will get the start on Thursday.

Mariano Rivera will make his final career appearance at the Rogers Centre. They will honor him before Thursday’s game.

Cano, Granderson and Pettitte helped the Yankees pull within a game of a Wild-Card spot

The Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 on Wednesday night at Camden Yards behind 6.1 solid innings from Andy Pettitte. He allowed three runs and nine hits and struck out three Orioles. However, like he has been able to do so many times in his career, Pettitte was able to induce a double play when he needed one. They were led offensively by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.

The win, as are all the ones they get for the rest of the season, was a needed one for the Yankees since the Indians and obviously the Orioles lost. As of now, the only team the Yankees have to jump is the Tampa Bay Rays, who have lost seven of their past 10 games.

Luckily for the Yankees, Andy Pettitte is getting better as the season has progressed since his ERA was 4.71 on August 5 and is now 4.04. He has allowed three runs or less in all of his last seven starts and is not pitching like 41-year-old. In the sixth inning, Pettitte got J.J. Hardy to hit into a double play to end the frame.

Shawn Kelley got the final two outs of the seventh, which continued his bounce back from allowing two runs in a loss to the Orioles on September 1. Even though he allowed a run in Tuesday’s game against the Orioles, the Yankees were still able to get the win and he got the hold. David Robertson, who has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season, allowed two hits and recorded a strikeout in a scoreless eighth inning. He is on track to being the closer next season after Mariano Rivera retires.

Rivera, recorded his 43rd save of his final season, but he did allow a run in his third of his last four appearances. He allowed a rare double to Nate McLouth because it is not often that somebody will hit a ball over the speedy Brett Gardner in center. After Brian Roberts singled to drive in McClouth, Manny Machado struck out to end the game. There is still nobody the Yankees would count on more to end the game than Rivera. It could be that his increased usage of late is getting to him.

One of the offensive stars for the Yankees was Robinson Cano, He hit his 27th homer to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the ninth while also driving in Brett Gardner on a ground out to the shortstop in the first. Cano had two hits and his homer was his 100th RBI of his season. His homer was one of three that the Yankees slugged in the win over Buck Showalter and the Orioles.

Curtis Granderson (.248) hit a deep homer to right in the fifth inning to pull the Yankees within a run of the Orioles. It was his fifth homer of the season in 45 games played. Granderson was the only player on the team besides Cano to record two hits. He is hitting .333 in his last nine at-bats, which is obviously a small sample size, but the Yankees need him to continue that level of production.

Alex Rodriguez hit the other home run for the Bronx Bombers. His solo homer to right in the sixth inning tied the game. That home run gave him 653 for his career. He is now eight homers away from passing Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time homer list. However, A-Rod’s homer total is obviously tainted.

The Yankees will try for the series win on Thursday against the Orioles. If they win their third game in a row against Baltimore, on Thursday night, it will make sweeping the upcoming series less crucial. The Yankees always want to beat the Red Sox, but after that series, nine of their last 12 games are against last place teams.

The Yankees will look to Phil Hughes to get back on track

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

The Yankees won two out of three game in the weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles. However, they definitely had a chance to win the third game on Sunday.

They were winning 3-0 in the sixth inning when Joe Girardi took Andy Pettitte out of the game with runners on first and second. It made sense that he put Shawn Kelley into the game, since he had prevented a very small amount of inherited runners to score this season, but unfortunately Kelley gave up a single and a home run to J.J. Hardy, which was the start of a seven run inning for the Orioles.

Girardi can’t really be blamed for bringing in Kelley because Pettitte was approaching 100 pitches (93) and that has been his limit this season. He is 41, so it makes sense for him not to throw too many pitches especially because it has been working recently. The bullpen has been very reliable recently and that was a situation where Kelley should have come through for the team.

Another factor that contributed to the loss for the Yankees was that they left 10 men on base and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. For the rest of the season, the Yankees can’t afford to waste opportunities like they did Sunday afternoon.

The Yankees had a chance to move within 2.5 games of a Wild-Card spot if they had won because the Tampa Bay Rays lost yet again to the Oakland Athletics. Their loss on Sunday makes the upcoming series against the Chicago White Sox even more important for the Yankees to sweep.

Phil Hughes, who has a 1.38 ERA in 10 games pitched and six starts against the White Sox, will start Monday afternoon. He has been the least reliable and inconsistent pitcher this season for the Yankees, but Hughes does pitch better at home and has a history of pitching well against Chicago. Hughes, whose 4.91 ERA is one of the worst in baseball, has pitched better recently as he has not allowed more than three runs in his last three starts.

The Yankees will need Hughes to pitch into the the sixth inning allowing three runs or less and the offense will have to come through with runners on base. The White Sox (56-79) have the second worst record in the American League and have scored the fewest runs in the AL.

Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.89 ERA) will pitch on Tuesday and CC Sabathia (12-11, 4.91 ERA) will get the start on Wednesdy. This the first of 12 games that the Yankees have against last place teams in their final 26 games. They will need to win 10 of the 12 games against the cellar dwellers if they are going to make the playoffs.