Tagged: Astros

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.

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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.

Yankees win two out of three against the lowly Astros

Ben Francisco in spring training

Ben Francisco in spring training

The Yankees concluded the three game set against the Houston Astros with a 5-4 victory. Mariano Rivera picked up his eleventh save in 11 chances helping the Yankees improve to an impressive 17-10 record on the season.

A sweep of the three game set against the Astros, who are currently 8-20, would have been ideal, but even though the Astros do not have the most imposing offense Andy Pettitte was due for an off game on Monday. He came into the contest with an excellent ERA of 2.22, reminding fans of the way Pettitte pitched  earlier in his career, but his ERA now sits at 3.86.

The Yankees currently have a grand total of eight regulars on the DL, which makes it even more impressive that they have 17 wins in their first 27 games. Brian Cashman should get a lot of credit for acquiring players before the team left Florida who have been able to replace the starters in an exemplary manner so far.

One of Cashman’s off-season signings, Ben Francisco, has not worked out like his others so far, but he did hit a solo home run in the third inning that would help the Bronx Bombers take a 4-0 early advantage. Francisco was brought to the Yankees to provide a productive righty bat off the bench, so hopefully his walk and homer will help him be more productive.

Ichiro was the only Yankee with two hits and Robinson Cano hit his eighth home run of the season. That solo homer by Cano was his 185th of his career, which ties Paul O’Neil for 17th place on the all-time list of the storied franchise. Besides Francisco and Cano, the other runs were scored by Ichiro, Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez.

David Phelps, who made his first start of the campaign, as a result of Ivan Nova being put on the disabled list, allowed four runs in 5.2 innings. He fell apart in the fourth inning as he hit two batters and allowed all four of Houston’s runs, but was successfully able to limit any further damage in the fifth inning.

As has happened many times the past few weeks the bullpen was basically flawless. Over 3.1 innings, the trio of Boone Logan, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera combined for four strikeouts, two hits and no runs. This excellent relief pitching should last all season, but is even more necessary while the Yankees are without their offensive stars.

However, Vernon Wells (.298 and 6 homers), Lyle Overbay (4 homers), Travis Hafner (.304 and 17 RBI) and Kevin Youkilis when he was healthy, have performed better than expected and have been instrumental in the team getting off to the start that they have. It seems like Curtis Granderson will return to the Yankees in about two-three weeks after after a rehab stint with about 50 at-bats.

Granderson’s return will present a dilemma for manager Joe Girardi because they will have four quality starters for three outfield spots. It will depend on who stays hot, but Ichiro will likely be put into a platoon as a result of how much Wells is helping offensively.

The Yankees have an off day on Thursday and then conclude the 10 game home stand with a three game series against the Oakland Athletics. It will be their first series of the year agains Oakland who  has the seventh best record in the league (16-13).

Update: On Wednesday, The Yankees acquired Chris Nelson, who can play second and third base, from the Rockies for cash considerations or a player to be named later. He was hitting .242, with six runs scored and four RBI so far this season. He is a former first-round pick in 2004 who was recently designated for assignment by the Rockies. He will be able to give Cano or Jayson Nix a day off, which the Yankees were not able to do previously with their injury situation.

Pitching matchups for the series against the Astros

David Phelps

7:05 p.m. Tonight

Andy Pettitte (3-1, 2.22 ERA) vs. RHP Lucas Harrell (2-2, 4.08 ERA)

7:05 p.m. on Tuesday

Hiroki Kuroda (3-1, 2.79 ERA) vs. RHP Philip Humber (0-5, 7.99 ERA)

7:05 p.m. on Wednesday

David Phelps (1-1, 5.29 ERA) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (0-2, 7.98 ERA)

The Yankees (15-8) come into this series having swept the last place Toronto Blue Jays in a four game series. The Blue Jays were expected to finish first or second in the AL East, but they have underperformed so far. However, their defense is unreliable that even if their pitching does come around it will make it very difficult to rebound from their 9-17 start to the season. The Yankees received big home runs from Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay in the series, and Mariano Rivera saved three out of the four games. In the game on Sunday, Phil Hughes allowed only two runs, which was his third consecutive start limiting the opposition to that number. This is how the Yankees need him to pitch.

While the Yankees come into the series playing better than expected, the Astros have the worst record in the American League, which is where they were expected to be. They are in rebuilding mode, with more of their veterans likely to be traded away by the trade deadline, so the Yankees should be able to win all three games. Houston can’t match up with the trio of Pettitte, Kuroda and Phelps. Houston’s average actually ranks as high as 10th out of 15 AL teams, while the Yankees have the seventh best average, but New York’s starters and dominating relief pitching will give them the edge.

Pettitte allowed only two runs and struck out an impressive 10 Jays last week, Kuroda picked up the win after allowing three runs against Toronto and Phelps struck out nine batters in relief of Nova in only four innings. Somebody new has been stepping up offensively every game for the Yankees and the pitching will face a team with fewer offensive weapons than the Blue Jays.

Also, The Yankees are 8-1 in their last nine games against the Astros. This is their first year in the American League.