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.
As of Saturday night, the 23rd day of November, the Yankees have officially made their first significant offseason acquisition. Brian McCann, who was a priority going into the offseason, has signed a 5-year, $85 million contract to be the team’s catcher. McCann, who will be 30 on February 20, has a deal that could be worth $100M with a 6th-year option.
Brian McCann had spent his entire nine-year career with the Atlanta Braves. Excluding the season when he was a rookie in 2005, he has played in at least 120 games in every season except this past season. He has slugged at least 20 homers in six straight seasons and in seven of the last eight seasons. He drove in a career-high 94 runs in 2009 and hit a career-high 24 home runs in both 2006 and 2011. His career batting average is also a very respectable .277, especially for a catcher.
McCann, who is originally from Georgia, has played in the All-Star Game in seven out of his nine seasons. It is basically seven out of eight since he only played in 59 games in his rookie season. He is the only Braves player who has been selected to the National League All-Star team in each of his first three full seasons. All-Star Game worthy production is not anything close to what the Yankees received last season from the combination of Austin Romine, Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli.
They are all catchers that are more suitable for a back-up role, but as a result of not re-signing Russell Martin after the 2012 season, Cervelli was the starter in the beginning until his injury, and then Stewart was the primary catcher. Romine played in 60 games, starting 43.
The three catchers combined to hit only eight homers, but as previously mentioned, McCann has six straight years of 20 homers. Cervelli, even though he received a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, could be the back-up catcher next season since the Yankees plan to tender a contract to Cervelli. Stewart is not expected to return to the Bronx Bombers.
This signing was very much needed and gives the Yankees a catcher they can rely on behind the plate. McCann might not be the defensive catcher that Stewart is, but McCann is an above-average pitch framer, according to Keith Law. Last season he had a .995 fielding percentage and threw out 24 percent of base stealers. His career-high was 30 percent in 2010. Stewart threw out 31 percent of base stealers last season and .997 fielding percentage. McCann definitely will not hurt the Yankees on defense and will greatly help them on offense.
Joe Girardi will now have a catcher who can help the Yankees behind the plate and in the batting lineup. McCann has also recently said that he is open to learning to play first base and playing DH if it will help his new team. That is perfect for the Yankees because Mark Teixeira usually doesn’t need many days off. The only position McCann played with the Braves is catcher.
Since this signing is out of the way, they can now concentrate on signing Carlos Beltran or bringing back Curtis Granderson in the outfield, as well as re-signing second baseman Robinson Cano.
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 defeated the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night after they scored five runs in the eighth inning. They recorded an impressive six of their nine hits in that pivotal sixth inning. The Yankees did their damage off of the White Sox bullpen as they scored all of their runs in the eighth after White Six ace Chris Sale left the game with one out and runners on second and third.
Hiroki Kuroda did not pitch up to the standards that he had earlier in this season that put him in CY Young consideration up until allowing 15 runs in three starts, but Kuroda showed some improvement after pitching into the sixth inning and striking out seven batters. He had not recorded seven strikeouts since August 12, and the four runs and seven hits were both less then he had allowed in his last two starts.
Sale, whose 2.97 ERA is the sixth best in the American League, dominated the Yankees for the second time in the past month. However, more importantly, the Yankees were able to get the win this time as their offense has greatly improved. They got clutch hits from four players who have spent time on the disabled list this season in that pivotal eighth inning.
In the second inning, Vernon Wells, who has been struggling recently, scored the team’s first run on a steal of home in the middle of a double steal after getting on base via a single. It did not look promising for the Yankees when the White Sox took a 4-1 lead in the seventh after Alexandro De Aza’s 16th homer, but the home team’s offensive onslaught was about to come in full force.
After Joe Girardi made the correct decision to pinch-hit Austin Romine for Chris Stewart in the seventh (Stewart doesn’t have a hit in his last 20 at-bats), Robinson Cano hit a double off the wall in to send Derek Jeter to third, which would start the rally and send Sale to the showers.
After Sale left the game for reliever Nate Jones, Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run single that drove in Jeter and Cano. Those were his 38th and 39th runs driven in during his 36 games with the Yankees. He has given the team even more than Brian Cashman could have hoped for. Those runs made the score 4-3. After an Alex Rodriguez single advanced Soriano to third, Curtis Granderson’s pinch-hit single drove in Soriano.
However, the hero of the game was Eduardo Nunez. Nunez, who is hitting .384 in his last 13 at-bats, smashed a double down the third base line to score A-Rod and Granderson. That hit would seal the win. Nunez received a much deserved Gatorade shower during his interview with Meredith Marakovits after what was his most clutch hit of his career.
Mariano Rivera came in for the ninth inning and retired the side in order to record his 40th save of the season. He has now saved 40 games nine times in his Hall of Fame career. His 2.12 ERA proves that he still has a lot left in the tank and could likely dominate again next year. It has been reported that Joe Girardi will try and delay his scheduled retirement until after the 2014 season.
Their win combined with the Orioles loss moves the Yankees up in the Wild-Card standings to 2.5 games back and half-a-game ahead of the Orioles. It seemed like the Yankees would gain ground on the Tampa Bay Rays who have one Wild-Card spot right now, since they were 0-9 in the Pacific time zone this season, but They could move even closer if the Rays lose the game they are currently playing in Anaheim. The Rays are currently 0-9 in the Pacific time zone this year, but Tampa routed the Angels.
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.
The Yankees bounced back from their loss to the Red Sox on Friday by beating them 5-2 on Saturday afternoon. Hiroki Kuroda, who allowed two runs in seven innings, pitched his third dominating start in a row, and proved that he should have played in the All-Star Game. Chris Stewart also made the defensive play of the year.
He know has an outstanding 2.65 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. Kuroda has been the Yankees best starter this season and CC Sabathia has been the second. The Yankees will need Kuroda and Sabathia to pitch like aces for the rest of the season. However, it is a great sign that Kuroda continued his stellar pitching after the All-Star break. Also, this was a bounce back start for Kuroda because in his first start against the Red Sox, on June 2, Kuroda allowed eight hits and three runs in 5.1 innings.
Brett Gardner, Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nunez each had three hits and Gardner and Overbay drove in a run apiece. Luis Cruz was 1-3, stole one base, scored three runs and drove in Nunez, which added up to a solid all around game. Robinson Cano’s RBI in the seventh gave the Yankees all the runs that they would need.
Mariano Rivera saved his 31st game of the season and now has two effective outings in a row after blowing a save against Baltimore on July 7. After previously pitching in 53 games at Fenway Park in his career, Rivera got likely his only ovation from the Boston fans. They know that he is a baseball legend and were giving him respect. This was Rivera’s 35th career save at Fenway Park.
Regarding the standing ovation in Boston, Overbay said: That doesn’t surprise me. He deserves it. I think everybody is embracing what he has done as a pitcher, so it’s well deserving and shows you the respect they have for him.”
With the win, the Yankees snapped their three-game losing streak and they had also previously lost their last three games to the Red Sox.
Besides Derek Jeter’s catch where he dove into the stands at Fenway Park on July 1, 2004, Chis Stewart’s outstanding defensive play in the eighth inning ranks as one of the best in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry in recent memory. This was a critical play because if the double play was not converted then Boston would have had a runner on second with two outs, with a 4-2 score.
Here is the video where where Chris Stewart caught a ball in about the second row near home plate and then threw out Daniel Nava to complete the double play.
The Yankees could not find any success off of Clay Bucholz as they were only able to get two hits in the rain shortened 3-0 loss the Boston Red Sox. That loss for the Yankees in 5 and a half innings gave the Red Sox the series win as they won on Saturday and Sunday after CC Sabathia pitched a stellar game on Friday.
Mike Napoli’s grounder in the fourth, which scored Dustin Pedroia, turned out to be all the offense that the Red Sox would need.
Going back to the end of the Tampa Bay series, the Yankees have now lost seven of their last eight games and are now in third place behind the Orioles and Red Sox.
This game was scheduled to start at 8:05 p.m but didn’t start until 8:50 because of a rain delay that did not include any substantial rain. I used this time to explore the Yankees Museum for the second time. It is unfortunate that the game did not start at about 8:05 because then they might have been able to finish before Mother Nature wreaked havoc in the top of the sixth.
Kuroda had some calls by the home plate umpire not go his way, but Kuroda did allow eight hits and is in the middle of his worst stretch of the season. In his last three starts, Kuroda has pitched 14.1 innings and allowed eight earned runs. He has been the team’s most reliable starter this season and still has a very impressive 2.59 ERA.
Here is a video of the reaction to the storm during the third rain delay. Brett Gardner’s reaction, who was sitting next to first base coach Mick Kelleher, stands out more than anybody else.
The highlight for the Yankees was Austin Romine’s single in the third because he broke an 0-17 slide. However, Robinson Cano would hit into a double play ending the inning. The Yankees have now scored four or fewer runs in nine straight games, but tonight’s offensive inneptedude can be blamed on Bucholz, who leads the American League with a 1.63 ERA. Mark Teixeira should be able to give the Yankees a boost on offense, but Teixeira is only 1-9 since returning from injury.
Chris Stewart was originally scheduled to start the game, but Stewart was sent to New York-Presbyterian Hospital as a result of his continued dehydration from Saturday’s game. According to Stewart, the team was just being pre-cautious and he could have played if something happened to Romine.
The highlight for me was being able to get autographs from Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter before the game. It was great that Jeter came out for batting practice even though he will not be returning until at some point after the All-Star Break. Jeter is rehabbing in The Bronx as opposed to Alex Rodriguez who is doing his rehab separated from the team at the team’s facility in Tampa. The Captain joked around with Cano and made time to greet fans.
Joe Girardi’s said that his clue that the weather was bad was that his TV in the clubhouse went out.
The Yankees will not really get a break tonight as they will face Cleveland’s ace, Justing Masterson, who has a 3.07 ERA and 83 strikeouts. The Yankees need to play small ball by advancing runners, attempting more stolen bases, and taking the walk when possible in order to bust out of this offensive slump.
Andy Pettitte, who will make his first start since being put on the 15-day disabled list on May 17, could be just the starter the team needs to limit the Indians. Pettitte only has one start where he has allowed more than three earned runs. Girardi said that once he gets to 90 pitches he will start to monitor where he is at.