Tagged: Russell Martin

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.

The Yankees have made their 1st big offseason signing

Brian McCann in the 2010 All-Star 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 Yankees will regret not making an offer to Russell Martin

Russell Martin

Russell Martin

Even though Russell Martin (29) signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates two days ago, the Yankees can be blamed for not bringing him back because they should have offered him a similar contract earlier. He obviously took the offer from the Pirates because he did not feel wanted in the Bronx.

He was the best available option at catcher for the Yankees as the possible free agent catchers don’t provide what Martin does defensively and offensively. A.J. Pierzynski has attitude issues, is old for a catcher (36 as of Dec. 30) and is not as reliable with the pitching staff as Martin. However, he can be relied upon to post a solid average. The other talked about free agent catcher is Mike Napoli. He is more of a part-time player who is more known for his offense.

Pierzynski would be the better option than Napoli, but the Yankees front office has said that they don’t have much interest in signing the veteran catcher who was born on Long Island. Pierzynski would be the better immediate option, but as it stands, it seems like the Yankees will wait to trade for a catcher in July.

Martin only hit .211 last season, which is not what it should have been, but he did slug a career high 21 homers. That is a high number from the catcher position and the Yankees will miss that offensive output behind the plate in 2013. They will also miss his speed on the bases, as he swiped six bases last season, but had a career high of 21 in 2007, which he could possibly come close to again.

Additionally, the Pirates have usually been the team that players from the Yankees have gone to after they could not help the Yankees anymore, like Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and more recently A.J. Burnett, but Martin was necessary for the Yankees to keep. Martin was a finalist for the Gold Glove award, which went to Matt Wieters, and Martin is better than any of the catchers currently on the roster who will be competing for the starting spot.

The four candidates that will attempt to seize the catcher position that are on the roster are Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Eli Whiteside and Austin Romine. None of the four offer the combination of offense and defense that Martin does.

Cervelli has enthusiasm while being solid behind the plate, but has not shown the ability to produce on offense. He is mainly a singles hitter. Romine is known for his defense and is one of the higher regarded catching prospects in the organization, but he not ready to be the starter. Whiteside is old and is essentially an unknown. Stewart spent time as the catcher last season while Martin was injured.

The Yankees would have a decent defensive catcher and one that is very productive with the bat if they did not make the Jesus Montero trade with the Mariners last off-season. (That trade has not been a success for the Yankees since Pineda has not pitched an inning for the team while Montero hit .260, with 15 homers and 62 RBI as a rookie.)

Unfortunately, Montero is not an option, so it seems like it could be a combination of Cervelli and Stewart, which I did not expect to see. They will need Cervelli to be able to hit in the clutch like he has at times in the past.

UPDATE: Eli Whiteside is no longer an option because the Blue Jays have claimed him off of waivers.

The schedule will help the #Yankees win the AL East


After the second walk-off win in a row, against the Oakland Athletics, for the Yankees, they will be able to look ahead at the schedule to know that they should be able to hang and win the AL East. After tomorrow’s matinee game against the second place A’s, their remaining seven games are against the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins, who are a combined 40.5 games out of first place.

The Yankees have now won seven games in a row and their current winning streak has been highlighted by late game heroics by Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin. Ibanez, who was only 1-19 before today’s marathon game, produced a much needed 3-4 performance, with two homers and three RBI. On Friday night, Russell Martin, who has been somewhat of a feast or famine player recently, hit the game winner in the 10th after failing to get on base in his previous three at bats.

Friday’s game against Oakland would not have needed a Martin long ball in extra innings if it were not for Rafael Soriano wasting a dominating outing by ace CC Sebathia. After being somewhat inconsistent recently, Sebathia’s 11 strikeout, zero earned run performance is one that Yankee fans know he is capable of.

Soriano has been a very reliable replacement for the Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, since it was only his fourth blow save, while his 42 saves and 2.10 ERA make up for allowing the game to go into extra frames.

The good news is that the Yankees will not have to face a team like the Athletics, who have been playing above their talent level, and have been one of the best surprise stories of baseball, for the rest of the season. The Blue Jays and Twins are both not playing for anything while being out of the playoff race for most of the season. The Yankees will need to capitalize on these inferior opponents.

The Yankees currently own a one game lead over the surging Baltimore Orioles. The Bronx Bombers are currently clicking on all cylinders after going 9-1 in their last 10 games while the O’s, led by Buck Showalter, have won eight of their last 10 contests.

The Yankees should not accept anything less than winning six of their last eight games. I could see them losing the game to the A’s on Sunday, who are currently tied with the O’s for the Wild Card, and then also losing a game to their division foe, the Blue Jays.

If I had to pick a game for them to lose it would be when Ricky Romero is pitching. Romero, who has been Toronto’s ace the past few years, has struggled in 2012, but has a history of pitching well against the Yankees. If my prediction is accurate the Yankees would end the season with a 94-65 record.

The Orioles also end the season against teams that are basically playing out the string. They have four games left against the Red Sox and three against the Blue Jays. I can see the Orioles winning six of their last eight games. I would have left the number at five, but I could see the Red Sox resting their starters to try and help the Orioles win the division instead of the Yankees.

The Yankees will need to continue to have unsung and under-performing players step up in their remaining games to help them come away with six or more wins. Those six wins would give the Yankees a 94-65 record, and if the Orioles also win six more games, the Yanks would win the AL East by one game.

Baltimore edges the Yankees in 11 after another shaky outing by Burnett

This was their fourth rain delay this season against the Orioles who came out on top 5-4 in extra innings over the Yankees in a game that featured six errors and 13 relievers.

Baltimore and New York’s starters each struggled giving up a combined eight runs.  Zach Britton who had been one of the Orioles better starters of late gave up all of the Yankees runs on five hits and four walks.

A.J. Burnett did not really do enough to deserve another start in this six-man rotation that should turn into the standard five-man one.  He allowed four runs on seven hits, with four walks and a homer.  This start proved again how unreliable he is since he allowed two runs in his start last week against the Red Sox but in his two starts before that one he allowed a combined 16 runs.

Burnett gave up a two run homer to Nolan Reimold, his ninth of the season, who is only hitting .231.  It is truly hard to fathom how Burnett gave up two runs by the Boston offense but could not limit the paltry Baltimore offense.

It seems like Hughes can be counted on to pitch more consistently than Burnett especially since he only has one win in his last 10 starts while Hughes has shown some dominance since coming off the disabled list.

The offensive stars for the Yankees were Jesus Montero and Alex Rodriguez as they drove in all of their four runs.  Rodriguez had a two-run double to deep center which drove in Russell Martin and Nick Swisher in the opening stanza, and Montero (5 RBI in 5 games) singled to deep right center which plated Rodriguez and Andruw Jones.

In the bottom of the sixth shortstop Robert Andino fielded a shot hop cleanly and it appeared that he would throw out Jesus Montero but Andino would receive an error because his throw to first sailed into the Yankee dugout.

In an effort to get the lead before the game was potentially called because of rain Manager Joe Girardi sent in Robinson Cano and Mark Teixiera.  Curtis Granderson was inserted into the lineup after Teixiera which would make a very imposing seven, eight and nine to round out the order.  Granderson hit a double to the wall in the seventh which had the potential of being a triple but he tripped after rounding first base.

However, his double to lead off the inning would go to waste as he would be stranded at third keeping the score at four. The Yankees squandered an opportunity to put the game away in that inning.

In the top of the eighth David Robertson dominated like normal but this time he struck out the side.  He used his cutter to perfection.

In the ninth inning Clay Rapada would pitch for the Orioles and he is very deceptive on left handed pitchers because he is a side arm pitcher.  The umpire went to the mound to try and force Rapada to put his foot on the rubber but it appeared as if his foot stayed off the rubber for the rest of the at-bat against Cano.  Rapada would get Granderson to fly out to the catcher and with that Buck Showalter would make yet another pitching change.

Pedro Strop would come into the game becoming the Orioles seventh pitcher on the afternoon.  Strop, a converted shortstop, has a 3.09 ERA in 10 appearances, two for the Orioles and eight for the Rangers.  He would get Eduardo Nunez to ground out to Andino at short to force extra innings in a game filled with errors.

To start the “free baseball” Hector Noesi struck out Chris Davis to give him five on the afternoon, as well as a grand total of 20 in his last 40 at bats.  Noesi would go on to strike out the side as he has filled his role adequately in relief this season.

Russell Martin picked up his second hit of the contest to lead-off the bottom of the 10th, but the next three batters would get out in order.  Martin was the only Yankee who played the whole game to come away with two hits and he also had his second consecutive game with multiple hits.  After pinch hitting for Ramiro Pena, Granderson got a hit in two out of his three at bats.

Nunez came away with an error after failing to pick up the fast short hop by Matt Angle.  That was the fourth error of the game and committing so many miscues makes it difficult to win games, but the wet conditions certainly don’t help.  Joe Girardi left Noesi in one inning too long as he threw a wild pitch to Reimold and the feast or famine Mark Reynolds hit an RBI single.

Eduardo Nunez had the chance to be the hero in the bottom of the eleventh and make up for committing his 18th error, but Girardi decided to replace him with Eric Chavez with runners on first and third.  This strategic move proved to be an instance of over-analyzing because Chavez would ground into a fielder’s chance to end the game.

The Yankees offense should not have been held scoreless for six innings off of an Orioles bullpen that features the previously mentioned converted shortstop, a reliever making his fourth career appearance in Zach Phillips and four who all have more than a 4.15 ERA.

A reason for only scoring four runs in 11 innings is that they did horribly in clutch situations once again.  Four players including Swisher, Cano, Montero and Chavez left runners on base with two outs and overall the team left nine runners on base.  It is very important to drive runners in with ducks on the pond and in this game the Yankees could not convert off of mediocre pitchers.

It also would have helped if Martin would have thrown out some of the base stealers as three of the five stolen bases off of him came around to score.  If he would have thrown out two or even three of them that might have caused a different outcome.

Burnett is now the first pitcher in history to have eight games in his career with three wild pitches.  The Yankees

The Yankees will try and win the series (3-1) tonight behind Ivan Nova who strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.  He has now gone eight consecutive starts with a win and has not picked up a loss since June 3rd helping him to a remarkable 15-4 record.  Nova does not crumble under pressure and he has even improved his pitch location and execution after allowing one or two early runs.

They are 8-2 in their last 10 games helping them stay 2.5 games ahead of Boston.

Jesus makes his Yankees debut, but the series win over Boston was highlighted by Burnett and Martin

There were many positives during this game, however, the one that stands out is that A.J. Burnett actually pitched the Yankees to victory, only allowing two runs.

I still think he should be taken out of the rotation, as he allowed 16 runs in two starts before this one, and his ERA is still 5.25, but now Girardi at least as a legitimate decision to make after Phil Hughes struggled so much in his last start.

Not many had confidence in Burnett coming into this game, but something was able to click in his brain allowing him to pitch like he was still a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.  What he was a starter for the Blue Jays he was consistently effective (2.56 ERA in eight starts) instead of consistently ineffective in eight starts before this one for the Yankees (8.71 ERA and zero wins).

Jon Lester had struggled in his three previous starts against the Yankees this season, but he will likely be somewhere in the top 10 in the CY Young with his 3.09 ERA, so it is not surprising that he only gave up one run in five innings.

Lester likely would have been able to pitch deeper into the contest if it was not for his very eventful top of the first.

David Ortiz hit a hard single to right, in the second inning, which gave him a 15 game hitting streak.

In the top of the third Andruw Jones missed a double by inches as his towering line drive just missed hitting the foul line on the Green Monster.  However, unfortunately he would go on to strike out looking on a 2-2 count.

Jones would go 0-1 with three walks but more importantly he has hit more like the hitter he was with the Braves for much of the second half of the season because of an advice from a somewhat unlikely source.  Jones would receive a call during the All-Star break from his mother who said that she didn’t like the way he was setting his legs in his batting stance.

Amazingly, during what was Burnett’s best start since June 29th, he only gave up Dustin Pedroia’s two run blast in the bottom of the fourth.  This would score MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez, and would prove that Burnett is actually capable of adjusting to adversity.

With one out in the fifth inning Robinson Cano hit a long double into the triangle in center-field on Lester’s 100th pitch.  That double was Cano’s 39th of the season. Swisher bunted with one out which is very puzzling because he is one of the better RBI men on the team. They were down by a run and he could have driven in Cano with a single.

Jesus Montero would bat in top of the fifth with a chance to be the savior, but the nerves of playing in his first big league game and facing Lester got to him as he grounded out to shortstop.

Mark Teixiera got hit right on the knee to load the bases after Derek Jeter singled off of the Green Monster and Curtis Granderson walked.  At least that was not a fastball or he would have been badly hurt.  However, the Yankees failed again with men on base as Cano grounded out to third.

In the sixth inning, with david Ortiz batting, Burnett threw a pitch with a 3-2 count that appeared to be strike three on the outside corner but the umpire called it a ball.  Joe Girardi made the correct decision taking him out of the game at that point.  Burnett had allowed a single to Pedroia before that walk, and it was smart not to take any risks with AJ pitching.

To end the sixth inning Curtis Granderson made an outstanding diving catch to prevent two runs from scoring.  This also kept Burnett’s line at two runs, which is impressive.

One of the Yankees best prospects, Jesus Montero, who is known for his hitting, left a total of six runners on base in his first three at bats.  He would not do any damage in his fourth at bat but at least he was able to get himself to first via getting hit on his jersey.

With runners on first and second, Russell Martin decided to come through in the clutch, after so many had not earlier in the game.  Chris Dickerson, who had pinch run and Montero, scored giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead.  Eric Chavez would hit a single to send Martin home, while would set the Yankees up for victory as their dominating bullpen options were on deck.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mariano Rivera surprisingly walked two hitters and give up a single before Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate.  He just wanted to make the game bottom of the ninth interesting as   Gonzalez would be called out on a checked swing to give the Yankees the victory and with the win they are now tied in the loss column with Boston.

The Yankees stranded nine base runners in the first five innings which would be a theme that luckily did not cost them the win.  They would go on to leave 13 men on base and would leave runners in scoring position with two outs six times, with Montero being the culprit three times in his debut.  On the other hand, Boston would be equally hurt by leaving 10 runners on base.

Another major reason that the Yankees got the upper hand in this game was that their bullpen vastly outperformed the Red Sox’ relievers.

Former Yankee pitcher Alfred Aceves, who can do a little of everything (and who choose number 91 after Dennis Rodman) gave up Martin’s double and in the process surrendering his teams lead.  Daniel Bard would allow the Yankees to have a two-run cushion as the Yankees best three relievers were set to enter the game.  Eric Chavez would close out the scoring off of Daniel Bard, with an RBI single, and he has improved his average 21 points since August 28 (this drastic increase is partly because he is a part-time player).

However, for the Yankees, their relievers only gave up one hit in 3.2 innings.  Corey Wade (2.17), who would get the team out of the fifth inning and pick up the win, was signed on June 13th and has proven to be one of the better mid-season, under the radar, acquisitions by GM Brian Cashman.

The impressive back of the bullpen trio of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera imposed their will like normal, but they just had to work around four walks between them.

Rivera got Gonzalez out on his patented cutter which has to be one of the best single pitches of all-time.  The best closer in baseball history will soon be official as he is now five saves away from 600 and seven away from Trevor Hoffman’s all-time saves record. He could accomplish this feat in late September.

They now begin six game home-stand against division foes Toronto and Baltimore (with one on the road because of Hurricane Irene) who are in fourth and fifth place, respectively.  Boston will now face Texas and Toronto in their next six games as the neck-and-neck division race is bound to continue until the last few days of September.

Yankees set MLB record with three grand slams

The Yankees became the first team in Major League history to hit three grand slams in one game, as Robinson Cano hit his in the fifth, Russell Marin hit his second of two home runs in the sixth inning and Curtis Granderson connected in the eighth, which led to their 22-8 victory of the Athletics.

Granderson should be the American League Most Valuable Player, Cano has been performing like an All-Star that he was all season but Martin has been more off-and-on.

Phil Hughes had pitched very well during his last four starts, never allowing more than two runs, but on Thursday afternoon he allowed six runs in 2.2 innings.  Luckily, this did not end up ruining the Yankees chances at winning the game as the offense would explode starting in the fifth inning, and every inning after.

Martin now has four multi-homer games in 101 games with the Yankees after having only one in his 667 game stint with the Dodgers.  He is a catcher that can truly perform in all aspects of the game as he is reliable behind the dish, is fast for a catcher with eight steals and his 17 homers are impressive for a catcher.  He is hitting much better lately, and having hits in all but one of his last nine games, with 13 RBI, has boosted his average 17 points to .243.

For the Athletics, Rich Harden allowed six runs on 10 hits in only 4.1 innings, giving up two homers.  He is a pitcher who displayed dominance at times earlier in his career but has always been plagued by injuries.  The Yankees were able to take advantage of Harden, during a season where he has been struggling, and continue to rake against the bullpen especially Bruce Billings who allowed seven runs in 1.1 innings.

It is unfortunate that Phil Hughes could not continue to pitch well but the Yankees needed an offensive outburst like this one after losing the first two games the fourth place Athletics.  Hughes should be able to bounce back as it seemed like he was regaining his form from the first-half of last season.

Their pitching actually under-performed the whole series as the Yankees allowed six runs in each of the previous two games.  They travel to Baltimore for three games, starting Friday night, and so far they are up 9-1 in the season series.  However, A.J. Burnett (4.96 ERA, 14 runs in his last three starts) will be starting tonight, which is not promising.

The Orioles are coming into this three game set having swept the Twins in Minneapolis, scoring six runs or more in three of the four games and there are no guarantees that Burnett will slow down their offense.  It is possible that Burnett will pitch like he is capable of since he has “dominate” stuff, but that is impossible to predict, since he can’t handle pitching with a lead and the smallest things cause him to unravel.

The Yankees should be able to sweep the last place Orioles in the Charm City, but two out of three would be acceptable since one never knows which AJ will show up.  The Orioles come into the series having won four straight after a five-game losing streak.

Ivan Nova excelled through 7 innings as the Yankees have an off day on Monday

The last game of the two city, seven-game road trip ended on a positive note as Ivan Nova pitched the Yankees to a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins.  He executed all his pitches well, especially his slider, and kept his name in a three way race with Mike Trumbo of the Angels and Michael Pineda of the Mariners for Rookie of the Year.

Nova also successfully became the first rookie to win eight in a row with the Yankees since Whitey Ford did so in 1950.  He has proven that clutch moments don’t faze him, unlike A.J. Burnett, because he was able to pitch out of a second-and-third no out jam in the fifth inning without allowing a run.  This was partly because of miscommunication by Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson on a ball hit by Danny Valencia, which went for a double.

The Yankees’ prized 24 year old, was super while having five strikeouts and only allowing one walk.  He lowered his ERA to 3.97 on the campaign proving that the Yankees will be able to count on him down the stretch and in the playoffs.  Earlier in the season it was revealed that Burnett had become a mentor figure for Nova, but maybe Nova should give Burnett some advice on pitching.

Proving the dominance of Nova is that only three Twins were able to get into scoring position against him, but the same type of pitching cannot be said for the Twins starter.  Nick Blackburn, only lasted 1.1 innings, while walking the bases loaded before being taken out my his manager, Ron Gardenhire, due to an injury.

The Yankees wasted that scoring opportunity as Anthony Swarzak came in and pitched 2.2 perfect innings, but they were able to capitalize off of the Twins next two relievers.

In the sixth inning Russell Martin hit a sacrifice fly to score Robinson Cano who had doubled earlier in the inning.  Martin could finish the year with more than 20 home runs, 60 runs batted in and 10 steals which is impressive for a catcher.

The seventh inning is when the Yankees home run kings, Mark Teixiera and Granderson, hit back-to-back homers in unlikely fashion off of Jose Mijares.  Granderson drove a ball high off the wall in right field, but Jason Kubel and Ben Revere went for the wall instead of the carom, which resulted in Granderson just barely beating the throw at home.  He really had to hustle for that inside the park home run.  He added a steal off of Joe Nathan, proving his versatility and that he deserves the MVP.

Teixiera’s home run was of the traditional variety to cap off the back-to-back feat.  He hit a stinging line drive that just made it over the left field fence.  This was all the scoring the team would need as the combination of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera did not allow any runs once again, even though Robertson has to pull a Houdini act after allowing a walk and two hits.

Granderson and Teixiera will likely go head-to-head until the last days of the season to decide who will have the most home runs and RBI on the team, as well as in the American League.  As of now Granderson has 35 home runs to Teixeira’s 34, as well as having 98 RBI’s to Teixeira’s 95.  This will be exciting to follow.

Alex Rodriguez was 0 for 5 in his return but after a few games he will prove to be another power bat to add to the lineup.  The Yankees played well without him, winning five out of seven and 13 out of 19, but it will definitely be helpful having him back.

It will also be interesting to see if Girardi makes the wise decision in the upcoming days and replaces Burnett in the rotation for at least two starts. It might even help him if he is able to pitch in the minors for a start or two.

Starting on Tuesday, the Yankees get to continue the cupcake portion of their schedule as they have six straight games against the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, who are both well under .500.  They should be able to win at least four of those games to help create a few games of separation over the Red Sox who are playing the Rangers for four games.  Yankees are in first place by half a game.