Tagged: Travis Hafner

It appears that offensive help is on the way after the Yankees were shutout by the Rangers

Ivan Nova in spring training.

Ivan Nova in spring training.

The Yankees lost the first game of the series in Arlington, Texas to the Rangers, 3-0, in which all three of their hits were singles. They have now scored two runs or less for the seventh time this month. After a great start to the season as the replacements did better than expected, the Yankees are now 22-29 in their last 51 games.

It does appear that offensive help is on the way as George King is reporting that the Yankees are close to trading for former Yankee Alfonso Soriano. Soriano, who played for the Yankees from 1999 until 2003, was actually traded for Alex Rodriguez after the 03′ season. He has lost a lot of the speed that he used to have, since he stole more than 18 bases in every season between 2001 and 2008, but he has 10 steals so far this season to go with 17 homers and 51 Runs Batted In.

The fact that Soriano is 37 is a drawback but the Yankees desperately need offense. He would be able to replace Travis Hafner at DH, or play left-field since Vernon Wells has also been struggling. Travis Hafner actually has the worst batting average of any player since May 1. He played well for the first month, where he hit six of his 12 homers and finished the month with a .310 average, but now his average has fallen all the way down to .210.

There is an excuse for the Yankees offense in this game since they were facing Yu Darvish, who has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this season. He allowed two hits in 6.1 innings and has a 2.86 ERA.

Lyle Overbay had another solid game for the Yankees and was the only offensive player who contributed. Overbay, who picked up two of the team’s three hits, has four multi-hit games in his last seven games. Robinson Cano, who was 0-4, had his 12-game hitting streak come to an end.

A missed call by an umpire led to the first run of the game for the Rangers in the first inning. Adrian Beltre hit a single to drive in Ian Kinsler, but Kinsler should have been called out on his steal attempt for the third out. Nelson Cruz, who hit a homer in the seventh off of Ivan Nova that was caught by the Yankees bullpen catcher, could be suspended in the coming days for his role with the Biogenesis clinic in Miami.

Ivan Nova pitched well enough to get his fifth win but instead got his third loss (his is now 4-3). Nova is the team’s second best pitcher right now behind Hiroki Kuroda as he has averaged eight innings in his last three starts and allowed an average of two runs.

Luis Cruz made an outstanding defensive play in the third inning to prevent what would have been a double. He ran far into the outfield near the foul line and made a basket style catch while extending himself to the fullest. He was down for a while but was able to stay in the game.

The Yankees played well on defense, highlighted by Chris Stewart and Cruz, but they need the offense to come up with more than just singles against Alexi Ogando (2.93 ERA) during Tuesday night’s game. The Yankees will also hope that Phil Hughes, who has been very erratic this season with a 4.57 ERA, can stick to his trend of pitching much better on the road than at home.  He has a 3.38 ERA in away games but at Yankees Stadium it is an unacceptable 5.63.

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The Yankees won behind Nova’s pitching and homers by Overbay and Cano

Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova

The Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals 8-1 behind a much needed offensive outburst. The Yankees scored as many runs in this game as they did in their previous four games combined.

The offensive stars were Lyle Overbay and Robinson Cano. Overbay hit a grand slam in the sixth and Cano hit a three-run homer to deep center in the third.

Overbay has been such an important signing because he has given the Yankees more offense than they ever could have hoped for when he was acquired at the very end of March. He was supposed to be the starter until Mark Teixeira returned from injury, but since Teixeira will be out the rest of the season because of surgery, after an ineffective 10-game return, Overbay will continue to be the starter and it seems like he will be up to the task.

From the 2004 season through the 2012 season, Overbay’s 290 doubles ranked fourth among major league first baseman. So far this season he has a .244 average, 11 homers and 40 RBI. However, he is a first baseman that has always been known for his defense and he has come through in that category as well.

Cano’s homer was needed as it set the tone for the game as their first run was scored off of a passed ball thrown by Wade Davis. Cano had a solid game in many facets since he had three hits in four at-bats, drove in his 62nd RBI and even added his sixth steal of the season. He would have had a triple and a 4-4 game if he would have been hustling from contact, but he was not since he thought the ball that hit the top of the wall was a homer.

Ivan Nova’s second consecutive dominating start, where he had command of all of his pitches, was another major positive. He allowed two runs in a complete game in his last start, and today, he went eight innings while only giving up five hits and striking out six. The only blemish against Nova was an RBI double by Eric Hosmer.

In Ivan Nova’s last four games pitched (3 starts) he is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA. The period that Nova spent in the minors helped him since his is now throwing his fastball where he wants it and is throwing his curve ball for strikeouts or to induce grounders. He really had command of his curve ball tonight.

Nova said that: “I don’t remember the last time I feel the way I feel. I’m throwing strikes with all my pitches.”  He has recently been pitching like he did in 2011 when he was fourth in Rookie of the Year voting and won 16 games.

Overbay said he was looking for a fastball on the outside part of the plate and that is exactly what he got in order to hit his grand slam.

Brett Gardner, who stole his 12th base of the season in the fifth inning, is now tied with Phil Rizzuto (149) for 12th most steals in Yankees history.

The only negatives about this game were that Travis Hafner and Brett Gardner are now day-to-day. Hafner, who was 0-2, suffered his injury by fouling a ball off of his foot while swinging in the batting cage between innings. Gardner, who scored two runs on two walks, left the game in the right leg contusion.

A stat to keep in mind is that the Yankees are 29-1 this season when they score five or more runs in a game. Even more important than Ivan Nova proving to Joe Girardi that he deserves to stay in the rotation for the rest of the season was that the offense busted out of the slump that they were in. The runs that were scored today will hopefully give the bats some momentum in order to win at least three of the remaining four games before the All-Star break.

The Yankees beat the Orioles after a walk-off hit from Vernon Wells

After the win over the Orioles.

After the win over the Orioles.

On Friday night, the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 in dramatic fashion. After Jim Johnson walked Travis “Pronk” Hafner to bring home the tying run Vernon Wells hit the game winning single to cause hysteria at Yankee Stadium. It was their first walk-off win against the Orioles since April of 2011.

This was the most exciting win by the Yankees since Ichiro Suzuki hit a game ending homer to beat the Rangers on June 25. (It was also the most exciting game that I have been to in some time.) Friday night’s win was even more important than the one over the Rangers because the Yankees lost three in a row to the Orioles last weekend and it pushed their winning streak to five games.

Ivan “Super” Nova dominated from start to finish en route to throwing his first complete game of his career. His 11 strikeouts were a season high and one away from his career record that he set last season against the Reds.  He only allowed three hits, and one of them was a two-run homer by Matt Wieters.

Another stat that proves how excellent Nova was is that he is the first Yankee to throw a complete game while striking out at least 11 and allowing 3-or-fewer hits since Mike Mussina in 2002.

Nova struggled in April, but since coming back from the minors he has pitched well and proven that he deserves to stay in the majors. His last three starts have been quality ones and they have all been against AL East opponents (two against the Orioles and one against Tampa). This proves that he deserves David Phelps’s spot in the rotation since his last two starts have left much to be desired and he has a 5.01 season ERA.

The stadium was definitely aware of Nova’s special performance as he received standing ovations after many of his strikeouts and after he left the game in the ninth. Nova was also able to give the bullpen a needed day off since Girardi needed four pitchers to come in after Phelps’s shaky start on Thursday at Target Field.

The Yankees are basically firing on all cylinders right now since the offense has finally started to come around.  Vernon Wells, who had been struggling after a hot start to the season, is now 6-12 in his last three games. He has raised his average from .223 to .235 in the last few days.

After the dramatic win, the Yankees are now only half-a-game behing the Orioles in the Wild-Card standings. Wells got a much deserved Gatorade shower by a teammate during his interview with Meredith Marakovits. This brought back memories to when A.J. Burnett used to throw a pie at the player who hit the game winner during his tumultuous time with the team.

Another positive sign is that Eduardo Nunez has been activated from the disabled list and Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Pineda are all playing in minor league games. Nunez has gone from the Charleston RiverDogs to starting for the Yankees in the span of five days.

Yankees beat the Rangers behind four homers

Cano and Jeter before the game against the Red Sox a few weeks ago

Cano and Jeter before the game against the Red Sox a few weeks ago

The Yankees beat the Texas Rangers 4-3, on Tuesday night in the Bronx, behind four solo home runs from the offense. It was their third win in their last four games.

With the win over the rival Rangers from the AL West, who the Yankees lost to in the playoffs in 2010, the Yankees are now 5-5 in their last 10 games, and 2.5 games (tied with the Orioles) behind the Red Sox in the AL East, and in a three-way tie atop the Wild-Card standings.

The offense was obviously led by Travis Hafner, Brett Gardner, Jayson Nix and Ichiro Suzuki since they hit the home runs to account for all of the runs that the team scored. The biggest one was essentially hit by Ichiro since he hit the walk-off homer to deep right center in the bottom of the ninth to give the Yankees the victory.

Hafner hit his twelfth homer of the campaign in the fourth inning, Gardner hit his seventh homer of the season in the fifth inning, Nix hit his second homer of the campaign in the sixth inning and Ichiro hit is fourth round-tripper of the season in the ninth. Nix’s homer was only his 10th since the end of the 2010 season.

It was the most clutch home run of the season for Ichiro. In fact, Ichiro is now on a five-game hitting streak and has hit in six of the past seven games. He is an important cog in the offense with the injuries to Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Francisco Cervelli (Kevin Youkilis will not likely come back and AROD is in the middle of controversy with Cashman and could face a 100-game suspension).

This performance by the offense was one that used to happen often the past few years where the homer was a critical aspect of many wins. If Nix and players such as Chris Stewart, David Adams and Zoilo Almonte can hit for some power that will greatly benefit the offense. Almonte has been a much needed boost to the offense since coming up from the minors. He is now hitting .438 after 16 at-bats.

Last night’s game was the 11th major league matchup between Japanese pitchers. The two pitchers are both elite as Hiroki Kuroda has an ERA 2.77 and Yu Darvish, who is in his second major league season after a stellar career pitching in Japan, has a 2.95 ERA.

In Tuesday’s game, Kuroda got the bragging rights because he only allowed two earned runs to Darvish’s three and only allowed five hits to the seven that Darvish gave up. Kuroda (7-5, 3.77 ERA) has now pitched a quality start in his last three starts while holding the opposition to two runs in each of those outings.

This blog post also comes on Derek Jeter’s 39th birthday. Jeter is currently rehabbing in Tampa. He was previously training in the Bronx and during this time I was lucky enough to see him up close before a game against the Red Sox.

When asked what he would give Jeter on his birthday Robinson Cano said, “I would say a card. He has a car, clothes, money and watches, what else can you give him?”

Yankees beat Tampa behind big games from Wells and Almonte

Vernon Wells

Vernon Wells

The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-5, Saturday afternoon, for their second consecutive victory over their American League East division rivals. After scoring three runs in the loss to Tampa on Thursday, the Yankees have now scored more than four runs in consecutive games for the first time since May.

Zoilo Almonte gave the Yankees an offensive boost for the second game in a row as he had two walks, a run scored and three RBI. He is continuing to contribute in the on base percentage category like he did in the minors and is providing the offense that Vernon Wells was not. In four games and two starts, Almonte is now batting .625 with two runs, one homer and four RBI.

However, Wells did get the pinch hit three-run double that the team needed, which made the score 7-5 and gave the Yankees the lead for good. He hit for Chris Stewart in the seventh inning. Wells was in the middle of a 3-29 slump, (and he was 6-59 going further back) which made this hit even more important. Zoilo Almonte should continue to play the outfield until he cools down, but this could be a sign that Wells should get some at-bats at DH along with Travis Hafner, who has been struggling.

Joe Girardi can be praised for putting Wells into the game in a point that he might be successful. The relief pitcher that he was facing is known for his fastball and that is Wells’s strength.

CC Sabathia, who had not picked up a win against the Rays in his last six starts, was able to win his eighth game of the season. He pitched well overall except for the sixth inning where he allowed a walk to the number nine hitter, Sam Fuld, and then the talented rookie, Wil Myers, hit a grand slam a few batters later. (Brett Gardner almost made an outstanding catch on the homer.)

It is a good sign that the Yankees were finally able to bail out the starting pitcher and get him a win.

Mariano Rivera picked up his 26th save of the season after allowing a hit and striking out one batter in the ninth. He only has one blown save so far during his final major league season.

Offense struggles yet again in marathon loss to the Athletics

Cano was the only offensive highlight.

Cano was the only offensive highlight.

In the series finale against the Oakland Athletics, the Yankees lost 3-2 in 18 innings. Oakland swept the Yankees in the three-game set, as their offense continues to struggle. The Yankees have not scored more than four runs since their 6-1 win over the Mariners. They have gone 2-4 since then.

The Yankees had many opportunities to win the game as they left 11 runners on base from the 10th until the 14th inning. In the 11th, they had the bases loaded and were unable to score, and in the 13th, the Yankees had runners on first and second with no outs and failed to get a clutch hit.

The only runs of the game for the Yankees would be when Robinson Cano hit a homer that scored Brett Gardner in the first. Then, the Yankees would combine for the equivalent of two games of scoreless baseball.

Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis, who were the four, five and six hitters, respectively, combined to go 0-20 with nine strikeouts. Those three, who should be relied upon to drive in runs, also combined to  leave 17 batters on base. They will have to start to hit in the series against the Angels.

It is alarming that they have lost their last three games against the Athletics because they are now 14-19 against teams that currently have a winning record. It is a positive sign that they are able to beat teams under .500, but the Yankees have to be able to swing the bats in order to make the playoffs. They are currently in a half-a-game behind behind the Orioles and Rangers for the Wild-Card and 3.0 games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East.

Hiroki Kuroda had yet another dominating performance as he  allowed only two runs and two hits in eight innings, but the offense needs to give the starter more run support.

Adam Warren’s performance out of the bullpen, where he threw six masterful shutout innings after the ninth inning, was wasted as a result of the previously stated incompetence by the offense.

This game lasted a startling five hours and thirty-five minutes, had 510 pitches, 14 pitchers combined and it the first time that the Yankees played a game of at least 18 innings since Sept. 11, 1988.

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.