Tagged: Vernon Wells

Four more years of Girardi is good for the Yankees

Joe Girardi in the dugout in 2008.

Joe Girardi in the dugout in 2008.

Joe Girardi signed a four-year, $16 million dollar contract extension on October 9. This will make him the second highest paid manager after Mike Scioscia, who is the manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Schiocia’s contract pays him about $5 million a season.

It is a positive sign for the Yankees that he accepted their contract and did not hold out to see what the Cubs or Nationals would offer him at the end of October when his previous contract expired. He has proven that he has been able to manage talent since he led the team to win the World Series in 2009, and also is able to manage well during adversity since the team had a total of 21 players spend time on the disabled list, some more than once, while handling the situation with the media well during the Alex Rodriguez biogenesis controversy and in turn guiding the team to a respectable 85-77 record based on everything the team went through.

The Yankees were remarkably only one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot on September 12. They would have 15 games left in the season and the lack of talent would catch up with them. However, Girardi was able to lead the team to be in great position to make the playoffs with two weeks to go even though Derek Jeter only played 17 games, Mark Teixeira only played 15 games and Curtis Granderson only played in 61 games.

Before Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup in August, Lyle Overbay had to hit cleanup for much of the season. The Yankees were counting on players such as Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner to perform offensively for them. They hit better than expected in April and then faded after that. This proves how Girardi was able to mix and match with a lineup that lacked major league talent for much of the season.

Chris Stewart, who had always been a back-up before this season, was the starter for the Yankees, which proves the lack of talent they had at the catcher position. Stewart did play well compared to previous seasons, but he faded down the stretch of the season based on playing in 42 more games than he had in any other season. Rookie Austin Romine showed some promise at the catcher position.

Further proving that Girardi got the team to overachieve this season was that Jayzon Nix, Zoilo Almonte, Luis Cruz, Chris Nelson, Brent Lillibridge, Alberto Gonzalez and Melky Mesa all started games for the Yankees this season. Vernon Wells was even called on to play the ninth inning of a game at third base because of an injury to Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees were not expected to make the playoffs easily before the season started, but to be so close based on all of the injures and AAA players that had to play is a tribute to Giarardi’s managing.

Some criticize Girardi for going by his binder too much meaning that he decides on the pitcher that will come into the game or the hitter that will start too much on previous match-ups. He definitely should sometimes continue to play a streaky hitter or leave a starter in a few more batters. However, it is always possible that if the starter would have stayed in he would struggle based on too many pitches.

The Yankees obviously should not have been swept by the Mets or White Sox if their quest to reach the playoffs were to come to fruition. If they would have won two games against the Mets and White Sox that would have greatly increased their chance in September, but that is what happens when so many “second string” players were on the field.  Girardi has his drawbacks, but at the end of the day, the team would have been worse of if the did not return.

He handled the return of A-Rod well, in addition to handling the retirement of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte with poise and professionalism. He could not have made a better decision in the moment when he let Mariano Rivera’s longtime teammates and members of the Core 4, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, take Rivera out of the game at Yankee Stadium for the final time. Here is video footage of the ceremony of Pettitte and Jeter coming to the mound.

Here is an interview that Jack Curry did with Joe Girardi and his wife after he signed the contract extension: http://web.yesnetwork.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=31139627

Eduardo Nunez’s two-run double ended up being the game winner against the White Sox

Eduardo Nunez.

Eduardo Nunez.

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.

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 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.

Yankees lost the first game of the series to Tampa

This is a picture from last night's game when the Yankees were fielding

This is a picture from last night’s game when the Yankees were fielding

The Yankees lost 8-3 in the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. Yankee Stadium seemed like it was only about 65 percent full as there were many empty seats for the weekday game.

The Bronx Bombers have not lived up to their nickname recently. Including last night’s game, the Yankees have scored more than four runs only once in the past nine games. The inability to score runs has contributed to the team going 2-7 in the last nine games.

Part of this can be blamed on the injuries to Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Francisco Cervelli, but it also has to do with Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay not hitting like they did earlier in the season. However, a player like Vernon Wells was brought to the team to play the first or two and then was expected to be a fourth outfielder after Granderson was healthy.

The crowd at the game did not really have much to cheer for as the Yankees only scored runs in the sixth inning. They only had three hits outside of that sixth inning where the Yankees should have scored more runs than they did since they had bases loaded an no outs. They scored three runs off of only one hit as the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on Matt Moore allowing free passes to Brett Gardner and Jayson Nix.

Andy Pettitte was not locating his pitches as he would have liked to since he allowed nine hits and five runs in 6.2 innings. He has now struggled for two starts in a row as he allowed 11 hits and four runs in his previous outing.

Evan Longoria hit a homer against Pettitte and another against the increasingly unreliable Joba Chamberlain. Joe Girardi should have taken Chamberlain out of the game after he struck out Ben Zobrist to end the seventh inning.

A noteworthy play for the Yankees was that Zoilo Almonte, who was called up from AAA Scranton on Tuesday and made his debut during Game 2 on Wednesday, hit a ground ball that smashed into third base and flew up in the air for his first major league hit. This is something that I have not seen in person before.

The team needs to hope that Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay can find their hitting stroke once again to combine with the solid hitting from Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro. This is because there is not much hope from the rest of the lineup right now.

The Toronto Blue Jays have suddenly won eight of their last 10 games, which means that the Yankees need to play with a sense of urgency. The Yankees are still 4.5 ahead of them in the AL East, but it is now obvious that all five teams in the division are quality ones.

Update: First game of the doubleheader is at 1:05

Hiroki Kuroda pitching

Hiroki Kuroda pitching

The Yankees will be playing a day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers because of the rain that postponed the game last night.

Hiroki Kuroda will be pitching the first game against Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu is a rookie who is in contention for the National League Rookie of the Year. He only has a 2.85 ERA in 85 innings pitched. The Yankees have lost the last five games that Kuroda has pitched, but in Kuroda’s last start he had everything working for him since he only allowed two runs in eight innings.

In his 12 day starts for the Yankees during his two seasons with the team, Kuroda is 7-2 with a 2.18 ERA. In four seasons pitching for the Dodgers before coming to the Yankees as a free agent, Kuroda had 41 wins, never allowed more than 49 walks in a season and his worst ERA was 3.76 and best was 3.07. Surprisingly, in the offensively superior AL East, Kuroda (38) has only gotten better. This should be an exciting match-up between a young pitcher coming into his own and a successful established pitcher finishing out his career.

In the second game, Phil Hughes will pitch for the Yankees and the veteran Chris Capuano is expected to pitch for the Dodgers during the night game. Hughes (4.89 ERA) has had some solid starts this season but has mostly been unreliable, but hopefully Hughes will be able to bounce back from his last start by continuing to dominate National League opponents.

Brett Gardner (.294), Vernon Wells (.301), and Ichiro Suzuki (.358) are all hitting well against lef-handed pitchers this season so hopefully that will help them have success against Ryu.