TORONTO — The Yankees have managed to stay in the postseason chase despite numerous injuries to star players this season, with one of their constants being the presence of second baseman Robinson Cano.
That is now officially in jeopardy, as Cano was hit on the left hand by a 90 mph J.A. Happ fastball in the first inning of New York’s game on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. He was diagnosed with a left hand contusion, but was sent for precautionary X-rays.
Cano doubled over in pain and smashed his helmet several times into the turf after the plunking, attended to on the field by manager Joe Girardi and head athletic trainer Steve Donohue.
After a lengthy discussion, Cano stayed in the game and was on base when Alfonso Soriano crushed a three-run homer to left field on Happ’s next pitch. Cano then gathered his bats and headed for the clubhouse, where X-rays will surely be taken.
An American League All-Star this year, Cano is hitting .305 with 24 home runs and 85 RBIs in 131 games. He was replaced by Eduardo Nunez at second base for the bottom of the first inning.
It could be the Yankees’ second costly hit-by-pitch this season from the left-hander Happ, who also fractured Curtis Granderson’s right forearm with a pitch during the Yankees’ first exhibition game of Spring Training on Feb. 24.
Here are the early notes as the Yankees (69-62) and Blue Jays (59-73) prepare to meet here at Rogers Centre. Andy Pettitte and J.A. Happ are matching up for the 7:07 p.m. ET start:
I think we can all come up with a few reasons why there didn’t seem to be much celebration for Alex Rodriguez‘s 650th career home run last night. Yes, we’re in Toronto, and this place hasn’t exactly been a welcoming place for A-Rod in years past to begin with. Obviously Rodriguez’s appeal of a 211-game suspension and continued allegations of performance-enhancing drug use are also taking the luster away from his pursuit of Willie Mays.
But you know what? Considering the way A-Rod’s eventful month has gone, he really didn’t seem to mind slipping out the side door of the ballpark last night and shying away from the cameras. As he put it today, “Quiet is good.” Rodriguez said that he can’t spend time focusing on personal milestones at this moment because the Yankees “need wins like oxygen right now.” That’s a pretty good line; it’s true, and he’s also right in a lot of ways.
Certainly, the relative silence coming from A-Rod’s camp seems preferable to the nuttiness of that weekend when Joe Tacopina went on a media tour while the Yankees tried to focus on a series at Fenway Park. Since Rodriguez’s appeal looks like it’s going to stretch into November or December, keeping the attention on the field for August and September is a solid plan. We’ll have plenty of time for the rest of it.
Girardi’s scouting report on Pettitte tonight: “He’s pitched better lately, which is important down the stretch here. I mean, it’s extremely important for us. I think his sinker has been better, his changeup has been better, and those are two pitches he relies on, and he’s going to need those, there’s no doubt about it. When you lose the feel for it, it becomes more difficult, but he’s been good.”
There has been speculation about Phil Hughes being skipped or losing his spot in the Yankees’ rotation, but Joe Girardi had no decisions to speak about on that front. Girardi only issued Hughes a lukewarm endorsement after last night’s loss, but there’s really no reason to believe they would announce a move so soon. I’m guessing they’ll use Thursday’s off-day to make sure Hughes doesn’t face the Orioles this weekend.
I should’ve mentioned this last night, but Girardi went to Vernon Wells as a pinch-hitter in place of Brett Gardner because he was looking for Wells to hit a home run. Wells struck out.
The Yankees will be represented by three position players in the Arizona Fall League: Tyler Austin, Peter O’Brien and Mason Williams.
My Beat The Streak pick tonight: Derek Jeter, in a last minute switch to the Captain. My original pick was Ichiro Suzuki, who is 4-for-7 lifetime vs. Happ, but he’s not in the lineup. Jeter is 4-for-8 lifetime vs. Happ. Streak is at zero after Robinson Cano went hitless last night.
IN TWO PARAGRAPHS: How much length is left in Phil Hughes’ leash? That’s the big question tonight, and Joe Girardi only gave Hughes a lukewarm endorsement. No, Hughes wasn’t terrible, and an Ichiro Suzuki error surely dented his line a bit, but the Yankees seem to be running out of patience. Hughes allowed five runs (three earned) and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings to a Blue Jays team that is very clearly playing spoiler, and Toronto posted a 5-2 victory over New York on Monday at Rogers Centre.
Hughes’ record fell to a nightmarish 4-13 with the loss, but the Yankees have been reluctant to make a change in their rotation because they haven’t been sure there are better options in the system. David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno all could’ve been in that mix, but injuries have taken them out of the running. Maybe David Huff (3 1/3 hitless innings with five strikeouts) has vaulted into play. Just because they haven’t talked about it doesn’t mean they won’t.
MANAGER’S TAKE: “Right now [Hughes is] in our rotation. We haven’t talked about taking him out of our rotation. I think he had a walk that scored; a couple walks hurt him today. We didn’t make the play behind him and it looks a lot different if it’s three runs in five innings.” – Joe Girardi
Ichiro: “If I could’ve just gone straight home from right field, I would have. I was that embarrassed.”
Hughes: “It’s been very difficult. Every time I feel like I make some progress the last couple times out, it seems like you have these hiccups and it’s the way the whole season has gone. It’s been difficult, it’s been a struggle. I guess every time you have one of these outings I try and look at the positive. I still have the opportunity to pitch in big games where it really matters and that’s all I can do. I can’t get down on myself or negative all the time. I just have to stay confident and aggressive every time they give me the ball.”
Derek Jeter: “All the games are important, but Toronto’s got a good team. They’re not just going to lay down and let us walk all over them. They have a lot of pride over there, they have a great team. Remember, coming into this season, they were supposed to run away with the division, so they have a good team. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t figure out the knuckleball today.”
Two milestones – Alex Rodriguez hit his 650th homer and Brett Gardner picked up his 500th career hit in the loss … Derek Jeter went 0-for-3 with a walk and double play. … A-Rod has 35 homers at Rogers Centre, the most by any Blue Jays opponent. … The Blue Jays snapped a streak of 10 straight losses to the Yankees.
The Yankees give the ball to Andy Pettitte (9-9, 4.26) on Tuesday opposite the Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ (3-3, 5.10) in a matchup of lefties. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET on YES. The Yankees have lost three of their last four games after carrying a five-game winning streak into this road trip.
Here are the early notes as the Yankees (69-61) and Blue Jays (58-73) prepare to meet with the roof open here at Rogers Centre. Phil Hughes and R.A. Dickey are matching up for the 7:07 p.m. ET start:
Will this time be the charm for Derek Jeter? Since this is already Game 131, the Yanks certainly hope so. Jeter said that he can’t change anything about the way this frustrating “nightmare” season has gone thus far, but Joe Girardi said that if he had to choose any stretch of the year to have Jeter on the active roster, this would obviously be it.
There’s more from the Captain here. In one telling moment, Jeter acknowledged that he has not been able to work out his legs regularly since last year’s ALCS, which he seems to think is one reasonable explanation for why he has had so many health problems.
“I’ll try to do as much as I can to keep them strong for this last month, but all I can do is go out and play and hope everything’s fine,” Jeter said. “I can’t change anything that’s happened. I wish I would’ve had more time to do things, but I didn’t, and we are where we are. So now let’s move forward, and hopefully there’s no more issues.”
Even now, coming off a three-game rehab stint at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Jeter doesn’t seem to be 100 percent. The Yankees are saying things like they want Jeter to “run under control,” which boiled down means — please don’t go back on the DL for a fourth time. If he has to jog to first base on ground balls, as he was doing the last time he was active against the Rays and Dodgers in July, so be it. They’ll gladly make that trade.
Alex Rodriguez is hitting sixth in tonight’s lineup. Girardi said it was because he now has the ability to not stack so many left-handers in a row. A-Rod breaks up a group of Curtis Granderson (5), Lyle Overbay (7) and Ichiro Suzuki (8).
Eduardo Nunez, utilityman? That experiment is back in play with Jeter’s return. The Yankees don’t expect to get Jayson Nix back from his broken hand (remember how long it took Granderson?), so Nunez will be taking ground balls at shortstop, third base and second base. Girardi wasn’t sure if he’d play Nunez ahead of Mark Reynolds at third base.
The Yankees left Preston Claiborne behind in Tampa. He’ll be a Class-A Tampa Yankee for a week since their season ends on Sept. 1. You’d figure Claiborne would rejoin the big league club the next day.
Telling sign about where the Blue Jays are in their season: Girardi looked up during his press session in the dugout and was surprised to see Toronto was already finished with their BP. “We haven’t even stretched yet,” he said.
My Beat The Streak pick today: Robinson Cano. He’s 5-for-17 lifetime against Dickey. Streak is at one after Eduardo Nunez went 1-for-5 against the Rays Sunday.
IN TWO PARAGRAPHS: This was a win the Yankees needed badly. Alfonso Soriano made it happen, stroking an 11th inning double off Jamey Wright and taking advantage of the green light to steal third base, beating the throw in with a headfirst slide. Curtis Granderson lifted a fly ball to the outfield and Mariano Rivera locked down the save, preserving the Yanks’ 3-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Robinson Cano homered and drove in both of the Yankees’ runs off of Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb. Evan Longoria homered and had two RBIs against Ivan Nova, who held the Rays to a pair of runs on six hits despite tying a career high with six walks (one intentional). The Yanks averted a series sweep, settling for one game out of three in St. Petersburg.
MANAGER’S TAKE: “I mean, that’s a big play, being able to steal third there. It changes the complexion of that inning. And it’s a big double. The time before [in the eighth], he just missed hitting a homer foul, and maybe we don’t go quite as long if it stays fair. We got a lot of big performances out of a lot of people today.” – Joe Girardi
Soriano: “When the team needs one and the pitcher gives it to me, I like to steal. That’s my game. It’s very important to help the team to win. I love to do that. I love to steal bases.”
Robinson Cano: “We needed a win so bad. Nothing you want less than to get swept here. Like I said, we lose the first two, and then we just go out there and fight the whole game.”
Curtis Granderson: “It’s very big. I think coming into it you’d like to get both series. Obviously we didn’t get a chance to do that, but winning both series means you’ve got a chance to win hopefully four out of the six games here. We still have an opportunity to do that going to Toronto. It’s definitely not going to be easy but we’re still on track. We’ve got to go ahead, rebound and take advantage of this one, and go on to tomorrow and try to get another one against [R.A.] Dickey.”
Ivan Nova: “I was pushing for that W. It’s not only the personal things. I want to pitch good every time I go out there. Even though I walked six guys; I don’t think it was that bad. I battled until the end and we got the win.”
Girardi huddled with Preston Claiborne in the clubhouse after the game. He’ll be the roster move to create space for Derek Jeter tomorrow. It may seem like a tough break for Claiborne, but he has certainly shown enough that he’ll be back soon after rosters expand on Sept. 1st.
Longoria homered in all three games of this series; his shot off Nova was the first Nova has allowed since Nelson Cruz hit one on July 22. The Yankees improved to 11-4 in their last 15 games, and are 5-5 in extra innings this year. New York’s starting 7 through 9 hitters (Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Chris Stewart) combined to go 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts today.
Cano improved to 7-for-19 (.368) lifetime vs. Cobb. A-Rod’s pinch-hit single in the 10th was the first of his career (1-for-15). Mariano Rivera’s 37 saves at Tropicana Field are the most ever by a Rays opponent and 27 more than the next highest total (10, Jonathan Papelbon).
The Yankees will try to keep the momentum rolling Monday when they travel Nord des Lignes to meet the Blue Jays in Toronto, sending Phil Hughes (4-12, 4.88) to the mound against R.A. Dickey (9-12, 4.49). First pitch is set for 7:07 p.m. ET. The Yanks are 11-1 vs. Toronto this season and need one more win to match their most ever in a single season, accomplished in 1995, 2004, 2005 and 2009.
Here are the light early notes as the Yankees (68-61) and Rays (74-53) prepare to meet under the roof here at Tropicana Field, with Ivan Nova and Alex Cobb matching up for the 1:40 p.m. ET start:
Alex Rodriguez is not in the Yankees’ lineup, this being a day game after a night game. The Yankees are also playing six straight games on artificial turf with the series at Toronto coming up, so that also went into the thinking. Lyle Overbay is back in the lineup after battling the flu for a couple of days. Joe Girardi said that the hope is that the illness is behind Overbay.
The plan is still for Derek Jeter to rejoin the Yankees in Toronto tomorrow. It raised a little bit of a red flag for me that Jeter left last night’s game at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre without speaking to reporters – seems out of character for him – but all reports are that he was fine. Girardi plans to put Jeter in the lineup tomorrow.
My Beat The Streak pick today: Brett Gardner. He’s 2-for-8 lifetime against Cobb. Streak is at zero after Alfonso Soriano went hitless last night.
The Yankees are looking to avoid the sweep. They’ve been swept five times this season, four coming on the road, most recently Aug. 5-7 at Chicago. They haven’t been swept by the Rays at the Trop since April 6-8, 2012.
“You had some momentum on your side,” Girardi said. “You want to keep that momentum.”
IN TWO PARAGRAPHS: CC Sabathia was dynamite for five innings, showing off what Joe Girardi said was his best stuff of the year. His command came unraveled quickly in a three-run sixth inning, highlighted by Ben Zobrist’s game-tying, two-run double up the gap in left-center field.
Evan Longoria followed with an RBI single and later homered off Preston Claiborne, leading the Rays to a 4-2 victory over the Yankees at Tropicana Field. Despite his dominance through five innings, Sabathia said that he just tried to get too fine in the sixth, and he paid the price with a loss.
MANAGER’S TAKE: “You look at the five innings, it’s probably the best five innings he’s thrown all year in a group like that. You do take a positive out of that, but we need to win games. That’s the frustrating part.” – Girardi.
Sabathia: “One big inning. Just, I feel like I can’t stop the bleeding. If something gets going, it’s hard for me to make a pitch. I was able to get it back tonight, but it has just been tough. … I just felt pretty good [early]. And I have been mentally, in the bullpens and on the sides and stuff I’ve been throwing pretty well. I’ve just got to take that into the game and put a whole game together.”
Austin Romine: “I was feeling really good. That’s the best I’ve seen him all year long. He just couldn’t make those pitches when he needed to, and it just got away from him a little bit. I was more surprised that after that, he got back to what he was doing. Little late I guess, but he bounced back really quick. He didn’t let it beat him. He got back to throwing strikes and he kept us in the ball game, he really did.”
Robinson Cano: “It’s difficult. We know what kind of pitcher he is, but sometimes it’s part of the game. We’ve got to forget about this game and be ready to play tomorrow.”
Evan Longoria: “[Sabathia] was a lot better today. You can’t take anything away from him even when he isn’t throwing as hard as he was tonight. He’s a true pitcher. He knows how to get guys out. His stuff was much better today. We saw him from 93-95 instead of 90-92. His slider was a lot sharper. We didn’t take a whole lot of good swings off him. We had that sixth inning with opportunities we cashed in but outside of that, he was pretty good.”
Girardi hadn’t received an update on Derek Jeter after his game at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but in this case, it seems like no news is good news. The plan is still for Jeter to rejoin the Yankees on Monday in Toronto.
Alfonso Soriano showboated on his deep fly ball to left field in the sixth against Price, even flipping his bat and breaking into a trot, but Girardi didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it. The ball was caught by Sean Rodriguez, but if it hadn’t, Girardi said that Soriano had “better be” on second base.
It sure feels like the Rays are Sabathia’s kryptonite. Sabathia fell to 4-12 with a 4.46 ERA in 23 starts against Tampa Bay since signing with the Yankees before the 2009 season. He’s 3-8 with a 4.38 ERA at Tropicana Field, and that .273 winning percentage is his lowest of any current big league park.
The Yankees have lost two straight after traveling to Florida with a five-game winning streak intact. They’ll look to avoid the sweep on Sunday, sending Ivan Nova (7-4, 3.17) to the mound against Alex Cobb (8-2, 2.85). First pitch is set for 1:40 p.m. under the dome at the Trop. The Rays have won eight of 10. New York has lost 16 of its last 21 games here in St. Petersburg.
Here are the early notes as the Yankees (68-60) and Rays (73-53) prepare to meet under the roof here at Tropicana Field, with CC Sabathia and David Price matching up for the 7:10 p.m. ET start:
Brett Gardner is not in the Yankees’ lineup, but it has nothing to do with his right hand, which was hit last night by a 95 mph Chris Archer fastball. Gardner had X-rays this morning on the hand and they showed no break. Gardner said the hand is a little swollen, but manager Joe Girardi said he wasn’t planning on playing Gardner against the left-hander Price anyway.
Girardi also said he thought Ichiro Suzuki‘s at-bats were good against Price the last time the Yankees saw him.
Derek Jeter is scheduled to play tonight for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Pawtucket and then would be in the Yankees’ lineup on Monday at Toronto if everything goes well. The captain went 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored on Friday for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Girardi’s scouting report on Price: “You look at him three or four years ago and you see he threw 80-85 percent fastballs. But now he’s developed his repertoire. He’s got a curveball, slider a very good backdoor slider to righties. He’s got a very good changeup. He’s just evolved as a pitcher is what he’s done. He’s always had the great fastball but his secondary stuff is now pretty good.”
And what Girardi is looking for from Sabathia tonight: “This is a lineup that if you make mistakes, they’re going to hit the ball out of the ballpark and you got to stay away from the mistakes. Your sinker has to be effective, your changeup has to be effective, and you go from there.”
Girardi was asked if Sabathia’s weight loss might have anything to do with his struggles this season: “I don’t think so. It’s not like he’s 210 pounds. He’s not Mr. [Edwar] Ramirez that we used to have here. He’s still a big man. He’s still strong. I think he’s in tremendous shape.”
Yes, that’s right, there was an Edwar Ramirez reference today. Bet you weren’t counting on hearing anything about the man they called “Flacco.” I do miss watching Mariano Rivera stuff Ramirez into the lockers at the old Stadium.
Two other random thoughts about Ramirez, since my memory has been jogged — Mark Feinsand of the Daily News once made Ramirez cry, asking him about a grand slam that he gave up to Mark Teixeira, who was then with the Angels. Watching Edwar mop his tears with his uniform was just about the saddest thing you can see in a clubhouse. And then there’s the great quote from Kevin Millar about Ramirez: “Cute little fella. That’s good hittin’.”
Other notes — Adam Warren should be available in long relief out of the Yankees’ bullpen. … Lyle Overbay isn’t having a fun trip; he’s still having some flu-like symptoms, and it’s uncertain if he would be available to play tonight. Hey, at least he’s doing better than Chan Ho Park was in Boston. … The Yankees were watching the California/Connecticut Little League World Series game on the clubhouse TVs.
My Beat The Streak pick tonight: Alfonso Soriano. Streak is at zero after Alex Rodriguez went hitless last night.
And we’ll wrap today’s pre-game notes with a Debbie Downer not-so-fun fact for the Yankees: they’re 5-15 in their last 20 games at Tropicana Field dating back to July 21, 2011.
Derek Jeter will begin yet another Minor League rehabilitation assignment on Thursday, joining the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for their 7:05 p.m. ET home game against the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Jeter is recovering from a Grade 1 strain of his right calf, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Jeter is slated to play five innings at shortstop. Jeter worked out in Tampa, Fla. again on Wednesday and ran the bases, according to Girardi, who said that he expects Jeter will play at least two games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“As I’ve said, we’ll just go day-by-day and see how he responds each day,” Girardi said.
It is possible, but not a sure bet, that Jeter could re-join the Yankees on Saturday at Tropicana Field.
Ichiro Suzuki collected two hits in the first game of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader, giving him 3,999 career hits when you combine his Japanese and Major League totals. We all love round numbers, and so obviously his next hit will be a big one.
“I’m trying to get a hit every time and I’m excited to get up there to do that,” Ichiro said.
Ichiro isn’t in the Yankees’ lineup for Game 2 against lefty Mark Buehrle, which gives us a little more time to examine this. How exactly to interpret the accomplishment is up for debate, and even Ichiro himself isn’t quite sure how to view it.
(This is nothing new. Here’s a 2008 Seattle Times article that wondered how to handle Ichiro’s 3,000th hit.)
What is certain, though, is that 4,000 hits is a remarkable feat – as Derek Jeter said recently, “That’s a lot of hits, man. It’s pretty impressive. I don’t care if it’s 4,000 in Little League. It shows how consistent he’s been throughout his career.”
Now, no one is saying that Ichiro is challenging Pete Rose’s 4,256, but that hasn’t stopped some voices from discounting the achievement. One common refrain has been that if Ichiro’s 1,278 hits in Japan should be counted in his hits total, then we should also be counting the Minor League hit totals of players.
That was something I looked into last week for this article, which has some fun comments from around the league. You might be surprised by the results:
The argument has been made that if Ichiro’s NPB stats are considered, then perhaps Minor League statistics should also be credited in considering hit totals. But to do so just further highlights the select group Ichiro is about to join.
For the purposes of this exercise, only three additional players would then reach 4,000 professional hits: Hank Aaron (3,771 in Majors; 324 in Minors), Stan Musial (3,630 in Majors, 371 in Minors) and Jigger Statz, an outfielder who tallied 737 of his 4,093 pro hits with four big league teams from 1919-28.
Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial (and, for good measure, a guy named Jigger Statz!). That’s pretty select company, no matter where your career started. Oh, by the way, Ichiro’s 2,721 big league hits also tie him with Lou Gehrig on the all-time list, and there’s no debate about that one.
Here’s Ichiro’s complete career hits breakdown entering Tuesday’s second game:
2,721 in American League
1,278 in Japanese Pacific League
156 in Japanese Western League (minors)
3,999 in U.S./Japan major leagues
4,156 in professional baseball
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read up on Arnold “Jigger” Statz.