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Yankees creeping closer to second Wild Card Spot

Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and the Yankees have a big task this September--get into the second Wild Card spot.

Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and the Yankees have a big task this September–get into the second Wild Card spot.

All right, let’s play a quick game. Raise your hand if on May 1st you thought this team was going to be in a position to take the second Wild Card spot in September with a lineup that didn’t have Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson or Mark Teixeira. Be honest, because from Twitter from May-July there were some pessimistic tweets about them.

It is September 1st. The Yankees are 3.5 games back for the second Wild Card spot entering play today and they have 27 games remaining. The Tampa Bay Rays have been fading recently, going 3-7 in their last ten games, playing the first Wild Card spot team the Oakland Athletics. The Yankees in their last 10 games are 7-3.  The team the Yankees need to keep below them in the Wild Card, the Baltimore Orioles are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Yes, the Yankees have been playing with the cards that have been dealt to them but it’s easier now, considering the Yankees have some power in the lineup.

Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have returned. The Yankees have traded for Alfonso Soriano. They claimed Mark Reynolds off waivers. The world (and the season) no longer falls on Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki‘s shoulders. They are now a small (but important) part of a large puzzle. The rotation has been getting quality work from Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte. Hiroki Kuroda is expected to turn it around after a dismal August, which could be because of fatigue. The bullpen has been flawless this year (well, majority of the bullpen). The Yankees pieces are all clicking together at the right time and if they keep playing the way they are playing, they have a legitimate chance to knock Tampa Bay out of the second spot and claim it for themselves.

Two weeks ago, the Yankees chances seemed slim. They had to hop over three teams to even get behind the Rays. Going into September…the Yankees hope to pass the Rays and get into postseason contention and prove all the naysayers wrong. This team could be good enough to get into the playoffs, but how far could they possibly go?

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Game 129 Lineup: Yankees @ Rays

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Vernon Wells DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Austin Romine C

LHP CC Sabathia

Some Notes and Transactions:

Brett Gardner‘s X-Ray results came back earlier today and they were clean. Gardner is just having the day off vs. the left hander Price.

Lyle Overbay was still dizzy and nauseous when he entered the clubhouse today. Joe Girardi isn’t sure that he’s going to get in the game tonight.

Derek Jeter will have one more rehab start tonight and then will join the Yankees in Toronto. I’ll be covering Derek Jeter’s rehab start so follow me on Twitter @dfiregirl4 for Jeter updates.

Let’s Play Two!: Yanks hope to carry momentum into twin-bill

The Yankees have been gaining momentum over the past week or so.

The Yankees have been gaining momentum over the past week or so.

There was no doubt that this last week has been a magical time for the Yankees. For the last week the Yankees looked to be the Yankees of old, bringing power into their lineup, scoring more than six runs multiple times, when they’ve barely scored more than six runs most of the year. They had the home run power of Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Reynolds. Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano no longer had to feel like they were carrying the team on their backs. There was more than just those two. Yes, the Yankees are missing their captain, but they are also in a position where they can finally gain ground in the AL East. They play against their AL East opponents for the remainder of the season (minus the 3 game sets between the San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros) and if the Yankees play their deck of cards right, they can be in a position to take the second wildcard spot. They have their own future in their hands with a little more than a month to go, and a team that looked like sleeping dogs suddenly came barking back, and the offense isn’t much of an issue as it was before.

Sunday night was a prime example of the Yankees magic returning. Being down 2-0 in the second, Ryan Dempster intentionally hit Alex

Brett Gardner and the Yankees will try to extend their momentum into today's twin-bill vs. the Blue Jays

Brett Gardner and the Yankees will try to extend their momentum into today’s twin-bill vs. the Blue Jays

Rodriguez. Something snapped in that Yankees dugout. Brett Gardner and Joe Girardi showing their evident anger, the latter getting tossed from the game although it should have been Dempster. A-Rod was assured by Gardner and his other teammates that they could still get the Red Sox back by using HR power, and that was exactly what A-Rod did. He got the Red Sox back by hitting a HR off Ryan Dempster later in the game.

There was something that changed in that night in the Yankees. The pack of sleeping dogs suddenly awoke and came back with a vengeance vs. the Red Sox.

The Yankees have been playing well for the past week, taking 2-out of -3 from the Tigers, taking 3-out of-4 from the Angels and taking 2-out of-3 from the Red Sox. This is the way the Yankees have to play if they want to further their chances at a wild card spot. They are in the drivers seat of their destiny. They are the ones that can change the game and hope the game plan for the other teams fall apart. The Yankees cannot afford to lose anymore games, so hopefully the momentum from the past week builds on vs. the Toronto Blue Jays as they attempt to become one step closer to their dreams of contending in the play-offs. So let’s play two today and hope in the end, it all works out.

The Interim Captain Steers The Yankees Ship

Derek Jeter has always been a leader for the Yankees, but when he went down with an injury, someone had to step up

Derek Jeter has always been a leader for the Yankees, but when he went down with an injury, someone had to step up

It’s not a secret that Derek Jeter is the Captain of the New York Yankees. His presence in the clubhouse, how he keeps his composure after tough losses and how he has that mentality that if it’s not broken, he can play is what makes him one of the greatest Yankees alive. When reporters go to the clubhouse, they anticipate going to see what wisdom Derek Jeter has for them today. What knowledge he’s going to instill in their brain, what sarcastic humor he has up his sleeve. The Yankees are a gigantic ship and Derek Jeter is their Captain.

But when Derek Jeter was constantly out of the lineup this season, the team started to look lost and confused, losing games constantly and feeling as if there was no hope for their play-off dreams. I remember discussing Derek Jeter’s injuries and the Yankees troubles with my mother one day, and the words that came out of her mouth had me thinking long and hard for the next couple of months:

“The Yankees ship can’t go anywhere if it doesn’t have a captain to steer them.”

The Yankees looked as if they were giving up, as if all was hopeless for the team. They still weren’t doing their best on the field and they became defeated–until the media decided to speak to the normally quiet Brett Gardner. For the last couple of seasons, Gardner was just one of the guys in the clubhouse. He was quiet, he never had much to say and he continued to try to keep his starting job in left field. But after a tough loss, something sparked Gardner to talk to the media, about what Derek Jeter had taught him.

One thing I’ve really learned from Jeet over the years. He’s not here right now, but he’s been so good at turning the page. Doesn’t matter if you are 0-for-5 or 5-or-5, or if we win or lose, we’ve got a game tomorrow. As soon as we walk out here tonight, we’ve got to focus on getting ready to play tomorrow.”

Mark+Teixeira+Brett+Gardner+New+York+Yankees+q8RvrbKr4gbl

Brett Gardner has become more vocal about the Yankees on and off the field and he’s slowly transforming into a leader

Ever since Brett Gardner uttered those words, I never looked at him the same again. Before that night, he was one of the guys just trying to get on base like he normally does in order to help the team win. But that night, he became someone–a leader. The times that he was quiet, he would spend it observing Derek Jeter, what Derek Jeter would do, what Derek Jeter would say, how Derek Jeter would handle a situation. Gardner would observe everything and in the end, it seemed like he was the one to learn the most from the Captain. From that moment on, Gardner became a huge catalyst on the team, driving in runs, getting on base, giving up his body for the game of baseball, playing hard and gritty as he always does, all to make sure that his team would reach victory.

He took it upon himself to create a new walk-off tradition after A.J Burnett took his pies to Pittsburgh. He thought of Gatorade. He would pour Gatorade on players that hit a walk-off. It became a hit with the crowd and soon, he was the one being doused in his own walk-off creation after saving the Yankees from two extra losses this past weekend. Joe Girardi would quip that Gardner enjoyed the walk-off tradition more than anyone on the team, and that when the time came, he should be a football coach just to take baths in Gatorade after a victory.

Gardner was even talking to the media more, the media wanting insight on what happened each night,  his thoughts on a particular player. Typical Gardner would nod politely, give his opinion as professionally as possible and still find some ways to bring the win around the team, even if he was the one that hit a game winning base-hit or saved a play in the outfield. With Gardner it was all about the team, something he learned from Derek Jeter. He would sign things for kids, he was more active around the team, he showed he was the heart and hustle, hence winning the 2013 Heart and Hustle Award. He proved he had love for the game and it wasn’t about the money. He enjoys being out there and it’s evident every time that he goes to the plate.

When he messes up and gets tossed from a game, he goes back the next day to apologize to the umpire for what he believes was his irrational behavior. When he doesn’t make a catch that he thought he could make, he vows to his teammates and to himself that he’ll get the next one. When the chips are down and things look impossible for the Yankees, Gardner steps up.

Joe Girardi took a notice to Brett Gardner’s leadership behavior and frankly, he has been impressed by the young spunky outfielder.

“Gardy is fiery, and I think his personality comes out. It’s been great having him all year. As I said, we really missed him last year – what he’s capable of doing. His personality has definitely come out this year. It’s good.”

When Jeter returns from the disabled list, the job of Captain will once again be his, but us Yankees fans can never forget to thank Brett Gardner for being the one to step up and keeping other teams from sinking our battleship.

Yankees First-Half Awards: Results

Will Brett Gardner take home BOTH the Defensive MVP and Offensive MVP award? Read to find out!

Will Brett Gardner take home BOTH the Defensive MVP and Offensive MVP award? Read to find out!

Welcome back Yankees fans! Now, on July 6th, I posted a poll about the Yankees First-Half awards. The poll had now closed and now it’s time to give the results.

DISCLAIMER: I was not allowed/couldn’t vote for anyone in any category in anyway. All of these votes are from you guys.  Now that we are perfectly clear, let’s start with the Pitching Category, shall we?

Who Is the Yankees Starting Pitcher MVP?

For this category, I listed the pitchers that have had either great or s0-so years. (Ivan Nova wasn’t added because he wasn’t in the rotation the entire half and Phil Hughes was plain terrible when I made the poll). So, here were your nominees for the Starting Pitcher MVP.

1) CC Sabathia

2) Hiroki Kuroda

3) Andy Pettitte

4) David Phelps

The Winner Is:

Hiroki Kuroda!

Hiroki Kuroda had a whopping 92% of the vote among Yankees fans. Andy Pettitte was second in the voting at 3% and CC Sabathia and David Phelps were tied with 2%. So pretty much Kuroda had this category in the bag.

Who is the Yankees Bullpen MVP?

Our next category takes us to the bullpen, where we have some of our top relievers that have outperformed above and beyond. (Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne and Adam Warren were not listed in this category because there was a specific category for them. We all know why Joba Chamberlain wasn’t nominated in any category, so that’s that.) Here were your nominees for Yankees Bullpen MVP.

1) Mariano Rivera

2) David Robertson

3) Boone Logan

The Winner Is:

Mariano Rivera!

Mariano Rivera had 85% of the vote, so it wasn’t shocking who won. It was shocking who came second. Boone Logan had 11% of the vote and David Robertson came in third with 4% of the vote. I would have figured more people would have voted for D-Rob. Interesting.

Who is the Yankees Bullpen Standout?

Here is the category where I listed some pitchers that weren’t in the other category. (Again, Joba is not in this category). These are some first time Yankees that have opened everyone’s eyes with what they could do. Here are your nominees for Yankees Bullpen Standout.

1) Shawn Kelley

2) Preston Claiborne

3) Adam Warren

The Winner Is:

Preston Claiborne!

Preston Claiborne had 63% of the vote among Yankees fans while Shawn Kelley had 34% of the vote. Adam Warren finished last in this category with 2%. I was surprised with Warren getting the least amount since he has helped out the bullpen so much as well

Now we move on to the Defense Category. 

Who Is The Yankees Defensive MVP?

This category involved multiple players that have opened our eyes with their defense. Luis Cruz wasn’t added to this category because he came after I already made the poll, but we could give him a pat on the back for the great defense he provided. Here are your nominees for Yankees Defensive MVP:

1) Robinson Cano

2) Brett Gardner

3) Ichiro Suzuki

4) Jayson Nix

5) Vernon Wells

The Winner Is:

Brett Gardner!

Brett Gardner quickly ran away (pun not intended) with this category with 69% of the vote. Robinson Cano came in second with 17% of the vote while Ichiro Suzuki came in third with 11% of the vote. Jayson Nix had 2% of the vote while Vernon Wells had 1%.

Onto the biggest award: The Yankees Offensive MVP

This is the final category of the awards. It also was the tightest race out of all the categories. I pulled up the Yankees best three offensive players throughout the first half and the winner…may shock you. Here are your nominees:

1) Robinson Cano

2) Brett Gardner

3) Ichiro Suzuki

The Winner Is:

Robinson Cano AND Brett Gardner!

I know what you’re thinking, how could BOTH of them win the Offensive Award? It was simple. The race was SO tight that by the time voting closed–they were tied. Both Gardner and Cano had 47% of the vote. Ichiro unfortunately was left in the dust with 7% of the vote.

And those are your winners for the Yankees First-Half Awards! Join me again in September after the regular season when we have 2013 Yankees Awards (awards that are for the entire year, instead of the first half).

Yankees First Half Awards Poll

Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner are MVP's for the Yankees, but who will take home  the Offensive and Defensive MVP?

Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner are MVP’s for the Yankees, but who will take home the Offensive and Defensive MVP?

With the All-Star break approaching us, it’s time to reward the Yankees on the team for their hard work that they’ve done for half of the year. It’s been a tough 3 months, but with a loss of many players, the Yankees are still in the hunt for a play-off spot (yes, I know it’s hard to fathom). So, with the first half of the season closing in, it’s time to have a poll on some deserving players who have went above and beyond in trying to help the Yankees. So here are the categories:

Yankees Offensive MVP:

The Yankees have been through a lot through the last 3 months of the season, some good, some bad, some terrible and some horrendous. However, for the Yankees there have been a few bright spots on the team. I had to find at least three players to be nominated for this award and with this lineup–it was very easy to make my decision. So thank you to the rest of the lineup for constantly struggling. Anyway, here are your nominees for Yankees Offensive MVP:

Yankees Starting Pitching MVP:

There haven’t been a lot of bright spots for the Yankees Starting pitching, but so once again it was pretty easy to find at least three (or four) nominees for this subject. So here are your nominees for Yankees Starting Pitching MVP:

Yankees Bullpen MVP:

The Yankees bullpen MVP was the hardest part to choose Yankees nominees (thanks for being so good guys). These nominees went above and beyond to protect the leads for the most part, and even shut down the opposing team’s offense. Here are your nominees for Yankees Bullpen MVP:

Yankees Bullpen Standout:

Now, there are Yankees MVP, and then there are players that have joined the Yankees in the pen for the first time in 2013 and have shut down the offense. So this category is for those players. Here are your nominees for Yankees Bullpen Standout:

Yankees Defensive MVP:

Now, there are some good catches…and then there are catches that leave the offense wanting to throw their helmets down on the floor in anger. Here are your nominees for the Yankees Defensive MVP for the first half of 2013:

Here are the polls, Yankees fans! You have until July 14th to get your votes in and I’ll have the winners posted up during the All-Star Break! You can vote as many times as you want for a player, so good luck and may the best player win.

Yankees That Should Go To The All-Star Game

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees

The 2013 All-Star Game is quickly approaching and it’s sure to be a week of festivities in New York City. Players from all 30 teams will go to Queens and fight for one of the most glorious prizes: home field advantage during the World Series. Now, there are multiple ways for players to go to the All-Star Game. There’s the famous voting for your favorite player 25-35 times on MLB.com (by the way you have till July 4 to do so), and there’s the manager selection. For those of you unfamiliar with the manager selection here is the rule:

The manager of each leagues All-Star Team–in consultation with other managers in his league and the Commissioner’s office– will fill his team’s roster up to 33 players .

So with that rule in effect and with the ballot voting, it’s time to decide which Yankee should (in my opinion) should make it to the All-Star Game.

1. Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano obviously should be on the All-Star Team (and if voting went his way, he should be the starting second baseman). Robbie Cano is having a slight off-year in the batting average department but he leads the team in HR’s and RBI’s and is one of if not the best second basemen defensively in the game. I know defense isn’t going to mean anything in the All-Star Game, but Cano has many other aspects. And if (for some odd, strange reason) Cano doesn’t make it to the All-Star Game, we will see him during All-Star Week, since he is the Captain of the AL HR Derby Team.

2. Mariano Rivera

This is an obvious no-brainer. It’s Mariano Rivera’s final year, he’s having another All-Star season and I bet if it weren’t for his season ending ACL injury, he would of been on the 2012 All-Star Game Roster. The only issue is where would Mariano Rivera pitch in the game. Fans want him to start the All-Star Game but Mariano Rivera wants to close the All-Star game. If I could have a say, I would love it if Mo got the last three outs of the game. It would be a fitting end and it would be better than getting the first three outs of the game. Plus, if Mo does go in the game, can we hear Enter Sandman as a loving tribute to the greatest closer ever?

3. Preston Claiborne

The good news with pitchers is the league decides and not the fans. And I know Preston is a rookie and has only been here for roughly 2 1/2 months, but he has done a phenomenal job in the Yankees bullpen. Maybe with the roster moves that the league would have to do with the pitchers that pitched the Sunday before the game, Claiborne can somehow squeeze his way on the roster. David Robertson did so in 2010 when he wasn’t originally listed on the roster, yet made it after the plethora of changes the day before the All-Star Break.

4. Brett Gardner

Brett  Gardner

Before you say that ‘Gardner is not an All-Star’ and ‘There are a bunch of players that are better than Gardner for the manager’s vote’ just hear me out here. For most of the season, the one who has been carrying the Yankees on their backs (along with Robinson Cano) is Brett Gardner. He has the most hits on the team, is tied for the most stolen bases on the team and numbers show that he is the fourth best outfielder defensively. Gardner’s not a power-hitter but he already has 6 HR’s on the season and has shown some power with his booming doubles and triples that almost leave the park. If anyone should at least be considered for the manager’s vote, it’s Gardner. Right now, he’s the Yankees best player hitting with consistency.

5. Hiroki Kuroda

CC Sabathia is the ‘ace’ of the Yankees staff, but the one that has been pitching like an ace this season is Hiroki Kuroda. Other than his two starts to begin the season, Kuroda has not had a ‘bad’ outing. He considers a couple of his starts bad when he gives up three runs (which isn’t bad at all) but if you look at his numbers, he has been the guy that they go to in order to shut down the other team’s offense. The only reason Kuroda has those losses is because–the Yankees can’t score. But his ERA and his numbers should tell the story as to why he’s having an All-Star year.

So now that I have given my five players that I think should make it to the All-Star game (whether by the fans or managers vote), it’s time for you to decide. If you had five players that you wanted to take to the All-Star game, which five players would it be?

Game 64 Lineup: Yankees @ Athletics

It’s a brand new series…with two 1o p.m. games. Boo. Anyway, here is your lineup!

Brett Gardner CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Travis Hafner DH
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Lyle Overbay RF
Ichiro Suzuki LF
Jayson Nix SS
Chris Stewart C

CC Sabathia LHP

Some Notes:

– Yesterday, Brett Gardner won the AL Player of the Week award. He was batting .520/.556/.840 throughout the week.

– Today, Robinson Cano was crowned the Captain of the AL HR Derby Team. He can’t get booed mercifully at Citi Field this year since the Mets are a National Team, so that’s a good thing.

A-Rod releases statement amid PED scandal

Dan Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal tweeted that Alex Rodriguez made a statement amid the PED scandal that could have him and 20 other players suspended from Major League Baseball. Rodriguez said the following:

Myself and others are being mentioned in a media report before the process is even concluded. I would hope this thing would follow the guidelines of our basic agreement. I will monitor the situation and comment when appropriate. As I’ve said previously, I am working out every day to get back on the field and help the Yankees win a championship.

– Alex Rodriguez

Some of the Yankees players sounded off about A-Rod’s possible suspension from the MLB with the most logical words coming from Brett Gardner.

We haven’t had him the last two months. It won’t change anything.

– Brett Gardner

However, after that statement Gardner said that A-Rod is like a brother to the team. CC Sabathia said that he team will welcome A-Rod back with open arms while Mariano Rivera said that while he won’t press Alex Rodriguez to talk about the scandal, he will listen with open ears if A-Rod has any thoughts, comments or concerns.

Gardner’s a different hitter this year

Gardner hasn't hit like the typical leadoff this yr (Zimbio photo)

Gardner hasn’t hit like the typical leadoff this yr (Zimbio photo)

During Brett Gardner‘s career, he has always displayed the perfect approach and skill set for a leadoff hitter.  He takes a lot of pitches, draws walks, slaps the ball on the ground and runs like the wind. However, because of the Yankees loaded offense and the presence of Derek Jeter, Brett never settled into the leadoff spot for the Yankees until this year.  Finally getting the opportunity to lead off everyday, for the first time in his career Gardner has not produced like a typical leadoff hitter.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but Brett is definitely getting different results.

He is still doing a fine job of working pitchers as he is 12th in the A.L. with 4.17 Pitches per Plate Appearance.  However, he is swinging at more of those pitches, putting more of those pitches into play and Walking less.  His Walk Rate is a career low 8.9% which has led to a semi-disappointing .333 OBP which is about 20 points below his career average.  Per this Fangraphs article, he has is swinging at 42% of pitches this  year which is a 8.3% jump from his previous 4 seasons – a bigger jump than anyone in MLB over the same period of time.  He is also swinging at the 1st pitch more than twice as much as before and hitting the ball on the Ground less (from 51% to 40%).

But the results of this change in approach isn’t just a reduce in Walks and OBP%, Brett is driving the ball with much more authority this year.  His 6 HRs are just 1 below his career-high and he’s also on pace for career-highs in Doubles and Triples.  His .429 SLG% is 4th on the team behind only Cano, Hafner & Overbay and he is behind only the same 3 players for the team lead in RBIs with 26.  For a leadoff man in a weak lineup to drive in that any runs is impressive and means he’s getting a lot of big hits. 15 of those RBIs have come on 2-out hits when he has done most of his damage this year hitting .322/.365/.525/.891.

Watching the games it’s evident Brett is more comfortable with his swing and driving the ball with more authority than any time in his career.  Although his .265 Batting Average this yr is the same as his career mark, the type of hits he’s getting has changed.  In his last 2 full yrs of 2010-11, he had 48 infield hits which made up 18.2% of all his base hits.  This yr, he has legged out just 4 hits which is just 6.9% of all his hits. Speaking of legging it out, Brett has not had a great year on the bases with just 9 steals in 14 attempts – a far cry from the 49 and 46 SBs he had in 2011 & 10, respectively.  I think there are 3 main reasons for this, the first being less chances.  His SB opportunities have decreased because of the drop in OBP% and the increase in extra base hits.  He’s simply been on First base less.  The other reason is Robinson Cano has been batting 2nd most of the year.  Cano is a free swinger and Girardi doesn’t want to send the runner too often with his best hitter at the plate.  The last reason is he hasn’t been good leading off in the 1st inning with just a .208 BA and .296 OBP.  That is the only time he’s assured of batting with no one in front of him but he’s struggled for whatever reason. I think that will level out and he’ll steal more as the season progresses.

Are these changes in Gardner’s game a good thing? I think they are.  I’ve always thought that Gardner could put up better power numbers and a higher average because he has shown the ability in the past for spurts.  But he always seemed conflicted between being the hitter he is now and the slap-hitting ground ball machine he often was.  While I’d like to see him getting on base more often out of the leadoff spot, I like the confidence and more aggressive approach at the plate.  The Yanks have been starving for run production this year and Gardner has stepped it up.  If he can begin to incorporate the power gains with the Walks & SBs of previous years, he will really be something special.  He’s also providing his offense out of CF now, where he should have been years ago.  His defense has not slipped a bit moving from LF to CF and he’s truly one of the game’s best defensive OFs.

Did yesterday’s game have a rivalry within a rivalry?

New York Yankees v New York Mets

The Subway Series didn’t get off to a great start for the Yankees, but what happened in yesterday’s game still left me with a smile on my face; even after the game was long over.

When you think of the Subway Series going into last night, you would think Robinson Cano vs. David Wright as the rivalry within the rivalry, them being the gigantic catalysts in bringing their team out in front during the games and leading their teams to victory. However, yesterday’s game had two players that you last expected to attempt to lead their teams to victory: Brett Gardner vs. Daniel Murphy. Gardner won the battle for his team, but Murphy won the war that night. Let’s rewind to last night, shall we?

Gardner commits Grand Larceny (on a HR): Daniel Murphy was entirely sure that he hit a HR to deep left-center. He was sure he had enough to give his team the lead–until Brett Gardner ran all the way to the track and robbed Murphy of a 2-run HR. Murphy’s reaction to Gardner’s catch was priceless: he took his helmet off his head and threw it to the ground, causing Yankees fans like myself to emit laughter, even through the commercial break. Even after the loss, I still had a smile on my face. Yes, I was ecstatic about the Gardner catch–but Murphy’s reaction is what kept me in a good mood.

Tickets to Citi-Field? $50
Subway Sandwiches? $9
Daniel Murphy’s reaction to Brett Gardner’s catch? Priceless. Everything’s better when you’re a Yankees fan.

Murphy extracts revenge (and wins the game for the Mets): In the 8th inning is where it got grim for the Yankees. David Robertson was one out away from getting out of the inning tied…until Daniel Murphy lined a base-hit…in front of Brett Gardner. Daniel Murphy’s reaction? He flipped the bat to the ground as if he hit a HR, walked to first base, then pumped his fist. Yeah, Mets fans may have liked that…but I didn’t. Let’s just say that my reaction to Murphy getting the game winning single mirrored his reaction innings earlier (I took my Yankees cap off and threw it to the ground). Don’t worry–the hat has recovered from collecting dust from hitting the floor.

Even if it was just for yesterday, the fact that Brett Gardner and Daniel Murphy were looking for ways to one-up another was exciting to watch. We all know that Daniel Murphy was ecstatic for winning the game for the Mets. Brett Gardner had trouble being upset about the loss–especially after the catch he made during the game. And frankly, I don’t blame him one bit.

Game 41 Lineup: Mariners vs . Yankees

Brett Gardner CF
Jayson Nix SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Curtis Granderson DH
David Adams 3B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chris Stewart C

LHP Andy Pettitte

- Ex-Yankee Hector Noesi will be on the mound for Seattle.  Aaron Harang was scratched.

- Andy Pettitte trys to right himself after a couple of rough starts

- Yankees called up Dellin Betances from Scranton and sent down Brett Marshall who was spent after throwing 108 pitches yesterday

- Jayson Nix gets his shot batting 2nd today.  Nix has had a very quiet season offensively but suprisingly, his .319 OBP% is 4th among healthy regulars behind Wells, Cano & Gardner.  Nix has hit 2nd 6 times this year and has hit .261/.293/.261 (6 for 23 with 5 Walks).  Not many Yankees have faced Noesi but Nix is 1 for 3 with a HR.

Yanks have injuries but not slowing down veterans

ny_a_hafner_400The Yankees have lost a lot of familiar names: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli, Ivan Nova and possibly Kevin Youkilis. With a lineup that won’t feature most of these names for a while, you would think the Yankees would lie down and take the beating, not fight at all and prove every non-believer right. The Yankees have done the opposite. Going into today’s game, the Yankees are 13-9, 12-5 since April 7. In a team that’s bruised and beat up, there’s a shining light, where veterans stepped up and are producing for the Yanks.

No one expected Travis Hafner to be such a big catalyst in the Yankees lineup vs. right handed pitching. And no one would have thought that Vernon Wells would come out of the gate swinging. Well, that’s the case for the Yankees. The veterans are taking over the lineup for the Yanks, and they intend on milking out every opportunity possible to prove their worth to the ball-club. Here are some Yankees that surprised us so far in the season, making their cause known to the team.

Brett GardnerIf you told me on April 1st that Brett Gardner was going to have 3 HR’s and have the second most RBI’s (12) on the team behind Robinson Cano, I’d say you were a dreamer. I’d call you crazy as well, but mostly a dreamer. Well, Brett Gardner has been opening some eyes, proving that he deserves to be in the lineup vs. left handed pitching as well as right handed pitching. Out of Gardner’s 3 HR’s this season, two are of significant importance: Gardner hit them vs. left handed pitching. Before his first HR, the last time Gardner hit a HR vs. left handed pitching was on July 3, 2010 vs. Ricky Romero of the Blue Jays. Gardner has been showing strength, and although he’s paid to run and steal bases, we’ll excuse him for not stealing bases as of yet since he’s doing a great job in bringing runners in scoring position to the plate.

Robinson Cano: Robinson Cano had an odd start to his 2013 campaign. He was struggling just like Brett Gardner and just like Ichiro Suzuki. However like Gardner, Cano quickly turned it around and started providing offense for the team. With no Curtis Granderson, no  Mark Teixeira and no Derek Jeter, there is a loss in home runs for the Yankees meaning that Cano has to carry the team on his back every single game. After a putrid first week, Cano has done just that. He’s carried the team on his back. Does 7 HR’s and 17 RBI’s prove my point? It should.

Travis Hafner: Pronk has become a pleasant surprise to the Yankees, showing his power and is dubbed the “2013 version of Raul Ibanez“. Pronk is easily one of my favorite acquisitions, since he comes up in the clutch in the playing time he’s had. He has 5 HR’s, (one of them was so dramatic, it won the game). He also made Cleveland Indians fans remember why they loved him so much…although he hit home runs AGAINST his former team, leaving the fans unhappy. Anyway, Pronk is a player that I wish could hit vs. left handed pitching…but I’ll take him as he is. He’s been a great player so far and we hope he stays healthy.

Vernon Wells: Who would have thought that out of all people, Vernon Wells would be the player he was before he signed the gigantic contract that caused him to get traded to two different teams? Vernon Wells is second for team batting average, home runs and is third in RBI’s. It might have helped that the Yankees faced the Blue Jays twice, once on their recent road-trip and on their current home-stand. Vernon Wells has no trouble showing the Blue Jays fans what they were missing, and the Yankees love it.

Love them or hate them: The John Sterling home-run calls

imageEver since 1989, John Sterling has been in the broadcast booth calling Yankees games through thick and thin. He’s entertaining, he’s interesting and one of the few radio announcers I can turn to when it’s time to mute a FOX game. One of the reasons that I enjoy listening to Sterling is for his inventive and interesting home-run calls. His home-run calls are one of those staples that are needed to be memorized by every Yankees fan. Over the years, he has created home-run calls that cannot be forgotten. Remember Bernie William’s famous home-run call “Bern Baby Bern” or Tino Martinez‘s “Bam-Tino?” Yep, that was John Sterling’s entertaining mind. When a new Yankee hits a home-run, fans turn and ask “What’s John Sterling’s home-run call for this player?” Well, being the John Sterling radio fanatic that I am, I compiled a list of some of our favorite New York Yankees home-run calls for the players on the current team. (that includes our new Yankees brethren as well).

Brett GardnerBrett Gardner has two home-run calls, depending of the mood that John Sterling is. Personally, I love hearing them both since Gardner rarely hits HR’s. The first one is fun to say because he went yard, yet the second one is a pun on his last name ‘Gardner’ which is an actual word.

1) “Gardy goes Yardy!”

2) “Gardner plants one in the (left or right) field seats!”

Ichiro SuzukiIchiro’s home-run call. I felt like John Sterling could have been more inventive with Ichiro’s home-run call, but it is what it is.

“Ichiro, the Yankees rising son, says sayonara.”

Curtis GrandersonThe second home-run call is one of my favorites. The first one is a pun on his last name, but the second one you get to sing! Every time Granderson goes to bat, I find myself singing it. I can’t wait to start singing it when Granderson comes back from the DL.

1) “Isn’t he something sort of Grand-ish?”

2) “Oh, the Grandyman Can! Oh, the Grandyman can!”

Derek JeterDerek Jeter is the captain of the Yankees, so his home-run call is rather fitting.

“El Capitan.”

Mark TeixeiraMark Teixeria is another one of those Yankees that has two home run calls. I actually enjoy the first one more since it’s a pun on getting a  text message. (And I like to look at my smartphone and ask why haven’t I got a ‘Tex’ Message yet when he goes to the plate).

1) “Mark sends a Tex Message to the (left or right) field seats!

2) “You’re on the Mark, Teixeira”

Alex Rodriguez: Everyone knows A-Rod’s HR call. It’s not a secret.

“An A-Bomb for A-Rod.”

Robinson CanoIf I were John Sterling, I would trademark this home-run call. It’s became a very popular saying among Yankees fans.

“Robbie Cano, Don’t Ya Know!”

Francisco CervelliI personally am a sucker for this home-run call. It simply reminds me of food.

“Cisco the Kid Cerv’s one up!”

Travis HafnerAll right, I love John Sterling and all but…this call was L-A-M-E! It lacks the magic. Did Sterling figure that he wasn’t going to be a Yankee past this season and gave him a home-run call that was sad yet lame?

1) “The Pronx Bomber.”

2) “A Hafner Homer.”

Vernon WellsSo Vernon Wells has two HR calls that are slightly better than Travis Hafner’s. Wells’s walk-up song may be awesome…but his HR call is something that’s almost cringe-worthy.

1) “The Bronx is Vernon.”

2) “Wells rings the bells.”

Kevin YoukilisSo all of my favorite things in life has to have carbon copies of something? My favorite T.V show has carbon copies of the original characters and Kevin Youkilis’s HR call is a carbon copy of Alex Rodriguez’s.

“A Nuke for Youk.”

Yeah, that was really inventive.

Yep, we may love them and we may hate them but the John Sterling HR calls are iconic to the Yankees. When a new Yankee hits a home-run, you never know what call John Sterling could come up with.

Andy proves Dandy as Yanks avoid sweep with 4-2 victory over Red Sox

If you made a bet with someone that Andy Pettitte was going to be the first Yankees pitcher to lead the Yankees to victory, then congratulations. You’re correct. If you made a bet with someone that Mariano Rivera would come in the 9th inning and save the game as he’s done time and time again for the Yankees, then congratulations. You’re correct. Now, if you made a bet that a player like Robinson Cano would hit a HR before players like Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli, then you’d be wrong. As a matter of fact, a lot of people didn’t see those HR’s coming. In the end, the Yankees were able to shut the door on the Red Sox and avoid the sweep with a 4-2 victory.

Andy Pettitte pitched 8 innings of one run baseball before handing it over to his longtime teammate and friend Mariano Rivera to shut the door on the Red Sox. Rivera did give up a run, but that is easily overlooked because:

a) The Yankees won

b) It’s his final season

c) He’s Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees offense was supplied with a two run single by Lyle Overbay in the second, which plated both Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez. Brett Gardner followed with a solo home-run in the third and Francisco Cervelli hit his own in the seventh after the Red Sox scored their run off Pettitte to bring the lead back to three runs for the moment.

Positives:

– Brett Gardner went 2-for-3 tonight with a home run, a walk and a great defensive catch. Eduardo Nunez went 2-for-3 tonight while flashing the leather. Francisco Cervelli was 1-for-2 with a HR and a walk.  Andy Pettitte pitched 8 innings of one-run ball. Mariano Rivera received career save #609.

Negatives:

– Robinson Cano went 0-for-3 and now he’s batting .091. It’s a small sample size but that’s his average for the Red Sox series. Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-3 and his average is .111. Again, it’s a small sample size.

What’s Next: 

The Yankees are going to fly off to Detroit to play the Tigers in a 1 p.m. match-up. Honestly, who made the schedule. Anyway, tomorrow’s pitching match-up is Ivan Nova vs. Doug Fister.

Yanks fall flat on Opening Day in 8-2 loss to Red Sox

Looking back at the game, the second inning is where the Yankees fell flat. CC Sabathia made some costly pitches which resulted in the Red Sox scoring four runs off of the Yankees ace. The three run ninth inning by Joba Chamberlain didn’t make matters any easier. In the end, the Yankees looked as flat as Sabathia’s fastball in the fourth inning. The offense was barely existent, minus the two run single by Francisco Cervelli in the fourth. To put it in perspective, the Yankees as a team looked sluggish. So sluggish that by the time the ninth inning rolled around, no one was in their seats.

The Yankees had one chance to score some more runs in the seventh when Cervelli and Brett Gardner got on base with back to back walks, but Eduardo Nunez, Robinson Cano and Kevin Youkilis struck out to end the inning, and any chance of the Yankees coming back in the game.

The Yankees pitching wasn’t as sharp either. David Phelps was able to tightrope out of danger in the sixth inning due to a base-running blunder by Jacoby Ellsbury, but the seventh was where everything fell apart. Phelps gave up a run with the assistance of Boone Logan, Chamberlain gave up three in the ninth. Now it’s back to the drawing board for the Yankees, as they prepare to take on the Red Sox again on Wednesday night.

Some Notes:

Mark Teixeira went to visit the doctor today and got the OK to take off the brace on his wrist–but he has to wear it when he works out.

Derek Jeter had some treatment done in Tampa today and played catch in the OF. Although Jeter could come off the DL on Saturday, I doubt he would since the Yanks want him to play a full nine innings before he returns.

Curtis Granderson had X-Rays on his forearm and told reporters in Tampa that his arm is feeling better. He’s allowed to shag fly balls but he can’t throw them back in the infield.

Phil Hughes pitched in an extended Spring Training game today, and went seven innings. Hughes will next pitch for Scranton Wilkes-Barre in five days, meaning he’s on track to return on April 11. Girardi left open the option that Hughes could return by Saturday but David Phelps is still in line to make that start.

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