Cano’s homer leads Yankees to come from behind win over Blue Jays

Wang takes the loss in second Triple-A start
Blue Jays scratch Josh Johnson from tonight's start

This one had ugly potential and you know exactly what I’m talking about. The starter struggled early and the offense hasn’t done much of late, so for a while it looked like we would all be tuning into the NFL Draft by the middle innings. Instead, the Yankees mounted a comeback and held on to take the series opener from the Blue Jays by the score of 5-3.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

What They Do Best
The Yankees were held to five runs and just one extra-base hit during the three games against the Rays earlier this week, but they got back to pounding the ball against left-hander Mark Buehrle in the series opener against the Jays. Vernon Wells continued to pummel both his former team by clubbing a second inning solo homer to straight-away center field and into Monument Park. Frankie Cervelli continued to show surprising power with a solo homer to left in the fourth inning — he fell behind in the count 0-2, worked it full, fouled off two two-strike pitches, then homered — but it was what happened between the solo dingers that made the difference.

The third inning started innocently enough with a Lyle Overbay strikeout, by Jayson Nix got the rally started with an infield single to the shortstop. Brett Gardner followed with another infield-ish single as the ball glanced off the second baseman’s glove and into very shallow center. Ben Francisco flied out harmlessly to left for the second out, which I considered a positive result. Francisco’s been terrible this year and anything that didn’t end the inning (i.e. a double play) was a win for the Yankees.

So, anyway, that brought Robinson Cano to the plate with two outs and two on. He took a first pitch fastball on the inner third for a strike, but then Buehrle fed him three straight … cutters? sliders? junkballs? who knows … down and away that were ruled balls. They were very borderline pitches I thought. Buehrle and catcher J.P. Arencibia talked out the next pitch, which ultimately was the same as the first, a fastball on the inner half. Cano pulled his hands in and yanked the ball deep to right for a three-run homer that turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. No-doubter, gone off the bat. Not many hitters can hit that pitch that far and keep it fair, but then again not many hitters are Robinson Cano.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

My Kingdom For A Scoreless First Inning
For the 11th time overall and sixth time in the last eight games, the Yankees surrendered runs in the very first inning. Hiroki Kuroda did the honors on Thursday, coughing up a two-run homer to Edwin Encarnacion as part of an ugly inning that included four hits and a walk. Kuroda allowed a solo homer and a double in the second inning before settling down and throwing four more scoreless innings. He retired 13 of the final 14 men he faced, and the one base-runner reached when Overbay booted a routine ground ball at first.

This was a classic grind-it-out start for Kuroda, who threw 65 strikes out of 103 total pitches (63%). More than a few of those pitches were up in the zone or way wide, especially early on. Kuroda’s command wasn’t sharp and his splitter tumbled more than it fell off the table, so this was a tough one. He hung in and gave the team six innings rather than folding after two though, something the Yankees have seen their starters do more than they would like of late. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but three runs in six innings is plenty good considering how ugly things were early on.


The Blue Jays had just two base-runners after the second inning — the Overbay error in the fourth and an infield single off Joba Chamberlain‘s barehand in the seventh. Joba, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera finished things off in relief of Kuroda and were all pretty dominant. Very excellent job by the bullpen in this one. Joba was fine, by the way.

Nix and Ichiro Suzuki were the only Yankees with multiple hits, and they had two singles a piece. Nix also made two very nice plays at third base on hard-hit balls to his right, ranging before making a strong throw to first. Ichiro stole a base, his first of the season. BGardner made a very nice diving (lunging, really) catch to go with his single and walk. Overbay was the only Yankee who failed to reach base.

The Yankees had runners at first and second with one out in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, and not only did they fail to score any tack-on runs, but they didn’t even manage to advance those runners to third base. Nitpicking, I know, but it was still annoying. They do remain undefeated (7-0) when scoring at least five runs this year, so that’s cool.

We saw something in this game we almost never see: the umpires changed their call on a bang-bang play at first base after having a conference. Francisco tried to bunt for a hit and although the throw beat him to first, the umpires felt Edwin Encarnacion bobbled the low throw. First base ump Chad Fairchild must have originally thought he snowconed it. Honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a call on a bang-bang play at first overturned like that. Never happens. So weird.

Cano fouled a pitch off his right foot in the first inning, right off the toes, but he remained in the game after being looked at my trainer Steve Donohue between innings. He was walking gingerly just a bit after that but played the rest of the game without a problem. Bullet dodged.

The Yankees have allowed 87 total runs this season, and 18 of those 87 have come in the first inning (21%). They haven’t allowed more than 13 runs in any other inning. Is it a sample size thing? Will this even out as the season progresses? Do they need to change their game plans the first time through the order? Who knows, but that has to stop. They can’t keep playing from behind every night.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
That’s a solid graph. Love them comebacks. has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other statistics, and ESPN the updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams will play game two of this four-game set on Friday night, when Ivan Nova gets (yet) another opportunity to prove he belongs in a big league rotation. Right-hander Josh Johnson will be on the bump for the Blue Jays. RAB Tickets is the place to go for last-minute ticket deals.

Wang takes the loss in second Triple-A start
Blue Jays scratch Josh Johnson from tonight's start
  • Bob Buttons

    We need to get rid of Ben “Buck-o-three” Francisco quickly!

    • jim p

      You know Bernie’s kept in shape.

      Career .297/.384/.855 vs Left Hand Starters. (Interestingly, also .297BA vs RH Starters.) Even in his last season vs LH Starters .289/.338/.812.

      Just saying.

  • Pseudoyanks

    Watched Mo get a save from a bar in Panama City. Sublime.

    • lightSABR

      He looked amazing tonight, even with the tight strike zone. Arencibia, Rasmus, and Lawrie were totally outmatched, and they knew it.

    • Havok9120

      MLBN did an impromptu mini-segment right after the game because of how great the cutter looked tonight. It was gratifying.

      • Pseudoyanks

        I’m holding out hope. If he’s dominant all year, maybe he comes back.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Wish I’d seen Robbie’s HR as it happened.

    I honestly have learned to remain calm with #HIROK. He’s CC-like in his ability to settle down.

    Great win.

    • Havok9120

      I feel that way about all of our top three. It makes the game much more relaxing to not need to worry about “should we pull them?” after they cough it up in the first or second.

    • RetroRob

      Or Pettitte like. I don’t worry when Andy gets into trouble. He has the ability to minimize damage. So, yeah, CC, Pettitte and Hirok.

      On the flipside, Nova seems to find ways to turn what seems to any 1-2-3 inning into a problem after getting two quick outs. Or Hughes will give up the gopher ball.

    • The Real Me

      Robbie’s shot was a beauty … A no-doubter right off the bat. Knew it was gone the minute he hit it. I just love those. I’ll never tire of watching that sweet swing.

  • trr

    satisfying win / thanks Mo

  • forensic

    Can’t believe (ok, I can believe it given Girardi’s actions and tendencies, but I hate it) Francisco still bats 2nd, ever.

    And why was he hitting against a righty in the 7th??? I didn’t see anything about Hafner being injured before the game. This is getting absurd now.

    Nice to see Kuroda battled through and the bullpen was dominant.

    Hopefully these last couple of games are getting Ichiro’s timing a little better into shape.

    I’m really getting some Overbay and Nix (despite one good game) fatigue from seeing them too often. Youkilis needs to get his ass back in there and at least get one of them to the bench.

    Nice to see Cervelli contribute a bit again too. And seeing Wells still hit his former team is very nice too. Hopefully he can transfer some of that to other teams too as he’s slowed down a bunch against others. Of course, neither one of these two was going to stay at their earlier levels, but some periodic contributions like these are very nice.

    • http:/ Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

      The only explanation to why Francisco batted in the 7th was that Girardi wanted to show some faith in his players. Clearly he likes something about him that neither you or I can see. That being said I hated the move and was screaming at the top of my lungs when he was batting. Inexcusable.

    • Tom

      I can see Girardi being worried about Farrell bringing in a lefty from the bullpen if Hafner pinch hit. But even then:

      Francisco vs a righty or Hafner vs a lefty… seems like an easy call given how the two are hitting this year and over their career.

      The other problem is for some reason Girardi has shown an unwillingness to pinch hit when he has the lead… I get if there is a defensive downgrade, but this was the DH spot. He did this last year as well with Ibanez and Jones late in the game when they had the lead.

  • Pat D

    So apparently the Mariners could trade for Giancarlo Stanton? Did anyone just hear that on MLBN? They’re just making up shit, right?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      They’d have to throw in the rights to the Nirvana and Hendrix catalogs, plus Space Needle and a whole lot of salmon.

      • Bob Buttons

        I heard that Seattle is contemplating about offering a wii bundle for each of the Marlins’ front office. My sources say Loria seeks mint condition n64 and cartridges too.

    • forensic

      Just another young, good or potentially good hitter for them to screw up somehow.

      • Deathstroke Heathcott

        I think they’re storing their players’ bats at the wrong humidity or something.

  • Havok9120

    So, it strikes me that Vernon Wells appears to be one of the best players on the Angels payroll right now. Which is pretty amusing to me.

    Yes, I know they’re paying mostly for next season. But still.

    • Get Phelps Up

      “One of” is putting it lightly.
      He has more bWAR than anyone on the Angels roster and more than Josh Hamilton + Mike Trout + Albert Pujols.

  • Eddard

    I really didn’t agree with the earlier assessment that the schedule only gets tougher. It gets easier. They can take 3/4 from the Jays ans 7/10 on the home stand. They played .500 on the road, which is what you’re supposed to do. Now they’re back at home against one underachieving team, one historically awful team and the As.

  • Eddard

    And I always thought the guy who hit in the 2nd spot was supposed to get on base, not hit 2/30. When Youk returns they could DH Jayson Nix and it’ll be a vast improvement. That’s when you know when a guy shouldn’t be on the ballclub. I’d cut Francisco tomorrow and call up any other living, breathing soul.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Did you really kill someone in the future?

      • Bob Buttons

        Probably gave Girardi or Cashman an anger-induced heart attack by sharing his thoughts on the Yankees.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Also, when the team wins, I could care less who batter second that night.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        “Batted,” but MMMMMM, batter.

  • matt

    I live in seattle, and yes, even the news centers out here are talking about it. Never happen though.

  • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

    I think the “I Hate Ben Francisco” Club should get a cooler name, but I’m not sure what it should be.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I actually liked who ever came up with the “Yankees Sans Francisco” screen name. Well played.

      • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

        Got to admit, that one is clever in a subtly cruel way.

    • dkidd

      Ban Francisco?

  • vicki

    future guy was transcendent.

    • Havok9120

      And East Prussian, apparently.

  • http:/ Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    Just got home from the game. Gotta love the comeback. I was shocked as anyone when they overturned the call at 1B. Not surprised that Toronto’s manager got thrown out after that, you almost have to because it just really strange to see.

    Can Francisco just go away? And why does Girardi insist on batting him 2nd? He’s just awful. Idc what the platoon splits are, having Hafner on the bench for this clown is just stupid. Put the binder away Joe and use your freaking eyes. Please.

    • Steve (different one)

      Francisco is not long for this team, but it is obvious to me thy Girardi is batting him second to try to get him started. The idea is for Gardner to get on base and with Cano on deck, you HAVE to throw Francisco some fastballs.

      The season is very, very long and every game is not played in a vacuum. Throwing Francisco a few games in a plum lineup spot may pay dividends down the line. And if it doesn’t, thy will eventually replace him.

      Girardi doesn’t actually think Ben Francisco is one of his best hitters. It’s still April, this is not the lineup you will see in July.

    • Jim Is Bored

      No! Please, for the love of God, USE the binder. The binder is on our side! Hafner is better by any metric!

      • Jim Is Bored

        Although he really does need to rest, so, lets just get someone else in there who can hit. I would love a healthy Pronk all year.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        There are few things that irk me more than “binder” jokes. Joe does something you don’t like? Must be the “binder.” Joe doesn’t defy convention in some cutesy ocassional-Maddonesque way? Must be the “binder.”

        • Jim Is Bored

          That was a mistake; notifying all the trolls…

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Maybe the troll filter will read it differently.

            I also realize I’m fighting a losing battle there.

            • Jim Is Bored

              It’s great though, when we win they’re not around and we get to figure out the difference between trolls a la dalelama and actual fans who are just relentlessly negative a la MBW.

  • Get Phelps Up

    Today, “Francisco” was mentioned 45 times in the game thread.

    In comparison, “Cano” was mentioned 9 times, various forms of Hirok, 14 times.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      How many of those “Francisco” references were for Cervelli, though?

  • OldYanksFan

    OK…. it’s been 21 games…. 13% of the Season.
    With the current ‘on field’ rooster (NO injured guys playing),
    how would you evaluate ‘this’ team over a full season?

    … This is a:
    less then .500 team
    around a .500 team
    85-86 Wins
    More then 86 Wins.

    • Jim Is Bored

      So in this estimate, it’s not fair to assume injuries since you can’t assume injured guys coming back?

      This is an 86-88 win team, I think, as currently constructed and with no injuries.

      Of course, we’re going to have injuries, and some of the cavalry will return, so…I’m not sure how much this is worth.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Are they allowed to make roster moves not involving currently-injured players in your question?

      If so, yes, I think this team could be tweaked into a team that wins more than 86 games.

      • The Real Me

        This too.

    • The Real Me

      I think this team, as presently constructed, is around an 85-86 win team. Agree that injuries will happen, but I think the upgrades that occur when the 4 injured starters return (Teix, Granderson, Jeter & A-Rod, not countin Youk in this as I’m hopefull he’ll play again this weekend) should put the team right at about the 90 win mark which I hope is good enough to win the division.

    • JRod

      If we’re talking the on field rooster, I’d put the Over/Under at 89 wins. If we get into the on field chicken & beer, I might have to move the line a bit.

      • Jim Is Bored

        On the field rooster made me laugh out loud

  • Jim Is Bored

    Couldn’t watch the whole game, only saw the 9th. Of course, there’s nothing better than watching a 43 year old vintage Mariano just continue to completely dominate major league hitters!

    Can’t find video of Cervelli’s HR, sadly.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Jim Was Busy.

      • Jim Is Bored

        Jim Is Going To Miss Mariano.

  • mt

    I agree that there has been way too much focus on Francisco but in someways I understand the frustration especially when you contrast it with Girardi’s earlier interesting decsion to bat Cano second against righties because he wanted to maximize his ABs. Then what is the real reason Francisco is second against lefties? Francisco could bat further down in line-up – I understand about not DFa’ing him away after 25 ABs especially given 40 man situation and some of the regulars coming back but he just seems somewhat stubborn with line-up placement.

    Also the hesitation to use Hafner sometimes instead of Francisco is a bit frustrating when we are facing all these lefty pitchers now – he sometimes has subbed Boesch for Ichiro against lefty pitchers and defended it by saying “Ichiro needs a rest and Boesch does not do poorly against lefties” – (Boesch may even have a reverse spilt, haven’t looked). However, he cannot see the same thing with Hafner/Francisco? Hafner may do better against lefty pitcher than Francisco. He has tunnel vision due to fact Francisco is a righty.

    That being said, if Cano hits lefties well, a lot of our problems against lefties are solved (he started the year off very poorly) and Francisco presence and place in line-up becomes less glaring – also Youkilis coming back would help a lot.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Someone gave the decidedly non-stat-oriented POV that Girardi may be playing him because he believes giving a vet more at-bats will raise their confidence.

      I can imagine that’s something that a player-oriented former player turned manager like Girardi would do. Maybe a manager did that for him in the past. Who knows. I think that says a lot for how Girardi manages veterans who are slumping versus young guys who are slumping.

      Obviously, a major issue here is whether Francisco is hitting poorly because he’s slumping or whether, at a seemingly younger age, he’s no longer a major league hitter, and how quickly the Yankees will be able to tell the difference better than we can.

      Now whether that’s the right course of action or not is for you to decide.

      • Jim Is Bored

        I also don’t think that playing Hafner every day is a good idea. I want him healthy as long as possible.

        If Francisco doesn’t show anything else by mid-may, he won’t be around. I think we’re all forgetting it’s still April.