Swisher & Hughes bury Sox, but Yanks lose two more to injury

Winners in seven of their last eight games, the Yankees rolled into Boston tonight feeling pretty good about themselves. Even though the Red Sox just laid a four game beat down on the Angels, even though Andy Pettitte‘s going to miss a start, even though Jorge Posada was still out of the lineup with a calf issue, and even though Javier Vazquez‘s problems had yet to be solved, the team showed up to the ballpark expecting to win, and win they did.

Photo Credit: Winslow Townson, AP

Biggest Hit: Nick Swisher breaks the tie

Through the first three innings of this game, Josh Beckett was absolutely devastating. He had already racked up six strikeouts, and the Yankees had hit one ball out of the infield. The 4th inning began with a first pitch ground out by Nick Johnson (more on that later), but Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez followed up with a walk and a single, respectively. The Yanks had finally showed a little bit of life, and their best hitter in the early going was stepping to the plate.

Photo Credit: Steven Senne, AP

Robbie Cano, 5-for-24 (.208) on the homestand, saw four fastballs in the mid-90’s, the last of which was foul tipped in Jason Varitek’s glove for the strikeout. No one wanted to see the Yankees squander the opportunity to break the scoreless tie, and Nick Swisher was there to deliver. The Red Sox ace fired a first pitch cutter in the inner half, which tied Swish up and resulted in one of the ugliest swings you’ll ever see. He took the next fastball on the outer half for a quick 0-2 count, but spit on the next two pitches to even things up.

The 2-2 pitch was Beckett’s worst pitch of the night, a hanging curveball that stayed up in the zone long enough for Swisher to give it his finest swing. He sent the ball deep to centerfield, and it eventually came to a rest in the camera pit beyond the wall, giving the Yankees what seemed like a gargantuan three run lead. With one swing of the lumber, just one pitch from the end of the inning, Swish improved the Yankees’ chances of winning this game by almost 30%.

Biggest Out: Dustin Pedroia flies out

After being staked to a three run lead, Phil Hughes spotted the Red Sox a run in the bottom of the 4th and appeared as if he was going to give them a little more in the 4th. After recording the first two outs of the inning without incident, Darnell McDonald and Marco Scutaro each pulled a ball for a single, putting runners on the corners for Boston’s 2-3-4 hitters. In years past, this is where the old version of Hughes would let things get away from him and start giving up runs.

But this isn’t that Phil Hughes anymore. He dug in and went after the 2008 AL MVP, getting him to fly out harmlessly to center on just two pitches. There was no nibbling, no throws to first, no shaking off, he just got the ball and threw it. The threat was over, and the rest is history.

Photo Credit: Steven Senne, AP

Hughes Your Daddy?

There’s been one constant in our recaps this season: when Phil Hughes takes the mound, we generally end up writing a glowing report of his performance. We’re not doing it because where’s unabashed homers, the kid just keeps on pitching well. Tonight’s effort featured seven innings of one run ball with seven strikeouts, seven hits, and just one walk. Just 31 of his 101 pitches were balls (69.3% strikes), and he went to a three ball count on just three of the 28 batters he faced.

The Yankees are one of the two or best teams in baseball this season, and despite all of their star power and future Hall of Famers, it’s the 23-year-old kid taking the ball every fifth day that’s the center of attention. Hughes’ starts are must see TV, and they’ve absolutely been worth the wait we’ve endured since 2007.

Total Meltdown

Photo Credit: Winslow Townson, AP

Early on, this game had the look of a good ol’ fashioned pitcher’s duel. Beckett struck out the side in the 1st inning, then tacked on two more in the 2nd. He skated into the 6th inning having made just one mistake – granted, it was a three run mistake – but he had given his team a chance to win. But not for long.

A-Rod led off the inning with a hard-hit double into left-center, then two pitches later Cano was standing on first after taking a cutter on the left knee. He stayed there for all of one pitch, getting lifted for pinch runner Ramiro Pena after the soreness became too much. Swisher struck out after having to duck out of the way of a 2-2 fastball that ran too far inside. Beckett was ordered to intentionally walk Brett Gardner (hah!) to load the bases and set up the force at every base. That’s when the wheels came completely off the bus.

Cervelli stepped the plate after getting his tower buzzed in his previous at-bat, and he worked the count full thanks to a series of high fastballs and foul-offs. The seventh and final pitch of the duel came up and in, knocking Cervelli down and forcing in a run. Randy Winn jumped all over a first pitch changeup to drive in another run, then Beckett wasted no time in planting a first pitch fastball into Derek Jeter‘s ribs. The Yanks pushed some more runs across, but not before Teixeira had to duck out of the way of two inside fastballs.

You wouldn't like CC when he's angry. (Photo Credit: Winslow Townson, AP)

Given how utterly dominant Beckett had looked in the first several innings, locating two kinds of fastballs and a breaking ball with deadly precision, the sudden disappearance of his ability to get the ball over the plate was staggering. I don’t think he meant to hit Cano or Jeter intentionally, nor do I think he threw inside on Cervelli on Teixeira with the intention of sending a message. I just think he had a completely unmitigated mental breakdown and was hung out to dry. It’s not something you want to see from your supposed ace, but that’s Boston’s problem.

Injuries, injuries, and more injuries

Photo Credit: Winslow Townson, AP

It’s been one hell of a week for the Yankees. They’ve seen five significant players go down with injuries, the most serious of which was Curtis Granderson‘s strained groin. We were all hoping the team would be able to escape this series without adding anyone to infirmary, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Photo Credit: Steven Senne, AP

After grounding out in his second at bat, Nick Johnson was replaced by pinch hitter Marcus Thames, and it turns out that he’s dealing with some wrist soreness. It’s the same wrist he had surgery on in 2008, and Johnson is headed back to New York for tests. He’s going to wind up on the disabled list for an unknown amount of time, and suddenly the Yanks are missing about 388 points worth of on-base percentage in front of the heart of their order.

But wait, it gets better. Not long after Johnson was forced out of the game, Cano took a Beckett fastball to the knee and had to exit the game himself. At this point he’s just classified as day-to-day, just like Jorge Posada was when he took a Jeremy Guthrie pitch to his knee two weeks ago. Hopefully Cano won’t be out very long, but the Yankees have the luxury of being a little extra careful with him to make sure he’s 100% before returning. Johnson and Cano make it seven injuries in the last seven days, and a roster move is coming tomorrow to help shore things up.

Happy Moments

Phil Hughes. What more do you want? The guy’s a stud. Also, the BABIP gods continue to smile upon Cervelli, and even Randy Winn picked up a few hits. Oh, and Gardner being intentionally walked. How awesome is that?

I’m also glad the Yanks didn’t stoop down to Beckett’s level. He was hitting guys and backing them off the plate left and right – intentionally or not – but Hughes and the rest of the pitchers took the high road and let the scoreboard be their retaliation. Beckett probably feels like a tough guy, but he’s a tough guy on a team that’s seven games out of first.

It was also just the third time the Boston righthander had allowed nine earned runs in a game, but the second time the Yanks have done it to him. You gotta love it.

Photo: Winslow Townson, AP

Annoying Moments

Walking Jason Varitek, and needing six pitches to do it. That’s a major no-no, and pretty much the only blemish on Hughes’ line.

Beckett’s overall wildness was frustrating too. Yeah I know I just said I didn’t think it was intentional, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be angry about it. For a guy making that much money and getting held in such high regard, you’d think he’d be able to step back and control his emotions. I’m not sure what it says about you when a 23-year-old displays more maturity and composure on the mound.

The injuries man … when it rains, it pours, eh?

WPA Graph

This one’s a beaut. Individual player breakdowns are at FanGraphs box score.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow on a FOX broadcast matinee, weather permitting. First pitch is scheduled for 3:10pm ET, and will feature CC Sabathia vs. Clay Buchholz.

Romine extends hit streak in Trenton win

Got a ton of info to pass along, most of it coming from Josh Norris

Also, biggest news of the day: the Yanks signed Justin Christian out of the independent Atlantic League and assigned him to Double-A Trenton. He spent 2004-2008 in the Yanks’ system, and even got some big league time in 2008. Dude stole 220 bases (caught just 36 times, 85.9% success rate) during that time, and was always a personal fave. Good to have him back.

Triple-A Scranton (9-3 loss to Durham)
Kevin Russo, RF, Eduardo Nunez, SS & Jon Weber, DH: all 1 for 4 – Russo doubled, scored a run & K’ed … Nunez drove in a run & K’ed
Reegie Corona, 2B: 0 for 4
David Winfree, 1B: 0 for 2, 1 R, 1 BB – hmmm, two straight games with no Juan Miranda … not sure what that’s about
P.J. Pilittere, 1B: 0 for 1 – just activated from the phantom DL … pinch hit for Winfree when things got out of hand in the top of the 9th
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 1 – got taken out of the game in the 3rd inning for an unconfirmed reason, but it’s believed that he didn’t run out a grounder … he warmed up pitchers in the bullpen later in the game, so it’s unlikely to be an injury
Chad Moeller, C: 0 for 3 – took over for Hey-Zeus
Chad Huffman, LF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K – he doesn’t make contact often, but when he does …
Robby Hammock, 3B: 1 for 3
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 2 K – he got there pretty quick, huh?
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 4 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1-6 GB/FB – 49 of 74 pitches were strikes (66.2%) … he was pressed into action because Romulo Sanchez was supposed to start tonight, but he’s with the big league team now
Amaury Sanit: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 2-2 GB/FB – 26 of 47 pitches were strikes (55.3%)
Royce Ring: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 18 of 31 pitches were strikes (58.1%)
Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – exactly half of his 30 pitches were strikes

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Johnson, Cano leave game with injuries

10:36pm: Johnson appears headed to the disabled list. For shame.

10:29pm: Cano’s knee is sore, and he’s day-to-day, but Johnson is going back to New York to have tests performed on his wrist, which is not a good sign at all. There will be a callup before tomorrow’s game; my money is on Kevin Russo given his impressive Spring Training showing and versatility.

8:48pm: As if the Yankees need another injury, Nick Johnson was pinch hit for in the 5th inning of tonight’s game because of a sore right wrist. It’s the same wrist he had surgery on in 2008, which caused him to spend 137 total days on the disabled list.

Meanwhile, Robbie Cano took a fastball off the left knee in the 6th inning, and left the game as well. Jorge Posada missed a handful of games two weeks ago after a similar HBP. We’ll update this post with more info as it comes.

Game 28: You again

Didn’t the Yankees just play a series in Fenway? I hate these games, they’re always so drawn out and overmedia’d, it takes the joy out of baseball. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s FOX broadcast and Sunday’s ESPN broadcast. At least now they won’t have to play in that place again until the final series of the year.

The Red Sox probably feel pretty good about themselves, since they just beat down on the wimpy Angels for four games and have their Opening Day starter on the mound. For the Yankees … meh, it’s another series. They’ve got nothing to prove. Here’s tonight’s lineup…

Jeter, SS
Johnson, DH
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Swisher, RF
Gardner, CF
Cervelli, C
Winn, LF

And on the mound, St Phil.

If you’ve missed all today’s roster news, then make sure you check this out. Nothing major, just a little furniture being rearranged. First pitch is at 7:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Photo Credit Winslow Townson, AP

Park making progress

Facing injuries and ineffective relievers, the Yanks today have scrambled to restructure their pitching staff, and as the hullabaloo over the roster moves died down, some good news emerged from Tampa. According to Marc Carig, Chan Ho Park has thrown 45 pitches from the mound, and although the Yanks haven’t yet put a timetable on his return, this side session is, as Carig says, a big step forward for a key piece of the Yankee bullpen. When Park comes park, the late innings will feel decidedly less stressful than they have lately. I would guess that, barring a setback, he should return within a week or two.

Up, down and out with Romulo, Greg and Jorge

Updated 4:47 p.m. (scroll down for more on the rotation and Mariano): As the Yankees gear up for a weekend showdown with the Red Sox, the team announced a pair of complementary roster moves this afternoon. With Andy Pettitte expected to miss a start and Sergio Mitre all but officially penciled in for Tuesday, the Yankees have recalled Romulo Sanchez from AAA. To make room on the roster, the team has optioned Greg Golson back to Scranton.

Meanwhile, Jorge Posada isn’t in the lineup tonight, but neither he nor Pettitte are going on the disabled list yet. For the Yankees, then, the team is effectively struggling to make do with a 23-man roster. Until they know the extent of Posada’s and Pettitte’s injuries, they will play with a short bench and a long bullpen. Sanchez, scheduled to start tonight for Scranton, will replace Mitre as the team’s long man, and Randy Winn will be expected to be the versatile back-up outfielder in the event of a catastrophe out there. Hopefully, this roster holding pattern will clear up soon, and for what it’s worth, Posada, who says his tight calf may limit his running, says he could play tomorrow.

Going forward, this move suggests that the Yankees will send out Sergio Mitre, Javier Vazquez, Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia to pitch against Detroit next week. Pettitte wants to pitch, but the Yanks keep saying no no no, according to Amy Winehouse Jon Heyman. Posada, who took BP today, should be back in the lineup soon, and if he’s not, then Chad Moeller will be activated. The team can’t go too long with Ramiro Peña as the emergency catcher.

Sanchez, 26, is a big guy with two cups of coffee in the majors. Listed at 6′ 5″ and 260 pounds, the right-hander made 26 appearances for the Pirates in 2007 and 2008, and he arrived on the Yanks in a trade last year for Eric Hacker. In his limited big league career, he has thrown 31.1 innings while giving up 16 ER on 14 hits and 14 walks. He has struck out 14 as well. This year for Scranton, he was 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA but impressed the Yankees during Spring Training.

According to Greg Fertel at Pending Pinstripes who has a full scouting report on Sanchez, the righty can dial his fastball up to 99 but sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. He has a good change and some decent enough breaking pitches that he has trouble keeping under control. Despite starting at AAA, the Yanks seem to view him as a bullpen option only in the big leagues, and for the weekend at least, he’ll be the team’s 25th guy on a rather inflexible roster.

Mitre to pitch Monday; Rivera available tonight

The updates for the walking wounded continue to pour in. Joe Girardi announced a few minutes ago that the team is reshuffling its rotation next week to give Andy Pettitte a few days off. Sergio Mitre will start Monday’s game against the Tigers, and Javier Vazquez will pitch on Tuesday. Pettitte, says Girardi, will likely pitch next weekend against the Twins and will avoid a trip to the DL. No word yet on why Mitre and Vazquez are getting flip-flopped. The Yankees, though, are in need of a long outing from Vazquez.

In good news, Mariano Rivera is available to pitch tonight, and if the Yanks have a late lead, Girardi will not hesitate to call upon his future Hall of Fame closer to save a win. Take that, Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

RAB on The Shore Sports Report

Just a reminder, my weekly appearance on The Shore Sports Report with Mike Krenek and Joe Giglio is coming up at 4:05pm ET today. You can listen in on either FOX Sports 1030 AM or WOBM 1160 AM, and I’m willing to bet that you’ll be able to stream it online via one of those links as well.