New York Yankees: Russell Martin

Countdown: 16 days to spring training

January, 27, 2013
1/27/13
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Today is the fifth day of our countdown to Feb. 12, the day pitchers and catchers report to Yankees spring training camp in Tampa. Each day between now and then, Wallace Matthews, Mark Simon and I will present a list dealing with a specific issue facing the Yankees this season. Today, we examine the loss of Russell Martin.

WHY THE YANKEES WILL MISS RUSSELL MARTIN

[+] EnlargeRussell Martin
Getty ImagesRussell Martin left as a free agent to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1.) MODERN-DAY THURMAN MUNSON: That's not my opinion, that's the GM's. The Yankees felt that Martin was "Munson-like." They thought he was that tough behind the plate.

2.) GAME PLANNING: Joe Girardi likes a defense-first catcher. He prefers guys who understand the game plan and stick to it. From all signs, Martin was a guy Girardi warmed to because of these reasons. This is inside-baseball stuff, but to the manager it means a lot. Girardi believes it translates to better pitching.

3.) NOT ONLY HOMERS, CLUTCH HOMERS: Martin hit some big homers. In Game 1 of the ALDS against the Orioles in October, he nailed a solo shot that gave the Yankees the lead in the ninth. He hit 21 homers in the regular season and it is in question if Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart can even combine for half that many. Martin's .211 average will be something that can be matched, but there is no doubt he was still a bigger threat at the plate than Stewvelli will be. In September/October of '12, Martin had an .OPS of .886 and was one of the team's best hitters.

4.) GOOD MEDIA GUY: "Who cares?" you ask. Well, this isn't the biggest deal in the world, but there is a reason that New York, Boston and Philly are different than other cities. It is not the aggressiveness of the media -- though that is part of it -- it is the sheer volume. Martin was a go-to-guy in the Yankees clubhouse, which takes a lot of pressure off of other players. It does help that the catcher can act as one of the team's spokesman. This attribute is worth something in terms of clubhouse dynamics over a very long season.

QUESTION: WILL THE YANKEES MISS RUSSELL MARTIN?

Countdown: 17 days to spring training

January, 26, 2013
1/26/13
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We continue our march to February 12, the day pitchers and catchers report to Yankees spring training camp in Tampa. Each day between now and then, Andrew Marchand, Mark Simon and I will present a list of specific issues facing the Yankees this season.

Today, we look at the three-headed monster known as Stew Rominelii. The team is counting on him to replace Russell Martin behind the plate.


FIVE REASONS WHY THE YANKEES WILL BE OK WITH A COMMITTEE OF CATCHERS

1. RUSSELL MARTIN LIVED BELOW THE MENDOZA-LINE IN 2012
In case you've forgotten, or had your memory blurred by his decent September, the Yankees starting catcher did not get his batting average above .200 for good until Sept. 5, in the 136th game of the season. By contrast, Chris Stewart was up to .269 by mid-August, in admittedly a much smaller sample size. But the guy's never had more than 162 ABs in a season. Let's see what he can do if given a full slate of plate appearances. And while Francisco Cervelli may not have much pop in his bat, he put up a more-than-respectable .271 BA and .359 OBP in 93 games in 2010.

2. THERE AREN'T MANY YOGI BERRAS OUT THERE
Or Jorge Posadas, for that matter. Yankee fans have been extremely lucky to often have an offensive force behind the plate, but traditionally, teams look for a defensive minded-catcher. Any hitting they get out of the position is considered a bonus. Martin was a very good defensive catcher and so is Stewart. Cervelli works hard back there and has a good arm but his footwork needs improvement. Austin Romine, who has yet to play an entire season of AAA ball due to a back injury last year, must be considered a longshot in this race. He comes with the reputation of a solid defensive catcher and a so-so bat. All three fit the mold favored by Joe Girardi, who in case you have forgotten was a pretty good with the glove, not so hot with the bat.

3. THERE HAD TO BE A REASON WHY CC SABATHIA DIDN'T THROW TO MARTIN FOR MOST OF THE SEASON
Despite all the denials, you've got to figure there was more to Girardi's decision to separate his ace from his No. 1 catcher from April to September. It's possible, that in spite of his athleticism and quickness pouncing on balls hit in front of the plate, there was something about the way Martin called a game, or handled his pitchers, that didn't sit right with Sabathia. (Some Yankee pitchers haven't been crazy about Cervelli's "enthusiasm,'' either. Freddy Garcia once said, "The catcher needs to calm down out there.'') Stewart is a steady hand back there who the pitchers, especially, the No. 1 guy, seem to trust.

4. IT'S A YOUNG MAN'S GAME
Although Martin is a year younger than Stewart, it always felt as if his body was on the verge of giving out, especially late in the season. He played hard all the time and it seemed to wear on him down the stretch. And certainly his history -- missing a big chunk of the 2010 season after a hip injury with L.A., after which he has never been the same hitter -- must have factored into the Yankees decision not offer Martin a long-term deal.

5. GARY SANCHEZ MIGHT ONLY BE A YEAR OR TWO AWAY
And if you buy the hype, the next Posada -- or even Berra -- is right around the corner.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think the Yankees can survive the season with the committee of Chris, Fran and (maybe) Austin behind the plate? Or should Brian Cashman be looking for help?

Mission accomplished, so far

November, 29, 2012
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THE NEWS: Colleague Jayson Stark reports Mariano Rivera's deal will be be done in the next 24 hours. That is good news for Mo as he celebrates his 43rd birthday today.

RAMIFICATIONS: Well, as Brian Cashman rappels off a building on Friday morning, he will know he is set up as well as he could have hoped for the Winter Meetings.

Cashman checks off Rivera's name after already taking care of Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte.

NEXT:If I were Russell Martin's agent, I would be patient right now. I would let Mike Napoli come off the board and then I would be the No. 1 catching option. Martin is a better defender than Napoli, but Napoli, who also plays first, is a better hitter and hence is expected to receive a larger contract.

The Pirates, Rangers, Mariners and Red Sox are the known teams that have shown interest in prying Martin away from the Yankees. If Napoli leaves Texas, Martin would figure to have more leverage with the Yankees, Pirates and Rangers. So if I were Martin, I would let this drag out until Napoli signs and then I would get my best, final offers from each team and make a decision. Martin is in a great position; especially for a guy who hit .211 last year.

Cashman has compared Martin to Thurman Munson, so you know he wants to keep him.

RIGHT FIELD: This seems like Ichiro Suzuki's spot to lose, but maybe Cashman has something else up his sleeve. The injury-prone Grady Sizemore could be worth a flyer. He would fit the Yankees' M.O. of going after guys who have had big numbers, but have regressed.

QUESTION OF THE AFTERNOON: Who's had a better Yankee career, Mo or the Captain?

Yankees free agents, club options

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
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Here are the Yankee players who will either be free agents, or have club options on their serivices for next year:

FREE AGENTS

Nick Swisher
Russell Martin
Hiroki Kuroda
Andy Pettitte
Mariano Rivera
Ichiro Suzuki
Raul Ibanez
Derek Lowe
Eric Chavez
Andruw Jones
Freddy Garcia

CLUB OPTIONS

Robinson Cano ($14 million or $2 million buyout)
Curtis Granderson ($13 million, $2 million buyout)

PLAYER OPTION

Rafael Soriano (owed $14 million for 2013, or can take $1.5 million buyout and become a free agent).

How many of these guys would you bring back?

Notebook: Missing opportunities

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
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The Yankees aren't tied in this series because of a lack of quality pitching.

Starters CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were tremendous in the first two games of the ALDS in Baltimore, but the Yankees nearly wasted both of their excellent outings by struggling offensively. While the Yankees woke up in the ninth inning Sunday to capitalize on Sabathia's performance, the bats went silent for Pettitte on Monday and the Yankees are now tied in the series 1-1 instead of up 2-0.

"You don't want to miss those opportunities," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on a conference call Tuesday. "We had a chance to win that game. We didn't get it done. So now it comes to the best two out of three, and we need to get it done. "

Sabathia tossed 8 2/3 innings of two-run ball in Game 1 to earn the win. Pettitte was tagged with the loss for seven innings of three-run ball. While the starters have kept Baltimore's lineup in check, the Yankees' offense has also been held down and hasn't given the pitchers much to work with.

Excluding the five-run outburst in the ninth inning Sunday, the Yankees have totaled four runs in the other 17 innings of the series. Unless the Yankees start hitting and capitalizing on their good pitching, they could potentially find themselves squandering great outings like they did on Monday.

HOLD ON LATE: Including the postseason, the Orioles are now 10-10 vs. the Yankees this year as they've emerged from the cellar of the AL East. Girardi credits the Orioles with an improvement in their pitching and ability to close out games late, as evident in Monday's 3-2 win, as reasons for their improvements this season.

"I think they're a talented group, number one. It's a pitching staff that knows how to pitch behind in the count, pitch ahead in the count. They've had a very good bullpen throughout the course of the year," Girardi said.

"They're a team that hits the ball out of the ballpark. It's how their score a lot of their runs. They've been very good in tight ballgames, so they're used to playing them. But it's a talented group. And to me the biggest difference is the improvement in their pitching staff from last year to this year, where they've always had some talented position players, but they've lost some games late at times and some tough games, and those games they're winning this year.
MARTIN CLUTCH: Russell Martin had the biggest hit for the Yankees thus far this postseason, hitting the go-ahead homer in Game 1, and his manager described his as a "clutch player." Martin is hitting .167 in the series, but has an on-base percentage of .375.

"I think he's always been a clutch player, and I think he's always relished the moment, and he's very talented and very skilled, and it has shown up, especially in the last month of the season in some of the walk off homers that he's had for us," Girardi said.

First Pitch: Russell Martin departin'?

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
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A month ago, the answer among Yankees fans would have been a unanimous and resounding yes. And admit it, more than a few of you would have volunteered to drive him to the airport.

But now, with Russell Martin hitting as well as anyone on the team not named Robinson Cano, there might be a shift in some of that thinking.

In fact, as bad a season as Martin may be having at the plate -- and my column from last night explores that, as well as the September Surprise he is staging now -- his agent has had even a worse one, having cut off negotiations in spring training when the Yankees were willing to give Martin a four-year deal at about $6 million a year.

Now, if Russell Martin is to be a Yankee in 2013, and beyond, it will be at a much lower price tag.

The Yankees, for their part, have always seemed to want Martin, whose contract expires at the end of this season, back next year.

Unlike many of the fans, they know that the kind of offensive production the Yankees had become accustomed to from Jorge Posada, a borderline Hall of Famer, was an anomaly among catchers.

For every Posada or Yogi Berra or Mike Piazza, there are a lot more Russell Martins. Most managers, and especially managers like Joe Girardi, a former catcher himself, want defense and the ability to handle a pitching staff out of their catchers.

Anything they do at the plate is gravy. That is why the Yankees were willing to give up on Jesus Montero, because his deficiencies behind the plate were too great even for his promising bat to overcome.

Girardi likes Martin as a defensive catcher and so does GM Brian Cashman. And they’ve got to love what they’re seeing now, an offensive resurgence that reveals a strength of character not many players would show after the five horrendous months that preceded it.

The Question of the Day, however, is directed at you: Do you think the Yankees should offer Russell Martin a multiyear deal this winter? And if not, who or what, do you consider a feasible alternative? Let us know below.

Up now: My column on Martin’s big game in the Yankees' 11-4 win over the Blue Jays last night.

Coming soon: Lineups and all sorts of pregame news, especially on the status of Robinson Cano, who suffered a left hand injury when hit by Brett Cecil in the sixth inning last night. Cano went for an X-ray and the Yankees will give us the results today, probably soon after the clubhouse opens at 10 a.m.

That, of course, will be followed by another crucial game in this white-knuckle AL East race: Andy Pettitte (5-3, 2.72) facing LHP Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.76), in Game 3 of this four-game series, first pitch at 1:07 p.m. I’ll be there so check in all day long, and as always, thanks for reading.

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 2, A's 1

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
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WHAT IT MEANS: Russell Martin ended Friday night's game in dramatic fashion.

The Yankees catcher drilled a Sean Doolittle fastball into the left-field seats in the bottom of the 10th to lift the Yankees to a 2-1 win against the Oakland A's.

It was Martin's second walk-off homer of the season and the Yankees' third walk-off win this year. Overall, Joe Girardi's club has won six straight.

THE GOOD: CC Sabathia looked like an ace again.

The Yanks' big lefty shut down the A's on Friday night, tossing eight shutout innings in the win. He gave up just three hits, struck out 11 and walked two.

Sabathia had struggled in his previous four starts, going 0-3 with a 4.67 ERA. In the nine starts that preceded that stretch, Sabathia was 6-0 with a 3.25 ERA.

He looked like the ace of old on Friday. His velocity was solid and his breaking ball was sharp. His first eight strikeouts came on the breaking ball.

ICHIRO THE GREAT: Ichiro Suzuki's hot streak continued. He went 2-for-3 with a stolen base. He is 11-for-15 over the past four games. Unreal.

CAPTAIN'S HIT STREAK: Derek Jeter served as the Yanks' DH on Friday night as Girardi decided to play him a half day so he could rest his injured ankle. Jeter went 1-for-4 with a single to extend his hitting streak to a season-high 15 games.

NUNEZ FLASHES LEATHER: Eduardo Nunez is often criticized for his shortcomings in the field. But on Friday night, he made a spectacular play to end the seventh. Sabathia walked Chris Carter after striking out the first two A's. Josh Donaldson followed with a sharp liner that Nunez dove to get on a line to end the inning.

THE BAD: For the first time in a while, Rafael Soriano showed some signs of vulnerability. The Yankee closer coughed up a one-run lead in the ninth on Friday by giving up a monster home run to pinch hitter Brandon Moss.

After two walks (one intentional), Soriano bounced back by striking out Seth Smith to end the inning. Overall, Soriano has done a fantastic job in place of the injured Mariano Rivera.

So, if you're looking to blame someone, I'd point the finger at the Yankees' offense, which couldn't get anything going against Jarrod Parker (8 IP, 6 hits, 1 R, 7 Ks)

WHAT'S NEXT: Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.85 ERA) faces lefty Travis Blackley (5-3, 3.36 ERA) on Saturday. In the finale on Sunday, it's Hiroki Kuroda (14-10, 3.26) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (6-1, 2.45).

QUESTION OF THE NIGHT: Has your confidence in Sabathia been restored?

Martin gets hot at right time

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
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Russell Martin chose the right month to get hot.

Martin continued his torrid September by hitting a pivotal three-run homer in the Yankees' 6-4 win over the Rays on Sunday. Martin, who went 1-for-4, is hitting .291 this month but is batting .343 over his last 10 games with three homers and 11 RBIs.

"It's a good time to heat up, September," Martin said. "That's always a good time. From here on I feel like it's one-day playoffs for us. We just gotta keep grinding and if I can stay hot that's great. Hopefully I can carry it through all the way."

As he found himself stuck below .200 for most of the year, Martin always believed the law of averages would take hold. He had perhaps run into some bad luck but always believed he'd eventually find himself back over the Mendoza line. He had never hit lower than .237 in any season.

It took until Sept. 5 for him to get above that dreaded mark, but he hasn't looked back since. He's successfully hit in nine of the last 10 games.

"I just feel like I'm seeing the ball well and that's really it," Martin said. "Pitch recognition is there and I feel like I'm swinging at good pitches and I'm striking out a bit more than I want to. Producing some big runs lately, I'll take it."

Sunday, with the Yankees leading 2-0 and two men on in the third inning, Martin went deep to right to give the team a 5-0 lead. Those runs proved to be crucial as Tampa Bay would make a late rally.

Martin, who has 17 homers, is now two shy of tying his career-high set back in 2007.

"At that point I'm just looking for a good pitch to hit over the plate," Martin said of his at-bat. "It was a fastball, maybe a little bit up, and I tried to put my best swing on it and really was just trying to think of scoring that run from third base. It's a short porch out there so just got enough of it."

While he might not finish with the numbers he wants, Martin's hot streak has boosted him to .209 and gives him 47 RBIs. His teammates have noticed that Martin has found a way to be at his best when the team has needed it the most.

"It's been huge," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said of Martin's production. "He's been a great help for us lately."

W2W4: Yankees at Orioles (Sept. 7)

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
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Phil Hughes Stats To Watch
Hughes has lost two of his three starts against the Orioles this season, and not surprisingly the bugaboo was a pair of homers in each of those games.

Hughes is 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA in seven starts against the Orioles in which he didn't allow a home run. He's 1-3 with a 8.78 ERA in the six starts in which he has allowed at least one home run against them.

OriolesYankeesThursday's hero, Adam Jones has a history of struggles against Hughes. He's 6-for-31 against him, including 2-for-23 over the last three seasons.

Of the 21 times Hughes has gotten Jones out in that span, he has been most effective at finishing him off inside. Nine of the 23 outs came on pitches over the inner-third of the plate, or further inside on Jones.

How do you get Mark Reynolds out?
The current Orioles roster has nine home runs in 156 at-bats against Hughes. Reynolds is the only one with two. He's 3-for-9 in his career against Hughes.

Reynolds has eight home runs in his last seven games and three multi-homer games in his last four games against the Yankees.

How do you get him out?

The Yankees have actually done the right thing. They've attacked Reynolds' weakness on the outer-half of the plate. In his last four games against the Yankees, they've thrown him 66 pitches, 44 of which have been to the outer-half of the plate.

The problems are two-fold. One is that Reynolds has three hits against those pitches in this span (he's typically a sub-.200 hitter when an at-bat ends with that pitch) and is missing on a lower percentage of his swings (29 percent) than he usually does(40 percent season rate against outer-half).

The other: On pitches thrown to the inner-half, Reynolds has twice as many homers (four) as he does swings-and-misses (two) in those four games.

Playing the Binder
It will be interesting to see where Russell Martin hits in this lineup after his success in the No. 5 spot against Matt Moore on Wednesday.

Martin is 5-for-his-last-39 against left-handed pitching, but was 2-for-4 against Moore and reliever Jake McGee.

Martin is 1-for-6, albeit with two deep flyouts and a reached-on-error vs. Chen in his career.

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Day
In case you missed it, Alex Rodriguez played in his 2,500th game last night. He and Derek Jeter are the first teammates to have played at least 2,500 games in the majors since Barry Bonds and Omar Vizquel (2007 Giants).

Rodriguez, who hit his 299th home run as a Yankee on July 23, will likely become the sixth player hit 300 home runs for the club; he'll join Babe Ruth (659), Mickey Mantle (536), Lou Gehrig (493), Joe DiMaggio (361) and Yogi Berra (358). The Yankees are currently tied with the Braves and Red Sox for the most such players in history.

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 6, Rays 4

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
10:19
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Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: That the Yankees' world, having been knocked briefly off-kilter, is back spinning on its axis at least for the start of the crucial four-game series this weekend in Baltimore. The Rays give away the game and the Yankees are glad to take it, avoiding a sweep, a four-game losing streak and the humiliation of having to share the lead in the AL East for another night with the Orioles.

Elliot Mess: With Yankees at second and third, one out and the infield way, way in, Rays 2B Elliot Johnson got exactly what he wanted, a Derek Jeter grounder hit right at him. But with Ichiro Suzuki coming home, Johnson threw way, way wide of C Jose Lobaton, a two-base error that allowed both runners to score and gave the Yankees the 6-4 lead that became their margin of victory.

D-Rob socks it to Rays: David Robertson traded in his customary knee-high black socks for long pants pulled down to his shoetops. With his new look, he got four huge outs, including a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts, to deliver a two-run lead for Rafael Soriano to protect in the ninth.

How's that for range?: With Rays at first and second and two out in the seventh, Jeter ran down Matt Joyce's bloop in short left-center and made a potentially game-saving catch to preserve the 6-4 Yankees lead.

Long overdue: A day after hitting coach Kevin Long said the big-hitting Yankees might try bunting to kick-start the offense, Jayson Nix laid down a good one to move the runners up to second and third in the seventh inning.

No respect at all: Once again, an opposing manager walked Robinson Cano to pitch to Alex Dangerfield, er, Rodriguez, and once again, he got away with it. Joe Maddon chose to pitch to A-Rod with runners on first and third and two out, and his judgment was rewarded when Rodriguez grounded the first pitch to shortstop for an inning-ending forceout.

Hard to hold: The Yankees had the lead twice tonight, 3-1 after 3½ innings, and 4-3 after 5½, and gave it back both times, which should come as no surprise. In 20 of their previous 31 losses, they had held the lead only to lose it, and had blown leads in six of their nine previous losses to the Rays this season. Fortunately for them, they were able to hold their final lead tonight for two innings to snap their three-game losing streak.

High RISP, high reward: The Yankees got two timely hits in the fourth inning, A-Rod's double that scored Jeter from second, and Russell Martin's ground-rule double that scored Cano and A-Rod, to take a 3-1 lead. For a brief time, they were actually 2-for-2 w/RISP.

Hir-OK: Kuroda was just OK tonight -- 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R -- but hurt himself in the fifth inning by walking Sam Fuld with two out, and then, after Desmond Jennings singled, being unable to put Ben Zobrist away despite getting ahead 0-2. Kuroda eventually left a sinker up, which Zobrist smacked into right-center; with the runners going, both scored easily to tie the game at 3.

Russell shows muscle: Martin broke the 3-3 tie with two out in the top of the sixth, muscling a 2-2 fastball from Moore into the left-field seats, his 15th of the season. He also knocked in three of the four Yankees runs. Best of all, the two-hit night nudged his BA above .200 -- to .203! -- for the first time since June 22.

DJ3:16: Jeter's fifth-inning double was his third hit of the night, giving him 16 three-hit games --16! -- this season. Jeter has five hits in his last seven at-bats and his recent 4-for-32 skid, which only ended last night, already seems far in the past.

Small ball, big run: As if they had been eavesdropping on Long the night before, the Rays scratched out the first run of the game on a single, a sacrifice bunt and another single in the first inning off Kuroda.

Small ball, big fail: The Rays got a little too cute for their own good in the second inning when, with runners at second and third after a single by Jeff Keppinger and a double over Curtis Granderson's head by Lobaton, Joe Maddon had Johnson lay down a bunt. Kuroda fielded it flawlessly, looked back both runners and easily got the out at first. Could have been a safety squeeze or perhaps someone missed a sign. Either way, a wasted out and when Fuld grounded out to end the inning, a blown opportunity.

What's next: Showdown in Baltimore, the first of four games with the upstart Orioles, David Phelps (3-4, 3.13) in what is no doubt the biggest game of his brief major league career, facing RHP Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.54), first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

The matchups the rest of the weekend: Phil Hughes (13-12, 4.18) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (12-8, 3.79) on Friday night; CC Sabathia (13-4, 3.42) vs. LHP Joe Saunders (7-11, 4.26) on Saturday night and Freddy Garcia (7-6, 5.09) vs. LHP Zach Britton (5-1, 4.15) on Sunday afternoon.

Kuroda's gem is team's best this season

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
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Hiroki KurodaMike Stobe/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda's two-hit gem tamed Texas on Tuesday night.
Hiroki Kuroda set the bar for the Yankees' rotation Tuesday night.

"This is a very good lineup he just shut down," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after Kuroda tossed a complete game shutout against Texas. "To not give up a hit until the seventh inning and only give up two hits and give us a complete game -- probably our best pitching performance this year."

Kuroda shined liked no Yankees pitcher has this year as he gave up just two hits in a 3-0 win. The veteran carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning as he recorded his second shutout of the year, the first Yankees to record a pair since 2005.

"I had to regroup myself a little bit (after the hit) but as I always say, me having a complete game or a shutout is not really important here," Kuroda said through a translator. "The most important thing is for the team to win and that's what we were able to accomplish today. That's why I'm happy."

As CC Sabathia has battled injuries this season, Kuroda arguably has been the team's best pitcher. He hasn't missed a start and is now 11-8 with a 3.06 ERA in his first season in the American League despite struggling in his first few starts.

Tuesday, facing arguably the best lineup in baseball, Kuroda dominated.

Through the first six innings, he held Texas without a hit and the Rangers managed just one ball out of the infield. They kept grounding out, especially to second base, as Kuroda used his slider to great effect. He said that it was one of the best sliders he had all season and thanked catcher Russell Martin, who returned the praise.

"This is a guy that likes big games and has done well in the playoffs, he's pitched well in big games," said Martin, who played with Kuroda in Los Angeles. "That just shows what type of character he has. He's a competitor and he enjoys the spotlight."

With the excitement in the stadium rising with each out, Kuroda's chance at history vanished in the seventh as Elvis Andrus beat out an infield single to shortstop. The 37-year-old received a standing ovation for his effort, and didn't let the hit affect him.

He gave up just one more hit the rest of the game and now leads baseball in games pitched of at least seven innings with no earned runs allowed with six.

"I feel bad I let down all the fans who were expecting me to throw a no-hitter but I was able to regroup myself and just focus on every pitch I threw toward the end. I was just glad that we were able to win," Kuroda said.

Kuroda's teammates raved about his performance Tuesday night, mentioning how he performed against one of baseball's top teams. Outfielder Nick Swisher was one of those impressed teammates after seeing Kuroda neutralize the high-octane lineup.

"Hiro is my hero," Swisher said.

Kuroda pitched well, but Felix was better

August, 4, 2012
8/04/12
4:56
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Hiroki Kuroda only surrendered one run Saturday afternoon.

That made him the second-best starter in the game.

Despite a great outing, Kuroda was outdueled by Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in the Yankees' 1-0 loss at Yankee Stadium. Kuroda gave up just one run on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings, but the Yankees managed just two hits against Hernandez, a former Cy Young winner.


William Perlman/US PresswireHiroki Kuroda lost for the just the second time since late May.


"Obviously he's a great pitcher and I just wanted to minimize my damage," Kuroda said through a translator. "I believe this offense is going to come through at the end, and for him to pitch as long as he was pitching, obviously he was going to throw a few mistake pitches -- and he didn't today. That's a little bit frustrating, but it is what it is."

Kuroda has been pitching quite well for the Yankees over the past two months, and he continued that Saturday against Seattle. The Mariners were able to put runners in scoring position against the veteran, but Kuroda worked his way out of such jams. Seattle was just 1-for-7 against Kuroda with runners in scoring position and finished 1-for-9 on the day.

His only blemish, which proved to be the biggest at-bat in the game, was in the second inning as he served up a two-out single to Mike Carp that gave Seattle an 1-0 edge. Catcher Russell Martin said Kuroda wanted to "front door" a sinker but it ended up too much over the plate, as Carp drove it the other way to plate the only run on the day.

"I wanted to attack aggressively and rather than give up a walk, I wanted to attack the zone," Kuroda said. "He got a hit. That's what it was."

While the loss dropped Kuroda to 10-8 on the year, the pitcher has been the victim of a lack of run support over his last two games. Against Boston on July 29, he gave up just two runs over eight inning but was saddled with a no-decision. Sunday, he fell for the first time in the nine games when he's allowed one earned run or less.

"It's baseball. We're battling out there, we're trying to score runs for him. He just has to keep doing what he's doing," Martin said of the lack of runs. "He can't grab a bat and grab a helmet and go create some offense. He's got to just keep pitching, and I think he's going to just keep doing that.

"Obviously you want the (win) but as long as he's pitching well and he's doing those things, that's all he needs to focus on."

Notebook: Swisher, Pettitte and Russell

July, 30, 2012
7/30/12
6:17
PM ET
Nick Swisher will once again be the designated hitter Monday night, as the Yankees try to give the right fielder as much time as possible to heal before returning to the field. Swisher last played in the outfield on July 20, and was in the starting lineup for the first time on Sunday, also as the DH, since suffering his strained left hip flexor.

"Just from some of the discussions I've had with him tells me to continue to DH him and I might DH him every day in the next three days. I'm not sure," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'll continue to discuss it with him and see how he feels."

Swisher missed six straight games with the injury before pinch-hitting Saturday against Boston. He went 2-for-4 Sunday with a pair of singles. Both he and Girardi had talked about the possibility of Swisher being back in right field on Monday, but caution was taken instead. Swisher said he feels fine and doesn't believe he's had any kind of setback.

"Right now, with the way everything's going, we can afford to do this. Why wouldn't we, I guess?" Swisher said. "As soon as we get back on the field playing we don't want to leave the rest of the time. If we can soak up a couple of DH (days) like yesterday and today, then maybe tomorrow go out in the field depending on how everything feels and go from there."

SETBACK? Girardi disagreed with the notion that starter Andy Pettitte suffered a setback as he rehabs his fractured left fibula. The lefty stopped his throwing program to relieve swelling, and said his doctor had hoped his leg would have healed a little bit better by now.

"We've said all along this is a 60-day injury. At least. You can think about it. If you don't pick up a baseball and throw off a mound for at least six weeks, 60 days is pretty tough to get back by because you're talking 42 days where you have to build a guy back up," Girardi said. "As far as a setback, I wouldn't call it a setback. I think it's part of the healing process."

Pettitte could return on Aug. 28 at the earliest, but Girardi doesn't expect to see the lefty that early. Pettitte was 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in nine starts this season.

"I think he's going to be back in September. I think 60 days was kind of pushing it, I do. And that's why we put him on [the 60-day DL]," Girardi said. "If we thought he was going to be ready in 50 days for sure, we wouldn't have put him on the 60-day DL."

RUSSELL OUT: Despite being the sole source of the Yankees' offense Sunday night, catcher Russell Martin is sitting Monday, as the Yankees are pairing starter Freddy Garcia with Chris Stewart behind the plate. Stewart has caught all five of Garcia's starts since he has returned to the rotation, and the veteran is 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA spanning those outings.

Robertson can't work around leadoff walk

July, 30, 2012
7/30/12
1:34
AM ET
Even Houdini can't work around leadoff walks.

Yankees reliever David Robertson surrendered the game-winning run Sunday after he walked the leadoff batter in the 10th inning of the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Red Sox. Robertson yielded two hits and that base-on-balls in his lone inning of work, as he fell to 1-4 on the season.

"That's what haunts me in that inning, the leadoff walk. Leadoff walks always come back to haunt you," Robertson said. "First pitch (Jarrod) Saltalamacchia swung and I couldn't make a pitch after that."

Entering a 2-2 game, Robertson lost the strike zone against Saltalamacchia and gave him a free pass, committing a cardinal sin in baseball. After getting ahead 0-2 on Will Middlebrooks, which included a controversial foul ball that led to two ejections, Robertson yielded a single.

Then with two on and one out, he became the latest victim of Pedro Ciriaco, as the shortstop blooped an inside fastball to short right to score the go-ahead run.

"It's tough but it's part of the game," Robertson said of the bloop. "You're going to catch bad breaks at times. He hit a good pitch, he hit it where no one could catch it. That's all you can say. It's a tough break and all you can do is be ready for tomorrow."

During Middlebrooks' at-bat, when he squared to bunt and the ball appeared to careen and hit him on the forearm and umpire Brian O'Nora on the leg, the game stopped for several minutes. The two were checked on after being hit by the foul ball, and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine later argued the ruling before both he and Josh Beckett were ejected. Robertson said the delay did not affect him.

"That's part of the game. It happens sometimes," he said. "Not a whole lot you can do about it except you try to remain calm and focused and collected and ready to make a pitch."

KURODA SHINES: The Yankees didn't fall Sunday because of a lack of starting pitching. Veteran Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight fantastic innings and held the Red Sox to just two runs in a no-decision. He's 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA since June 25.

"(He was) resilient, he got a number of double-play balls," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought he pitched a really good game. He gave us a lot of length and did a good job."

In his previous start against Boston on July 6, Kuroda had arguably his worst outing, getting teed up for 10 hits and seven runs. He was much better this time, making just one mistake in the second as he gave up a two-run double to Ryan Sweeney. The veteran induced four double plays in his eight innings, including an inning-ending one with the Yankees down 2-0 with runners on the corners and one out in the sixth.

MARTIN STEPS UP: All the Yankees' offense came courtesy of Russell Martin, who blasted a home run in the seventh to slice it to 2-1, and then singled in the eighth to tie the game.

"I feel good right now," Martin said. "I feel like I'm seeing the ball well. That's the first key, seeing the ball well. I feel like I'm seeing it nice."

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 6, Blue Jays 3

July, 16, 2012
7/16/12
10:14
PM ET


Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: That teams that live by the home run, well ... live by the home run. The two most powerful teams in Major League Baseball face off in one of the most homer-happy parks in the country, and guess who comes out on top? The Yankees re-teach the Toronto Blue Jays one of the oldest lessons in the book: You don't slug with a slugger.

Down goes Frasor! Down goes Frasor! Raul Ibañez crushed a 3-1 pitch from Jason Frasor into the second deck in right with the bases loaded in the eighth inning to bust open a 2-2 game, his 12th homer of the season and the 10th grand slam of his career. Ibañez, who looked pitiful in spring training, now has one RBI for each of his 40 years, the same number of ribbies as Alex Rodriguez in 12 fewer games and nearly 100 fewer ABs.

Hughes-Phil outing: Phil Hughes bounced back from his sub-par effort against the Red Sox last Saturday to throw seven strong innings tonight, allowing just four hits and two runs, one on a home run by Adam Lind in the fourth inning. The HR was the 20th allowed by Hughes this season, tying him with teammate Ivan Nova and three others for second-most in MLB, but it was also the first he had allowed since June 20.

O Canada! Canadian Russell Martin showed Toronto the Bronx in the second inning, blasting a two-out shot -- on the ninth pitch of an epic at-bat -- into the lower right-field seats. It was Martin's first homer since June 10, when he hit two against the Mets.

Un-Wise: Dewayne Wise, inserted into the game as a defensive replacement for Ibañez, botched J. P. Arencibia's bloop single in the ninth, allowing Toronto's final run to score. But no matter; Rafael Soriano, pressed into emergency duty, got the final two outs to earn his 23rd save in 24 chances.

Stiff: Alex Rodriguez's neck, that is. A-Rod was switched from third base to DH just before game time after suffering what the Yankees called "a slight stiff neck'' following batting practice. Stiff neck notwithstanding, A-Rod stroked a double into the left-center gap in the third inning and scored on Robby Cano's double past a diving Jose Bautista.

Robby on a roll: Cano's third-inning RBI double extended his hitting streak to 19 games, a career high.

Robby on the spot: Cano also made the jaw-dropping play of the game, plucking the carom of a ball that glanced off Mark Teixeira's glove out of the air and firing to David Robertson to nip Colby Rasmus at first leading off the eighth inning.

Tex's two-step: Teixeira executed some fancy dance steps in trying to avoid a Frasor pitch that homed in on his right foot with runners at first and third in the eighth, but to no avail; he got hit by it, costing the Yankees a run when the ball skipped away from Arencibia. Had it missed Teixeira, A-Rod would have scored from third. Two batters later, it turned out not to matter when Ibañez cleared the wall, and the bases, with the game-winning grand slam.

Joey Rats! Jose Bautista, the second-leading HR hitter in MLB with 27, swung so hard in fouling a Robertson pitch deep into the left-field seats he wound up hurting himself, clutching at his left wrist after the swing and leaving the game. Ben Francisco completed Joey Bats' at-bat and worked out a walk.

Tomorrow: The return of CC Sabathia after three weeks on the disabled list with a left groin strain. Sabathia (9-3, 3.45) faces LHP Brett Cecil (2-1, 6.75) in the middle game of this three-game set, first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .269
HRM. Teixeira 21
RBIJ. Ellsbury 67
RB. Gardner 81
OPSB. Gardner .755
ERAH. Kuroda 3.81
SOM. Tanaka 135