Game 88: BAL vs. NYY — Newtown Day, All-Stars, & rare Mo loss

Today, the Yankees honored the city and families of Newtown, Connecticut, to honor the memories of those lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy in December, as well as the first responders. They invited over 4000 residents of Newtown to today’s game and began the day with a moment of silence as the video board displayed the names of all the victims. The Newtown Youth Voices choir sang the national anthem, and the near-capacity crowd responded with standing ovation. Behind the choir, the Sandy Hook Fire Department and Newtown Police Department provided the color guard. Connecticut is part of the “tri-state area” that is well-known for being the strong Yankee home fan base (New Jersey and New York complete the area), so a day at the ball park with family and friends is a great way to celebrate the lives of those lost. (Newtown’s first selectwoman spoke with the press before the game.)

It’s unfortunate that the Yankees couldn’t deliver a save on this hot Sunday in the Bronx against Baltimore, but nothing beats Sunday afternoons at the park. In the 2nd inning, Eduardo Nunez (again, so happy he’s back!) notched a sacrifice fly to score Zoilo Almonte, and the Yankees sat on top of the scoreboard 1-0 for most of the game. Starter Hiroki Kuroda protected the Yankees early lead for 7 full innings, allowing only 3 hits, no runs, a walk, and 4 strikeouts, and throwing only 88 pitches. It was really a pretty game for a while. David Robertson came in to pitch the 8th flawlessly (more on him later).

And this of course brings in Mariano Rivera to close the game, except he doesn’t. In only his 2nd blown save of the season, Rivera somehow has an off day. With one out, he allows a single and perfectly places a strike for the Orioles big power-hitter to hit a long fly ball deep into the left centerfield seats for Baltimore’s automatic score of 2-1, which would quickly become the final score. A strikeout for 2 outs and the next batter hits a ground-rule double, so Rivera intentionally walks another strong hitter before going after a former teammate to get the final out and earn his 2nd loss of the season. A rare instance indeed from the greatest closer in MLB history, but not even the great Mariano Rivera is perfect all the time. I think sometimes we forget that.

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Mariano Rivera, pitching with high socks today
Vote for David Robertson for ASG
via espn.com

Yesterday, the All-Star Game rosters were announced. The Yankees have only two representatives this year — Robinson Cano is the starting 2nd baseman, and Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. The ASG also picks 5 further players who can make the roster and asks everyone to vote on it. On the AL list is David Robertson. If anyone in the Yankees bullpen deserves to be in the ASG, it’s Robertson, who is by far one of the best set-up men in the entire league. You can vote for him online as many times as you want. The entire team is getting behind this vote, some even wearing high socks (the socks up to the knees over the pants) in his honor, just like Robertson does every day; Rivera donned his high socks today for this reason. #HighSocksForVotes is the Twitter trend to follow and vote.

Also, yesterday and today, the big news in another part of Yankee-land is Derek Jeter’s rehab with AAA Scranton. Last night, he played shortstop for 5 innings, with 3 at-bats (0-for-2, with a walk and simple fielding grounder). Today, he served as designated hitter with 4 at-bats (1-for-2, with 2 walks, a single, and a run scored). He will start at shortstop today. It should be worth noting that Jeter also seems to be a measure of good luck, if you will, as the RailRiders have won their last 4 games in a row and are now just one game under .500.

And keep your heads up, Yankee fans, today’s game might be a loss, but they still took the series from the Orioles, and next week is 4 game series against the Royals and 3 game series against the Twins, both teams fell to the Yankees during their last respective matches. Vote for Robertson, remember Newtown, and pray for those affected by the plane crash in San Francisco yesterday.

Go Yankees!

Game 87: BAL vs. NYY — That’s 6 in a row!

Hello, 2nd place in the AL East! Boy, does that feel better than 4th…

Starter Andy Pettitte certainly didn’t start off so great, but thanks to the Yankees bats and some great defensive teamwork once again, he earned his 6th win of the season. Throwing exactly 100 pitches through 6.2 innings, Pettitte got off to a rough start — a 2-run home run in the 1st, an RBI double in the 2nd, and an RBI single in the 4th. But once he found his stride, the Orioles weren’t able to get past Pettitte or the excellent defense behind him. The bullpen provided excellent reinforcements due to Kelley, Robertson, and (who else) Rivera to keep the Birds away from tacking on any further runs. Rivera also earned his 29th save of the season.

Now, offensively, the Yankees found some holes in Baltimore’s defense once again. In the 2nd inning, a walk and 3 back-to-back singles (Hafner, Almonte, Overbay, Cruz) naturally scored a run (Hafner) thanks to new Yankee Luis Cruz, all with no outs. And that brought up a recently reactivated Eduardo Nunez (more in the injury update below) who proceeded to fly out into a sacrifice double play — ball out in left field, thrown to 3rd to get Overbay out there, but a run scores (Almonte) in the process. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sacrifice double play, so it’s rather interesting to see something you don’t see very often, if ever.)

Then in the 5th, Nunez and Stewart each single, Gardner sacrifice bunts them forward, so Ichiro Suzuki’s single easily scores Nunez. Next up, Robinson Cano singles home Stewart (thanks to a messy catch attempt from the Orioles’ left fielder) to tie up the game at 4-4. This allowed either team to step up and make their play for the win, but it was the Yankees in the next inning. Overbay singles, Cruz sacrifice bunts him to 2nd, and Nunez’s single had Overbay diving over the Orioles’ catcher to tag home and score (what would end up being) the winning run, pinning the score at 5-4 Yankees in the 6th inning.

Really, the heft of today’s offense came from the bottom half of the roster, with Lyle Overbay going 3-for-4, Nunez 2-for-3 with a walk and sacrifice fly, and Stewart with 1-for-2 with 2 walks. But really, with a rare exception from Gardner today, everyone on the starting roster got at least one hit, scored one run, and/or got an RBI.

And while there were quite a few fun defensive maneuvers by the Yankees today, my favorite one came from Ichiro Suzuki in the 5th inning. A short fly ball had him running and sliding in for the catch, which he always does and did today with such grace and dexterity. But when he got up, he realized his cleat pulled up a grass divot from the outfield, he walks to the divot, replaces it in its spot, and uses his cleat to push it back into the grass. That’s what I call taking care of your area. Something about this whole things just made me laugh.

Okay, (part of me really hates that this has become part of my daily blog) injury updates: David Phelps has been put on the 15-day DL with slight forearm strain; he won’t be throwing anything for 10 days (so until the All-Star Break). And they finally placed Mark Teixeira on the 60-day DL; Teixeira will be out for the rest of the season with a surgically repaired arm injury (tendon sheath tear). In that spot, they were able to activate Eduardo Nunez, who has been stalled in his return due to extended “stiffness in his rib cage”. Today, I’m guessing everyone is celebrating his return because he was on fire in his at-bats and really fluid at short stop.

In AAA Scranton, Derek Jeter will play his first rehab game tonight, something which helped sell-out the minor league stadium; he will play 5 innings at short stop and lead off the batting order, and he seems rather positive about tonight’s game. Personally, I think he’s just really glad to actually playing baseball again and will do anything to get back with the team as soon as humanly possible. Also, Michael Pineda is also scheduled to start tonight’s Scranton game as pitcher; he is still trying to find his way to his debut as a Yankee after surgery and a very long rehab since being acquired by the Yankees in January 2012. If you are interested in watching/following tonight’s game, you can find the link here. (Scroll down to the 7:05 Lehigh- Scranton game. The game starts and will available to watch online at 7:05 pm EST.)

Go Yankees!

Game 86: BAL vs. NYY — Wells-done rally & SuperNova

Starter Ivan Nova threw all 9 innings and really proved how outstanding a pitcher he really is. He’s had to fight for his job as a starter since before the season began, even through a stint in the minors, and tonight he showed that he is worth the starter’s position (and not just as a fill-in for Kuroda, who has been cleared to resume throwing activity again). Tonight, back in the Bronx and against the Baltimore Orioles, Nova threw just 102 pitches over those 9 innings, allowing just 3 hits and a walk and striking out a remarkable 11 batters (those are like CC numbers). And the only runs he allowed was a 2-run home run in the 2nd, but nothing else. That’s right, with a single exception, none of the Orioles could figure out Nova’s “supernova-ness”. Tonight was SuperNova.

And honestly, the Yankees played well both offensively and defensively. It was the team in action from the first pitch all the way through the final hit. In the top of the 4th, the Orioles hit what should have been a single but ended up as a 3-4-1 out thanks to great base coverage by Cano and Nova. And Nova’s quick reaction in the 8th inning jumped up to get a really nice out to end the inning.

Now, offensively in the 4th, Wells singled and Overbay walked, which allowed Luis Cruz to single deep into left field and score Wells for the Yankees first run of the evening. They went into the bottom of the 9th inning  down 2-1 to the Orioles, with Nova watching and praying that the offense could turn his outing from the loss it was becoming into a win by some miracle. And then it was a miracle (probably due in part to the 40,000-ish Yankees fans in the stadium).

Wells walk-off
Vernon Wells, a walk-off hero
via nj.com

The fifth pitcher for the Orioles took the mound and allowed David Adams a nice single. Then Brett Gardner bunts a really soft, sloppy bunt but beats out the throw because the Orioles pitcher can’t seem to hang onto the ball and chase it around the infield grass before making the very late throw to 1st base. Ichiro Suzuki bunts, but this time it’s the Baltimore catcher that is sharp and throws him out at 1st, while Adams and Gardner advance to 3rd and 2nd, respectively. They then intentionally walk Robinson Cano to load the bases. Four pitches later, they walk Travis Hafner, which walks in Adams to tie up the game (and blow whatever save the Orioles thought they had). Oh, and the bases are still loaded with one out. 40,000-ish Yankee fans are on their feet; victory is within reach.

And then it’s Vernon Wells up to bat. On a 2-2 pitch, Wells hits a solid single in the gap between short and 3rd, Gardner scores, and the entire dugout empties to rejoice. 3-2 Yankees final score in a walk-off single. (Another look at the single and celebration here.)

Victory in the Bronx, and that makes 5 games in a row. July is off to a great start.

And in other good news, Derek Jeter was cleared for his rehab assignment, which he will start on Saturday with AAA Scranton. He is currently scheduled for 5 innings at shortstop and have 20 days to complete his rehab assignment. The Yankees have made it clear that Jeter, like many of those on the current DL will need the full 20 days to prove they are fully ready for a daily assignment with the big guys. That 20 days puts him ready for a return at the earliest at the end of this month. This also has Jeter playing with guys he played with in Spring Training, those on the extended roster (some who have already seen Major League playing time), and some outstanding players in the minor league — including Addison Maruszak, Dan Johnson, Melky Mesa, Thomas Neal, Ronnier Mustelier, Corban Joseph, and Walter Ibarra. This kind of rehab certainly gets Jeter ready for the bigs on a higher level of impact and challenge because of the players on the roster. And though the RailRiders aren’t doing so well this season (right now, they are below .500 for their season), they could certainly benefit from a veteran presence, especially one who is known to bond teammates together to improve their teamwork and morale, even in a losing streak or slump.

And one of my favorite times in the Yankee season is coming up next week — HOPE Week. And I’m looking forward to writing about the players’ community outreach and the organizations they will be supporting and partnering with this coming week all around the city. I love the heart of a team that supports in both finances and man-power other people who dedicate their lives to helping people. It’s yet another reason I am proud to be a Yankee fan, and probably my personal favorite reason.

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. MIN — Independence Day Sweep

Flag-Creatures
The Bleacher Creatures proudly honoring America every 7th inning; “Never Forget”
via bleachercreatures.tv

A very happy 237th birthday to the United States! I do hope everyone enjoys a safe and wonderful holiday with their family and friends and remembers what cost the Founding Fathers made by signing the Declaration. They fought for the freedoms, not just for themselves and for their families, but for the generations that have yet to be born. Today, we honor their memory and sacrifice, and all those who pledged their lives for the freedoms we enjoy, as much as we celebrate with fireworks and grill-outs.

And on that note, we Yankee fans get to celebrate a victorious sweep of the Minnesota Twins as the Yankees themselves make their way back to New York for a 10 game home stand leading up to the All-Star Break. And no one could be more glad of today’s win than starter David Phelps, who needed a win so desperately after his disastrous last outing. Phelps went 6.1 innings, allowed a solo home run in the 4th inning and then got into some trouble in the 7th inning. Two singles and a fly out, set up an RBI single, and forced Girardi to bring in Chamberlain. He allowed an RBI single and was replaced by Logan. Logan allowed a sacrifice fly and got the final out to end the messy inning. Logan came back into the 8th and allowed a solo home run, a single, and a walk before Kelley came in to get three straight outs to end any potential Twins’ rally. Robertson closed the game in three batters in the 9th, as it was not a save situation to bring in Rivera, but nevertheless was his usual reliable self.

Now, on the Yankees’ batting side, it was very interesting in 3 different innings. In the 1st alone, Ichiro Suzuki hits a lead-off double; Zoilo Almonte singles; then Ichiro scores on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly; Travis Hafner doubles; and Vernon Wells singles home Almonte and Hafner (3-0). In the 3rd, Hafner is hit by a pitch and advances to 2nd on a wild pitch; Wells doubles home Hafner; and newly acquired Luis Cruz hits his first Yankee hit and singles and Wells scores. (5-0). Then in the 6th inning, Lyle Overbay walks; Cruz doubles; Alberto Gonzalez singles and scores Overbay; Romine reaches on a fielder’s choice as they get Cruz trying to come home; Ichiro triples as Gonzalez and Romine score; and Almonte grounds out and Ichiro tags home. And the Yankees are up 9-1 at that point.

With some Minnesota batters taking advantage of a tiring Phelps and weak spots in the bullpen, the final score ended up 9-5 Yankees. And Ichiro was a home run short to hit for the cycle today. [A “cycle” means that a batter hits a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in a single game, but not necessarily in that order.] Actually, a lot of the Yankee batters really had a remarkable day today. Ichiro went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs, Almonte 2-for-5 and an RBI, Hafner 3-for-4, Wells 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs,and Cruz 2-for-4 with an RBI. In fact, the only batter who seemed to have an off day was Cano, and he still had a nice sacrifice fly, thus an RBI credited to his stats. And the defense just seemed to work today, like in a nifty double play in the 3rd that had Cano bare-handing the flip for the transfer.

I take this all as a good omen, if you will, of things to come. Sending the Yankees back to the Bronx on a high note where they will face the Orioles, the Royals, and the Twins again is probably the best way to do so. I think sending the team into the break on another high note would be really great for their morale, so it should be interesting to see how the next 10 games turn out.

Also, news from Tampa, Francisco Cervelli has been shut down for 2 weeks in his rehab work due to a “stress reaction” in his elbow. Cervelli fractured his hand early in the season and has been making progress in recent weeks toward his return. A stress reaction indicated by the MRI basically implies that a stress fracture is on its way short of rest and healing time. This is usually a result of overuse, which doesn’t surprise me in the least as most of the injured athletes in Florida are pushing to get their way back to the Bronx ASAP. And I don’t think the team’s taking any more chances with “stress” anythings after what happened last fall with Jeter. I think a lot of the approach to overuse and borderline injuries has changed because of the recent spike in more serious injuries. Prevention and then rest at an early stage of injury is definitely a better option than something like a shattered ankle or fused spine or torn tendon sheath. A continued get well to Cervelli and all those spending today on the DL.

Jeter-George
The Captain with The Boss, early 2000’s
via thegreedypinstripes.com

Have a great 4th of July, baseball fans! Oh, and this would have been George Steinbrenner’s 83rd birthday, so I think a win in his memory is very much in line with today’s game.

And as always… Go Yankees!

Game 84: NYY vs. MIN — #200 for CC

Tonight, CC Sabathia recorded his 200th win of his career. And really, he threw a hard game, but one that was well-fought on his part and on the offense. Sabathia threw a season-high 121 pitches over 7 full innings, striking out 9 Twins’ batters, walking 3, allowing 7 hits, and 2 runs. One run was scored on an RBI double in the 3rd and the other was a solo home run in the 5th. And the Twins were ahead 2-0 going into the bottom of the 6th inning. This wasn’t looking good, but like I said before, sometimes it’s just where the offense needs to step it up.

And step it up they did in the 6th inning. Gardner walked and Ichiro doubled for Robinson Cano to double and score both of them to tie up the game. Hafner singles, Cano to 3rd, (still no outs) and the Twins call for a pitching change, who immediately strikes out a batter for the first out. Lyle Overbay hits a sacrifice fly to score Cano which put the Yankees up 3-2 before Minnesota gets out of the inning. Neither team would do much after the top of the 6th inning, especially due to a great double play in the bottom of the 6th that got Sabathia out of trouble, so the score was planted at 3-2 Yankees.

And Mariano Rivera recorded his 28th save. Yesterday, the Twins organization gave him a rocking chair made of broken bats they dubbed the “Chair of Broken Dreams”. It’s by far the most interesting thing any team has given him this season as of yet. And (to steal a tactful phrase from a favorite character of mine) “that’s all I have to say about that.”

Hiroki Kuroda is still in New York and will get further tests later this week to make sure there’s nothing worse with his hip, but the clean MRI seemed to indicate just overuse and needed rest, rather than something more serious (Alex Rodriguez’s recent hip issues come to mind). Jayson Nix has been placed on the 15 day DL due to a grade 2 strain on his right hamstring, which typically require 3-6 week full recovery time. In his place, the Yankees have picked up recently released Dodger Luis Cruz to fill in at short stop; Cruz went 0-for-3 at bat and notched a throwing error on a really lousy throw in the 3rd.

Alex Rodriguez is on his way back to Florida for his next rehab assignment with the Tampa Yankees, who will play the Tigers’ affiliate in central Florida on Friday. Eduardo Nunez is heading up to Trenton to join the AA team there for more of his rehab; he hopes to rejoin the team before the All-Star Break, which if his recent outings have proved anything, might be right on schedule. And Girardi mentioned that Derek Jeter might be closer to his rehab assignment. All of these sound like great news all over the Yankee world as far as progress in the injury-rehab department.

But back to CC for a moment… this is really a huge accomplishment. He currently sits on a list of 114 MLB pitchers who have 200+ wins. Teammate Andy Pettitte is currently sitting at 47 with 250 wins (including 5 this season). Two other current players (one each from the Braves and the Phillies) are on the list at 201 wins, but Sabathia is the youngest (by about 4 years) and statistically more likely to surpass even Pettitte on this list within the next 8 years (by the time he’s Pettitte’s age). And for those who are interested, the famous early 20th century pitcher Cy Young holds the record for most wins at a near ridiculous feat of 511.

So a big congratulations to Sabathia for his new record and the injured-recovering on their progress. And prayers out for Kuroda and Nix and all those still on the road to recovery. There are many records to be set by a team that is steeped in legend and myth, and every man counts for something on that kind of journey to greatness.

Go Yankees!

Game 83: NYY vs. MIN — Give the game ball to Gonzalez & Cano & Hughes

The Yankees were kind enough to reward a great outing by starter Phil Hughes with a much-needed win tonight against the Minnesota Twins. Hughes’ 114 pitches took him through 7 full innings, allowing 6 hits and 2 walks, striking out 3 batters, and allowing only 1 run to score. In the 3rd inning, he allowed a double, which scored on the next single. All in all a really fantastic outing for Hughes. He was even able to pitch his way out of some tight jams, with runners in scoring position to do some damage, but the Twins weren’t making it home off him. Claiborne replaced him for 1.2 innings before allowing a 2-out double in the bottom of the 9th that scored 2 runs to push the Twins’ total up to 3 total runs scored. Warren was brought in to replace him but walked his first batter, thus opening the door for what was the easiest 2 pitch save in a long time for Rivera (his 27th of the season) to record the final out.

Fortunately, the Yankee offense provided enough cushion to keep any potential Twin Cities rally from posing any real danger. They waited, however, until the 5th inning to make their mark. A single by Overbay and a single by Adams set them up to score on Alberto Gonzalez’s right field, in the corner double. Gonzalez would quickly score on a very soft Ichiro Suzuki single, something that proved to be too soft for the pitcher to make any kind of play. They gave the pitching staff a break in the 6th and came back in the 7th again to add a few more notches on today’s scoreboard. David Adams doubled and then advanced to 3rd on a really messy throwing error, which allowed him to score again when Gonzalez hit a sort of weak, but strong enough to go through the infield hole kind of single. Then with Ichiro singling to get on base, Robinson Cano steps up and aims his ball beyond the seats out in right field for his 20th homer of the season, a 3-run home run to put the Yankees way over the Twins. Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

Just a beautiful kind of day for the Yankees in Minnesota tonight.

In injury-related news, two up and two down…

Hiroki Kuroda was sent back to New York with pain in his left hip flexor. But there is good news: his MRI was negative and showed no signs of tears, and he wanted to hop back on the plane to join the team in Minnesota. With just two more games to play there before the team heads back for a 10 game homestand, Kuroda will be stuck getting updates like the rest of the world (via YES, MLB, and the like). Jayson Nix felt a tightness in his right hamstring and was out of today’s game; and while they’re not thinking this is really serious, because of recent touches of seriousness, Nix will be on day-to-day watch.

Eduardo Nunez has been doing his rehab assignment with the Charleston RiverDogs and did a particularly good day today in his outing. For today’s game, he was joined today by Alex Rodriguez. With a name like Rodriguez on the roster, the minor league stadium filled to capacity to watch him play 3rd base for 3 innings and go 0-for-2 in at-bats (a GIDP and strikeout looking). But Rodriguez seemed to love playing with the team and loved the hospitality of the city — something that must seem worlds away from the bright lights of New York and sun-drenched fields of Florida. Rodriguez will play with the team again tomorrow before joining the Tampa affiliate on Friday for the next phase. But before the game, the two teammates caught up over some of the great food of one of the oldest and historic cities in the South.

And you can’t forget about Mark Teixeira, the only man on the regular roster who will definitely not be back in pinstripes this year. His surgery yesterday went as planned and is viewed as a success. This means he will begin the surgery recovery and then work his way back up to being ready for baseball again come Spring Training 2014.

While it won’t be any easier watching the Yankees finish their year without Teixeira than it was last year sans Gardner and Rivera, it’s still relatively easy to look at the team and see the team. Because at the end of the day (and I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record here), it doesn’t matter who’s wearing the uniform as long as somebody is wearing the uniform and the whole team of somebodies (even if the world just sees them as nobodies) is working together toward that ever-present goal — #28.

Go Yankees!

Game 82: NYY vs. MIN — Milestones, Cano, & a win

Two milestones happened tonight against the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees gave manager Joe Girardi his 600th career win. And starter Andy Pettitte is now the all-time Yankee Strikeout King, passing legend Whitey Ford to sit at 1,958 Yankee strikeouts. This means any further strikeouts will just add to his total and set the benchmark higher for the next Yankees pitcher to surpass.

Pettitte pitched through 6 innings and into the 7th, getting off to a rough start in the 1st. A walk and a double set the stage for a 2-RBI single by the Twins, all with no outs. Two outs later, a soft ground ball is hit back to Pettitte who overthrew the ball at 1st, earning an error, and easily allowing one base runner to score and the other to advance to 2nd, before finally getting out of the inning. Pettitte’s 102nd pitch of the night (in the 7th inning) was a solo home run, which allowed for a call to the bullpen. Kelley, Chamberlain (who earned the win), Robertson, and Rivera (not a save situation) finished off the game and kept Minnesota scoreless for the rest of the game.

Now, on the offensive side, the Yankees just kind of found themselves. Robinson Cano started things off right with a solo home run in the 1st inning and then tied up the game with his next at bat in the 3rd inning with a 2-run home run (3-3). And things went quiet for a while, until the 8th inning. Cano doubles, Ichiro Suzuki pinch hits a single bunt moving Cano to 3rd, and a throwing error pick-off attempt allows Cano to score and Ichiro to move to 3rd. This ties the game at 4-4. Zoilo Almonte singles home Ichiro (5-4) and brings on a pitching change. This new pitcher proceeds to walk Overbay and move Almonte and Overbay forward on a wild pitch. Chris Stewart then hits a soft sacrifice ground out to score Almonte (6-4).

And then in the 9th inning, the Yankees decided to tack on a few more runs for insurance purposes. Gardner singles, Nix doubles, and the Twins intentionally walk Cano to load the bases. Travis Hafner’s single scores Gardner (7-4) and keeps the bases loaded. Almonte singles, scores Nix (8-4), and keeps the bases loaded. They bring in a new pitcher who proceeds to walk Stewart and walks in Cano to make it 9-4. Then a wild pitch easily scores Hafner to pin the final score at 10-4.

And while there were many fun defensive plays from the Yankees tonight, this running, jump grab from Brett Gardner was really just over the top and further proof why he is seriously an unrecognized All-Star.

And on the injury front, the Yankees have cleared Alex Rodriguez for his rehab assignment. He flew up to Charleston today to work out with the Yankees’ single-A team there, the Charleston RiverDogs, where he is scheduled to play at least 3 innings at 3rd base and bat a handful of times. However, there’s an 80% chance of rain for the Charleston area, so his rehab may be postponed an extra day or so. I take it as a good sign that the injuries are taking a turn for the improved, rather than accumulating (which is what we witnessed through April and May). Perhaps, this is a good omen for all those injured. Reports from Tampa indicate many of the players on rehab are swinging bats, fielding balls, and working on rebounding and rebuilding their strength for a return as soon as their bodies (and the decision makers in the Yankee office) let them.

Like I said yesterday, we need to start off July fresh, with hope for the future and passion for something no other team in the entire history of baseball can earn this year — Championship #28.

Go Yankees!