Thursday, August 22, 2013

Without A-Rod Drama Yanks Look Like They Have a Shot

Yankees keep rolling with win over Blue Jays

By Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NEW YORK, AUGUST 22- There was no Alex Rodriguez drama at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night. He had the night off and requested a ceasefire with his attorney regarding impending lawsuits against the Yankees. Instead the attention was the 4,000 career hit for Ichiro Suzuki, and the Yankees ninth win in their last 11-games as they took the third of four games over Toronto 4-2.

Suddenly the Yankees are in the thick of the American League wild card race, and have inched closer to the Al east division leaders Boston and Tampa Bay. The win put New York four games away from the second wild card spot.

For the second time this season, the Yankees defeated 2012 NL CY Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, who won the award when he pitched for the cross-town NY Mets. Dickey tossed a complete game, 8.0 innings, gave up four runs, six hits and recorded nine strikeouts.

The big blow off Dickey was a two-run home run off the bat of Alfonso Soriano. With one on and two out, Soriano reached for a Dickey knuckleball that landed in the left field stands. It broke a 0-for-17 snap for Soriano and was the 29th long ball given up by Dickey.

The Yankees have now hit a home run 25 times in their last 22 games dating back to July 28th, this after being held homerless in nine straight games from July 19-27.

“Our club is focused on winning,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. His team has secured their fourth straight series win, with the finale of the four-game series with he Blue Jays Thursday afternoon.

“I lacked a good knuckleball and Soriano hit one,” said Dickey, 9-12, who threw his 11th career complete game and second this season. He dropped to 3-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 12 career games, six starts against New York.

Commented Soriano, “I just tried to swing one and finally got one to hit,” about hitting the tough knuckleball.

Dickey admitted that this has been a season of struggle, something he never expected coming off the Cy Young Award season. The Mets traded him in the off season to Toronto in a package that also sent catcher Josh Thole to the Blue Jays.

Thole hit his first home run of the season in the fourth inning, his first since last April 29th when the Mets played Colorado.

“Dickey was throwing great, four hits going into that last inning and really just that one big shot,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons about the home run ball Dickey surrendered to Soriano. It was the ninth home run for Soriano as a Yankee since coming over in a trade from the Chicago Cubs on July 26th.

The win was costly for the Yankees as Jayson Nix, starting at third for Rodriguez, was hit by a pitch in the second inning and was removed for a pinch runner. Nix underwent x-rays which revealed a fractured right hand. It was another serious blow for a team that has overcome the adversity of the injured this season.

Nix will be disabled and undetermined how long he will be inactive. It is his second time on the DL this season and 19th player in 24 stints for the Yankees to go down with an injury this season.

“Feel bad about Nix,” said Girardi. “In the absence of “Jeets” (Derek Jeter) and “Nuney” (Eduardo Nunez) going down, he’s a guy who makes good decisions and makes things right.”

As for Ichiro, it was a night of celebration. The 4,000th hit, combined 2,722 in the Major Leagues and 1,278 in Japan, was a single to left off Dickey in the first inning. Ichiro was congratulated by his Yankees teammates who came out of the dugout and greeted him by the first base line.

“They did not have to stop the game for me,” said the mild mannered Ichiro who had a separate press conference of about an hour with a contingent of media from Japan, downstairs in the Yankees press conference room area.

Dickey said about the historic hit to Ichiro, “You never want to be a guy to give up a milestone. That being said what an achievement. It could not have happened to a better player.”

“It’s special to him, to his family to his country,” said Girardi about the hit. And for the Yankees, more special because Ichiro has become a part of this resurgence and winning formula that has his Yankees aiming for a spot to play in October.

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