Tagged: Ichiro Suzuki

You Know Things Are Going Well When…

1) The Captain gets sick…
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…and his last minute replacement knocks in two runs with a single.
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2)  Tex, The April Slumper, goes deep for the first time this season. Talk about getting rid of that monkey on his back.
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3) Rangers manager Ron Washington compares Brett Gardner to this guy.
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4) Pettitte and Mo pitch like it’s 1996.
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5) Nick Johnson doesn’t so much as put his bat on the ball (he either strikes out or walks), but the Yankees still manage to sweep the Rangers.
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Will life always be this charmed for Yankee fans? Of course not. The trip to California could be treacherous for our boys. And no, I’m not referring to earthquakes, wildfires or mudslides. I’m not even thinking about Coco Crisp, now with the A’s, even though he could walk right up to Javy Vazquez on Tuesday and pull one of these.
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I’m talking about…Actually, I don’t even know who’s on the A’s anymore so I’m not sure which players to be afraid of. I do know that Chad Gaudin and Edwar Ramirez have donned the A’s uniform and will be getting their World Series rings this week. 
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I wonder if Edwar is eating. I really hope he hasn’t lost any more weight.
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Could I Feel Any Worse Right Now?

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Tonight’s opener against the Mariners was moving right along. Everything was going just the way Yankee fans would have drawn it up.
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AJ delivered the kind of performance we’d been hoping for, allowing only one run over seven innings – including two (yes, two) pickoffs of Ichiro. The Yanks were facing Cy Young candidate “King” Felix Hernandez, so it was no small feat when they went up 2-1 in the sixth on Tex‘s sac fly. But then the tension mounted.
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Huuuuuuuughes came on for the bottom of the eighth and retired the side in order, looking pretty impressive doing it. It would have been sweet if the Yankees’ offense had tacked on an insurance run or two in the top of the ninth, but no matter. We had Mo on the mound to take care of the Mariners in their half.
And he did take care of them. Well, the first two of them. In fact, his strikeout of Carp, who was out number #2, was the 1000th K of his career. All he and the Yankees needed was one more out and the victory would be assured. And then the unthinkable. I’m still freaking out as I type this.
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Mo gave up a double to Sweeney, not to be confused with the Sweeny who covers the Yankees for WFAN.
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So what, I figured. There are two outs and it’s Mo pitching, not some journeyman. The guy has only blown one save in 43 opportunities. I wasn’t wild about having to see Ichiro again, since all he does is get on base. But there he was, looming large in that little body.
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Before I knew what hit me, Ichiro hit the ball out of the park.
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The Mariners won the game 3-2 and I sat in front of the TV going, “WHY? WHY?”
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It’s baseball, that’s why. I have no other good answer.

Sloppy Second Sinks Mariners

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Glub. Glub. Glub. 
The Mariners have struck out 30+ times in this series, but it was their error in the second inning tonight that set the stage for their latest defeat at the hands of those happy, love-is-in-the-air Yankees.
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Melky hit one to right center, and Gutierrez heard Ichiro creeping over and dropped the ball. I guess I-Row has that effect on people.
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As a result, Jeter’s sac fly scored Melky to break a 1-1 tie.
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Homers by Swisher and Jeter added to the fun, and the Yanks went on to beat Seattle 5-2. Was Sergio Mitre better than he’s been in previous starts? Or are the Mariners just a punchless, free-swinging team? Maybe a little of both, but it was Robertson who saved Sergio’s bacon.
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With the bases loaded in the sixth, he came in and struck out the two batters he faced. Sweet. Coke and Mo did their jobs too. And then there was Molina. I-Row inexplicably tried to steal third base in the seventh and Jose nailed him.
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Tonight’s win puts the Yankees 7.5 games up over the Red Sox. Anything can happen in the next six weeks, but I’m thinking only positive thoughts.
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. 
Lalalalalalalalalala.
Yeah, right. Here’s what I’m really thinking.
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A Different Hero Every Night

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Oops, I meant this kind.
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It continues to amaze me how resilient the 2009 Yankees are. Take tonight, for example. After Matsui and the gang beat up on the Mariners last night, the offense hardly had a pulse, scoring only two runs on three hits over eight innings. Meager. But would the team go down to defeat? Absolutely not. With the game tied at 2-2, Tex led off the top of the ninth and did this.
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Yeah, boom – into the seats to put the Yankees ahead 3-2 and allow me to breathe
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Swisher singled home Cano for another run, and that was all the insurance the Yanks needed to beat Seattle for the second night in a row and keep the train moving.
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But none of that would have been possible if not for another hero: Pettitte. Talk about gutty.
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He overcame a shaky start and hung in there for a six-inning, 10-strikeout performance, keeping the Yanks in the game. I bow down to you, Andy. (And I thank you for the lovely kimono, which arrived at my house this afternoon. Very sweet of you.)
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Bruney looked vastly improved in the seventh, and Hughes got it done in the eighth, despite a couple of walks and the fact that the home plate umpire was squeezing him.
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Which brings me to Mo. I’ve been doing a lot of hand-wringing over his “cranky shoulder,” worried that he’d have to miss playing time. Wrong. He came in for the ninth, retired the side in order and secured the save. I don’t think his velocity was there and he seemed sort of “off” to me, but I can’t argue with his results.
There was a short interruption in the seventh when a fan ran onto the field. The networks never show us what’s going on, which really bothers me. Supposedly, MLB thinks it’ll make us crave our 15 minutes of fame and do equally dumb things. Personally, I hate this rule. I want to see what the people at the game see. Show us the fans who run onto the field! It won’t lead to the end of days!
Here’s the fan….and Ichiro’s reaction.
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Yup. The culprit was a she-fan. Imagine that.

Rest Does Wonders For A-Rod

It’s a miracle, really. A couple of weeks ago, A-Rod was lethargic, dragging, zombie-like. Then it dawned on the Yankees that he hadn’t had a day off since he came back from hip surgery. Cashman and Girardi put their heads together…
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…and (light bulb going off here) decided to give their star third baseman a rest.
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Al sat out a couple of games against the Marlins and – voila! – he stopped being a zombie.
Now he’s no longer flailing at pitches out of the zone and looking fragile on plays at third and, best of all, he’s hitting bombs again.
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Tonight’s blast into Monument Park in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie and carried the Yanks to a 4-2 victory over Seattle – their seventh straight win.
It was a nice, quick dismissal of the Mariners – not like last night’s game, which moved along as slowly as this.
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One reason was that the offense couldn’t get much done against Washburn, except for homers by Damon and Melky. The other reason is that Pettitte pitched a very good game of his own.
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Through seven innings, Andy threw strikes, mixed his pitches well and completely shut down the sleeve-tugging, bat-pointing Ichiro.
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Aceves and Coke did their jobs in relief, and Mo notched save # 502. I’ll never understand why a long man like Alfredo was brought in for one batter or why Hughes was warming and Bruney wasn’t. But the good news is that the bullpen is getting it done these days and I don’t find myself doing this whenever I see them coming.
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The oddity of the game was Tex bobbling Valentien’s potential double play ball in the fourth. He wasn’t charged with an error, but the fact that he allowed a run to score was surprising. His defense has totally spoiled me, but I guess he’s entitled to a bobble once in awhile.
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Eric Hinske had his first session with the media as a Yankee. I listened, courtesy of Pete Abe’s blog, and wasn’t surprised to hear him repeat the usual “I’m honored to be here” mantra. Actually, he sounded thrilled to be out of Pittsburgh, and who could blame him?
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His acquisition wasn’t exactly the trade of the century, but the news was broadcast around the world. Witness this reporter’s breathless coverage and tell me Hinske isn’t a big deal.

Back in the real world (sort of), it seems my holiday weekend won’t be about Michael Jackson after all. The family’s spokesperson announced that it would be too expensive and complicated to motorcade MJ’s body to Santa Barbara and bury it at Neverland. What about all those truckloads of these that had been deposited outside the ranch for fans, along with the balloons and the flowers?
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My hunch is that they’ll have an event at Neverland after the memorial. And if they do, I just might show up with the She-Fan Cam.
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Sluggish Start, Fun Finish

First came the raindrops….Then came the members of the Westhill High School girls softball team, who were invited onto the field by Brian Cashman to stand with all the Yankees during the National Anthem. On the outside, the girls were very composed.

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On the inside, they had to be feeling like this.
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Well, I would have.
I loved that Mo was asked to throw out the first pitch. How fitting, since he would also throw the last pitch for save #501.
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Joba’s outing was decent, but he kept getting into bad pitch counts and the game slowed to an absolute crawl.
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For the longest time, it seemed as if all we’d get were those two measly runs in the second on Woodward’s two errors. I mean, we were 0-for-10 with RISP, for God’s sake, and the offense looked comatose.
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Joba had trouble getting Ichiro out and Jorge had trouble throwing him out, and Ronny Cedeno, whose average is well below the Mendoza line, homered. Please.
The game was tied at 3-3 for what felt like an eternity, and the most exciting thing at that point was the appearance of a Seattle reliever named Jakubauskas. It was sort of fun listening to Kay and Singleton trying to get their heads around it.
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Phil Coke set down the two batters he faced in the sixth, and Phil Hughes was brilliant in the seventh, including his strikeout of Griffey on a 98 mph fastball. Sweet.
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But it wasn’t until the bottom of the frame that things got really interesting for the Yanks. With Damon aboard, A-Rod crushed one.
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Bruney blew the lead in the top of the eighth. (Why even go to him when Hughes was pitching like a genius?) Luckily, the Mariners brought in White for the bottom of the eighth, and he’s my new favorite opposing reliever. Why?
Matsui: doubled.
Gardner: pinch ran.
Swisher: bunt single.
Melky: double.
Score: 6-5 Yankees.
Jeter tacked on a two-RBI single, giving Mo an 8-5 cushion for the ninth. Game over – a good night for the pinstripes.
Off topic, I was really looking forward to a quiet July 4th weekend here in Santa Barbara. Now? Not so much. Michael Jackson’s body is being driven up here from LA by some zillion-car caravan on Thursday, and there’s a “public viewing” for fans/gawkers/anybody on Friday. Yeah, Friday of the holiday weekend. I don’t live near Neverland, but you have to pass my exit on the 101 Freeway to get to it.
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The California Highway Patrol, as well as the Santa Barbara County Fire and Sheriff’s Departments, are anticipating that traffic will come to a standstill and hotels and restaurants will be jammed.
Here’s where I’ll be.
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She-Fan Exclusive: Scouting Report On Mariners

Fresh off the sweep of the Mets, the Yankees face another injury-riddled team.

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I’m such an ancient mariner that I still remember when they were called the Pilots, talk about a lame logo.
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Without Beltre at third, Chavez in left and Betancourt at short, their whole left side is hurting.
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Even so, they could be dangerous. We should take nothing for granted and absolutely not come out looking like flu victims.
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OK. Here we go. They’ll be changing their lineup around, but these are the main characters.
1) Ichiro Suzuki.
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Obviously, he’s a great outfielder as well as a hitting machine. I think he’s got an 11-game streak right now. And his current average is a sick .372. But that routine he does at the plate – the sleeve tugging, the bat pointing, the whole drama – is really annoying. Tip to Yankees: The pitchers should step off the rubber and stall in order to screw up his timing.
2) Russell Branyan.

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He’s played for the Indians, the Reds, the Brewers, the Padres, the (Devil) Rays, the Phillies, and the Cardinals – almost as many teams as LaTroy Hawkins. Now, he’s the Mariners’ first baseman and he’s batting .303 with 19 homers. He’s also struck out 73 times. Tip to Yankees: Throw him nothing but high cheddar.
3) Jose Lopez.
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A happy-looking Venezuelan who covers second or third base, he tied a Major League record last year with three sac flies in one game. Tip to Yankees: Try to get him to hit the ball on the ground.
4) Ronny Cedeno.

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Another Venezuela native and former Cub, he’s taken over the shortstop role in Betancourt’s absence. Although he had his first career grand slam in ’08, he’s batting .133. Tip to Yankees: Don’t walk him.
5) Kenji Johjima.
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The Mariners’ catcher, Kenji (I love saying his name out loud for some reason) has a museum in his honor in his hometown of Sasebo, Japan, despite only having a .269 career batting average. Tip to Yankees: Show him respect by spinning him off the plate now and then.


6) Franklin Gutierrez.

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Yet another Venezuelan, he played for the Indians before becoming the Mariners’ center fielder. In 2008, he swung at the first pitch only 11.8% of the time, the fifth lowest in the AL. Tip to Yankees: Throw him first pitch strikes.
7) Wladimir Balentien.

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No, I didn’t misspell this outfielder’s first name. It starts with a “W” but is pronounced “Vladimir.” He’s from the island of Curacao and played for the Netherlands in the WBC, and now he’s filling in for the ailing Endy Chavez and hitting .230. Tip to Yankees: He’s no Vladie, as in Guerrero.


8) Chris Woodward.

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He was originally signed by the Blue Jays and did time with the Mets, and is one of those guys who’s played every position except catcher. A few years ago, he was the first Toronto shortstop to hit three homers in a game. Tip to Yankees: Keep the ball down and away.


9) Ken Griffey Jr.

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First of all, am I the only one who didn’t know his real first name is George? And I still don’t get why he has a thing against the Yanks; that story about his father isn’t the stuff of post traumatic stress syndrome. He’s hitting a paltry .218 as the DH, and yet he’s “Junior” and he’s HOF bound. Tip to Yankees: Let him crank one out in a game if we’re leading by a lot.


I’d make a prediction for this series, but I’m too superstitious.
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P.S. Programming note: The segment I taped for the YES Network’s “Yankees Magazine” about my book will start airing this Wednesday, July 1. I think the show is broadcast twice a day for a week – at 11:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET – so my friends in New York need to tell me if they see it. I don’t get YES out here in California except for the actual Yankees games, so I asked the producer to send me a copy of the show. Maybe I can upload it and post it at some point.