Wow. Damn. Could this get any better?
NY Yankees 4, Arizona 1
|Preview – Box Score – Recap|
|By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
June 13, 2007
Wang outpitched Webb in a marquee matchup of exceptional sinkerballers, and streaking Bobby Abreu hit an early three-run homer to help New York beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-1 on Tuesday night for its seventh consecutive victory.
"This whole streak is based on how well we pitch, and Wang did it again tonight," manager Joe Torre said. "When you win, you don’t feel you’re ever going to lose. It’s great confidence we’ve got right now, great confidence."
The Yankees (31-31) won for the 10th time in 12 tries following a five-game skid, reaching .500 for the first time since they were 16-16 after beating Texas on May 9. It’s their first seven-game winning streak since a 10-game run in May 2005 that followed an 11-19 start.
"We’re playing much better. It feels good to be back at .500," closer Mariano Rivera said. "We can’t stop there."
Chad Tracy homered for Arizona, which lost for the fourth time in five games after an 11-1 stretch. The Diamondbacks dropped to 2-5 in regular-season meetings with New York. Of course, Arizona beat the Yankees in seven games in the 2001 World Series.
Coming off a five-hitter at the Chicago White Sox, Wang (6-4) allowed six hits and walked none in seven innings. Runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award last year, he has won his last three starts and five of six overall.
"He’s outstanding, similar to Webb," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "You know what’s coming, and you can’t do much with it. He was throwing it up there 94, 95 mph. He threw just enough off-speed pitches to keep you off the sinker."
Wang said he left too many pitches up. But he was good enough to beat Webb (6-4), who settled down after giving up Abreu’s homer in the first. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner yielded four runs — three earned — and five hits in seven innings, dropping to 3-1 in five starts since his previous loss May 16 at Colorado.
Webb had won his last three starts, giving up only two earned runs in 22 innings for an 0.82 ERA.
"One mistake to Abreu and that’s pretty much the game," Webb said. "It was a couple inches in, a decent pitch. It’s where we wanted it. It might have been up a hair, but he hit it well."
Kyle Farnsworth retired Tony Clark on a liner with two on that ended the eighth, and Rivera worked a perfect ninth for his eighth save in 10 chances. Rivera has not been charged with any runs in nine straight appearances, lowering his ERA from 6.75 to 3.96.
After the start was delayed 59 minutes by rain, Webb was betrayed by one of his best defenders. Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson made a throwing error on Johnny Damon‘s leadoff grounder, and Damon took third on Derek Jeter‘s perfectly executed run-and-hit single on a 3-1 pitch.
"That was the key play in the whole game for us because otherwise Jeter’s ball is probably a double-play ball," Torre said.
Abreu then drove an 0-1 delivery far over the right-field fence for his fourth homer this season, extending his season-best hitting streak to 11 games.
"That’s my mistake. Those are my three runs," Hudson said.
Having spent his first 10 1/2 seasons in the National League, Abreu was the only New York hitter who came in with more than six at-bats against Webb — though he was only 4-for-18 (.222) with one home run.
Abreu reached base safely in nine straight plate appearances before lining out softly to third in the third inning. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .488 (20-for-41) in 11 June games with 12 RBIs and 11 walks, after hitting .228 through the first two months of the season.
"I don’t think too much right now at the plate. In the past, I was thinking too much," Abreu said.
Tracy, who came off the disabled list Sunday, connected in the fourth for his second homer. It was only the fourth homer allowed by Wang in 10 starts this season and first since May 5 against Seattle. He had gone six starts without giving up a home run.
Arizona put two on in the seventh and Chris Young hit a liner that appeared headed over shortstop when Jeter made a leaping, twirling grab to save at least one run.
A leadoff walk by Webb and Robinson Cano‘s double put runners at second and third with none out in the seventh. With the infield in, Hudson made a diving stop of Melky Cabrera‘s grounder. He threw to first for one out, and Cano was caught off second for a double play. But Hideki Matsui scored when Clark threw to second to get Cano, making it 4-1.
Kuo adds long ball to long journey
Pitcher throttles Mets, drills third of three straight LA homers
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES — It’s taken Hong-Chih Kuo nine professional seasons, but he now has as many Major League victories as Tommy John operations (two).
If pitching the Dodgers to a 4-1 win over the slumping Mets with seven strong innings Tuesday night wasn’t milestone enough to celebrate for the star-crossed left-hander, you should have seen Kuo’s bat flip while admiring his first Major League home run — and first homer by any Taiwanese-born player.
The theatrics were right out of the Reggie Jackson playbook, the bat traveling only a few hundred feet short of the tape-measure blast that completed back-to-back-to-back homers on consecutive pitches by the bottom of the Dodgers batting order in the second inning.
"I didn’t mean to do that," Kuo said apologetically about the hot-dogging. "I hit it, I know I hit it hard."
Wilson Betemit and Matt Kemp, inserted into the lineup by manager Grady Little, slugged the first two off John Maine. Kemp’s landed in the sliver of fair loge seats, the first homer there since Olmedo Saenz did it in 2005. Kemp added a second RBI on an infield single in the sixth inning as the Dodgers moved into a three-way tie for first place in the National League West with the Padres and D-backs.
"It won’t match the four home runs we hit last year, but this was pretty exciting," said Kemp, referring to the September game against San Diego.
Pretty exciting for sure for Kuo, who must like pitching against the Mets because he’s never beaten anyone else. His maiden victory was last Sept. 8, a gutsy six scoreless innings in raucous Shea Stadium against a powerhouse team. That was the win that convinced management Kuo’s elbow could withstand the rigors of starting. Until that emergency start, he had been overprotected and forced to pitch in relief, where he has said he’s not comfortable.
He tried to duplicate that win in Game 2 of the NL Division Series at Shea and was the losing pitcher, charged with two runs in 4 1/3 innings while the Dodgers were scratching out only one run off Tom Glavine in a 4-1 defeat.
Kuo made history that night for starting a postseason game with the fewest Major League wins, but nothing about his career has been ordinary. He was signed out of Taiwan for $1.25 million as a teenager, blew out his elbow in his first professional game after striking out seven of the 10 batters he faced and it’s been a nightmare ride ever since, including the five years he spent trying to get healthy.
He’s nothing if not persistent. He signed in 1999, meaning he’s been in the organization longer than any current active Dodger. That year, Kevin Malone was general manager, Davey Johnson the field manager and Gary Sheffield and Eric Karros hit 34 homers. Each.
His journey to the Major Leagues hit one pothole after another. He was taken off the Major League roster at one point and could have been taken by any club in the Rule 5 Draft. When his rehab stalled for the umpteenth time, he had to be talked out of quitting the game. He’s often credited Darren Dreifort (two Tommy John surgeries) and Eric Gagne (one) for their advice and counsel to keep him going.
Even this spring, when Little had Kuo penciled in as his fifth starter, a shoulder strain derailed him. He allowed the Padres only one run in six innings while dueling Jake Peavy last week, but Kuo wasn’t satisfied with four walks, and in a bullpen session over the weekend, scrapped his windup and went exclusively out of the stretch.
"I felt more comfortable that way," said Kuo, who walked only one while scattering five hits. "Sometimes I can’t put it together with the windup and I overthrow."
Kuo’s fastball topped out at 91 mph, several ticks below his best last year, and he made it through the seven innings with 89 pitches.
"I don’t look at that," he said. "I got outs. I got ahead in counts and that was important."
The home-run derby was pretty important for a club that ranked 15th of 16 in the league for home runs. It started with Betemit, getting his second start in three games at third base after essentially losing his starting job a month ago.
His opposite-field shot to left-center traveled 408 feet and was his sixth of the year. Next up was Kemp, in only his second start since being recalled from Triple-A, pulling one 447 feet and just tucking it inside the left-field foul pole in the second deck.
"They gave us good pitches to hit and we took advantage of it," Kemp said. "A first-pitch fastball and it was right there. I didn’t know it went that far, I was just running the bases. Kuo really got a hold of one. It was a pretty good swing. He hit it pretty hard. He can hit. I’ve seen him hit balls really far in batting practice."
The Dodgers had 10 hits, including two by Juan Pierre and a line single by Nomar Garciaparra, back in the lineup after sitting out two games. Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito finished up, each striking out a pair, Saito earning his 18th save.