Late rallies among Yanks' few positives
Sunday's loss, full of lost opportunities, becoming familiar
NEW YORK -- A 2-5 week for the Yankees has not been without its drama. Their games have included some prominent trends -- early deficits, truncated comebacks, or both.
Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Mets at Citi Field was the latest to meet both criteria. A four-run Mets second inning put the Yankees in an early hole, and the visitors' biggest outburst didn't come until the ninth. By then, a three-run rally wasn't enough.
"I think that was a good sign," said Alex Rodriguez, who struck out with the tying run on first base to end the game. "The last two innings, we put some pressure on them, we had some opportunities. A game that was 6-0 -- to come down to the last at-bat with two men on base -- I'll take my chances, especially the way the guys battled in front of me, had some great at-bats, got themselves on base."
The Yankees' only completed comeback this week came against the Red Sox on Monday, when they rallied from two runs down in the bottom of the ninth and won, 11-9, behind a pair of two-run homers, the first of which was hit by Rodriguez.
In the other games, the Yankees came up short. The next night, Randy Winn struck out with the winning runs in scoring position to secure a 7-6 loss. On Wednesday, the Yankees closed an eight-run deficit to 10-6 before losing to the Rays. They followed that on Thursday with two runs in the ninth inning of an an 8-6 loss. In Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Mets, their best chance came in the eighth, when they left the tying runs on base.
"Regardless of how bad it's been going, we've given ourselves a chance to stay in every game," right fielder Nick Swisher said. "Either way, if we just keep battling, playing hard, we'll get back to where we want to be."
-- Thomas Boorstein
'Good chance' Vazquez goes Thursday
NEW YORK -- Javier Vazquez's right index finger is still wrapped in a protective bandage, but the Yankees right-hander believes that his pitching hand will be ready to go on Thursday against the Twins.
The Yankees have listed Vazquez as their probable starter for the series finale at Target Field, which would keep Vazquez on turn after he was injured trying to drop a bunt on Friday against the Mets.
"I expect to make it, unless it really feels bad," Vazquez said. "Right now, I don't think it will, because I don't feel that bad. I think there's a good chance I'm going to make it."
Vazquez's final test will come on Tuesday, when he is scheduled to throw a lighter bullpen session at Target Field, thanks to an additional off-day between starts. Vazquez said he couldn't say for sure if any of his pitches would put more pressure on the finger.
"I don't know, because it's never happened to me," Vazquez said. "I have to wait until Tuesday."
Mo's 'mistakes' don't trouble Yanks
NEW YORK -- After Jason Bay pulled into second base on Friday with a loud double to left, he said that Derek Jeter shot him a quizzical glance, as if to question why Citi Field was built with such unforgiving dimensions.
But that booming hit off Mariano Rivera, as well as several others, raised eyebrows in the closer's most recent appearances. Rivera locked down the save in that 2-1 win over the Mets, his first since April 30, but he allowed the tying run to come aboard before David Wright grounded out.
"He's just missing location," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's getting too much of the plate. He gets in some long counts at times. If his velocity was down, there would be a concern, but it's not down."
In fact, Girardi said that Rivera's velocity is actually up from 2009 and has touched 94 mph this season. Girardi attributes that to Rivera's continuing recovery from surgery to shave down an arthritic AC joint in his pitching shoulder after the 2008 season.
Still, after Rivera was sidelined with stiffness in his left side this month, his past three appearances haven't been trouble-free. He has allowed five runs (three earned) in 2 1/3 innings, including a grand slam to the Twins' Jason Kubel in a May 16 blown save.
"For me, he's made a few mistakes," Girardi said. "We're so accustomed to seeing him not make mistakes that when it happens, everyone's bell kind of goes off. He is human, he really is, even though he tries to show us a lot of times that he's not."
Pena stung by Lima's untimely death
NEW YORK -- Tony Pena's eyes glistened as he recalled the day in August 2003 when, as the Royals' manager, he wanted to find a way to make a simulated game more real for one of his pitchers.
So Pena took it upon himself to sing the Star-Spangled Banner, start to finish, echoing through an empty stadium in Kansas City. The trick worked. His eccentric pitcher loved it, and before long, Jose Lima was even positioning imaginary infielders before stepping on the rubber.
When Pena's phone rang on Sunday morning with the news that Lima had passed away at age 37 with an apparent heart attack, Pena was crushed. He not only lost a former player, but a winter ball teammate and someone he cared about deeply.
"A great guy -- a great kid," Pena said. "I'm very sad. He was a great, great friend."
Etching "Lima RIP" on his cap before Sunday's series finale against the Mets, Pena said that he had kept in contact with Lima, most recently seeing him in January at a celebrity softball game.
Pena said the memory of that simulated game in Kansas City typified the ebullient right-hander, whom Pena said he had first met when Lima was just a teenager.
"That was the type of guy he was," Pena said. "He wanted to make everything real. I remember that day, and he said, 'I want you to catch me. That way, you can see what I've got.'
"What a character. What a human being. Everybody that was around Lima should remember him. He was the type of guy that had so much fun. This guy came into the clubhouse and everybody had to laugh, because he would make jokes about anything. He kept everyone so happy around him."
Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson -- rehabbing a left groin strain -- went 1-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout on Sunday, playing center field for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Louisville. Granderson was 0-for-4 on Saturday as the DH. ... Nick Swisher is hitting .364 (28-for-77) with 18 runs, five homers and 15 RBIs since April 27, a span of 21 games. ... The winner of Sunday's Subway Series rubber match will determine how the Empire State Building is lit on Monday -- either in Yankees blue and white or Mets blue and orange. ... Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland was excused from Sunday's game to attend his daughter's confirmation. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey was tabbed to fill in.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.