NATIONALS 3, YANKEES 2
Jordan Zimmermann struck out four en route to throwing four perfect innings and Anthony Rendon stroked a two-run double with two outs in the second inning as Washington edged New York in an exhibition game on Tuesday at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL.
Zimmermann (1-0) threw 37 of his 57 pitches for strikes and reached a three-ball count to just two batters to get credit for the victory. Manny Delcarmen pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn a save.
The Nationals opened the scoring in the first off Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1) when Rendon drew a walk to lead off the inning. One out later, Jayson Werth advanced Rendon to third with an opposite-field single and Wilson Ramos drove in the first run on an infield groundout.
Danny Espinosa opened the second inning by drawing a walk and he advanced to third on an bloop single to left by Tyler Moore. Two outs later, Rendon lined a double down the left-field line that scored Espinosa and Moore.
The Yankees scored a single run in the fifth off Drew Storen on a two-out triple by Eduardo Nunez and an RBI single by Dean Anna.
They added a run in the sixth on a leadoff double by Zoilo Almonte off left-hander Felipe Rivero. He advanced to third on a flyout by Jacoby Ellsbury and scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly.
The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record drops to 7-5-1. The Nationals improve to 8-4.
- Anna continues to show a good bat this spring. He is 6-for-16 (.375) with two RBIs. Though Anna, 27, is still considered as a longshot to make the 25-man roster, he is showing that he might be of help should the Yankees need a backup infielder this season.
- Today was one of the rare days in Viera this spring that the wind was NOT blowing out and it cost the Yankees a pair of potential home runs. Gardner’s sac fly in the sixth actually was held up on the warning track by the wind. Outfielder Ramon Flores also just missed hit one out to right in the eighth inning.
- Give credit to the Yankees’ bullpen comprised of Matt Daley, Jim Miller, David Herndon, Cesar Cabral and Brian Gordon. They combined to give up only one hit (a single off Gordon in the eighth) and two walks in the final six innings. After Werth’s single in the third inning off Sabathia, the Nationals were 1-for-18 the rest of the game.
- Sabathia summed it up to reporters after the game: “I [stunk] today.” Sabathia, making his second spring start, had trouble with his mechanics and he was tagged for three runs on four hits and two walks in three innings. Two leadoff walks really hurt because they both later scored.
- Manager Joe Girardi brought Ellsbury, Gardner, Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira on the trip and they combined to go 0-for-11 in the game. I do realize it is spring training and Teixeira is still working his way back after wrist surgery. But it is about time some of the veteran starters start stinging the ball. In their seven at-bats against Zimmermann they looked overmatched.
McCann made the highlight reel for his catch of a popup off the bat of Scott Hairston in the fourth inning. McCann threw his mask down the third-base line and, when Anna rushed in to help on the play, he tripped over the mask, fell into the back of McCann’s legs and McCann fell and landed on top of Anna. But he held onto the ball. Both players took some playful teasing from their teammates in the dugout later. . . . The Yankees made their first cuts of camp on Sunday. Right-hander Jose Ramirez, 24, was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and left-hander Francisco Rondon, 25, was reassigned to minor-league camp. Both players were injured early and have been unable to pitch. Ramirez had lower-back pain and Rondon had a sore shoulder.
The Yankees return to George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, coming off a very good outing against the Tigers on Friday, will make his second spring start. He has yielded no runs on two hits and a walk while fanning seven batters in 4 2/3 innings.
He will be opposed by Anibal Sanchez, who will be making his second start against Kuroda and the Yankees in five days. The Yankees won the game 3-2 on a balk in the ninth.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live by the MLB Network nationally and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, RAYS 3 (10 INNINGS)
TAMPA – When two American League East rivals meet, even if it is spring training, they battle for bragging rights and set the tone for the season. That was the case on Sunday and it was fitting that it would end up in a tie.
Tampa Bay built themselves a 3-1 lead after 7 1/2 innings but New York rallied for a run in the eighth on a throwing error and scored with two out in the ninth on a wild pitch as both teams ended up in a 3-3 tie after 10 innings at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Jose Pirela opened the eighth with a single off right-hander Adam Liberatore. He advanced to second on a groundout and reached third on an Adonis Garcia single. With Dean Anna batting, Garcia stole second and catcher Eddy Rodriguez threw the ball away to allow Pirela to score.
The Yankees’ rally to tie in the ninth came with two when pinch-hitter Jose Gil singled off reliever Braulio Lara. Pirela followed with a looping single to right to allow Antoan Richardson, who was pinch-running for Gil, to reach third.
With pinch-hitter Scott Sizemore at the plate, Lara uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Richardson to score the tying run.
The tone for the game was set early by the starting pitchers, right-hander Chris Archer of the Rays and David Phelps of the Yankees.
Archer gave up no runs on two hits and no walks and struck two in 3 1/3 innings. Phelps, not to be outdone, yielded three hits, walked none and fanned one batter in five innings of work.
The Yankees’ spring record is now 7-4-1. The Rays are 5-2-1.
- Phelps, 26, rebounded from a lackluster performance on March 4 to pitch his sharpest game of the spring. He threw 38 of his 59 pitches for strikes and recorded nine of his 15 outs on ground balls. Even if Phelps does not earn the No. 5 spot in the rotation, he will have a prominent place in the Yankees’ bullpen.
- Speaking of the bullpen, Dellin Betances is looking better with each outing. He threw a scoreless inning in relief of Phelps, giving up one hit, no walks and striking out one. In 6 1/3 innings covering four appearances, Betances has a 0.00 ERA on two hits and two walks with five strikeouts. The 25-year-old right-hander has the makings of back-end reliever with his mid-90s stuff, improving command and burgeoning confidence.
- With all the attention being heaped upon Brian Roberts, Brendan Ryan, Eduardo Nunez, Anna and Yangervis Solarte, Pirela is very quietly having a very good spring in his own right. Pirela, 24, was 2-for-2 on Sunday and had a part in both late runs that allowed the Yankees to tie the Rays. Pirela is 7-for-16 (.438) with a homer and three RBIs in 10 games. His chances of making the team are nonexistent but he is making a great impression.
- Bruce Billings, 28, struggled in his fourth outing of the spring. He entered a scoreless game in the seventh by promptly giving up a ground-rule double to James Loney. Billings then misplayed Sean Rodriguez’s sacrifice bunt, throwing the ball away to allow Loney to score. One out later, Billings uncorked a wild pitch and then Ryan Hanigan scored Rodriguez with a single. Billings has an ERA of 4.76, a Walks To Innings Pitched (WHIP) ratio of 1.59 and batters are hitting .318 off him. It may be time for Billings to seek another line of work.
- Anna has been everything the Yankees could have hoped for this spring. He is hitting .357 and has been very good in the field at second, short and third. However, he allowed a pop fly off the bat of Jeremy Moore to drop for a two-base error, which allowed an unearned run to score later on an RBI single by Mikie Mahtook off right-hander Danny Burawa in the eighth.
- Projected starters Carlos Beltran, Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury are all off to slow starts in the first 12 games. Beltran is hitting .125 and Ellsbury and Roberts are both hitting .143. Ellsbury did have a double in his three at-bats on Sunday and Roberts drove in the Yankees first run on an sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
Ryan, 31, has been shelved until the middle of next week due to recurring soreness in his lower back. Ryan does not believe it is serious and he is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Ryan is hitting .250 in four games this spring. He is virtual lock to be on the Opening Day roster as a backup infielder unless the back issue lingers. . . . Actor Richard Gere of “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “American Gigolo” fame threw out the first pitch at Sunday’s game. Gere is an avid Yankee fan.
The Yankees will not play an exhibition on Monday. They will resume their spring schedule on Tuesday with a game in Viera, FL, against the Washington Nationals.
CC Sabathia is scheduled to make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. Brian McCann, Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira plan to make to make the trip.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, 27, making his third start of the spring.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on tape delay by the MLB Network at 9 p.m.
YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 2
For nearly three hours on Friday Yankee fans saw their injury-riddled heroes play an exhibition game against a team that some believe might win the world championship in 2013 and what they learned is that this Yankee team just might measure up.
Andy Pettitte threw six strong innings, Kevin Youkilis homered and Mariano Rivera recorded the last three outs as New York defeated a powerful Washington team in front of a paid crowd of 38,161 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Pettitte (2-0) was touched for two runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks while he struck out six batters.
Meanwhile the Yankees scored all of their four runs in the fourth inning off Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (1-2).
Youkilis opened the frame with his sixth home run of the exhibition season. Travis Hafner followed with single and Vernon Wells doubled to left-center to move Hafner to third. One out later, Eduardo Nunez laced a two-run single.
The Yankees then added a run on a base-running mistake by Chris Stewart. The veteran catcher singled sharply to right, rounded first base too far and was caught in a rundown as Nunez reached third. When Nunez broke for home, Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa threw home to catcher Wilson Ramos. But the throw was too late and bounced off Ramos’ glove as Nunez scored.
The Nationals scored an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth when Youkilis committed a two-base throwing error on a ground ball off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. One out later, Ian Desmond drove in Zimmerman on a single to center-field.
They added a run in the sixth when Zimmerman slapped a two-out double down the left-field line and Adam LaRoche slapped an RBI single to center.
Rivera, 43, followed Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson to the mound in the ninth and he needed only 10 pitches to dispatch the Nationals for his first spring save.
The Yankees exhibition season record improved to 14-18. The Nationals ended the season with the same mark.
- Pettitte, 40, was masterful and totally in command throughout his six innings of work. What is more impressive was it came against what largely was the Nationals 2013 starting lineup and they led the majors last season with 98 victories. Anyone still want to make a case that Pettitte and the rest of the Yankee starting rotation is too old and battered to be effective?
- Nunez, 25, shone like a bright diamond in this game. Batting eighth, Nunez was 2-for-3 with a stolen base and two RBIs. His two-run single in the fourth proved to be game-winning hit. Though the Yankees seem to be at a disadvantage without their starting shortstop and captain, Derek Jeter, Nunez is proving to be capable replacement. He hit .293 on the spring and he looked much better in the field.
- Teams can’t win division championships or go far in the playoffs without an excellent bullpen. The Yankees’ bullpen on Friday looked to be formidable with Chamberlain, Robertson and Rivera not surrendering a hit or walk in the final three innings.
- Sloppy defense has been a problem for the Yankees all spring. Youkilis’ throwing error in the fourth cost the Yankees a run and was his fourth error of the spring, all of them coming at third base. I have said this before and it bears repeating: Youkilis is more skilled at first base than he is at third.
- Lyle Overbay made the team after a short three-day audition but he was not so helpful at the plate in this game. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Overbay did, however, have a pretty good game in the field. Though Overbay is not in Mark Teixeira’s class as a fielder, he is above average.
- Ichiro Suzuki’s slump at the tail-end of the spring continues. He was 0-for-4 and grounded out weakly all four times. Suzuki’s spring batting average has fallen from a high of .462 on March 13 to .286. Over that span, Suzuki was 6-for-30 (.200). I don’t think fans have to worry about him too much. He is a career .322 hitter after all.
Teixeira, who is rehabbing a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, told reporters on Friday that he is determined to return to the Yankees by early May. Teixeira was expected to miss eight to 10 weeks after he sustained the injury preparing for the World Baseball Classic in March. But Teixeira said he hopes to be back closer to eight weeks. . . . The Yankees officially confirmed on Friday that Overbay made the 25-man roster. In addition, veteran reliever David Aardsma was designated for assignment and right-hander Shawn Kelley was chosen to round out the bullpen.
PROJECTED 2013 YANKEE LINEUP (Not including players currently on the disabled list)
- Brett Gardner CF
- Ichiro Suzuki RF
- Robinson Cano 2B
- Kevin Youkilis 3B
- Travis Hafner DH
- Vernon Wells LF
- Lyle Overbay 1B
- Eduardo Nunez SS
- Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli C
- Brett Gardner CF
- Ichiro Suzuki RF
- Robinson Cano 2B
- Kevin Youkilis 1B
- Vernon Wells LF
- Ben Francisco DH
- Eduardo Nunez SS
- Jayson Nix 3B
- Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli C
The Yankees will travel to West Point, NY, on Saturday as the team will end its exhibition schedule with a game against the Black Knights of Army.
Right-hander Adam Warren will start for the Yankees. Warren will open the 2013 season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Game-time will be at 2 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
PIRATES 2, YANKEES 1
TAMPA – It is only fitting that on the final day of spring training in Florida that the Yankees would lose to the Pirates because of a lack of run support for a great outing by a starting pitcher.
Despite the fact that Hiroki Kuroda pitched six scoreless innings, striking out five batters, walking none and surrendering only an infield single, the Pirates scored two runs in the seventh inning as Pittsburgh went on to edge New York on Thursday in front of a paid crowd of 11,028 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees made Pirates rookie left-hander Jeff Locke look like Cliff Lee in his prime. Locke (3-1) shut out the Yankees for six innings, giving up four hits and no walks while striking out three.
Despite allowing an RBI double to Lyle Overbay in the ninth inning, Ethan Hollingsworth was credited with a save.
Boone Logan (0-1) was charged with the loss.
Logan walked pinch-hitter Travis Snider to open the seventh inning and Jose Tabata then lined a hard come-backer that struck Logan in the left hip and he reached base on the single.
Logan left the game as a precautionary measure and right-hander David Aardsma entered the game and uncorked a wild pitch and Francisco Cervelli threw the ball past Robinson Cano attempting to nab Tabata advancing to second. That allowed Snider to score.
One out later, pinch-hitter Jeff Larish singled in Tabata.
The Yankees completed Grapefruit League play with a 13-18 record. The Pirates ended up with the same record.
- Kuroda ended spring training with his sharpest effort of the spring. He kept the Pirates off-balance all day mixing his 92-mile-per-hour fastball with his slider and split-finger fastball. The only hitter to reach base on him was Garrett Jones, who reached on a two-out infield single that Kuroda knocked down but could not pick up in time to throw out Jones. Kuroda threw an amazing 52 of his 69 pitches for strikes – a 75 percent strike rate.
- Overbay cemented his position on the 25-man roster with his RBI double in the ninth inning. Overbay, 36, was given three days to make the team and he did it by going 5-for-11 (.455) in the three games he played. Overbay will open the season at first base and he will remain there until Mark Teixeira returns, which could be as soon as mid-May.
- The Yankees were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Thursday. The Yankees’ biggest failure came when Cervelli blasted a one-out triple off the left-field wall. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a weak infield popup and Vernon Wells ended the threat with a routine flyout. Yankee fans complained last season when the team did not deliver hits with runners in scoring position and relied so much on the home run to win games. Well, now the team still does not hit with runners in scoring position and now doesn’t hit home runs either.
- Aardsma appears to have blown his shot to win a bullpen spot with a weak showing on Thursday. He threw a wild pitch to set up one run and another scored on a RBI single. After he issued a two-walk to pinch-hitter Josh Harrison he was removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi. Aarsdma has a spring ERA of 3.52.
- Wells finished the day 0-for-3 but he still hit .310 for the spring and he will begin the season as the Yankees’ starting left-fielder until Curtis Granderson returns to the team in mid-May. Granderson will play center and Brett Gardner will shift to left-field. Granderson’s broken right forearm prevented the Yankees from their experiment of flip-flopping Gardner and Granderson.
The Yankees reportedly have released Juan Rivera from his minor-league contract and the team has decided to keep Overbay and outfielders Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch. Overbay likely will be in a platoon with reserve infielder Jayson Nix. Overbay will start at first against right-handers and against left-handers Kevin Youkilis could shift to first base and Nix can play third. With Wells starting in left and Travis Hafner as the designated hitter, Francisco and Boesch will mostly be bench players, although the Yankees could use Francisco as a right-handed DH against some left-handers. . . . Logan said after the game that his left hip was fine and he expects to be able to pitch again on Friday. That is one bullet the Yankees dodged. . . . It was no surprise that left-hander Vidal Nuno, 25, was named before the game on Thursday the recipient of the James P. Dawson Award as the Yankees’ top rookie of the spring. Nuno was 1-1 with 0.61 ERA in seven appearances. Nuno still has an outside chance to make the team as a second bullpen lefty behind Logan while Clay Rapada recovers from bursitis in his left shoulder. Nuno pitched at both Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton and was 10-6 with an organization-leading 2.54 ERA.
The Yankees are already in Washington D.C., and they will play an exhibition game against the Nationals on Friday.
Veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte (1-0, 4.82 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. The Nationals will counter with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (0-1, 5.40 ERA).
Game-time will be 2:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised locally by the YES Network and nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 5, NATIONALS 3 (14 INNINGS)
As Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate in the 14th inning on Saturday with a runner on third and a runner on first and one out, he was 0-for-5 and he struck out his first three times to the plate. With reliever Brad Lidge on the mound determined to get him out he only thought of one thing: Look for a slider and let it rip.
Fortunately for Teixeira and the Yankees, with a 2-1 count he got a hanging slider from Lidge and he smacked it hard off the wall in the right-field corner of Nationals Park for a double to score two runs and New York held on to take a hard-earned win over Washington, which extended the Yankees’ winning streak to eight games.
Forgotten bullpen long reliever Freddy Garcia (1-2) set the stage for Teixeira’s heroics by pitching two scoreless innings to get credit for his first victory of the season. Rafael Soriano pitched around two hits in the bottom of the 14th to retire Bryce Harper on a routine groundout to get credit for his 12th save in 13 opportunities.
Lidge (0-1) was saddled with the loss.
Jayson Nix started the winning rally by shooting a seeing-eye single in the hole between shortstop and third base. Nix later stole second and Derek Jeter, who was 0-for-6 as he stepped in, also singled to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Nix was held at third.
After Curtis Granderson strrck out, Teixeira then connected for what proved to be the game-winning hit.
The Yankees actually held a 3-2 lead after scoring two runs in the sixth inning that erased a 2-1 deficit to the Nationals.
Raul ibanez tied it with an infield groundout that scored Robinson Cano. After Nick Swisher was cut down at the plate on a comebacker to starter Jordan Zimmermann off the bat of Russell Martin, Eric Chavez gave the Yankees their first lead of the game with a double off the scoreboard in right-center that scored Martin.
The game stayed that way until Cory Wade entered the game in the seventh inning in relief of starter Andy Pettitte. Wade retired Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse on two pitches, however, Ian Desmond smacked a 2-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers to knot the game at 3-3..
Two batters later, Adam LaRoche slapped a single to right-field off Boone Logan and Tyler Moore, who was on second with a walk and a stolen base, attempted to score. But he was cut down at home plate on a throw from Dewayne Wise. The Yankees caught a break, too. Replays showed Moore actually touched the plate with his left hand on a head-first slide just before Martin tagged him on the left hip. But home-plate umpire Tim Timmons called him out.
So the game played on through another six very long innings.
Pettitte, who was in line for his fourth victory in his seventh start of the season, gave up two runs on five hits and three walks and he struck out six batters in seven innings.
His only blemish was giving up a two-run double to left-center by Jesus Flores in the second inning on a pitch that was up and out of the strike zone and broke Flores’ bat.
Zimmermann left after six innings having given up three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks and he struck out six.
The victory was the first time this season the Yankees won a game without the benefit of a home run. They were 0-12 in games without hitting a home run coming into the contest.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 39-25 and they remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Nationals dropped to 38-25.
- Despite the home run Wade surrendered to Desmond, the bullpen was excellent and the true key to the victory. Wade, Logan, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Garcia and Soriano combined to give up just the one run on four hits and two walks and struck out five in seven innings. Garcia escaped the 13th inning with the winning run on third by retiring Roger Bernadina on a groundout and Soriano got Harper to end the game as he represented the potential game-winning run at the plate. That is great relief pitching.
- Pettitte deserved to have won the game a day after his 40th birthday. He turned in his third straight quality start and he and his deadly cutter set the stage for Harper, a 19-year-old rookie sensation, to endure one of his worst days as a major leaguer. He struck out five times in the game and was 0-for-7 overall. Of the five hits Pettitte surrendered, one was an infield hit and three others – including Flores’ double – were broken bat hits. Pettitte’s ERA was lowered to 2.77.
- A substitution mistake by manager Joe Girardi in the eighth inning probably led to two things that actually allowed the Yankees to overcome the Nationals. When Wade entered the game to pitch in the eighth inning, Wise was brought off the bench to replace Ibanez in left. They were supposed to have been switched in the order so Wade would hit in Ibanez’s sixth spot and Wise would bat ninth. However, that was not communicated to the umpires. So when Logan was brought into the game with two outs in the eighth, Girardi was forced to bring in Jayson Nix to play left and Wise was moved to right-field. That was done so Logan could hit in Jones’ fifth spot and Nix could bat ninth. So when LaRoche singled to right, Wise (and not Jones) threw out Moore at the plate. Nix led of the 14th inning with a single, stole second and scored the lead run on Teixeira’s two-run double. Wise’s outfield assist and Nix’s hit and steal would not have happened had Girardi not made the substitution error. I guess Girardi would rather be lucky than good.
- Going into the 14th inning, the Yankees were 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position. They scored their first run in the fourth inning on a two-out error by Desmond. Ibanez’s infield groundout in the sixth tied the game and, later that same inning, Chavez doubled in Martin from first to score the third run. Jeter’s single in the 14th and Teixeira’s double were the only two hits the Yankees got all day with RISP.
- Although he walked three times, Granderson was 0-for-4 and had his six-game hitting streak stopped.
- After Chavez’s two-out double in the eighth, the Yankees did not get another hit until the 14th inning when Nix led off with a single. They were 0-for 19 while drawing five walks and reaching once on an error.
Swisher was removed from the game in the sixth inning after he sustained a bone bruise in his left quad sliding into the plate and colliding with left shin guard of Flores. Swisher was called out on the play and he immediately limped into the Yankees’ dugout and was replaced in right-field by Jones. Swisher likely will miss Sunday’s finale of the series against the Nationals and he is listed as day-to-day. . . . The Yankees did not start third baseman Alex Rodriguez in order to give him a day off. Rodriguez did pinch-hit in 10th inning for Logan and grounded out.
The Yankees can sweep the series and the entire six-game road trip with a victory against the Nationals on Sunday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64 ERA) will toe the slab for Yankees. Nova shut out the Braves on just five singles and a walk over seven innings on Monday in his last start. He will be starting against the Nationals for the first time.
Right-hander Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02 ERA) will pitch for the Nationals. Jackson, who the Yankees have faced many times before, logged his fifth consecutive quality start in a victory over the Blue Jays his last time out. He is 2-6 with a 5.35 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, NATIONALS 2
When Phil Hughes took the mound at Nationals Park on Friday he was facing a daunting challenge. His opponents were the hottest team in the National League and they boasted a lineup packed with power hitters who could take advantage of Hughes’ propensity to give up home runs.
But when he left after six innings, Hughes proved he was more than up to the challenge.
Hughes (7-5) gave up only one run on six hits (none of them home runs) and two walks and he struck out a season-high nine batters to lead New York past Washington for the Yankees’ seventh straight victory.
Hughes got some early run support when the Yankees touched Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (8-3) for two runs with two outs in the third inning.
Derek Jeter started it off by lacing a one-out double off the wall in right-field. One out later, Mark Teixeira drew a walk and Alex Rodriguez followed with a slow rolling single in the hole between first and second base that scored Jeter with the game’s first run.
Nick Swisher capped the scoring with a single to left that plated Teixiera while Rodriguez was thrown out rounding second base too far.
The Nationals struck back in the home half of the third when Michael Morse smacked a hanging 0-2 curveball into center to score Steve Lombardozzi with one out and the bases loaded. However, Hughes limted the danage by inducing Ian Desmond to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The game stood at 2-1 until the seventh inning, when the Yankees broke open the contest by chasing Gonzalez and preying upon the Nationals’ bullpen.
Andruw Jones started the inning with a single into left and Dewayne Wise was deployed as pinch-runner while Gonzalez was removed in favor of reliever Brad Lidge.
Wise stole second and Russell Martin drew a walk. Jayson Nix then advanced Wise and Martin a base on a perfect sacrifice bunt. Manager Joe Girardi chose to use Robinson Cano, who was resting against the left-handed Gonzalez, as a pinch-hitter. But Nationals manager Davey Johnson had Lidge walk Cano intentionally to load the bases.
Jeter then rolled a slow grounder to Desmond at short but Desmond’s throw to first base skipped past Adam LaRoche and it allowed Martin to follow Wise to the plate, expanding the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.
Johnson then removed Lidge in favor of lefty Mike Gonzalez but Curtis Granderson slapped an opposite-field double off the wall in left-field to score Cano and Jeter and the Yankees had finally blown the game wide open.
Granderson added his third RBI of the night with a solo home run with two out in the ninth off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for his 20th home run of the season to cap the Yankee scoring for the evening. If Granderson had not hit that home run the Yankees would have won their first game of the season in which they had not homered. They are 0-12 without homering this season.
The Nationals added an “oh-by-the-way” run in the ninth on an RBI groundout by Danny Espinosa off David Robertson, who was making his first appearance in a game since May 17 when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique.
The hero of the night, however, was Hughes, who had entered the game having given up at least one home run in his previous 12 starts. Hughes has now won his last three starts and four of his last five.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 38-25 and they extended their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals had their six-game winning streak snapped and they fell to 38-24.
- If there was any doubt Hughes was back to his 2010 form, his performance on Friday removed it. In his last five starts, Hughes is 4-0. In his last three starts, Hughes has given up four runs on 16 hits and seven walks and struck out 23 in 21 1/3 innings of work. That translates to a 1.69 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Anybody who still believes the Yankees’ starting rotation is weak is either crazy, stupid or smoking some funny herbs.
- Granderson drove in three runs with a double and a home run. His home run puts him third in the major leagues behind Adam Dunn of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, who are tied with 22. Granderson also extended his hitting streak to six games and during that span he is 9-for-25 (.360) with two home runs and six RBIs. His three RBIs now give him 39, which is second to Swisher’s 40 on the team.
- Jeter singled, doubled, scored two runs and drove in a run in the game. Jeter also extended his hitting streak to six games and he is 10-for-26 (.385) during than span. It helps the Yankees’ offense when Jeter and Granderson are a combined 19-for-51 (.373) over the past six games at the top of the lineup.
Absolutely nothing to criticize about this game. Everybody pretty much contributed something offensively and Hughes just pitched a sensational game.
The Yankees will continue their weekend road series in Washington against the Nationals on Saturday.