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.
YANKEES 4, ORIOLES 1 (15 Innings)
For nearly five hours the Yankees and Orioles seemed to be handing victory to each other and both teams kept giving it back.
But Robinson Cano ended the nonsense in the 15th inning with a two-run double and rookie Hector Noesi pitched a “thrill-a-second” four innings of relief to win a game in his major-league debut as New York knocked off Baltimore at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday, ahh, make that early Thursday morning.
The Yankees actually spoiled eight innings of shutout baseball by starter Bartolo Colon only to have the great Mariano Rivera cough up his third save chance of the season, which sent the game into six incredible extra frames in which there were 18 hits, six walks and 18 runners left on base between the two teams.
But Mark Teixeira led off the 15th inning with a single to right off losing pitcher Jeremy Accardo (2-1). Alex Rodriguez followed with his fourth single of the night into center. Orioles manager Buck Showalter brought in lefty Mike Gonzalez to face the lefty swinging Cano and Cano blasted his first offering into the gap in right-center for a double to score Teixeira and Rodriguez. An error on the play by Adam Jones allowed Cano to reach third.
Gonzalez then struck Chris Dickerson in the head with a 1-1 fastball and Dickerson was forced to leave the game for a precautionary CT scan. Home-plate umpire Dan Bellino immediately ejected Gonazlaez and Showalter was forced to use Mark Guthrie, the scheduled starter for Thursday’s game, to pitch in relief. The Yankees added another insurance run on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly to right to score Cano.
Noesi, meanwhile, kept both Yankee and Oriole fans on the edge of their seats. Noesi (1-0) gave up four hits and four walks and stranded seven runners in four eventful shutout innings. He actually started the 15th by giving up a single to Nick Markakis and he walked Brandon Snyder. But he retired Luke Scott on a soft liner to left and caught the biggest break of the game. Matt Wieters stroked a sure ground single towards right but the ball struck Snyder while he was running in the baseline and Snyder was ruled out. A pitch later, J.J. Hardy ended the four-hour and fifty-six minute marathon with a fly ball to right.
With the victory the Yankees improved their record to 22-19 and they remain two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Orioles fell to 19-22 and they trail the Rays by five games.
- If Bartolo Colon could throw a game any better, it would have had to have been a no-hitter. Over eight innings he silenced the Orioles on only three hits and one walk and he struck seven. He finished his evening by striking out the side by painting the outside corner as he did all night long. He only needed 87 pitches and 61 were strikes. That is an amazing 70 percent strike ratio. He deserved the victory and it is a shame he did not get it. This scrap-heap 37-year-old right-hander has a season ERA of 3.16, the best mark among the Yankees’ starters.
- Rodriguez continues to show improvement at the plate. He had four hits in the game and scored two of the Yankees four runs. In his last two games he is 6-for-11 (.545). That raises his season batting average to .266.
- Give Noesi credit for his “bend but don’t break” pitching. He loaded the bases after striking out his first two major-league batters and then induced Markakis to hit an easy tapper back to Noesi. In the 13th, Noesi had runners on first and second with two out and struck out Mark Reynolds looking. In the 14th inning, Noesi gave up a long fly ball to the deepest part of right-center that was caught at the wall by Dickerson. Considering the 24-year-old rookie held it together for four innings in his major-league debut is very impressive.
- Cano continues to frustrate the Orioles. He entered the game hitting .565 at Oriole Park since the beginning of the 2009 season. Showalter and the Orioles foiled his attempt to end the game in the 13th inning by walking him intentionally with Curtis Granderson at third and Teixeira at first with one out. Accardo escaped the jam by striking out Dickerson and getting Brett Gardner to ground out.
- No one can fault the great Rivera for being human. He faltered in the ninth by giving up one-out singles to both Jones and Markakis and Vladimir Guerrero stung him for a sacrifice fly to score Jones. It was Rivera’s third blown save and his second against the Orioles this season. The other was against the Blue Jays. It is not surprising that Rivera would have less success against the teams he faces the most inside the A.l. East.
- Actually the Yankee offense could only muster an unearned run off Orioles starter Zach Britton. Rodriguez led off with a single and he advanced to second on a Cano groundout and took third on an error by Robert Andino. He then scored on a Nick Swisher sacrifice fly. The Yankees had at least one base-runner in the seven innings Britton pitched. Before Cano’s hit they were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. This has been an ongoing issue all season long with the Yankees.
- Francisco Cervelli committed yet another throwing error trying to throw a base-stealer. In the eighth inning, Mark Reynolds stole second and too third when Cervelli’s throw tailed past Cano at second base and rolled into center. Colon bailed Cervelli out by striking out Andino. Cervelli has two errors in limited play and has allowed 11 steals on 13 attempts (18 percent).
- Bartolo Colon once again had to bail out struggling starter Phil Hughes. Colon came into the game with one out in the fifth inning and pitched three scoreless innings. He gave up three hits and a walk and struck out three.
- Posada’s game-tying home run in the ninth was only his seventh hit of the season, but five of those hits have been home runs. He now leads the Yankees in home runs.
- Rodriguez and Robinson Cano continue to punish A.L. pitching. They combined to go 5-for-8 with two RBIs. Rodriguez raised his average to .412 and Cano is hitting .326.
- Yankee defense made three sparkling plays in the field. Swisher robbed Brian Roberts of a potential two-run home run with a catch at the right-field wall in the fifth inning. Instead it was a sac fly that scored the Orioles’ fourth run. To begin the eighth inning, Derek Jeter denied Vladimir Guerrero a single by ranging to his left, spinning 360 degrees and firing a one-hop throw to Teixeira. But the play of the night came in the same inning with pinch-runner Felix Pie at third and one out and Joba Chamberlain pitching to Mark Reynolds. Chamberlain uncorked a wild pitch that ricocheted off the wall behind home plate and kicked back to catcher Russell Martin. Chamberlain blocked Pie’s slide into home as he caught Martin’s relay and tagged Pie out.
- Though he pitched somewhat better, the Yankees still have to be concerned with the way Hughes is pitching. Hughes gave up five runs on seven hits and struck two in 4 1/3 innings. He did lower his ERA but it still is a very high 13.94.
- Brett Gardner is in a major slump. He was 0-for-5 and struck out three times and he is one for his last 18 at-bats. He struck out to end the seventh inning with the tying run at second. In the ninth he struck out looking with the potential game-winning run at second.
- Russell Martin committed another throwing error in the fifth inning. After Cesar Izturis bunted his way on base Martin tried a snap throw to first base to pick him off and the ball sailed over Teixeira’s head into right field. Izturis moved to third on Roberts’ long fly that Swisher grabbed and he scored on a Markakis single.