YANKEES 8, ORIOLES 5
Little ball has its place but the longball has always been the Yankees’ bread and butter. That marvelous power was proudly on display on Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez and Steve Pearce each blasted Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen for home runs as the Yankees put Baltimore in a 7-0 hole after 5 1/2 innings and New York got a solid six innings out of Phil Hughes to take back sole possession of first place in the American League East.
Martin began the power surge in the top of the fourth after Chen hit Nick Swisher with his first offering of the inning and Robinson Cano then drew a four-pitch walk. Rodriguez struck out but Chen started Martin off with two pitches low and out of the strike zone.
Forced to throw a strike, Martin blasted Chen’s “hit-me-hard” high change-up a dozen rows deep into the bleachers in left-field to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
One out later, Andruw Jones singled and Pearce turned around an inside first-pitch fastball into a towering drive to left-field that sailed over the outstretched glove of Nate McLouth at the wall and landed in the first row of the seats. McLouth tried to sell to the umpires that a fan interfered with his attempt to catch the ball but replays clearly indicated McLouth’s glove was over the wall and the fan in the first row did not reach into the field of play.
Nice try, Nate. But cheaters never prosper.
One inning later, the Yankees practically sent Chen crying back to his native Taiwan.
Derek Jeter led off the inning with an opposite field single to right, part of another huge three-hit night for the Yankee captain.
Two outs later, Rodriguez connected on a high fastball and drove it majestically over the bullpens in left-center for his 16th home run of the season and his 300th homer as a Yankee.
It also ended Chen’s evening. In Taiwan, they would say to Chen “zai ken,” which means goodbye.
Chen (12-9) entered the game 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA in his three starts against the Yankees this season. He left the game having been ripped to shreds for seven runs on six hits (three of them that covered quite a bit of real estate) and one walk while he struck four in 4 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Hughes (14-12) was shutting out the Birds over the first five innings until a Swisher error on a ball off the bat of J.J. Hardy opened the floodgates in the sixth. McLouth followed a with a double off the wall in right and Adam Jones then homered to plate Baltimore’s first three runs.
Hughes left after six innings having given up three runs (two earned) on six hits and no walks and he fanned five batters to become the first Yankee pitcher to win 14 games this season.
The Yankee bullpen made it interesting for the 40,681 fans who paid to watch this showdown between to the top top teams in the division.
Cody Eppley gave up a solo home run to Robert Andino in the seventh and closer Rafael Soriano was touched for a solo home run by Manny Machado with two out in the bottom of the ninth. But too much damage had been done to Chen and the Orioles by the Yankees’ bats in the middle innings.
Jeter drove in the game’s sole run that did not result from a home run. He scored Ichiro Suzuki with a two-out single off the glove of Andino at second base that padded the Yankee lead to 8-4.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 78-60. The Orioles slipped to 77-61, one game back in second place. The Tampa Bay Rays are two games back in third.
- So much for left-handers having a huge edge on Yankees. All three homers off Chen were from right-handed hitters. With the three bombs he gave up on Friday, Chen has now given up 25 home runs this season. Six of them have come in his four starts against the Yankees. YES Network broadcaster Michael Kay got to really perfect his signature “See-ya” call in this one.
- Hughes came through with a solid six-inning effort and gave the Yankee offense plenty of time to tee off on Chen. Hughes bounced back nicely off his loss to the Orioles in his last start. Before that losing outing, Hughes had pitched at least seven innings in his previous four starts.
- After stinking up the Bronx most of the season, Martin is beginning to show signs of getting hot with the bat. In his last four games, Martin is 6-for-14 (.429) with two homers and seven RBIs. Martin has raised his season average to .204 with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs. The Yankees do need his bat down the stretch.
- The Swisher error at first base was his first error at the position this season. But it proved to be a costly one. The one saving grace was the Yankees did have a 7-0 lead at the time. It ruined what had been a very good outing from Hughes up to that point.
- Eppley and Soriano were touched for late home runs, which proved costly to David Robertson and the Yankees on Thursday. The Yankees’ bullpen has been very good about keeping the ball in the ballpark most of the season. It would be a shame if this trend continued during the stretch drive.
- Curtis Granderson has become virtually useless at the plate and it is beginning to look like he is going to need some time on the bench. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Friday and he now has just two hits in his last 17 at-bats (.118) and has struck out nine times. Pitchers lately could practically roll the ball to the plate and Granderson would swing and miss.
The Yankees elected to play it safe on Friday and did not start Mark Teixeira at first base. Teixeira, who has missed 11 games with a strained left calf, took batting practice and fielded ground balls, but trainer Steve Donohue recommended Teixeira should rest one more day. He is likely to return to action on Saturday. . . . The Yankees may make a change in their weekend rotation plans because right-hander Ivan Nova is ready to return from the disabled list after suffering inflammation in his right rotator cuff. If Nova does make the start it will be in place of right-hander Freddy Garcia, who is Sunday’s scheduled starter.
The Yankees will resume their pivotal four-game series with the Orioles on Saturday.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (13-4, 3.42 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia is coming off a no-decision in his last start against the Rays. But the Orioles are a team that Sabathia has owned throughout his career, He is 16-3 with a 2.97 ERA against them.
The Orioles will counter with journeyman left-hander Joe Saunders (1-1, 4.63), who will be making only his third start for the O’s. He is coming off a game in which he threw six perfect innings and a shutout over 6 1/3 innings. Saunders is 2-1 with a 6.28 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.