Yanks Destroy Orioles in Twin-Killing

Bartolo Colon got plenty of run support in yesterday’s first game, as the Yanks cruised to an 8-3 win. The bottom of the order carried the day, with the #5-9 hitters going a combined 10-19 with 6 runs and 6 RBI. Swish was 3-4 with his 13th homer, while Chris Dickerson, Francisco Cervelli, and Eric Chavez each had 2 hits and an RBI.Colon was decent but, unlike most of his starts this year, inefficient in needing 105 pitches just to get through 5 innings. Cory Wade did yeoman’s work for three innings before Boone Logan mopped up the ninth.

That was nothing compared to what transpired in the second, with the Yanks setting a franchise record by scoring a whopping 12 runs in the first on their way to a 17-3 blowout.  Robinson Cano went 5-5 with 5 RBI in the second game, Swish continued his torrid streak by going 3-6 with his 14th homer, Grandy was 3-6 with 3 runs, Jones homered, and every started had at least a hit and a run. What impressed me most was that the Yankees did most of their damage, in the first and in general, without relying on the home run ball. Swish homered, but otherwise the Yankees strung together their record-setting first inning with hard hit after hard hit, making the inning incredibly long and, for the O’s, painful to endure–40 minutes and an incredible 70 pitches to complete the half-inning. The game was effectively over then, all the more so after the Yankees added 3 more in the second, and a single in the third on Jones’s homer. Nova was good, allowing just 2 runs and six hits to go 9-4, with an ERA just over 4. The guy deserves a spot in the majors, but with the Yanks’ commitment to Hughes, and with Garcia and Colon pitching so well, he is the odd man out right now. Girardi toyed with the idea of a short-term six-man rotation, but I don’t expect that to last long at all should they implement it in the first place. Rafael Soriano returned with a 1-2-3 9th with 2 K’s and, although his velocity was not what it normally is, this should come back the more work he gets.

Not to be lost in the fireworks, the Yankees kept pace with Boston by remaining 2 back in the loss column, and staying 7 games ahead of the Angels in the Wild Card race.  Garcia (9-7, 3.23 ERA) takes the bump at 1:05 ET., after which the Yanks hit the road starting with a series in Chicago.

Yanks Pull Out Big 5-4 Win

In one of my very favorites wins of the year, one that appeared unlikely early on, the Yankees gutted out a big, come-from-behind 5-4 win in Tampa Bay last night. Grandy continued his terrific play by going 2-3 with 2 runs, 2 stolen bases, and 2 walks. Gardner continues to shine, going 1-3 with a run, a stolen base, 2 walks, and a huge break-up of what would have been an inning-ending double play that allowed the tying run in Swish to score in the 8th inning. Andruw Jones had a big walk to load the bases, and Russ pushed across the winning run with a bases-loaded walk, in the 9th. Swish was 1-3 with 2 walks. Cano had an RBI single in the 2nd.

To be fair, even though he was all over the place and, when he was close to the plate, getting squeezed by home plate umpire Ed Hickox, AJ hung in there after a dreadful first inning. He kept the game close while the stellar Yankees bullpen allowed but a hit and a walk–both from Noesi who looked good–in the remaining 3 2/3. Robertson is so dominant, fanning two in the 8th last night to lower his ERA to 1.21, and raise his K total to an amazing 59 in just 37 2/3 IP. That’s officially ridiculous. Mariano, His Eminence, got his 24th save of the year and his 583rd of his incomparable career on a mere 8 pitches, making Upton look silly on a K.

This win was huge, allowing the Yanks to keep pace with a surging Boston, padding the lead in the loss column to 7 over TB, and stealing one when it looked so unlikely early on. This was one I was extremely glad to stick with.

Edit: One would be hard pressed to find a bigger difference maker in the Yankee lineup right now than Gardner, who really ought to be batting lead off. He is highly disruptive on the bases as last night’s great, clean wipe out slide also showed. While he ought to bat first, that he is batting above ninth more often at least solidifies a bottom third that has scuffled. Still, Girardi needs to do the right thing and move Gardner up.

I was reminded of Geoff from The BPS last night when Teixeira smack yet another one into the teeth of the shift–the shift works, and has done much to tamp down on Teixeira’s average. Heck, Tampa even employed it when Teixeira batted right-handed. I like that Teixeira has steered the ball to the other side a couple times lately, for it shows that he’s adjusting, but he needs to drive the ball the other way with consistency to reduce the shift on him, and I don’t see it happening any time soon. I love the guy, and his defense (including a terrific catch by the stands to end the game) is first rate. But his declining average (.239) is worrisome, all the more so as A-Rod recovers from surgery.

I’d like to see Noesi pitch quite a bit more. He is nasty when he keeps the ball down, and I am a big fan of the mid-90s heat.

Hard to imagine where the Yankees offense would be without Grandy. He is every bit the player I had hoped for when they traded for him, and this season stands right with his monster 2007 season as his best.

Hughes Strong, Offense Steadily Productive in 7-2 Win

I hate to accept series splits but, as regular reader Mike Fierman and I text-chatted during the game, this was one that was easy to accept after the first two abysmal games to open the series in Toronto. Bolstered by Phil Hughes who got stronger as the game went on, and a well-rounded offense that provided multiple contributions, the Yankees left Toronto far better than it entered, closing the four-game set with a well-earned split from a 7-2 win.

Brett the Jet was 3-4 with 3 runs and 2 stolen bases while batting lead-off which, let’s face it, with all due respect to Jeter lead-off is where Gardner ought to hit. He is now hitting .286 and has been a consistent force, both offensively and defensively, for the Yankees. My boy Grandy was 2-5 with a double and 3 RBI, giving him a team-high 68 for the season. Swish was 2-4 with an RBI, making me eat crow for my text speculation with Mike yesterday that RF might be a position the Yankees seek to upgrade since many other positions are larded with long-term, immovable contracts, and since Swish is hovering just over .250.  Mike’s response was so outrageously profane, laced with numerous hurtful ad hominems, that I can scarcely repeat them here. (Kidding, of course) Hey, someone each year makes me eat crow and, with Bartolo Colon struggling lately and thus refusing to continue to feed me crow for my pre-season assertion that I never want to see him in pinstripes, it might as well be Swish! Cano had an RBI single, Martin an RBI double, and Pena a nice sacrifice fly. Going 5-8 with RISP, stranding only 6.

Hughes was very good and, after a sluggish start, really got rolling and retired 8 of the last 9 batters he faced. His fastball and curve were sharp, with each used for strikeouts. He only threw 80 pitches in six innings, with Girardi going to the bullpen after that perhaps to both ease him back into regular work, and to allow him to end with success. The bullpen was typically excellent, with the trio of Wade (who impresses me quite a bit), Robertson (who has been brilliant this season), and Logan (who is in a good stretch that I’d like to see continue in a season punctuated by ups-and-downs by him) going 3 perfect, with Logan fanning the side in the 9th.

Gardner began the scoring right away in the first, singling and stealing second. After Teixeira walked, Cano singled to right, and Swish’s hard single to right to score BG was hit so hard as to prevent Teixeira from also scoring. The Yanks failed to add on despite having the bases loaded, providing 2 of the team’s 3 failed chances with RISP in the first alone. After the Jays tied it in the second against a scuffling Hughes, the Yanks blew it open in the fourth with a crooked (4). Swish singled and I could have sworn that he mouthed “F$*k you, Jason” as he ran to first. After Jorge flew out to left, Russ doubled in Swish to break the tie and give the Yanks the lead for good. Nunez singled Russ to third, Pena scored him on a sac fly, 3-1 Yanks, Gardner singled, and Grandy laced a double into the right field corner to plate them both, 5-1 NY.

Toronto cut it to 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth, but the Yanks added a run in the 7th and the 9th to pad the lead.

The Yanks moved back to 18 games over .500, staying close to first-place Boston and at least 5 ahead of Tampa Bay in the loss column. I was glad to see the Yanks have plenty of hits, 11 in all, without a home run scoring a run today. They will need more of that as A-Rod recovers from knee surgery for the next few weeks. Continuing to get such solid play from Gardner, Grandy, Swish, and hopefully more from a slumping Teixeira would go a long way to mask A-Rod’s absence.

On to Tampa for four games, against whom the Yankees are 3-2 thus far, with over a dozen games remaining between the two in all likelihood going a long way to determining the fate of the AL East. After that, the Yanks have a ten-game home stand against three sub-.500 teams in Oakland, Seattle, and Baltimore. Taking three against TB would be huge, especially if the Yankees can come home and dominate the home stand to end July.

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