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.