(Now would be a great time for this guy to heat up. Courtesy of the AP)
Even when the Yankees win it's stressful. They jumped out to a big lead early last night, and then held on through the final innings as Baltimore tried to slug their way back into the game. The Yankee offense had seen Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen enough already this season to know what to expect from him. That, combined with Chen's loss of command in the strike zone last night made it a very good night for an offense that's continuing to find its sea legs and getting back to being the dangerous group it's supposed to be. With Chen struggling, the Yankees needed a good start from Phil Hughes and they got one. For one day at least, the division lead is back in New York's possession.
- Hughes got into trouble right off the bat, literally, when Nate McLouth doubled to put runners on second and third with 1 out in the 1st. But Hughes retired Adam Jones and Matt Wieters to keep the scoreboard clear.
- The Yanks didn't strike until the 4th, but they did in a big way. Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano got free passes and Russell Martin drove them in with a 3-run HR to get things started, then Steve Pearce followed up with a 2-run blast of his own to make it a 5-0 game.
- Alex Rodriguez fanned the flames in the 5th inning with a 2-run HR of his own, scoring Derek Jeter and chasing Chen from the game. It was a good-looking power swing from The Horse, and encouraging sign that his hand is feeling is good.
- Hughes held the O's down in 2 shutdown innings after the 4th and 5th, but had his one bad inning in the 6th. A Swish error at first and another McLouth double put runners on for Jones, and after being retired on a fastball previously, Jones was looking first-pitch heater all the way. Hughes threw it and Jones hit it for a 3-run homer to get Baltimore back in the game 7-3.
- That could have been it for Hughes, but in a big gut check for him he sat down the next 3 Baltimore hitters in order to limit the damage in the inning. He threw a bunch of changeups to get Mark Reynolds out (finally), and got Chris Davis swinging on The Slutter.
- After playing longball early, the Yankee offense backed down to base hits to score an insurance run in the 9th. Jeter singled home Ichiro, his third hit of the night, to keep the cushion.
- Bullpen gave up a couple of homers in relief of Hughes to keep things just uncomfortable enough for Yankee fans, but they were both solo shots and New York hung on for the 8-5 win.
- A-Rod: 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI, 2 K, 2 LOB. He didn't look great in his first couple games, but The Horse has had extra base hits in each of his last 3 games and is swinging the bat with some pop.
- Hughes: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R ( 2 ER), 0 BB, 5 K, W. As I mentioned in the last recap, Hughes needed this win in the worst way, and the Yankees needed it in the worst way. And Hughes delivered. The HR was bad, but outside of that Hughes was really in control of the Baltimore lineup. He had his offspeed stuff working, his fastball command was much better, and Joe let him end on a high note after 6.
- Jeter: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI. As Jeter goes at the top, so go the Yankees these days. The Captain helped lead the charge to a W with another multi-hit game. That 200-hit season is coming in a hurry.
- C-Grand: 0-4, 3 K, 1 LOB. Not the follow-up night you wanted to see after Curtis' multi-hit game last game. Too many swings and misses.
- Swish: 0-4, 1 R, 1 K, 3 LOB. The sell on the HBP was nice, but Swish was pretty useless outside of that. His error contributed to Baltimore's one big inning against Hughes.
Each team's got a game in hand in the series, so today's matchup could be the big swing game. The Bombers will once again send their ace CC Sabathia to the mound in a game they really need today, and it'd be nice if he could have one of those big shutdown performances. Baltimore's throwing the uber-hittable Joe Saunders, so the awakening offense should get plenty of chances to do damage.