When you’re rolling, you’re rolling. The Yanks right now? They’re rolling. They got the bats going early last night, scoring in each of the first three innings en route to an 11-4 victory over the Orioles.
For a certain Phil Hughes, it was a redemption of sorts. Last time he faced the Orioles he was on the ass end of an 12-5 beating. That outing is now removed from the Yanks’ last 10, in which they are now 9-1, having taken the past eight contests. In its stead is an outing which is tough to describe. The nine strikeouts point to dominance, but the three earned runs do not. The 64 percent strike rate signals relative efficiency, but that he lasted only five innings does not. As in most cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t bad, wasn’t great. Serviceable is probably the most appropriate term.
The problem with the strikeout, as Hughes learned tonight, is that it can take a while to set up. It took him 44 pitches to fan those nine Orioles, or roughly half of his total for the evening. That means it took him 45 pitches to record the remaining six outs. So while it was a relief that he threw a good percentage of his pitches for strikes, efficiency is still a problem for the youngster. It didn’t help that the Orioles capitalized on two of his worst pitches of the evening. The Wiggington homer was right down the pike, and Hughes left the cutter up and over the plate to Adam Jones. Again, this performance was difficult to define. Not as good as in Detroit, definitely better than in Baltimore and against Boston, better than against Minnesota.
The offense got working quickly to stake Hughes to a lead. Mark Teixeira crushed a pitch in to the wall in the first, scoring Johnny Damon from first. Then in the second Nick Swisher caught a break in the form of an inside fastball that he turned on, depositing it in the right field seats. Robinson Cano followed with a moon shot that landed beyond the fence. Finally, Melky Cabrera absolutely unloaded on a hanging curveball, sending it to the second deck in right. That sequence doesn’t bode well for the we can’t call it a bandbox yet argument. It does seem, though, like almost everything is going out to right. Everything to center and left looks relatively normal.
The Yanks put on a clinic again in the eighth, putting the hurt on Danys Baez and Jamie Walker. They plated six runs on zero homers. Even better, they plated every single man in scoring position that inning. If there was any bad in the frame at all, it’s that Teixeira bookended it with outs. Cano more than made up for that with a bases loaded single, and Jeter iced it with a double that I thought was going to clear the short porch once again. It still cleared both men on the bases and gave the Yanks more than enough cushion. Never mind that they had Mariano Rivera already in the game — and strangely enough, he still finished it.
At the end of April, things didn’t look so hot for the Yankees. The patient among us kept repeating that the team we saw at the end of April wold not be the same team we would see in June, which would not be the same as the team we would see during the sweltering days of August. Without a doubt this is not the same team that finished April 12-10 and that sat at 13-15 on May 7th. They’re getting better pitching all around, and the hitters are more than making up for an iffy start. Mark Teixeira has his average up to .241. Alex Rodriguez is back and mashing. Melky continues to hit well. Johnny Damon is as hot as it gets. This team is in a great spot right now.
They’ll try to make it nine straight tomorrow night, as Joba Chamberlain faces Adam Eaton. As Rebecca pointed out, the last time the Yanks won eight straight they trotted out Sidney Ponson in Boston on the ninth day. This time around they’ve got Joba taking the hill in their own park. If that doesn’t illustrate the difference between last year and this year, I don’t know what does.