Runs have been at a premium for the Yankees over the last three games, and things didn’t figure to get any easier with Mike Pelfrey scheduled to be on the mound Saturday afternoon. To make matters worse, leadoff hitter Derek Jeter was out of the lineup with a bum heel, forcing Brett Gardner to serve as the table settler. The offense finally started to show some signs of life, and Phil Hughes settled down after a rocky start to earn his American League leading tenth win.
Two Run Jack, Jack It Up
Although a first inning run to answer Jose Reyes’ leadoff homer gave us all some hope that offense would start producing like they were capable of, the Yanks started the 3rd inning down a pair of runs thanks to another Reyes shot. Much like the first inning, Gardner started things off a solid single back up the middle, putting instant pressure on Pelfrey with his speed.
Mark Teixeira, the embodiment of the Yanks’ offensive struggles, came to plate with Gardner on second following a Nick Swisher ground out. He worked a 2-1 count on three consecutive fastballs, then jumped all over a hanging changeup for a two-run homer, his first in what feels like an eternity. The ball clanked off the chain-link fence separating the rightfield stands from the Yankee bullpen, and for the second time in the game the Yanks came right back and answered a Mets’ run(s) the next half inning.
Not to be outdone, Curtis Granderson stepped up to the plate with Jorge Posada on second an inning later, hitting a two run shot of his own after fouling off three straight offerings as part of a seven pitch at-bat. Technically, that was a biggest Yankee hit of the game at 17.3 WPA, but for all intents and purposes Tex’s shot was just as important. His checked in at 17.2 WPA.
A Yankee Killer Does Them A Favor
Even though he only spent a year and a half with the Red Sox, Jason Bay has turned into a guy that Yankee fans never want to see at the plate with men on base. The Yanks were still clinging to the two run lead Granderson spotted them, but Phil Hughes put himself in a little bit of a jam by walking Ike Davis to put men on first and second with one out in the 6th.
Bay came to the plate with the chance to give the Mets the lead with one swing of the bat, but he did the exact opposite of what we’ve become used to him doing. He hooked a first pitch cutter on the outer half to the left side of the infield, right at third baseman of the day Kevin Russo. Russo fired to second for one out, and Robbie Cano turned the pivot to complete the double play and get out of the inning. The double play benefited the Yanks almost as much as the two run homers.
A Hughes Turn Around
Phil Hughes’ overall body of work has been stellar this year, though his previous six starts have been rather mediocre. He pitched to a 4.95 ERA in 36.1 innings, allowing 41 hits and 13 extra base hits, though the team still managed to win five of those six starts.
Saturday’s game started out in inauspicious fashion, with Reyes sending Hughes’ second pitch of the day into the right fielder corner for a leadoff homer. Hughes pitched around a leadoff single in the 2nd, but Reyes touched him up another homer, this one a two runner, in the 3rd inning. That would be all the Mets would get, as the Yanks’ young starter retired eight of the next ten batters he faced, escaping the only other jam he’d face all day thanks to Bay’s double play.
Overall, Hughes allowed five hits and walked three, but he carried the Yanks through the 7th inning on an economical 99 pitches. His troubles finishing off batters weren’t much an issue, with the Mets fouling off only 15 of those 99 pitches this afternoon. Five of those fouls came in one 6th inning Angel Pagan at-bat. That’s a great improvement from the last few weeks, when the opposition was spoiling 40 or so pitches in a given start.
If you’re reading this site, you know that pitcher wins don’t mean much of anything. I have to admit though, seeing that 10-1 next to Hughes’ name is pretty damn cool.
Big ups to Gardner for the job he did leading off today. Started off two innings with singles, and the Yanks went on to score both times. Can’t say their usual leadoff hitter has been that productive lately.
It won’t show up on the box score, but Nick Swisher hit three balls right on the screws, with just one single to show for it. Dems the breaks.
Mike Pelfrey had not blown a single lead handed to him by the Mets this season coming into today, but the Yanks got him to cough up two leads in the first three innings.
Meanwhile, Hughes came back to strikeout Reyes his third time up following the two homers. Good job of showing him who’s boss.
Ramiro Pena even picked up a single. When that happens, they have to win. Can’t waste that kind of production.
The Yankees aren’t out of the woods offensively just yet. They squandered an opportunity with runners on second and third and no outs in the 8th with a chance to blow things open. I don’t blame Pena for making the final out of the inning, but Jorge Posada and Granderson have to at the very least get that run in from third. All they needed was deep fly ball to anyone but Jeff Francoeur, but they couldn’t come through. For shame.
WPA Graph & Box Score
The 2010 edition of the Subway Series concludes tomorrow afternoon with CC Sabathia taking on Johan Santana for the second time this season. Hopefully the bats continue to wake up a little.