At this point, I’m surprised when someone on the Yankees and Orioles doesn’t hit a homer. The two clubs combined for six homers on Friday, including a seventh that was robbed by Nate McLouth. The Yankees had men on-base for each of their three dingers though (plus the would-be fourth homer), so they came out on top and regained sole possession of the AL East for at least another night. Let’s recap…
- Bombs Away: After hitting just five homers in their last nine games, the Yankees swatted three in the span of nine batters in the middle innings of Friday’s win. Russell Martin got it all started with a three-run shot off Wei-Yin Chen, then a few batters later Steve Pearce hit a two-run shot to stretch the lead to five-zip. It was his first as a Yankee. One inning later, Alex Rodriguez launched his first homer since coming off the DL, sending the two-run shot over the home bullpen in left-center. He’s got three extra-base hits in his last three games, so I guess my concerns about the strength in his hand following the injury were a waste of time. The three dingers accounted for seven runs.
- Sixth Inning Blues: In his last two starts (both against the Orioles), Phil Hughes has pitched pretty well … up until the sixth inning. On Friday he allowed just three hits across his first five innings before a Nick Swisher error at first — it was a tough error but an error nonetheless — opened the floodgates a bit in the sixth. McLouth followed up with a double to right and Adam Jones then drove a three-run dinger to left, his 29th of the year. Hughes retired the next three men in order to end the inning and his night, a six-inning start with three runs (two earned) and five strikeouts against zero walks. The homers are maddening, but I think we all would have signed up for three runs in six innings coming into the game. I know I would have.
- Nine Outs: Squeezing three innings out of the bullpen is no easy task these days. Joe Girardi had to use four relievers to get those last nine outs, including Cody Eppley (one out, one homer), Boone Logan (three outs), David Robertson (two outs), and Rafael Soriano (three outs, one homer). Robertson threw three curveballs to Jones for a three-pitch strikeout, including two swings and misses. See? Good things happen when you throw that pitch, David. Keep doin’ it. The two homers were solo shots, but otherwise good job by the relief corps.
- Leftovers: A-Rod’s homer was his 300th as a Yankee, if you can believe that … Swisher is hitless on the road trip and had the homer robbed in the ninth … Derek Jeter had three hits while A-Rod had two, the only Yankees to reach base more than once … Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, unable to build on his two hits from Thursday … props to Joe Girardi for emptying his bench and using a number of timely pinch-hitters … the Yankees have now scored 20 runs in their last three games after scoring 20 runs in the previous seven games, so hooray for the offense coming back to life.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. As I said earlier, the Bombers are back on top of the AL East by one game with 24 left to the play. The Rays remain two games back after walking off against the Rangers. The magic number to clinch the division is down to 24. Still a lone way to go. CC Sabathia will need to soak up some serious innings on Saturday night after the recent bullpen work, and he’s usually up to the task. Fellow southpaw Joe Saunders will be on the bump for Baltimore.