Bats back Hughes as Yanks pound Twins

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Benjamin Franklin once wrote in a letter a famous phrase concerning life’s certainties. “In this world,” he said, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Of course, the famous Philadelphian lived long before the Yankees and Twins had a chance to face each other. Had he done so, he might have added a New York victory over Minnesota to that short list.

For the fourth time this year and for the 21st time in their last 24 meetings, the Yankees walked away winners in a contest against the Twins. Phil Hughes pitched into the 8th for the first time since September and Russell Martin blasted a pair of home runs to give the Bombers a comfortable 8-1 victory. For Hughes, it was his fourth strong start in a row, and for the Yanks’ offense, it was business as usual.

Tonight marked my fourth game this week on the road with the Yankees. I start work in September, and I wanted to see some baseball in the meantime. I spent two days in Kansas City, and I’m in Minneapolis for the four-game set. I’ve enjoyed the barbecue and beer in Kansas City and two days of Jucy Lucy’s and Blucy’s so far in Minneapolis.

During my travels, I’ve spoken with a lot of friendly midwesterners who seemingly fit my stereotypical view of the rest of the country I developed while growing up in New York. They’re always open for conversation and passionately love baseball. In Kansas City, the fans talked about economic imbalance and the impressive display of power and patience from the Yanks. They were thrilled to see the Royals win on Wednesday simply because they don’t expect Kansas City to trump the Yanks.

In Minnesota, the attitude is somewhat different. While only 22,000 fans showed up at the K for the Yankee series and most of those were New York fans, Target Field is filled to the brim with Twins fans who are passionate about their team. Tonight was the club’s 51st sellout even though the team is struggling in a weak division. Some in Minneapolis say that’s a new phenomenon brought on by a gorgeous open-air stadium and a successful team, but it doesn’t matter. They know their Twinkies, and they know that the Twins simply cannot beat the Yankees. That 21-3 record covers two post-season series and the past three years. They expect the Yanks to walk away victorious.

Tonight, the story was no different. Trevor Plouffe gave the Minnesota fans brief hope as he deposited a 0-1 pitch from Phil Hughes into the left field seats, but after that, it was all Yankees. The Bombers scored eight unanswered runs. The Yanks’ 25-year-old right-hander was the story of the night. He threw 7.2 innings and gave up just a pair of hits while walking three and striking out two. He didn’t have his best stuff really as he generated just two swings-and-misses. He was sitting comfortably in the low 90s, a tick or two lower than we’d like, but the Twins couldn’t square up against him.

For Hughes, this was his fourth straight strong start. Over his last 25.2 innings, Hughes has allowed five earned runs on 18 hits and five walks with 15 strike outs. With Freddy Garcia on the DL for another week and a double header looming, the Yanks don’t have to make a decision on a five-man rotation for at least another two Hughes’ starts. It’s hard to see, however, the Bombers removing him from the rotation right now. He’s been throwing strong and steady lately.

The offense meanwhile plated another eight runs like it was nothing. Russell Martin blasted a pair of home runs to give him 15 on the season. It was his third multi-homer game of the year, and for a night at least, we could forget about his post-April offensive struggles. Derek Jeter added a pair of hits and two runs scored while Mark Teixeira drove in three which included his 1000th career RBI. That 8-1 win was easy as they get.

Phelps rocked in return to SWB

Dellin Betances was In The Team Photo of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. In other news, P.J. Pilittere was activated from the phantom DL to take the DFA’ed Gus Molina’s spot on the Triple-A Scranton roster. Wilkins Arias was sent back to Double-A Trenton and Brad Halsey was put on the DL. Sixth rounder Jake Cave faced his first live pitching since turning pro earlier this week, and it was against Pedro Feliciano.

Triple-A Scranton (7-4 loss to Durham)
Chris Dickerson, LF & Doug Bernier, SS: both 1 for 3, 1 R – Dickerson got hit by a pitch, stole a base and struck out … Bernier doubled, walked, and score a run
Mike Lamb, DH: 2 or 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K
Brandon Laird, 3B & Luis Nunez, 2B: both 1 for 4 – Laird struck out twice … Nunez hit a solo jack
Terry Tiffee, 1B & Jordan Parraz, RF: both 0 for 4 – Parraz struck out
P.J. Pilittere, C & Greg Golson, CF: both 0 for 3, 1 K – Pilittere allowed a passed ball
David Phelps, RHP: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 39 of 70 pitches were strikes (55.7%) … first start at this level since June 21st because of the shoulder issue
George Kontos, RHP: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 6-2 GB/FB – 41 of 53 pitches were strikes (77.4%) … dreams of a high-leverage, multi-inning reliever are dancing through my head
Scott Proctor, RHP: 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 16 of 23 pitches were strikes (69.6%)
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – just eight of his 18 pitches were strikes (44.4%)

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Game 123: Hughes on the hill

(AP Photo/ Bill Kostroun)

Phil Hughes and the Yanks look to continue their recent success against the Twins tonight as the righthander takes the mound for his 10th start of the season. Hughes, 3-4 with a 6.55 ERA, is looking to build on some strong outings. Over his last three starts, the 25-year-old has allowed 16 hits and just four earned runs in 18 innings while striking out 13 and walking three. This is Hughes’ second career regular season start against the Twinkies.

Minnesota will counter with Kevin Slowey. The 27-year-old is making his first start since September 27 and only his seventh appearance of the season. He missed some time earlier this year with abdominal strain and landed in AAA after coming off of the DL. He is 0-0 this year with a 4.91 ERA in 14.2 innings. He has allowed 19 hits but just one walk to go with seven punch outs. He is 1-1 with a 4.56 ERA in 23.2 innings spanning five games against the Yankees. He recently held the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees to one unearned run over 8 innings during a AAA outing.

Here’s your Yanks’ starting nine:

Gardner LF
Jeter SS
Granderson CF
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Chavez 3B
Posada DH
Martin C

Alex Rodriguez Update: A-Rod went through some more hitting and baserunning drills today, and he will do so again tomorrow. Joe Girardi indicated that they are leaning against activating him in time for tomorrow’s game but could add him to the roster for Sunday or Tuesday after Monday’s off day.

Other News: Freddy Garcia has been placed on the disabled list because of the cut on his finger, and he’ll make a “rehab” start with Triple-A Scranton next week and be activated in time to start one of the game’s in the doubleheader against the Orioles next Saturday … The Yankees have claimed left-handed reliever Aaron Laffey off waivers from the Mariners and designated Gus Molina for assignment. Laffey will join the team tomorrow, taking Garcia’s roster spot.

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Garcia DL’d to make room for Laffey

Freddy Garcia, a quiet hero of the Yanks’ season, has been placed on the disabled list with a cut on his right index finger, the Yankees announced today. By and large, the move is a technicality which allows the Yanks to add Aaron Laffey to the 25-man roster without losing another player. Garcia last pitched on August 7 and can be activated as early as Tuesday. The Yankees however will have him start on Monday for Scranton before activating him for next weekend’s double header (Carig). Garcia has thrown all of his pitches in the pen this week in Minneapolis, but the Yanks can buy some time with this move. They can add a lefty without losing another reliever for now.

Andruw Jones’ secret hitting coach

Even before last night’s third deck shot, Andruw Jones had gone from dud to legitimate force for the Yankees in the second half. I wrote about his improvement earlier this week, and as it turns out, the outfielder had some help with the turn around. “My mom called me and told me look at your old tape,” said Jones to Jack Curry. So he watched some old tape of him from last year (.364 wOBA overall, .402 vs. LHP) and widened his stance, which helped him feel more comfortable at the dish. Andruw’s mom is cool with me.