Let’s start with the positive. This was a nice win for the Yankees. It was a terrific night for the bullpen, a strong showing for the lineup and there were even brief glimmers of hope for Phil Hughes. They disappeared quickly, but they were there.
If this were September, or even the middle of a long summer, this would feel like a huge, momentum-building win. This early in the year, it’s a nice win.
“That’s how good teams play,” Russell Martin said.
Jorge Posada’s game-tying home run had to be the biggest hit of the night, but he passed the credit to the guy who pitched three scoreless innings of long relief. “Bartolo’s the key there,” Posada said.
Bartolo Colon’s three scoreless innings gave the Yankees a chance. The Orioles had been feasting on Hughes diminished fastball for 4.1 inings, and Colon shut them down with well placed four-seamers and two-seamers. His sinker — as Martin keeps reminding us — has become a very real weapon against left-handers.
“He threw the ball extremely well again for us,” Girardi said. “We thought he could do a good job in that role because he’s a guy that throws so many strikes in that situation and gives your club a chance to come back.”
That’s exactly what Colon did tonight. Joba Chamberlain followed with some terrific bullpen work of his own — including a run-saving play at the plate — and Mariano Rivera did what he does. The bullpen kept the Orioles from building on their five-run lead while the Yankees offense kept chipping away leading to Posada’s game-tying home run and Nick Swisher’s game-winning sacrifice fly.
Now the negative. Hughes wasn’t much better than in his first two starts. Martin said he was noticeably better in the bullpen before the game, he threw more strikes, and he showed a little bit of improved velocity in his first two innings. Then it went away.
“We actually saw some 91s and some 92s today,” Girardi said. “But he’s still not right. And it’s our job to get him right.”
Hughes said he could feel it when his velocity dipped in the second inning. It hadn’t been all the way back to last year, but it was a little better, and Hughes thought it would be enough to get through the night. “It just disappeared,” he said.
“Same old story I guess,” Hughes said. “I don’t really even know what to say at this point. It is what it is. I’m hoping it will turn. I’m fairly confident it will turn. It’s just a matter of building my arm up and hopefully it turns around soon.”
Hughes said he felt different in the later innings, but it wasn’t pain or anything like that. It was “just the feeling of not really having much behind it.” That showed as the Orioles went to work, and only leaping catches by Swisher and Curtis Granderson kept things from getting further out of hand. Martin said it was “definitely a step forward,” but Hughes seemed just as frustrated as ever.
With two off days next week, the Yankees could skip Hughes in an attempt to give him some extra rest, but Girardi said no decisions have been made.
“He’s got to pitch to get things right,” Girardi said. “You can’t just go on a sabbatical or something. We have off days coming up. We have a lot of things that we need to discuss, but we need to get this kid right.”
• It gets lost a little bit in the shadow of Colon’s three innings, but Chamberlain was terrific and he made the biggest play of the night when he blocked the plate after a pitch that got past Martin. Replays showed that Felix Pie never touched the plate. Chamberlain blocked him perfectly. “I kind of peeked and saw his foot coming,” Chamberlain said. “I was going to do everything I could to try to get that out and save that lead.”
• Martin’s hilarious take on the play at the plate: “That was a 180-pounder against a 250-pounder or whatever Joba is. Joba’s going to win that every time.”
• Speaking of Martin, here’s his take on Hughes: “His bullpen was better coming out of the gate today, and then it looked like he might have gotten a little fatigued or something was off, but early on it looked like he was back. And then he just kind of lost a little of his velocity, but I thought he pitched better. He made more pitches today. He had better command of his stuff, a little bit. It was definitely a step forward for him, I think.”
• Posada tied the game on Kevin Gregg’s first pitch of the night, a leadoff homer in the ninth inning. “It’s a good pitch to hit,” Posada said. “It was right down the middle.”
• This was the Yankees third come-from-behind win of the season and their largest comeback since August 11 of last year. According to the team, it was their largest comeback at home since May 1, 2009 against the Angels.
• Derek Jeter passed Barry Bonds for sole possession of 32nd place on baseball’s all-time hits list. He has 2,936.
• Mariano Rivera got the win after his scoreless 10th inning. He’s now won or saved every one of the Yankees home victories this season.
• Here’s Brian Cashman’s pregame comment about the possibility of trading for a new left-handed reliever: “Historically, you can’t get anything done until after the draft, anything of quality. Somebody’s headache might become your good fortune because it can turn around when you change scenery. Somebody’s bad contract can play up in a new environment. Some of those things might be available right now, but those are things you don’t want to run to either. Yeah, I’ll look, but I’m not going to find too easily.”
• Here’s what Cashman said about the possibility of calling up Andy Sisco: “We saw him in winter ball and he was throwing up to 95. With spring training for us he was at 89. He’s up to 91 now, so it’s going in the right direction… His lines are better than what he’s throwing. Even though he’s throwing better, we still want to give him more time to get to where he needs to get to. He might become a choice at some point for us, but he’s not right now.”
• The Yankees are now in sole possession of first place. Not that it matters much on April 14, but it’s better than the alternative.
Associated Press photos