Home runs have carried the Yankees offense the past two nights, but that’s not what anyone wanted to talk about tonight.
“I love pitching,” Joe Girardi said. “Pitching gives you a chance to win every day. Obviously it’s fun to score runs, and you need to score runs, but you know that if your pitchers do the job, you’ve got a really good chance of winning.”
The Yankees have won five of their past six games, and starting pitching has played a staring role in each of those wins. Andy Pettitte has given the rotation a boost, Hiroki Kuroda’s been outstanding, Ivan Nova’s last start was a big step in the right direction. And then there’s Phil Hughes.
“You don’t want to be the guy that lets it down,” Hughes said. “Keep the roll going and thankfully we’ve been getting some good starting pitching, the bullpen stepped up, and we’ve been scoring enough runs. We want to keep this going as long as we can. … You can’t argue with wins. Whether we’re playing the best we can or we’re no, a W is a W, and we’ll take it.”
Hughes has won five of his past seven starts, enough to give him a winning record and a 4.76 ERA (he was 1-4 with a 7.48 ERA as recently as May 5). He said his curveball wasn’t particularly sharp tonight, and he never found the changeup consistency he wanted, but Hughes has been able to lean heavily on his fastball to find success with an aggressive game plan.
“If we don’t have the starting pitching that we’ve had step up for us, we might not be in as good a spot as right now,” Mark Teixeira said. “Starting pitching is the key to baseball, and Phil just kept a long line of great starts going tonight.”
• Of course, a little offense helps, and tonight Teixeira delivered the big blow with a two-out, two-run homer in the sixth. “Curveball probably left over the plate a little more than he’d like to,” Teixeira said. Curtis Granderson added an insurance run with his solo homer in the eighth.
• The Yankees are now 25-5 when hitting multiple home runs this season. For all the talk about runners in scoring position, the Yankees are still at their best when they’re hitting the ball out of the park. “I just say, let’s be ourselves,” Teixeira said. “When you don’t do things you’re comfortable doing, you’re not going to be successful. This is a home-run-hitting team. We have guys up and down the lineup that have hit home runs. We have guys that have been doing it a long time, so we really shouldn’t be changing the way we approach the game.”
• This was only Teixeira’s third home run at Yankee Stadium this season.
• Derek Jeter snapped an 0-for-17 with his first-inning single. Later in the inning he scored his 1,800th career run, moving him ahead of Ted Williams on baseball’s all-time list.
• It was Alex Rodriguez who drove in Jeter, giving him 1,917 RBI in his career. That moved him into a tie with Eddie Murray for seventh on baseball’s all-time list.
• Hughes was able to get his fastball under control later in the game, but it was giving him some trouble in the first inning. “First inning has kind of been a struggle for me all year, just trying to contain those emotions and locate my fastball a little bit better,” he said. “It was kind of the same story tonight. Thankfully I got out of it. Fastball was kind of riding everywhere in the first inning, a little too much adrenaline.”
• Hughes has allowed a home run in all 12 starts this season, tied for the second-longest streak to open a season in Major League history. “The home runs are an issue,” Hughes said. “I’m a fly ball pitcher so it’s going to happen. I’d like to blame it on the ballpark but those are pretty much going out anywhere. Thankfully they were solo homers and I was able to get some outs with guys on base and stay away from the big inning.”
• Speaking of which: Hughes got 11 fly ball outs tonight. He got one groundball out.
• The bullpen did it again, with Cory Wade getting out of trouble in the seventh, Clay Rapada getting two big outs in the eighth and Rafael Soriano getting the save with a scoreless ninth. “Our bullpen was really mapped out, seventh, eighth, ninth inning,” Girardi said. “Now it’s not mapped out. It’s kind of mix-and-match all the way through, and these guys have really stepped up. We’ve asked guys to do things that probably in their career they haven’t done a lot of, and they’ve done a good job.”
• Soriano improved to 9-for-9 in save chances this season. He’s converted all 11 save opportunities since coming to the Yankees.
• Last word goes to Teixeira: “Winning helps. Everyone talks about this stat, that stat. It’s wins. If we’re winning ballgames, everyone is going to be a little bit happier, a little bit more relaxed, and we feel like we’ve been on a really nice roll the past couple of weeks. … “We’re playing good baseball. You can always be better. That’s the fact of the matter in this game, but right now we’re on a nice little run.”
Associated Press photos