This was a game about the Yankees offense, clearly. Their lineup hadn’t scored this many runs since that wild comeback at Fenway back in April, and for a team that had been losing a lot of close games recently, that seven-run third inning was a refreshing change of pace.
But for just a moment, let’s make today’s game all about Phil Hughes. Not because of the way he pitched — even he acknowledged that he was “more fortunate than anything” to allow only one run on nine hits and a couple of walks — but because of the final result. Hughes picked up his 10th win in his past 16 starts, and he lowered his ERA to 3.96.
It’s the first time since August 25, 2010 that Hughes has been more than one start into a season with an ERA below 4.00.
“I try to throw last year out because it was such a disappointment,” Hughes said. “But I feel like I’ve been pitching pretty well lately, and it’s one of the bonuses, I guess. It doesn’t really matter what you’ve done, it’s what you’re going to do. That’s how I look forward to these next couple of months. It’s just finishing strong. No one really cares about numbers when you’re going into August and September and the playoffs.”
Hughes had allowed more than six hits only once since the end of May. This wasn’t a typical start for him — a ton of base-runners, big outs when he needed them, keeping the ball in the park — but he made it work. Hughes talked a lot about trying to learn from all the “bumps in the road,” and maybe he’s done that. Hughes said even when he got off to a slow start this season, he was convinced he’d get to this point.
“I was feeling good and my stuff was good and I was coming out of a good spring training,” he said. “I kind of had a feeling things would turn. It wasn’t like last year when I had zero fastball. I knew if I kept working hard, things were going to turn around for me. Thankfully, they have. I just look forward to these next couple of months, to not really think about April and those things and just keep getting after it.”
• That seven-run third inning tied the Yankees single-inning season high. All seven runs scored with two outs, starting with three straight RBI hits by Jayson Nix, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson, and ending with the ninth grand slam of Robinson Cano’s career. “We have scored some runs in the midst of our struggles,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s not like we’ve been getting shutout. We’ve swung the bats pretty good. We swung pretty good yesterday. Even with some guys out, this offense is still capable of scoring some runs.”
• The Yankees first four hitters were 9-for-16 with seven runs, a double, two home runs and nine RBI today. At the bottom of the order, Nix added three hits, two runs and an RBI.
• Cano leads the Majors with seven grand slams since the start of 2010 (Alex Rodriguez is second with five). Cano is tied for the seventh-most grand slams in Yankees history (Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra also had nine). The Yankees have hit eight grand slams this season, the most in the Majors. With two more grand slams, the Yankees will match their highest single-season total in franchise history.
• Ichiro Suzuki played his first career regular-season game in left field. He made a leaping catch at the wall to take away at least a double and seemed to have no problem reading the ball off the bat. “I just have to get used to it in the games and just get adjusted,” he said.
• Ichiro has exactly one hit in nine straight games. According to Elias, he’s the first Yankee to pull off that feat since Roberto Kelly in 1991.
• Granderson has four homers in his past 10 games. He’s hit 18 of his 29 homers at Yankee Stadium this season.
• Jeter had his third straight multi-hit game and second straight three-hit game. He has 12 hits of three-or-more hits, tying his season total for last year. He’s hitting .433 the past seven games.
• Casey McGehee’s Yankees debut was a success. He drew a walk in each of his first two at-bats — came around to score each time — then had a deep sacrifice fly in the eighth. “He was patient,” Girardi said. “I haven’t really seen a lot of him over the years. He did a nice job, and the last ball he hit, I was impressed with that too. We believe he’s going to help us.”
• Joba Chamberlain made his first big league appearance since June 5, 2011. He gave up a home run on his second pitch and retired only four of the nine batters he faced. “Obviously that wasn’t the result I wanted,” he said. “But I have to look at the picture as a whole, and to see what I’ve come back from in the past 14 months and know that I’m able to do what I just did, and hopefully look at some film and see what we can fix.”
• After multiple reports of Chamberlain sitting in the upper 90s with his fastball during his rehab outings, Chamberlain’s fastball was clocked at 91-93 mph this afternoon. “Physically I felt great,” he said. “Just not executing.”
• We’ll give today’s final word to Nick Swisher: “It kind of feels like it was a coming out party. Really enjoying a game like this today. We drew a lot of walks today, really selective at the plate, big hits with runners in scoring position, lot of runs scored with two outs. Any time we can do that, it usually ends up a successful day for you.”
Associated Press photos