Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Yanks Get Hughes the Runs He Needs

The Yankees continued their 3-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of St. Petersburg last night.  They needed Phil Hughes to pitch like the Hughes of 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012, not like the Hughes of 2008, 2011, or his first 2 starts this season.

It sure didn't start out that way.  The first 3 batters he faced were as follows: Desmond Jennings drew a walk, Ryan Roberts doubled, and Ben Zobrist flew out to center to get Jennings home.  1-0 Tampa.

In the top of the 4th, Eduardo Nunez led off and reached 1st base on a "Mickey Owen play": He struck out, but the Rays' catcher, our old pal Jose Molina, couldn't handle a wild pitch from David Price, and Nunez got to 1st safely.  With an invitation like that, Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells singled to get Nunez home and tie the game at 1-1.

In the bottom of the 7th, Hughes, who'd pitched beautifully since the first 3 batters -- allowing just 1 more run, 2 more hits, and no more walks over the next 6 innings -- began to tire.  He walked Matt Joyce to lead off the inning, got Yunel Escobar to fly to center, then allowed singles to James Loney and Molina, to make it 2-1 Tampa.  But Ichiro Suzuki relayed Molina's hit back to 3rd base and Loney was out.  That gave Hughes a little boost, and he struck out Kelly Johnson to end the threat.

Hughes allowed 2 runs over 7 innings.  Good enough to win -- if the Yankees could get him some more runs.

With 1 out in the 8th, Ichiro and Jayson Nix singled, Ichiro going to 3rd on Nix'.  Brett Gardner got Ichiro home with a groundout.  Tie ballgame.  David Robertson pitched a 1-2-3 8th for the Yankees.

Cano led off the top of the 9th with a single.  Rays' manager Joe Maddon had seen enough with Price, and brought in the club's closer, Fernando Rodney.  Wells struck out, but his swing at an outside pitch enabled Cano to steal 2nd base.  Travis Hafner came up, and Maddon ordered him walked to set up the double play.  It was the first walk allowed by Tampa pitching all night.

The walk allowed to Lyle Overbay was anything but intentional, and it loaded the bases with 1 out.  But Chris Stewart popped up, and now there were 2 outs, and the Yankees needed a hit, not just a fly ball, a deep groundout, an error, a wild pitch or a passed ball to get Cano home with the potential winning run.  It was beginning to feel like one of those games...

Enter Ichiro, who singled to center.  Robbie and Pronk scored.  4-2 Yankees.

As the saying goes, you gotta go to Mo.  Mariano Rivera came in to close it out... and promptly allowed a home run to Evan "Desperate Housewife" Longoria.  4-3 Yankees.  Uh-oh...

As they say in Australia, "No worries, mate." Mo got Joyce to ground out, Escobar to fly to right, and Loney to fly to left.  Ballgame over, Yankees... You know how that goes.

WP: Robertson (1-0) -- but a good job by Hughes, a very encouraging one.  SV: Rivera (6).  LP: Price (0-2).

The series concludes tonight, with Andy Pettitte starting against Alex Cobb -- no relation to Ty, but he was born in Boston, so he probably hates the Yankees.  He's from Vero Beach, across the State, in Central Florida but closer to Miami than to Tampa, and was 4 when the Marlins played their first game and 10 when the Rays played theirs, so it's more likely that he grew up a Marlins fan than a Rays fan.

He's 25, and has been in the majors less than 2 full years.  Is he the proverbial young pitcher the Yankees have never seen before? No: On July 18, 2011, he faced the Yankees at The Trop, and while he pitched reasonably well, he was the losing pitcher in a 5-4 Yankee win.  On June 6, 2012, he faced the Yankees at The Stadium, and wasn't as good, getting hit solidly in a 4-1 Yankee win.  On September 4, 2012, he faced the Yankees at The Trop, and this time he was the winning pitcher in a 5-2 Rays win.

Elsewhere, the Oakland Athletics beat the Boston Red Sox 13-0 -- in a game shortened to 7 innings by rain.  The pesky Toronto Blue Jays last to the Baltimore Orioles 4-3.

The Yankees are still a game and a half behind the Sox, 1 in the loss column.  The O's are 1 back, the Rays 4, the Jays 5 1/2.

All that new pitching... The Jays are 8-13, a .381 percentage, a 162-game pace for 60-102.  And people thought they were going to win the Division...

The Mets lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, 7-2.  They are 9-9, 5 games behind the Atlanta Braves, 4 in the loss column.  They got off to a good start, but, like water, a lousy team always seeks its level.

Right now, the Braves still have the best record in baseball, 15-5 (.750) -- but we all know the Braves will choke, in October if not in the summer.  The worst? The Miami Marlins are 5-16 (.238), and already 10 1/2 games behind the Braves.  It's not easy to be over 10 games behind on April 24.

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