Nationals Feeling ‘Hughesed’ By Red-Hot Yankees

GAME 63

YANKEES 7, NATIONALS 2

When Phil Hughes took the mound at Nationals Park on Friday he was facing a daunting challenge. His opponents were the hottest team in the National League and they boasted a lineup packed with power hitters who could take advantage of Hughes’ propensity to give up home runs.

But when he left after six innings, Hughes proved he was more than up to the challenge.

Hughes (7-5) gave up only one run on six hits (none of them home runs) and two walks and he struck out a season-high nine batters to lead New York past Washington for the Yankees’ seventh straight victory.

Hughes got some early run support when the Yankees touched Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (8-3) for two runs with two outs in the third inning.

Derek Jeter started it off by lacing a one-out double off the wall in right-field. One out later, Mark Teixeira drew a walk and Alex Rodriguez followed with a slow rolling single in the hole between first and second base that scored Jeter with the game’s first run.

Nick Swisher capped the scoring with a single to left that plated Teixiera while Rodriguez was thrown out rounding second base too far.

The Nationals struck back in the home half of the third when Michael Morse smacked a hanging 0-2 curveball into center to score Steve Lombardozzi with one out and the bases loaded. However, Hughes limted the danage by inducing Ian Desmond to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The game stood at 2-1 until the seventh inning, when the Yankees broke open the contest by chasing Gonzalez and preying upon the Nationals’ bullpen.

Andruw Jones started the inning with a single into left and Dewayne Wise was deployed as pinch-runner while Gonzalez was removed in favor of reliever Brad Lidge.

Wise stole second and Russell Martin drew a walk. Jayson Nix then advanced Wise and Martin a base on a perfect sacrifice bunt. Manager Joe Girardi chose to use Robinson Cano, who was resting against the left-handed Gonzalez, as a pinch-hitter. But Nationals manager Davey Johnson had Lidge walk Cano intentionally to load the bases.

Jeter then rolled a slow grounder to Desmond at short but Desmond’s throw to first base skipped past Adam LaRoche and it allowed Martin to follow Wise to the plate, expanding the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.

Johnson then removed Lidge in favor of lefty Mike Gonzalez but Curtis Granderson slapped an opposite-field double off the wall in left-field to score Cano and Jeter and the Yankees had finally blown the game wide open.

Granderson added his third RBI of the night with a solo home run with two out in the ninth off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for his 20th home run of the season to cap the Yankee scoring for the evening. If Granderson had not hit that home run the Yankees would have won their first game of the season in which they had not homered. They are 0-12 without homering this season.

The Nationals added an “oh-by-the-way” run in the ninth on an RBI groundout by Danny Espinosa off David Robertson, who was making his first appearance in a game since May 17 when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique.

The hero of the night, however, was Hughes, who had entered the game having given up at least one home run in his previous 12 starts. Hughes has now won his last three starts and four of his last five.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 38-25 and they extended their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals had their six-game winning streak snapped and they fell to 38-24.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • If there was any doubt Hughes was back to his 2010 form, his performance on Friday removed it. In his last five starts, Hughes is 4-0. In his last three starts, Hughes has given up four runs on 16 hits and seven walks and struck out 23 in 21 1/3 innings of work. That translates to a 1.69 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Anybody who still believes the Yankees’ starting rotation is weak is either crazy, stupid or smoking some funny herbs.
  • Granderson drove in three runs with a double and a home run. His home run puts him third in the major leagues behind Adam Dunn of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, who are tied with 22. Granderson also extended his hitting streak to six games and during that span he is 9-for-25 (.360) with two home runs and six RBIs. His three RBIs now give him 39, which is second to Swisher’s 40 on the team.
  • Jeter singled, doubled, scored two runs and drove in a run in the game. Jeter also extended his hitting streak to six games and he is 10-for-26 (.385) during than span. It helps the Yankees’ offense when Jeter and Granderson are a combined 19-for-51 (.373) over the past six games at the top of the lineup.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Absolutely nothing to criticize about this game. Everybody pretty much contributed something offensively and Hughes just pitched a sensational game.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez’s RBI single in the third inning was the 1,924th RBI of his career, which ties him with Jimmie Foxx for sixth place on the all-time list.  . . . Girardi made it clear to reporters that Cano did not start on Friday because he wanted to give him two days off, including Thursday’s off day. Cano was spiked on the left ankle in Wednesday’s game against the Braves but he was not seriously injured. Cano did enter the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and he drew an intentional walk. He stayed in the game as the second baseman and singled in the ninth inning.  . . .  Robertson gave up two hits and a run in his first outing since being activated from the disabled list on Thursday. David Phelps was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre  to make room on the roster for Robertson.
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ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend road series in Washington against the Nationals on Saturday.

Birthday boy Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees after he turned 40 on Friday. Pettitte gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks and struck out eight in six innings against the Mets on Sunday before leaving the game with a bruised left hand he sustained fielding a hard-hit comebacker in the sixth. But the hand is fine and Pettitte declared himself ready to go. He is 2-1 with a 5.64 ERA in his career against the Nationals.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.91 ERA). Zimmermann allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings in a no-decision at Fenway Park against the Red Sox in his last start. Zimmermann has never faced the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
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