YANKEES 10, ORIOLES 2
Yankees manager Joe Girardi is finding out that resting Alex Rodriguez for a day certainly pays big dividends in the future.
On Wednesday night, the three-time MVP busted open a close game in the seventh and touched off a rout in the ninth as the New York Yankees won their sixth straight game and swept the Baltimore Orioles 10-2.
Rodriguez, who sat out Monday’s game against the Orioles, reached the 2,500-hit plateau with a single to center in the fifth inning off Orioles starter Jason Berken. He then added a two-run single in the seventh inning to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead and another two-run single in the ninth that touched off a seven-run frame to put the game out of reach.
“He’s been the man,” Johnny Damon told MLB.com. “We do have to pay attention and give him those days off so he can feel fresh, and when he feels fresh, you see how fast his swing is. Tonight was great.”
Of Rodriguez’s 75 RBIs this season, 36 have either tied the game or put the Yankees out in front.
“He has been really good in those situations for us, whether it’s been a game-winning home run or tying the score late,” Girardi said. “He’s been really good in those situations, and that’s what you want.”
The seven-run explosion in the ninth clinched the victory for CC Sabathia, who is the first pitcher in the major leagues to win 16 games. Though Sabathia started off shaky, he collected himself to pitch seven innings, giving up just one run on seven hits and a walk and he fanned nine batters.
“It feels good just being able to go out and help this team win,” Sabathia said. “I’ve just been pounding the strike zone and getting ahead. It has been working out.”
The Orioles, though, did have the veteran left-hander in trouble in the first two innings. In the first inning, Brian Roberts led off with a bunt single. After one out, Nolan Reimold hit a check-swing bloop single to right to move Roberts to third. Nick Markakis then lined out to left to score Roberts with the game’s first run.
The Orioles then pushed Sabathia to the wall in the second with singles by Matt Wieters, Ty Wigginton and Felix Pie. But Sabathia escaped the bases-loaded, one-out jam by striking out Roberts and Cesar Izturis.
Sabathia (16-7) then stiffened up to give up just a double to Pie in the fifth and single by Ty Wigginton in the seventh.
Sabathia remains undefeated since July 28, a span of seven starts. He is 6-0 and has an ERA of 2.45 in those seven starts.
“He’s been really, really good for us all year long,” Girardi told MLB.com. “He’s done what we expected. He’s been a true ace for us — innings, wins, everything. He’s done everything we’ve asked.”
The Yankees got Sabathia back in the game in the third inning when Eric Hinske touched Berken for a 400-foot blast to right-center for his eighth home run of the season. Hinske had hit five home runs in his first seven games with the Yankees beginning on July 6.
But Hinske had not hit another since July 31 until Tuesday night when he connected on a solo home run in the seventh inning. So after his home run drought through August, Hinkse has now connected in two consecutive games.
Hinske also has 14 hits as a Yankee and seven are home runs.
He was in the lineup on Wednesday ostensibly to give a rest to first baseman Mark Teixeira. Hinske played right-field and Nick Swisher filled in at first for Teixeira.
The game stayed 1-1 until the Yankee half of the seventh inning. Rookie reliever Kam Mickolio walked Damon to start the inning. Swisher followed with his second opposite field bloop hit to left — this one was a double and it moved Damon to third.
Rodriguez then swatted a line single to center to score both Damon and Swisher and give the Yankees their first lead of the night.
The Orioles did pull to within a run on a Reimold solo home run with one out in the eighth inning off struggling right-hander Brian Bruney. But Phil Coke and Phil Hughes got an out apiece to shut down the Orioles to close out the eighth.
The Yankees then torched Orioles closer Jim Johnson and Dennis Sarfate in the ninth. Johnson, struggling with his control walked Derek Jeter and Swisher — sandwiched around a Damon single — to load the bases. Rodriguez then stroked a 0-2 pitch that caught the plate for a single to left to score Jeter and Damon.
After a deluge of seven hits, two walks and 12 batters made it to the plate, the Yankees had padded the 5-2 lead to 10-2 on RBI singles from Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, Jose Molina, Jeter and Damon.
Phil Hughes pitched the ninth inning and struck out the side to complete his second major-league save. Mariano Rivera, who pitched in the first two games of the series and saved both games, was unavailable to pitch on Wednesday because of a tightness in his left groin.
He was not needed, though. In the three-game sweep, the Yankees outscored the Orioles by a combined score of 24-9. The Yankees have now defeated the Orioles in 10 straight games.
“Give credit where credit is due,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said to MLB.com. “They have a tremendous team. We try to do everything we possibly can, and it just has not measured up and allowed us to get a win.”
The Yankees also were able to extend their lead in the American League East to 7 1/2 games over the second-place Red Sox, who lost 8-5 in St. Petersburg, FL to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees “magic number” for clinching the division is now 23.
“We’re not counting our blessings just yet,” Rodriguez said. “We have a long way to go, and there’s a lot of baseball to be played. But overall, our health has been good, for the most part, and we have a deep team.”
The Yankees now fly to Toronto to begin a four-game series at Rogers Centre. They will start Chad Gaudin (5-10, 4.90 ERA) in the opener Thursday night. Gaudin is starting in place of Sergio Mitre, who is nursing a bruised right forearm he sustained when he was hit by a line drive off
the bat A.J. Pierzynski on Saturday.
Gaudin will be making his second start with the Yankees. In his first start, Gaudin pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball against the Oakland A’s. He walked five batters however, and he was removed because of a high pitch count.
The Toronto Blue Jays will start young lefty Ricky Romero (11-6, 3.95 ERA). Romero allowed 13 base-runners over 5 1/3 innings but gave up three runs in a loss to the Red Sox on Saturday. In two previous starts against the Yankees, Romero is 1-0 with a 4.38 ERA.
Gametime is 7:07 p.m. EDT.