Starters making up for losses of CC and Andy
A sense of panic might have set in with the Yankees this week when CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte ended up on the disabled list on the same day. They represent the heart and soul of the rotation. Yankees manager Joe Girardi was quick to point out that the other three starting pitchers need not believe they have to do more than they are capable of to make up for the loss of the two lefthanders.
The skipper got exactly what he wanted from Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes in the series against the White Sox, which the Yankees split. The trio combined to go 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 22 1/3 innings during which they allowed 15 hits and five walks with 24 strikeouts. The bullpen blew Nova’s game Thursday night, and the White Sox hammered the Yanks Friday night only to have Kuroda Saturday and Hughes Sunday limit them to two runs over 15 innings.
Hughes overcame a shaky start when he gave up two first-inning runs to pitch through the eighth on an uncomfortably scorching afternoon. Then again, if a collection of former Yankees could play three innings in the Old Timers’ Game in Sunday’s sauna, then why not a 26-year-old?
“He made some mistakes with location early on,” Girardi said of Hughes. “But the more they go out there the more they make adjustments. That was what Hughes did for us. He has been going it for the past 10 or 12 starts.”
True enough. Hughes (9-6) won for the sixth time in his past eight starts and improved his record against American League Central clubs to 6-0 this season and 17-6 in his career. Over his past 11 starts, Hughes is 8-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 72 2/3 innings to lower his season ERA from 7.48 to 4.29. The Yankees have three pitchers with at least nine victories this year while the rest of the AL has five.
Two-run home runs by Eric Chavez in the second inning and Robinson Cano in the third off Gavin Floyd provided all the support Hughes would need. After a two-out double by Alex Rios in the third inning, Hughes retired 16 of the next 17 batters.
“The big adjustment,” he said, “was that I changed the angle of my breaking ball.”
Cano started July with the same firepower he had throughout June. Small wonder that he made the leap over the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler for the starting berth at second base for the AL in the All-Star Game along with teammates Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Sabathia. CC cannot play in the July 10 game at Kansas City but plans to attend as an observer.
Cano became the first Yankee second baseman to earn three consecutive fan-elected starts. He and Jeter are only the second pair of teammates up the middle to earn fan-elected starts three years in a row, joining the Reds’ Joe Morgan and Dave Concepcion for the National League in 1975, ’76 and ’77.
Cano, who raised his average to a team-leading .310, has homered in nine of his past 14 games. His 17 home runs since May 18 are the most by any player over the stretch. Cano has 10 home runs in his past 18 home games. He has reached the 20-homer plateau for the fourth straight year, joining Hall of Famer Joe Gordon (1938-41) as the only Yankees second basemen to accomplish the feat.
Jeter, who was 1-for-5 Sunday and had his average fall below .300 (.299) for the first time since after the third game of the season April 8, became the third shortstop to be elected to start seven consecutive All-Star Games. The others were Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith (10 straight, 1983-92) and Cal Ripken Jr. (eight straight, 1989-96).
It marked the 13th time in Jeter’s career that the fans elected him to start in the All-Star Game. He is the fifth AL infielder to earn at least seven straight fan-elected start at one position, along with Ripken and three other Hall of Famers, first baseman Rod Carew (nine straight, 1976-84) and third basemen George Brett (11 straight, 1976-86) and Wade Boggs (10 straight, 1987-96).
Granderson will make his third All-Star Game appearance and is the first Yankees outfielder to make two straight fan-elected starts since Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield in 1987-88.