Another tight one for Yanks and Orioles
Phil Hughes was certainly to the task for the Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Division Series as the Yankees hoped to close out the first round and have a fresh CC Sabathia to open the AL Championship Series Saturday night at home against the Tigers or the Athletics, who were scheduled later Thursday night in Game 5 of their ALDS.
Hughes gave up one run on a home run to Nate McLouth and not much else. Despite falling behind in the count frequently, Hughes avoided severe danger as the Orioles stranded six runners and were hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position over the first four innings. The three walks Hughes yielded were all to leadoff batters in innings but none came around to haunt him. The righthander struck out eight batters, including the three immediately after McLouth’s homer in the fifth.
Orioles lefthander Joe Saunders kept pace with Hughes. The lefthander won a 13-pitch duel with Derek Jeter in the third by striking him out but was victimized by the Captain three innings later with a leadoff double. After Ichiro Suzuki bunted Jeter to third base, Saunders got ahead 0-2 in the count to Teixeira only to lose him on a base on balls. The Yanks were able to tie the score on a slow groundout to second base by Robinson Cano before righthander Tommy Hunter came in from the bullpen and struck out Alex Rodriguez.
Jeter, still bothered by a bone bruise on the top of his left foot, was the designated hitter and wore a special pad on the top of his shoe as well as his regular ankle guard. It didn’t matter. He kept fouling pitches off the foot throughout the game.
Taking DJ’s place in the field was Jayson Nix, who had a nice game at the plate with a double and a single. He might have had another hit, but McLouth robbed him with a running, jumping catch in left-center that was the front end of a double play as Russell Martin could not get back to first base in time.
Nix was given the benefit of the doubt by official scorer Howie Karpin in the top of the ninth as Jim Thome reached base on a bad-hop single off Nix’s chest. Lew Ford ran for Thome. Well, not quite. Ford got picked off first base by Rafael Soriano. The Yankees could not have asked for a better scenario. What Ford was thinking is anyone’s guess.