Results tagged ‘ Brad Hawpe ’
Halfway through this four-game showdown between the American League East contenders at Yankee Stadium, the series has played out far differently from last week at Tropicana Field where the Yankees and Rays had three one-run games, two of which went into extra innings.
The Yankees have won the first two games handily to open a 2 ½-game lead and are guaranteed to be in first place at the end of this series regardless of how the final two games play out. This is important because once these clubs are finished playing each other in the regular season, the remaining schedule benefits the Rays, whose final three series are all against last-place teams.
The Rays return home to play three-game sets against the Mariners and Orioles and then finish up with a four-game series against the Royals in Kansas City. The Yankees close out their home schedule this coming weekend against the Red Sox, then travel to Toronto and Boston for three games apiece.
“We still have a lot of games left, and we need to play good baseball throughout,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Given an early, five-run lead Tuesday night, Phil Hughes struggled and had some dicey moments in the third and fourth innings when the Rays threaten to get back in the game, but he came away relatively unscathed by allowing only one run in those innings. That took a toll on his pitch count, but Hughes finished strong with 1-2-3 work in the fifth and sixth.
Girardi allowed Hughes to start the seventh, stretching the righthander to 112 pitches before calling on Javier Vazquez with one out and a runner on first base. That runner eventually scored, but Hughes was still in position for his 17th victory as the Yankees prevailed, 8-3, and have outscored Tampa Bay in the series, 16-9.
Hughes is not right up against 170 innings, so it just may be that Tuesday night’s start was his last. If the Yankees want to keep him fresh for the post-season, they could back him off and use him in short relief stints. Then again, Hughes may be needed to start if the battle for first place is still tight. Time will tell about that.
“He didn’t have command of his curve and got into some long counts,” Girardi said of Hughes. “He used his changeup more, and that has become a pretty good weapon.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman pointed out before the game that post-season assignments will be based on merit, not contract status, so the starters know they have to show effectiveness from here on out to earn spots in the rotation.
The Yankees treated Rays starter James Shields in the first inning like they used to. His nickname is “Big Game,” but before this year that rarely applied to his outings against the Yankees. The Yankees ran into a different Shields in earlier starts in 2010. He was 2-0 against them before Tuesday night after having gone 1-7 against them prior to this season.
Nick Swisher got things started with his 27th home run. The Yankees were most impressive with three consecutive, two-outs hits – a single by Jorge Posada, a two-run double by Lance Berkman and a single by Curtis Granderson – to finish off a five-spot inning.
For a while there, it looked as if the Yankees were finished scoring. Shields settled down, and the Yankees did not get on the board again until the seventh against the Tampa Bay bullpen. A bloop double to left by Robinson Cano off lefthander Randy Choate scored two more two-out runs.
That gave the Yankees some breathing room, which they needed in the eighth when the Rays loaded the bases with one out. Joba Chamberlain was to the task, however, getting a big strikeout of pinch hitter Brad Hawpe on a 3-2 slider and retiring John Jaso on a fly ball to center.
The Yankees had one more two-out run up their sleeve on doubles by Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter in the eighth. Don’t look now, but the recently-maligned captain has a 10-game hitting streak in which he is batting .311 with four doubles and five RBI in 45 at-bats. It must be getting close to October.