28.1 innings, 8.26 ERA, 1.941 WHIP, 43 hits, 26 earned runs.
That was the record of how starter Phil Hughes fared in his six-year career at Fenway Park before tonight's game. Hughes turned the tables on the small sample size and threw 7.1 shutout innings of five-hit ball against the Boston Red Sox, striking out seven in a terrific outing. He walked just one batter, and his Game Score today was 74, his best effort since the four-hit complete game he threw in Detroit on June 3rd. Hughes needed only 95 pitches to work deep in the game, aggressively going after Red Sox hitters just as David Phelps did yesterday with similar success. Hughes can be inconsistent, but when he works as economically as he did tonight, he has the capacity to tame any lineup. Fans will look to see more of this version of Hughes as the regular season comes to a close.
The New York Yankees needed Hughes to come up with a good performance as they sought to keep pace with the Baltimore Orioles, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 in 14 innings this afternoon. They also were attempting to start their first win streak of any kind since August 13-15. The offense did very little against young southpaw Felix Doubront, who despite a shaky season, had pitched superbly to a 2.41 ERA in three starts opposing the Bronx Bombers before tonight. Traditionalists would be proud of the way they scratched out a run in the fourth inning--Alex Rodriguez grounded a base hit up the middle, then swiped second for his team-leading 12th stolen base of the year (he has also only been caught once). A pair of walks to Robinson Cano and Russell Martin followed, and Andruw Jones lined a sacrifice fly to right field to bring A-Rod home. A chance to build more runs was robbed when Curtis Granderson hit the ball hard down toward the first base line, but first baseman James Loney snared it and stepped on the bag for an easy double play. That was the only non-strikeout Granderson had today, as the last two games were apparently just a mirage.
The Yankees held the slimmest of margins entering the seventh inning against Doubront. With one out, Doubront walked first baseman Steve Pearce, and Eduardo Nunez lined a sharp single to left, just the Yankees' fourth hit of the game. Nunez had two of these hits while starting at shortstop in place of Jeter, who took a half-day off as the designated hitter. Manager Bobby Valentine replaced Doubront after 105 pitches, and reliever Junichi Tazawa gave up a bloop single to Jeter, which scored Pearce for the Yankees' second run. The hit was also the 3,283rd of the Captain's career, tying him with living legend Willie Mays for 10th on the all-time hits list (or 11th by Baseball-Reference's standards, which count Cap Anson's National Association hits from 1871-75). Either way, tying Mays in any category makes for a good day. A-Rod did his share of record-tying as well, pulling even with Lou Gehrig for 10th in runs scored (1,888).
Though the Yankees again stranded many runners in scoring position (finishing the series a dismal 2-for-34 in the three games), they rode the arms of Hughes, Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Rafael Soriano to the elusive second consecutive victory. The Orioles briefly moved half a game ahead of the Yankees by winning in the afternoon, but the division rivals returned to a tie atop the American League East standings for the third straight day. Tomorrow, the Yankees begin a crucial three-game series at Yankee Stadium against the Rays while the Orioles go out west for three games against the similarly red-hot Oakland Athletics. Tampa now sits four games out of a playoff spot, and the further the Yankees can remove that potent pitching staff from contention, the better. They will have a very good opportunity to do so at home while also perhaps regaining sole possession of first place if the Athletics can surpass the Orioles' scalding play of late.
And oh hey, the Yankees won without hitting a home run. Imagine that.
Flying Falcor of the Day goes to Phil Hughes (7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, .477 WPA).
Kangaroo Kick of the Day goes to Curtis Granderson (0-4, 3 K, 5 LOB, -.208 WPA).