Resilient Yanks show grit with win over O's

09/08/2012 12:17 AM ET
By Joe Auriemma

The Yankees’ loss to the Orioles on Thursday night was devastating. The Yankees came to town with a slim one-game lead in the standings. The Orioles responded by taking an early lead, squandering that lead, but ultimately blasting their way to victory and tying the Yankees at the top of the division. Those are the toughest losses to come back from. The teams with true grit are the ones that can answer the challenge and bounce back from those crushing blows.

Well the Yankees responded in a big way and truly put the game one loss behind them, as they powered their way to an 8-5 victory behind the bats of Alex Rodriguez, Russell Martin, Steve Pearse, as well as the right arm of Phil Hughes. For one night at least, the Yankees again regained the lead atop the AL East.

The Yankees had to breathe a sigh of relief to see Phil Hughes pitch a good ballgame. This was a prime night for the league leader in home runs allowed to give up some long balls with the weather conditions. The heat and humidity certainly make the ball carry in Camden Yards, which is already a home-run haven. It was not to be. Hughes was a man on a mission. Through the first five innings of work, he only got into one jam in the bottom of the first and was aided with a lot of run support, which he made hold up.

In the sixth inning, Hughes struggled after J.J. Hardy reached on an error to lead off the inning. Immediately after that Nate McLouth doubled and Adam Jones hit his second home run in as many nights to shrink the Orioles' deficit to 7-3. Just like the Yankees had to answer the bell today, Hughes with no outs in the inning, got to work and got the very dangerous duo of Matt Wieters and Mark Reynolds to ground out and struck out Chris Davis to limit the damage.

All in all, Hughes threw six solid innings and gave the Yankees everything they could want in an opponent’s ballpark. He earned his 14th victory of the season, but only his fourth on the road, bringing his overall record to 14-12 and 4-8 in opposing ballparks, respectively.

The aforementioned offense also came to play in this Friday night, first-place showdown. Last night in the eighth inning it seemed as if the offense may have turned a corner. Yankees hitters had been uncharacteristically swinging at a lot of balls out of the strike zone as of late and not standing up at the plate patiently waiting for their pitch. Yankees teams of the past preached this philosophy to work the opposing team's pitcher down. The Yankees comeback on Thursday night was fueled by walks and timely hits. The Yankees victory on Friday night was fueled by waiting for the perfect pitch and taking advantage of it.

It took the Yankees four innings to get on the board, but when they did in the top of the fourth inning, they put up a very impressive crooked number. The all-out assault on Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen began with two men on and one out. Martin waited out Chen, and on a 2-0 hitters dream count, he demolished a three-run home run to start the scoring.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit out over the plate,” Martin said of the Chen pitch. “I think he left the changeup up a little bit. I put good wood on it, and it was a home run.”

Martin, hitting in the fifth spot in the order, has gotten hot of late and seems to like to hit in that spot. On the road trip, he is 6-for-14 with two home runs and seven RBIs, and he has been a big part of the Yankees offense.

“He's swung the bat well the second half,” Joe Girardi said of Martin after the game. “He's had some big hits on this road trip. You think about the double he had down in Tampa in the game that we won and the three-run homer. It helps us a lot.”

Three batters later, Yankees first baseman Steve Pearce hit his first home run of the season to make the game 5-0. The final knockout blow to Chen's evening came in the top of the fifth, off the bat of Rodriguez to give the Yankees a 7-0 lead that they would never relinquish. The home run was A-Rod's 300th in his now storied Yankees career.

Rodriguez has been one of the better Yankees offensive players since his return during the prolonged team slump, and the only thing that was missing was his power stroke. With the double he hit in Thursday night's game, his timing certainly seemed back and poised to let one fly, and that he did on Friday night.

“I'm just having fun,” A-Rod said after the game. “This is really an exciting time. It's going to come up to us, the veterans, to show the way. We relish this opportunity, and it's the way it should be.”

The bullpen, which has also been a source of problems recently, held the Orioles in check. Cody Eppley did not light the world on fire allowing a solo home run to Robert Andino, but Boone Logan, who gave up a home run on one pitch the previous night, came in and pitched lights out. David Robertson also had a bounce-back performance after what might have been his worst outing as a professional ballplayer. He did exactly what he needed to do in the eighth inning to hand the ball off to the closer.

“I'm not surprised,” Girardi said of his bullpen's performance. “We talked about them all year long. They've done a pretty good job for us.”

This performance and victory were key for the Yankees, especially with their horse CC Sabathia going to the mound for them on Saturday night. The win was also the answer the Yankees were looking for. They literally put the bad loss behind them, went out and earned a victory in a very big spot. comments