For the second straight game, Jorge Posada broke open a close game with a grand slam. With Alex Rodriguez out of the lineup, Posada’s power surge has been a welcomed sign for the Yankees. Before the series against Houston, Posada had been 3-27 with one RBI since returning from the disabled list. Whether the result of healing injuries or bad Astros’ pitching, Posada ended the series going 4-9 with eight RBIs.
Just as important as Posada’s resurgence with the bat was his ability to get behind the plate for the first time since breaking his right foot on May 16. If Posada can continue to increase his workload behind the plate, it could open up the DH slot for Arod in the event his hip delays a return to the field. In the meantime, the added flexibility should help the Yankees compensate for a very weak bench that was further compromised by yesterday’s injury to Marcus Thames.
Although Posada’s impact on the game was substantial, perhaps no base hit was bigger than Ramiro Pena’s two out, two run single in the bottom of the fourth that broke a 1-1 tie. Just like Francisco Cervelli’s clutch hit in the first inning of Friday’s game, Pena’s hit provided production from the bottom of the lineup, something of which the Yankees will need more in Arod’s absence.
The Yankees’ nine run outburst in the middle innings provided enough support for Phil Hughes to increase his record to 9-1. For the second straight start, Hughes struggled with his command, especially in the middle innings, but was able to persevere in the game long enough to pick up the victory. Although the runs scored against Hughes were relatively soft until Kevin Cash’s two run homer that knocked him out of the game, the five runs yielded tied for the most that the Yankee righty has given up all season. On the whole, Hughes actually pitched a pretty good ball game, but the combination of a driving rain and some shaky defense conspired to increase his pitch count and hasten his removal from the game.
Because Hughes wasn’t able to make it through the rainy sixth inning, the Yankees bullpen was called upon to pick up 10 outs to close out the ball game. Over the final 3 1/3 innings, the combination of Marte, Park, Chamberlain and Rivera surrendered only one hit to close out the game and send the Astros packing with three losses. Another positive sign of late has been the improved performance of the bullpen. After a brief hiccup in mid-May, Rivera has not given up a hit in nine of last 10 appearance, while Chamberlain has only given up one run in seven appearance since his meltdown against the Indians. Even Damaso Marte has been reliable, allowing only one hit in the 4 1/3 innings that cover his last nine appearances.
A fun side bar to the game was the major league debut of Yankees’ right fielder Chad Huffman. With YES chronicling his family’s reaction to each AB, Huffman managed to reach base in his first three at bats, including an infield single, walk and wild pitch after a strikeout. Also of significance, Brett Gardner made his first start since suffering a thumb injury that kept him out of the lineup since June 8. In addition to collecting two hits, one single to left and a hard hit double down the right field line, Gardner also stole a base and made a nice leaping catch against the left field wall.
Phil Hughes’ Pitch Breakdown
|Avg. Speed||Max Speed||Count||Strikes||Percentage|
|Four Seam Fastball||92.1||93.9||61||46||75.4%|
|Two Seam Fastball||92.8||94.1||8||5||62.5%|
- With the Rays’ loss to the Marlins, the Yankees reclaimed a tie of first place for the first time since April 21.
- Jorge Posada became the first Yankee to hit grand slams on consecutive days since Bill Dickey performed the feat in August 3-4, 1937 against the White Sox. The only other Yankee to hit a grand slam in two straight games was Babe Ruth, who did it twice (1927 and 1929).
- Robinson Cano’s fourth inning home run was the 100th of his career. Cano is only the third Yankees 2B to reach the century mark. The other two, Tony Lazzeri (169) and Joe Gordon (153), are both Hall of Famers.