The New York Yankees have put themselves in a position where each game is as big as the last and the next. Rookie starter David Phelps was given the biggest assignment of his career and came through with a solid performance. But, as has happened too often over the last several games, the Yankees allowed the Red Sox to creep back into a four-run game putting fans on edge as Boston got the winning run to the plate. Yankees closer Rafael Soriano notched the final out and the Bombers prevailed 5-4, keeping them tied atop the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees received two homers and three RBI from Curtis Granderson, a two-run blast from Robinson Cano and three hits, including two doubles, by Nick Swisher to pace the offense. Granderson and Swisher producing is a big plus for the Yankees after both were in extended slumps lasting over 40 at-bats a piece. Granderson has three homers and Swisher five hits in the series.
Phelps (4-4, 3.42 ERA) tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball allowing just five hits and one walk with five strike outs. He worked out of a couple jams and gave the team exactly what they needed; a strong start which managed to sustain a lead. Holding a lead has been a sore spot for the Yankees of late and last night was no different.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi used five relievers to get to Soriano, including David Robertson, one night after he threw 29 pitches. Soriano was asked to get four outs for the fourth time this season. He got out of the eighth stranding a runner in scoring position, but then allowed a leadoff homer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the bottom of the ninth to cut the lead to 5-4. Soriano retired the next two batters and then made a fielding error on a come-backer off the bat of Mike Aviles. Jacoby Ellsbury tested Soriano’s fielding again but the Yankees closer was able to come up with the hot shot and fired to first to end the game.
New York lost another player to injury, this time it was Derek Jeter. Jeter has been plagued with a sore ankle since the last Tampa Bay Rays series, and he seemed to twist it good when crossing first base trying to beat out a double play grounder. Jeter has had the most consistent season of all the Yankees and losing him now for even a short period of time could cause a multitude of problems for the team. For now it has been diagnosed as a bone bruise in his left ankle and Jeter told reporters after the game that he would be in tonight’s lineup.
The Yankees (80-62) send Phil Hughes (14-12, 4.13 ERA) to the mound to face Felix Doubront (10-8, 5.21 ERA). No game can be taken lightly at this juncture so the Yankees will need to receive more pop from the offense and Hughes to hold any lead he’s given in an effort to string together some victories as the fight for the division crown in down to the final twenty games.