Teixeira off to hot start — in June

It was only natural for attention to be focused on Mark Teixeira when he came off the disabled list late last week. The Yankees were floundering after a double series sweep by the Mets and stuck in a five-game losing streak, their longest of the season. Teixeira had been on the DL due to a right wrist injury the type of which pretty much wiped out Jose Bautista’s season a year ago with the Blue Jays.

Some Yankees fans were a bit too harsh on Teixeira as he struggled in his first two games with merely one hit in nine at-bats (.111) and seven strikeouts. One of the game’s most prominent switch hitters has been a notoriously slow starter during his career and even though the calendar switched over to June this past weekend it was very much like April for Teixeira.

Well, he is back to swinging as if he already had two months of major-league at-bats under his belt. One night after he gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead with his eighth career grand slam, Teixeira opened up a 4-0 advantage in the third inning Tuesday night with a three-run home run off Scott Kazmir. That makes seven RBI in two days for Tex. Beat that for production.

“I hope so,” Tex said after the game about whether he is ready to go on a roll. “I am trying not to get too high about it just the way I try not to get too low when things aren’t going well. The win is what is important. A three-run homer early is great for a starting pitcher.”

It was just the sort of run support David Phelps needed as he negotiated his way back from a dismal prior start against the Mets last week when he couldn’t get out of the first inning. The righthander rebounded with a one-hit shutout through six innings but with four walks to go with his seven strikeouts Phelps’ pitch count reached 102.

An infield single by Drew Stubbs in the third inning was the lone hit off Phelps, who lowered his ERA to 4.15. He nearly lost a shot at a winning decision when he walked the first two batters of the fifth, which resulted in a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Whatever the message was, Phelps received it as he set down the next three batters and followed with a 1-2-3 sixth.

“Even before Larry came out, Chris [catcher Stewart] told me to go for the center of the plate and let the ball behave however it does,” Phelps said. “The point was to throw more strikes.”

“He kind of ran the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Phelps. “He mixed everything up, and we didn’t have anything to show for it. We made him work. We took our walks. We couldn’t push any runs across. It’s rare that you get one hit and look up and see a bunch of pitches like that. He did a very good job of not giving in, mixing things up, elevating and cutting.”

The Elias Sports Bureau was at it again. Phelps became the first Yankees pitcher to throw at least six scoreless innings in a start immediately following a start in which he recorded one out or fewer since Jim “Catfish” Hunter in 1978. Hunter allowed six runs without getting an out July 27, 1978 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Indians and then tossed eight shutout innings in his next start Aug. 8, 1978 against the Rangers.

Things got a bit tight for the Yankees in the seventh inning when Joba Chamberlain was stung for a three-run home run by Stubbs after two were out. Boone Logan got the final out of that inning before David Robertson danced out of a two-on, none-out situation in the eighth aided by Nick Swisher lining into a double play. Mariano Rivera finished it off with a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 21st save.

Robinson Cano got a half-day off as the designated hitter with rookie David Adams getting his first start at second base. Both took a collar, however. Lyle Overbay had another quiet night in right field, at least defensively. He made some noise offensively with a double in the third and scored on a single by Ichiro Suzuki.

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