One big inning was all Hughes would need

The Yankees’ 6-1 victory Thursday night over the Mariners came down to one big inning. Take away the top of the third and the Yankees had only two base runners. They were retired in order in six innings, had the minimum number of batters in another inning and only four batters come to the plate in the first inning when Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch.

Not much offense, huh? Well, they seemed to save all of it for that third inning when they scored all of their runs and had eight of their nine hits. They sent 11 men to the plate and had seven hits in a row over one stretch to chase Mariners starter Aaron Harang.

Cano overcame getting plunked in the left knee in his first at-bat with a three-run home run to start the scoring in the third. Homers sometimes can be rally killers but not this time. Mark Teixeira followed with a solo shot, his 16th career homer at Safeco Field, one shy of the record for visiting players by Rafael Palmeiro.

The line kept moving as Travis Hafner singled, Kevin Youkilis doubled, Vernon Wells singled and Ichiro Suzuki, in his return to Seattle, singled to push the Yanks’ lead to 6-0. Blake Beaven, a righthander with a fat 8.27 ERA, came out of the bullpen, which might have signaled that the Yankees would continue to score at will but no such thing.

Beaven set down 14 consecutive batters before he gave up the only hit of his 6 2/3-inning stint, a leadoff single in the eighth by Hafner, who was quickly erased when Youkilis grounded into a double play. It was an astonishing effort by Beaven, but the Yankees already had done sufficient enough damage to go on to their fourth straight victory.

Phil Hughes deserves much of the credit. The righthander bounced back from a rocky start last weekend against the Red Sox with seven-plus innings in which he allowed one unearned run, three hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. Safeco Field has always been a haven for Hughes, whose career record at the Seattle yard improved to 4-0 with an ERA of 0.82 in 22 innings.

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