Sometimes it’s easy being Greene

The Yankees’ rotation has had an overhaul this season with four-fifths of the Opening Day starting unit gone to the disabled list. The situation has afforded opportunities to some pitchers. Shane Greene is one who has given the Yankees reason to believe they just might get through this crisis.

The Floridian righthander earned his first major-league victory earlier in the week at Cleveland and followed it up Saturday with an even more impressive performance at Baltimore. Greene’s 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball in the Yankees’ 3-0 victory was quite a showing in the hitting paradise that is Camden Yards.

Just as he did last Monday night against the Indians, Greene had his sinker working as few balls hit by the Orioles made their way to the outfield. Other than their four hits, all singles, only two other batted balls by the Birds were outfield flies. Green got 10 outs on infield grounders and another on an infield popup. Oh, yeah, he also totaled nine strikeouts. Nelson Cruz, who entered the game tied for the major league lead in home runs (28) and RBI (74), went down on strikes three times.

This was an outing similar to what we have seen this year from another rookie righthander, Masahiro Tanaka. There will be no suggestion here that Greene is the equivalent of the Japanese phenom, but the Triple A Scranton call-up has proved a worthy substitute trying to work his way into the Yankees’ plans.

Greene did not allow a hit until two outs in the fifth inning. Manny Machado broke up the no-hit bid with a single to left, and Ryan Flaherty followed with a single to center that sent Machado to third base.

The score was 1-0 at that point, so it was a juncture when Greene might have wavered. Instead, he kept the Orioles off the board with a strikeout of Nick Hundley, the same guy whose 10th-inning single Friday night did in the Yankees.

The Orioles threatened again in the sixth when Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce began the inning with well-struck singles. If Greene ever needed a ground ball, this was the time. He got it, too, in the direction of Brian Roberts, who gloved it near second base, got to the bag for the force and made an off-balanced throw to first base for a rally-injuring double play. Greene supplied the killing blow by striking out Cruz.

The Yankees then supported their young pitcher in a way they have not been doing in recent games in which they have often taken early leads but have not tacked on runs later on. Orioles starter Chris Tillman kept pace with Greene for six innings. The Yankees scored a run in the third on a double by Mark Teixeira but lost another run when Derek Jeter was thrown out at the plate.

In the seventh, a pair of two-out hits, a single by Jeter off Tillman and a double by Jacoby Ellsbury off reliever T.J. McFarland, gave the Yanks two key insurance run. Brian McCann’s third hit of the game almost got another run in, but a strong throw to the plate by center fielder Adam Jones nailed Ellsbury.

It was encouraging to see the Yankees put together a sustained attack in the late innings, but as it turned out one run was all Greene needed. After he got the first out of the eighth, Greene was removed for lefthander David Huff, who gave up a single to Nick Markakis. Shawn Kelley got the final two outs of the inning before David Robertson finished it off with a perfect ninth for his 23rd save.

So after two brilliant starts, Greene is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA and has given the Yankees hope that there may be more good stuff to come.

“He’s stepping up; that’s for sure,” Girardi told reporters. “He’s earning starts is what he’s doing.”

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