Imports’ production a healthy sign for Yanks

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Yankees fans Friday night was the combined production of three of the club’s major imports in the off-season. Catcher Brian McCann, designated hitter Carlos Beltran and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury got off to a great post-All-Star break start by driving in all the Yankees’ runs in their 4-3 victory over the Reds.

McCann, who struggled throughout much of the first half, has been driving the ball with more authority recently. Coming off a road trip in which he batted .351 with two doubles and two RBI, McCann came back to Yankee Stadium and whacked a double with two out in the first inning to give the Yanks an early lead with his 40th RBI of the season. He is hitting .356 with three doubles, one home run and four RBI in his past 45 at-bats.

After Bryan Pena tied the score in the third inning with the first of two home runs he hit off David Phelps, the Yankees went ahead again in the bottom half on a two-out, RBI single by Beltran, who also struggled much of the first half and has been beset with injuries. He came off the seven-day concussion list and added a double in the fifth inning.

Errors in the fourth inning by Brian Roberts and Derek Jeter cost Phelps an unearned run that knotted the score again. One inning later, the Yankees went ahead for good when Ellsbury followed a leadoff single by Jeter by driving a 1-1 pitch from Mike Leake for a two-run home run.

Phelps got clipped again in the seventh by Pena, a reserve catcher who is playing first base while former National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto is on the disabled list because of a quad injury. Phelps gave up a single to Chris Heisey but came back to catch Ramon Santiago looking at a third strike before he was relieved by Dellin Betances.

The rookie All-Star who never got into Tuesday night’s game made an errant pickoff throw to first base that put the potential tying run in scoring position with one out. Jeter made an across-the-infield dash into foul ground in shallow left field to catch a pop fly by Billy Hamilton. Betances then finished off Zack Cozart with three 99-mph fastballs for the first of three consecutive strikeouts in another splendid setup-relief outing. David Robertson earned his 24th save with a shutout ninth.

This was a big victory for the Yanks, who face two of the toughest NL pitchers the next two days in the Reds’ Alfredo Simon and Johnny Cueto.

A pitching victory finally went to Phelps ending a stretch of four consecutive no-decisions. With the rotation in shambles because of all the injuries, Phelps has been the starting unit’s backbone. Over his past seven starts, the righthander is 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA to drop his season ERA from 4.53 to 3.87.

The victory improved the Yankees’ record against NL competition this year to 11-7, which ensures their 15th winning inter-league record. This is the Yankees’ last inter-league series of the season. The NL competition the Yanks really want to face would be in the World Series, the ultimate destination.

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