Phil Hughes started out slow as usual, but ground out 5+ innings and Hideki Matsui homered for the 1st time in over month as the Yankees topped the Orioles 8-5. The Yankees had busted the game open, but a shaky performance by Kyle Farnsworth, who hadn't pitched in 9 days, caused Joe Torre to call on Mariano Rivera to get the final 2 outs. The win moved the Yankees to within 3.5 (3 in the loss column) of Boston in the AL East and pushed them 3.5 ahead of Detroit in the Wild Card.
Hughes (4-3) spotted the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the of the 1st, but Doug Mientkiewicz, taking advantage of his playing time, tied things up with a 2-run single in the 2nd off of Daniel Cabrera (9-17). Then Matsui put the Yankees ahead for good in the 3rd with his 24th home run of the season in the 3rd.
The Yankees added 2 runs in the 4th on Robinson Cano's ribbie double and an RBI single by Johnny Damon. Bobby Abreu's double and Alex Rodriguez's sac fly plated a pair more in the 6th as as the Yankees stretched the lead to 7-2. Abreu's RBI single in the 8th would prove to be important as Farnsworth made the game interesting in the 9th.
The inconsistent right-hander hadn't been able to appear in a game since September 9th due to a stiff neck. It should have stayed that way. He walked Brian Roberts to start the inning and a ground out and wild pitch moved him to 3rd. Nick Markakis delivered and RBI single to cut the lead to 8-4 and Rivera started to loosen up.
Farnsworth retired pinch-hitter Luis Rodriguez, but when Kevin Millar singled, Torre was taking no chances. Rivera, who struggled through Sunday night's save - and as it turned out, had a bruised right pinky as the result of a stray ball from the Red Sox bullpen - allowed an RBI double to Aubrey Huff before striking out Melvin Mora to end the game.
Derek Jeter had a pair of hits and passed Bernie Williams for 4th all-time on the team with 2,337.
After an unbelievably bad start, Bobby Abreu now has 98 RBI. In 62 games since the break, he's batting .316 with 11 HR and 57 runs batted in. He's also scored 109 runs on the season.
In his back-to-back starts, Doug Mientkiewicz is 3-4 with 2 walks and 2 RBI. He's also made several outstanding plays in the field.
photos courtesy of AP