This is not the same Red Sox lineup that has kept the Yankee Universe up nights over the past few years. David Ortiz is hurt, Dustin Pedroia was on paternity leave, Jacoby Ellsbury is a shell of the player he was last year, and of course, Kevin Youkilis has moved on to Chicago. But even so, Hughes was impressive. It was not until the eighth inning that Hughes allowed a lead off batter in an inning to get on base. He retired the side in order in the first three innings with only a couple dozen pitches thrown. He consistently got ahead of hitters and hit his spots most of the night.
Doubront was not as efficient as Hughes and as his wont, he was often frustrated with the strike zone being called by the home plate umpire. But he matched Hughes zero for zero in the first three innings. Only an Alex Rodriguez single in the first and an Andruw Jones walk in the second messed up Doubront’s scorecard. But he ran into trouble in the top of the fourth, most of it of his own making. A-Rod singled again and almost removed Doubront’s head with a shot up the middle. A-Rod then stole second. And suddenly, Doubront lost the strike zone. It did appear he was getting a bit squeezed by the home plate umpire and the more frustrated he got, the more balls he threw. Robinson Cano walked and then Russell Martin walked to load the bases with nobody out. But Doubront would escape allowing only one run.
Andruw Jones hit a humped back liner to a medium depth Cody Ross in right field. A-Rod tagged and took off once Ross made the catch. With A-Rod running, it appeared that it would be a close play at the plate, but the throw was not strong and James Loney cut it off and tried to get Cano–who had also tagged on the play–at third and was unsuccessful. Doubront did his best John Lackey impression and looked really angry that the ball was cut off, but it appeared A-Rod would have beat the throw. The Yankees had a 1-0 lead. Curtis Granderson hit a line drive right at the Loney at first who stepped on first to double up Martin.
A lot of season demons were exorcised in this one. First, the Yankees won without hitting a homer. That makes it five times this season that has happened. They won their second game in a row for the first time since August 15. And they got two shut down innings from their pitching after scoring. It did look a little dicey for Hughes after that fourth inning run though. With one out, Hughes walked his only batter of the night, Scott Podsednik. After Loney lined out to left, Cody Ross hit a single just out of the reach of A-Rod at third and the Red Sox had runners on first and third with two out. But Hughes never lost his composure and threw a great pitch to get Daniel Nava to ground out to second to end the threat.
Hughes and Doubront traded scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth innings though both allowed some base runners. The Red Sox hit two singles in the sixth, but Hughes worked around those too. But the Yankees would score their second and last run in the seventh.
With one out, Steve Pearce walked. Eduardo Nunez, who had two hits on the night and played a flawless shortstop, singled to left. Bobby Valentine then pulled Doubront and brought in Junichi Tazawa to face Derek Jeter. The Captain managed to hit a little bloop to center to score Pearce, who anticipated the hit perfectly to score. The hit tied Jeter with Willie Mays on the all time hit list. Jeter also limped very noticeably, which is very much a concern.
Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez both struck out to end that threat. and the final score of the game was on the scoreboard. Both bullpens threw zeroes the rest of the way and the Yankees head home with a much needed win.
A-Rod and Nunez were the only Yankees with multiple hits in the game but Andruw Jones and Robinson Cano each walked twice. A-Rod also stole his twelfth base in thirteen attempts this season. On the down side, Curtis Granderson went without a hit in four plate appearances and struck out three times along with that line drive double play. Nick Swisher went o-4 with a walk and two strikeouts.
The Yankees will travel home tonight after being away for far too long. But things won’t get any easier as they face a three game series with the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend. But that is tomorrow. For tonight, the Yankees did what they had to do to maintain the tie for the division lead and Phil Hughes had a very good and encouraging start.