A Great Show

Bronx, N.Y., June 3, 2010 — The Yanks trotted out a cavalcade of stars in beating Baltimore 9-1 Wednesday night. They scored early and often on the first night in a month where they could field a lineup anything like the one they assembled on the drawing board when designing their 2010 team. DH Nick Johnson won’t be back for some time, but the toughest thing about talking about an easy win the first day both Curtis Granderson and Jorge Posada were in the lineup is choosing a player to highlight.

Certainly starter Phil Hughes gets a lion’s share of the credit. Matching Andy Pettitte’s 7-1 record in this game, he was so dominant early that his numbers through five innings were six strike outs, no walks, three hits, and no runs on just 67 pitches. The O’s finally reached Phil for a run in a two-hit, one-walk, 27-pitch sixth, but he responded with a dominant seventh, broken up by just one more of those things “you don’t see every day,” as rookie second baseman Scott Moore’s liner over second struck second base ump Tim Welke flush on his body. Phil’s 73/29 strikes/balls ratio and his 21 of 28 first-pitch strikes were stellar, and he mixed in an occasional change, cutter, and curve ball with consistent 93-mph heat.

And what of the first game back by Jorge Posada, DH’ing his way back into the lineup? He drew a walk following Robbie Cano’s leadoff double in the pivotal second inning and singled sharply to center in the fifth. But the best thing about Posada’s night was watching him run with abandon and score from first on Granderson’s double in the second. Robbie and Jorge crossed with the first two Yankee runs, and Posada made a better circuit around the bases than has been seen from him since sometime last season, if then. He ran beautifully.

And what of Granderson, who drove in those first two runs with a booming double the opposite way to left center? He would follow with singles in the third and the seventh, the latter striking the second base bag on its way into center field, as it was sharply stroked right up the middle. But more impressive perhaps was yet another quality at bat and hard-hit ball against a lefty, as he was robbed on a liner to the gap in right center off southpaw Mark Hendrickson in the fifth on a nice run and grab by Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones.

Not a bad Curtis night? The best is yet to come. Once Brett Gardner singled him to third back in the second following his two-run two-base hit, he was trapped off third when he broke on contact as Derek Jeter bounced right to the mound. But Curtis did such a great job of extending the rundown between third and home, cleverly manipulating the situation so that he eventually threatened to score as he broke for the plate, that Gardner and Jeter easily took an extra bag apiece, ending up at second and third. Any neophyte fan wondering why this was such a good play didn’t have long to wait as Nick Swisher’s ground rule double on the next pitch plated both runs, putting a four-run exclamation point on that second inning.

But wait, there’s more. But you knew that. You can’t talk Yankee star of the game in the last few weeks without mentioning Robinson Cano, who is hitting everything pitched hard and who used a 3-for-4 night in what seems an inexorable march toward .400. Robbie started the original rally in the second, singled and scored in the third, and hit his team-high 12th home run to drive in two runs in the home seventh. He scored three times and drove in two. Still, some fans may have left disappointed. Cano, who seems to contribute an eye-popping defensive play with his glove or a flick of his right arm every game, was involved in just two routine outs in this one, retiring Luke Scott on a grounder in the fourth and Corey Patterson on a popup in the seventh.

The list is long enough, but still incomplete. Nick Swisher, who with sixth multi-hit game in his last eight would be the hottest hitter on any team that wasn’t playing Cano, had three hits with a double, and drove home three. Alex Rodriguez singled twice and scored after each, and Brett Gardner also had two singles with a sac fly, scored twice and drove in one. Better yet, Gardner started the Yankee defensive gem of the night, racing to the left field wall to start a stellar 7-6-2 relay that nailed Miguel Tejada at the plate on Nick Markakis’s eighth-inning double off Chad Gaudin, who turned in effective mopup duty in the eighth and ninth. Ramiro Pena, in for Jeter for in the eighth, made the pivotal throw to the plate that allowed the Cisco Kid to retire Tejada. The struggling Orioles team, which could have scored Cesar Izturis on Tejada’s double in the third but held him at third base, wasted a potential run by being too aggressive five innings later.

There is a bit of history regarding Baltimore outfielder Corey Patterson, whom the team recently recalled, that might give delirious Yankee fans a little perspective. Corey’s been around a while, and he was actually taken as the third overall pick in baseball’s amateur draft by the Cubs on this day in 1998. Two rounds later, the Yankees raided a college football roster for their biggest signing, someone they hoped would still be playing third base for them now, just as Patterson continues to play big-league outfield. But it seems that baseball and Drew Henson just weren’t that good a mix.

So now Phil Hughes, who tonight won his seventh season game vs. the O’s in the month that that would have marked the 519th anniversary of the birth of England’s King Henry VIII, will go for his eighth against tonight’s victim in Baltimore next Tuesday, unless they can find a way to block him from the city. The Yankees will try to extend this home stand’s record to 6-1 Thursday afternoon against the O’s. Then it’s back to the road.

The Yanks head out with perhaps baseball’s best four-man rotation supplemented by solid work from number five Javy Vazquez. Heading to Toronto Friday, they are also now fielding a semblance of the lineup they planned to use all year. P. T. Barnum and his circus began its first tour of the United States on June 2, 1835. We’ll have to see how it works out going forward, but indications are promising that P.T.’s got some competition for,

The Greatest Show on Earth