S O(ffense) S

Bronx, N.Y., June 27, 2014 — Yankee fans were doubly concerned as the team welcomed the rival Red Sox to town for the first of three Friday night. The 2014 season has been a struggle in the Bronx. The team’s infield defense has been weak, three starters have been disabled, and key offensive performers are having bad years. It’s enough problems to forget about the opponent. From the fan’s standpoint, the team is fighting their own shortcomings, trying to succeed in areas where they have often been failing all year.

This was one night on the schedule, however, where a clear-eyed look should have relaxed a few nerves. The Yanks began the night in third place, but five full games over fourth-place Boston, a team that has been reeling since an early 10-game losing streak put their season in serious jeopardy. Fifth Yankee starter Vidal Nuno hadn’t won (and just once at that) in six weeks. But this crafty southpaw, if possessed of underwhelming weapons, knows how to pitch, and he found his ideal opponent this night.

Threatened early by leadoff base runners in innings one and two, and a one-out double in the third, Nuno succeeded by retiring the visiting second-, third-, and fourth-place batters seven of eight times until a seven-pitch, one-out walk to DH David Ortiz in the sixth ended his night. The first five of those at bats came with runners on base, something the Red Sox rarely managed to achieve the remainder of the evening. Mixing high 80s and 90 mph heat with mid-80s sliders and changes, and the occasional slow curve, Vidal struck out five, walked two, and allowed just two base hits. His effective work vs. the core was effective, but he dominated otherwise: Boston fifth- through ninth-place batters reached base twice in 17 at bats the entire night.

The often offense-deprived Yankees looked like a juggernaut in comparison. Young Red Sox righty Brandon Workman was somewhat effective, but two hits and a Mark Teixeira sac fly had him down 1-0 to start, and when the “Bombers” cashed in three runs with back-to-back home runs in the fourth, even the most skittish of Yankee fans found themselves feeling pretty good. Five different Yankees scored, four knocked in runs, and struggling catcher Brian McCann collected two hits, scored twice, and nailed down the 6-0 final with a long home run against lefty reliever Craig Breslow in the eighth.

Teixeira and Derek Jeter also stroked two hits, with the Captain’s first-pitch sharp single to right starting the rally that gave the home team all the runs they would need in the opening frame. Struggling third baseman Kelly Johnson’s first home run since May 3, coupled with Brett Gardner’s seventh, calmed nerves all around. Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, and Mark Thornton retired 10 of 12 to close it out.

We’ll have to see if Vidal Nuno has the two-hit stuff he had on June 27 the next time Joe Girardi hands him the ball. But on this day in 1846, telegraph lines were established between Boston and New York. It apparently took 168 years to show Yankee fans what a struggling offensive team really looks like.