The Cuban right-hander will try to frustrate the Blue Jays again when the New York Yankees continue their three-game series at SkyDome.
Though he did not get a decision in the Yankees’ 1-0 win on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, Hernandez continued his impressive comeback from shoulder surgery that kept him out of the majors for a year and a half. Hernandez, who won his first two starts, allowed four hits, walked one and struck out 10, reaching double digits for the fifth time in his career and the first since he had 11 at Oakland on April 23, 2002.
His performance was impressive. After swinging through a third strike in the fifth, the Jays’ Alexis Rios just stared.
“That’s the goal, to keep them off-balance,” Hernandez said in a mixture of English and Spanish. “I’ve improved a lot. I’m looking for 100 (percent), not 95.”
Throwing both a slider and curveball from different arm slots, El Duque gave up singles to his first two batters, then struck out Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado, and retired Eric Hinske on a comebacker.
“Changing speeds, arm angles, he’s tough to pick up,” Delgado said. “He got out of the jam in the first inning. We had a pretty good chance there and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Though Ruben Sierra eventually won the game with a two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, Yankees manager Joe Torre knows Hernandez was the star of the game.
“You could see it was a real giant step forward for him today,” Torre said.
Hernandez’s opponent that day, former Yankee Ted Lilly, was also very good, taking a one-hitter into the seventh and allowing three hits over 6 2-3 innings. Lilly, the Blue Jays’ lone All-Star, will be back on the mound when Toronto tries to even this series.
The Yankees took Monday’s series opener 6-5 in 10 innings. Jorge Posada hit a first-inning grand slam, but Mariano Rivera blew his second straight save before Tony Clark’s 10th-inning double gave him a win.
The Blue Jays had their three-game winning streak snapped. The Yankees have won five of seven.