Hernandez, making the most of his second stint in the Bronx, is unbeaten in five starts since coming off the disabled list on July 11.
The 34-year-old right-hander, who helped New York to three straight world championships and four World Series appearances from 1998-2002 after defecting from Cuba, spent all of last year on Montreal’s disabled list after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Though he has gone more than five innings just once since his return, “El Duque” has been effective enough to help the Yankees win each of his starts. After lasting just two innings in a 7-4 win at Toronto on July 27 due to tightness in his hamstring, Hernandez pitched New York to a 9-7 victory over Baltimore on Sunday, allowing three runs and nine hits over five innings.
“It was a high-wire act for sure. He pitched carefully,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Hernandez, who has struck out 33 in 24 innings since his return.
“We were going to send him back out for the sixth but it was a long (fifth) inning.”
Hernandez threw 104 pitches Sunday, but is still looking to regain the strength that will help him go deeper in games.
“When you’re working you don’t think about time, you just think about outs,” Hernandez said of Sunday’s game, which lasted 3 hours, 47 minutes. “I just need to strengthen my arm a little more and get to 120-125 pitches like I used to.”
Hideki Matsui belted a pair of homers for his first career multi-homer game and drove in six runs to lead the Yankees to an 11-4 victory in Friday’s series opener. New York won for the sixth time in seven games to move a season-high 30 games above .500. Last year, the Yankees didn’t reach that mark until Aug. 19.
Carlos Delgado hit a first-inning three-run homer for the Blue Jays, who opened a seven-game road trip with their fifth loss in seven games.
Toronto traded first baseman-designated hitter Josh Phelps to Cleveland on Friday for Triple-A third baseman Eric Crozier. Phelps, 26, batted .237 with 12 homers and a team-leading 51 RBIs in 79 games with the Blue Jays, but he fell out of favor earlier this season and was only seeing playing time against left-handers.