The New York Yankees know they’ll head out on their next road trip with the AL wild card lead. They’d also like to start it with their offense still in top form.
Coming off a breakout game offensively, the Yankees (77-62) look to win this series against their closest pursuers for the wild card when they meet the Seattle Mariners (74-63) on Wednesday night.
A 7-1 defeat Monday in the opener of this three-game set was New York’s third in four games, and cut its wild card lead to one game over Seattle. It also was the third time in four games the Yankees failed to score more than two runs, a stretch during which they were limited to 26 hits - six for extra bases.
They matched that total Tuesday with four homers and two doubles among 20 hits in a 12-2 win to bring their lead over the Mariners back to two games. Jorge Posada homered twice and joined Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano with four hits apiece as New York avoided matching its longest skid since the All-Star break at three games.
“Two-game losing streaks are a luxury,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Following this contest, New York gets Thursday off before beginning a road trip with three games apiece at Kansas City, Toronto and Boston. The Red Sox lead New York by seven games in the AL East.
Alex Rodriguez hit his major league-leading 46th home run Tuesday, but suffered a scare during the Yankees’ seven-run seventh inning when he slid into third and Adrian Beltre toppled onto his leg. Rodriguez grimaced in pain and stayed in the game, but Alberto Gonzalez replaced him for his second at-bat of the inning with New York up 11-1.
Though postgame X-rays were negative, Rodriguez was not sure he would be able to play Wednesday.
“It’s a little sore right now,” he said. “I’ll see how I feel in the morning.”
Rodriguez is hitting .358 (19-for-53) with seven homers and 16 RBIs over his last 15 games. With 510 home runs, he is one shy of Mel Ott for 19th all-time and two behind Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 18th.
New York may hope Tuesday’s late outburst - 11 runs in its final three innings - leads to an early one Wednesday to back struggling Phil Hughes (2-3, 5.65 ERA). The Yankees have given him only nine runs of support over his last four starts and have lost them all. Hughes has surrendered five runs in each of the last three and lost the last two.
The rookie right-hander matched a career low by going 4 1-3 innings in a 9-1 defeat to Tampa Bay on Friday.
“Every start seems like it’s something new,” said Hughes, who has never faced the Mariners. “It’s not really the best time to go on a skid.”
Good control helped make Hughes one of the Yankees’ top prospects and was one reason they felt he could become a reliable member of the rotation following his recall from the minors last month. Instead, the 2004 first-round pick has walked 10 batters in his last three starts, and three of the four he walked Friday later scored.
However, Torre told the team’s official Web site that Hughes had “a good bullpen (session)” on Wednesday and worked on mechanical issues with Triple-A pitching coach Dave Eiland.
It may be tough for New York to provide much run support facing Jarrod Washburn (9-12, 4.37), who has a 2.48 ERA in 10 career starts versus the Yankees despite a 5-4 record.
Abreu emerged from a 4-for-29 slump on Tuesday and fellow left-handed hitter Cano broke a 2-for-14 skid, but that duo has combined to go only 3-for-23 against Washburn.
The veteran left-hander, though, is coming off a forgettable August as he went 1-5 with a 5.35 ERA. He had provided Seattle with three straight quality starts before getting ripped in his last outing, allowing six runs and seven hits while walking five in 3 1-3 innings of a 7-5 loss at Toronto on Friday.
Washburn faced the Yankees twice in May and went 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA.
The Mariners have lost 10 of 11, posting a 6.02 ERA while opposing batters have hit .342.
“We just got to bounce back tomorrow,” Mariners manager John McLaren said. “Two out, and all we need to do is get that streak we’re looking for, get that streak at the right time.”