NEW YORK (AP)—A victory over Baltimore, a loss by Boston and a defeat for Detroit. It’s almost as though the New York Yankees won three times Monday night.
Hughes got help from a bullpen that escaped two bases-loaded jams. Alex Rodriguez matched his high for RBIs in a season and the Yankees got within 3 1/2 games of AL East-leading Boston with 12 remaining. That’s their smallest deficit since before play on April 22.
New York also increased its wild-card lead to 3 1/2 games over the Tigers.
“We’ve come too far and worked too hard to start counting your chips,” manager Joe Torre said.
The Yankees took two of three at Fenway Park last weekend to cap a 7-2 trip, then quickly got focused on Baltimore. No. 9 batter Doug Mientkiewicz hit a two-run single, Jorge Posada had three hits and Bobby Abreu drove in two runs as New York waited out an inconsistent Daniel Cabrera (9-17).
The Yankees (86-64) have won 10 of 12, improving to a season-best 22 games over .500. Derek Jeter singled and doubled, passing Bernie Williams for fourth place on the club’s career list with 2,337 hits.
“Bernie’s probably not too happy,” Torre said.
“Bernie probably doesn’t even know how many hits he has,” Jeter countered.
Baltimore, which surprisingly leads the season series 8-5, has dropped 20 of 26 overall. The 6-foot-9 Cabrera fell to 0-5 in his past six starts and tied St. Louis’ Kip Wells for the most losses in the majors.
“There’s a lot of losing on my record right now and it’s not a good feeling. Seventeen losses is tough for anybody,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera took a no-hit bid into the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium last September before his buddy, Robinson Cano, broke it up with a one-out single.
“There’s one inning or maybe two in the game where he just seems to lose it,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “There’s a lot of work for Daniel to do to become a successful major league pitcher. The numbers tell you what you are.”
Settling down after a shaky start, Hughes (4-3) was the one in control this time. He allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings, walking two.
“You see the confidence growing,” Mientkiewicz said.
The rookie right-hander retired his first two batters in the sixth, then loaded the bases on a double and two four-pitch walks. He was pulled with a 1-0 count on Melvin Mora, but Edwar Ramirez came on and struck out Mora.
The Orioles scored once in the seventh to cut it to 7-3 and loaded the bases again, chasing Ramirez. Luis Vizcaino then came back from a 3-0 count to strike out Kevin Millar, who kicked at the dirt in frustration.
Hughes gave up three straight hits to start the game, including Nick Markakis’ two-run double. Markakis finished with three RBIs and threw out two runners at second base from right field.
Cabrera hit consecutive batters with pitches in the second, loading the bases before a two-run single by Mientkiewicz tied it at 2. Mientkiewicz was thrown out by Markakis trying to stretch it into a double.
Back in the lineup after a night off Sunday at Boston, Matsui hit a solo shot in the third—his first homer in 123 at-bats since Aug. 8 at Toronto off Roy Halladay. Matsui began the day in a 5-for-43 (.116) skid.
“The result was a home run, but the swing itself really felt good. I put a good swing on it, hit the ball hard. I hadn’t done that in a while,” Matsui said through a translator.
Jason Giambi drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and lumbered home from first on Cano’s double to left-center. Cano moved to third on Mientkiewicz’s perfect sacrifice and Johnny Damon chopped an RBI single through a drawn-in infield to make it 5-2.
The first two Yankees batters in the sixth walked, and Abreu hit an RBI double off Jim Hoey. Damon scored with a rolling dive on Rodriguez’s shallow sacrifice fly for a 7-2 cushion. That tied Rodriguez’s career high of 142 RBIs set in 2002 with Texas.
Orioles SS Miguel Tejada, hit by a pitch in the seventh, was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the ninth. Trembley said he thought Tejada would be OK on Tuesday. … The bullpen phone in New York’s dugout broke down during the game, but was eventually fixed. “We were arm signals and everything,” Torre said. “It’s a frustrating feeling, believe me.”