NEW YORK (AP)—All those big sluggers in the lineup, and the New York Yankees are scratching out offense with bunts and bloopers so far.
After scoring 76 more runs than any other team in the major leagues last season, the Yankees managed only eight in their first three games against a fine Toronto pitching staff. Still, that was enough to take two of three in the series.
“Those little things (are) what’s going to help us,” Abreu said. “We don’t have to just wait for a homer—especially in this weather.”
With the score tied at 2 on a 42-degree night, Melky Cabrera opened the eighth with a single off Brian Wolfe (0-1). Scott Downs bobbled Johnny Damon’s sacrifice bunt for an error that allowed Damon to reach safely, and Derek Jeter advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt.
Abreu then blooped a single into center for his first RBI, making him 5-for-10 on the year.
“I think we’re a lot smarter,” Damon said. “We need to keep doing the manufacturing, and it could be a bit different this year. We know what we have to do. We’ve got to win as many games as possible and if it means we have to bunt, then so be it.”
“It was just like the first game here. Tight ballgame. You’ve got to be able to win some of them. I thought we left all those tight games behind us last year, but I guess not,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We just didn’t make a play on that one bunt play.”
Dustin McGowan kept the Yankees scoreless until the sixth, when they loaded the bases with none out. Damon dashed home on a wild pitch before Alex Rodriguez struck out, and Jason Giambi’s sacrifice fly tied it at 2.
A 12-game winner last season, McGowan returned to the team hotel Wednesday because he wasn’t feeling well—perhaps a 24-hour stomach bug, Gibbons said.
But the 26-year-old right-hander, a member of Toronto’s opening-day roster for the first time this season, looked plenty strong while going pitch-for-pitch with Hughes in a matchup of promising youngsters.
“I pitched against him a couple times in Triple-A. He’s a good pitcher,” McGowan said. “We’ll have a lot more duels I think.”
The 21-year-old Hughes, the youngest pitcher in the majors, featured a sharp curveball in his first outing of the season. He and McGowan both allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, with four strikeouts apiece.
“Phil Hughes was ready when he got to camp, and he wanted to grab a hold of this role,” manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees are counting heavily this season on three pitchers 23 or younger: Hughes, Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, who starts Friday night against Tampa Bay.
“I think a lot of our season depends on how well we pitch, not just the three of us but our staff as a whole,” Hughes said. “We’re all going through the same thing, so it brings kind of a comfort level as well.”
Asked if Hughes would be a tough act to follow, Kennedy said: “No. I’ll just copy it.”
Alex Rios’ RBI single in the fourth extended his hitting streak against the Yankees to 23 games dating to September 2006, the longest by a player versus New York since Detroit Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer had a 31-game run from 1935-36, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
David Eckstein added an RBI infield single with two outs in the fifth.
“He was giving corners all day, but that was a terrible call,” Thomas said. “I don’t run to first base unless I know it’s a ball. The ball was way out of the strike zone.”
Yankees C Jorge Posada (stiff right shoulder) was held out of the lineup for the second consecutive game, but was feeling better and could play Friday night against Tampa Bay, Girardi said. … Cabrera and backup 1B-OF Shelley Duncan are scheduled for appeal hearings Monday. They appealed their three-game suspensions stemming from a spring training fight between New York and Tampa Bay. … Matt Stairs started in LF for Toronto, his season debut. He had been slowed by a sore left hip. … Hughes became the youngest Yankees pitcher to start one of the first three games of a season since Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt started Game 2 in 1921, also at 21 years old.