Nunez returned to the Yankees on Saturday two months on the disabled list and collected two hits and two runs batted in, including the game-winner in the sixth inning of the Yankees' 5-4, come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Orioles in front of 42,678 at Yankee Stadium. Nunez, who sustained a left oblique strain on May 5, had only 16 at-bats in a six-game rehab stint with three Yankees affiliates. He thought he would be activated next week, but the Yankees brought him back upon placing right-handed pitcher David Phelps on the disabled list Saturday morning. The Yankees were hoping Nunez could provide a spark to an offense that has scored four runs or fewer in 21 of the last 32 games. "Younger players are always a little bit different," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And the fact that he went through a full spring training and played the first month, you figured he wouldn't be as rusty." Nunez, who turned 26 last month, was batting .200 with four RBIs and two stolen bases in 27 games before he got hurt, but he showed no signs of rust. He hit a sacrifice fly to cap a two-run second and singled to start a two-run, game-tying rally in the fifth, before his RBI single with none out in the sixth gave the Yankees their first lead. "Doesn't matter, an at-bat here or an at-bat at Trenton," Nunez said. "It's the game anywhere, you know? I feel good." Nunez returned to the Yankees on the same day 39-year-old Derek Jeter was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the same day 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez was expected to continue his rehab at Single-A Tampa. Neither Jeter nor Rodriguez have played this season as they recover from off-season surgeries. Nunez noted with a grin that the start of Jeter's rehab meant he would have remained at Trenton had he not been recalled Saturday.
"We can't be in the same place," Nunez said. The Yankees also have 34-year-old Kevin Youkilis, 33-year-old Mark Teixeira and 32-year-old Curtis Granderson on the disabled list. The three players have combined for only 186 at-bats this season. Nunez's second hit capped a comeback by the Yankees, who trailed, 3-0, in the second and, 4-2, in the fourth but used 10 hits, all singles off starter Chris Tillman, to win their season-high sixth straight game and move into second place in the AL East. The Yankees (48-39) are a half-game ahead of the Orioles (48-40), who have lost three in a row and four of their last five. Lyle Overbay had three singles and scored the winning run for the Yankees while Luis Cruz, Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano each had an RBI. The Yankees' two-run fifth and their go-ahead rally in the sixth both included bunts that moved along runners who eventually came around to score. "Those are just little things that we need to be able to do when we're struggling scoring runs," Overbay said. "We moved the runners over quite a bit, whether it was a bunt or a sacrifice fly. "Those kind of things, those little ball things, go a long ways when we're not hitting for the long ball." Andy Pettitte allowed three runs in the first two innings but settled down to earn his 251st career victory. Pettitte (6-6) lasted 6 2/3 innings and allowed four runs, three earned, on nine hits and walked none while striking out four. "Andy Pettitte bent a little bit," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We had a chance to open him up a little bit, but he doesn't do that too much." Mariano Rivera notched his 29th save in 30 tries this season, and the 637th of his career, with a one-hit ninth inning. Chris Davis hit his major league-leading 33rd home run, a two-run shot in the first, for the Orioles. Alexi Casilla had two hits and an RBI, while Taylor Teagarden had an RBI single. Adam Jones went 2-for-4, both singles. Tillman, who had won his previous six starts and his last seven decisions overall, fell to 10-3 after he gave up five runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out three in 5 1/3 innings. NOTES: RHP David Phelps was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game because of a right forearm strain. Phelps' injury allows the Yankees to keep Ivan Nova, who pitched a three-hitter on Friday night, in the rotation. ... The Yankees also shifted 1B Mark Teixeira to the 60-day disabled list. He's out for the season following right wrist surgery. ... RHP Hiroki Kuroda, who missed his start Friday because of a hip injury, will start Sunday. RHP Phil Hughes and LHP CC Sabathia were each pushed back a day. ... Orioles RHP Steve Johnson (oblique) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session before the game. ... Orioles 3B Manny Machado turned 21 Saturday. He went 1-for-4 with a double off Pettitte, who began his professional career the year before Machado was born.
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- Eduardo Nunez