Yankees beat A’s, take over first place in AL East
NEW YORK – As the Yankees came back to the dugout after another long inning in the field, New York starter Phil Hughes made sure to thank them.
The Yankees’ powerful lineup scored more than enough runs to get Hughes his 16th win, on a warm night when he struggled through five long innings and New York beat the Oakland Athletics 9-3.
“The thing that made us happy is he went out there and grinded it out,” right fielder Nick Swisher said. “You want pitchers with heart.”
Mark Teixeira hit a three-run homer and Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher also went deep for the Yankees, who moved back into sole possession of first place. Tampa Bay, which lost to Toronto, and New York had spent eight days tied atop the AL East.
The Yankees, who came back from a three-run deficit to win 11-5 the night before, jumped on A’s starter Vin Mazzaro right away. Brett Gardner led off the first with a single, and the Yankees scored three runs in the inning, helped by second baseman Mark Ellis’s fielding error and Jorge Posada’s triple.
They added two more in the third when Nick Swisher homered on a 3-0 pitch one batter after Teixeira singled with one out. Granderson hit a one-out solo shot in the fourth before Teixeira hit his 30th homer of the season.
Hughes (16-6) walked five but only gave up two runs and four hits in five innings.
“I just couldn’t get my mechanics down. It was all over the place,” Hughes said. “It’s not fun to pitch like that.”
The 24-year-old Hughes relies heavily on his fastball. On Tuesday night, he had no command at all, and it showed. He tied a season high with five walks, just as he did in his last start and his first of the year.
“No, he didn’t really have his good stuff or his good command,” Oakland’s Rajai Davis said. “The problem was they got a lot more runs than we did.”
Chad Gaudin pitched three effective innings in relief, giving up only Daric Barton’s solo shot, and David Robertson finished the six-hitter for New York, which went 16-13 in August.
Lost in all the slugging was the end of Marcus Thames’ home run streak. After six homers in five straight starts, Thames went 0 for 4. It wasn’t pretty, either: He struck out three times and fouled out to the catcher his fourth time up.
Mazzaro (6-7) left after allowing nine runs, seven of which were earned, in 3 2-3 innings. He lost his fifth straight decision and hasn’t gotten a win in seven starts since July 24 against the White Sox.
“I made some good pitches in that first inning. I got some ground balls, but they also hit some good pitches,” Mazzaro said. “Pitching from behind against these guys and they can punish you. They have a good lineup.”
The A’s are 4-19 against the Yankees over the past three years – including 1-7 this season.
Oakland had an ugly first few innings. In addition to Ellis’ first-inning error, he hit a ball about two feet up the line and then ran right into it for the second out of the third with a man on. Left fielder Jeff Larish badly misplayed the ball on Posada’s triple. His drive caromed off the wall back behind Larish, and he slid into to third ahead of the throw. It was the 10th triple of his career.
“Well, it’s a play he can make,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “It is difficult and he got caught by going too deep. It’s one of those things if you catch it, it’s a good play, if you don’t catch it, it’s not a good play.”
The breaks and extraordinary plays – among them, a 39-year-old catcher hitting an RBI triple – just seem to go Hughes’ way when he starts. He’s gotten just over eight runs of support for every nine innings pitched.
Despite his recent struggles, Hughes has won four of his last six decisions. The All-Star trails only teammate CC Sabathia (18-5) in the AL.
“He gave us a chance to win,” Swisher said. “That’s the reason he’s second in the AL in wins behind the big man.”
Notes: Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte said he plans to throw in the bullpen on Wednesday as he recovers from a groin strain. He said he hopes to throw at full effort and simulate being in a game by sitting and resting during the session. … Derek Jeter went 0 for 3 with a walk, and has two hits in his last 30 at-bats. … Before the bottom of the seventh started, the A’s made a double switch – rarely seen in the AL – sending in replacements at catcher and shortstop, swapping their places in the batting order. The move is almost always done to keep pitchers from having to bat in the next inning.
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