Ichiro Suzuki entered Wednesday's doubleheader with one hit in his previous 11 plate appearances. Over his next 11 plate appearances, he slapped nine hits. Baseball. Needless to say, the Yankees now lead the American League East by a full game since the Baltimore Orioles simply could not win today. They were off. Some of their players might have won a nice leisurely game of bowling or Mario Party, but that does not count in the standings.
The Yankees pounded one of their mops from last season, Aaron Laffey, for five runs in three innings. Laffey found his way into the Toronto Blue Jays rotation through the rash of injuries to their starting staff, but he only gave up a pair of hits to the Yankees. However, his horrid control led to five walks and the beginnings of a seven-run fourth inning. The outburst was tied for the most runs the Yankees have scored in an inning all season long. Ichiro and Nick Swisher had the big hits of the inning, as Ichiro scored the first runs on a two-run double to the right field wall and Swisher pounded his third grand slam of the season a couple at bats later against Brad Lincoln. For all the Yankees' RISPfail this season, they now have 10 grand slams, tying the franchise record set in 2010. They don't always get hits with runners in scoring position, but when they do, they send baseballs long distances. Derek Jeter chipped in a RBI single in between these big hits, and the Yankees batted around in the inning.
The Yankees actually trailed 2-0 after a few innings due to a shaky performance from starter Phil Hughes. The righthander gave up a pair of doubles to Adam Lind and Kelly Johnson in the second that led to a run, and his own poor control led to a bases-loaded hit by pitch in the third. Fortunately for Hughes, the offense bailed him out and he "earned" his team-leading 16th win of the season despite just five innings of four-run ball. He did have a pretty cool four-strikeout inning in the fourth thanks to a passed ball by Russell Martin (only the second such inning in team history--A.J. Burnett had the first on June 24th of last year against the Colorado Rockies), but it took him 102 pitches to make it through only five innings. Hughes has had a fine comeback season for the Yanks, but if someone argues that he's been better than Hiroki Kuroda or CC Sabathia because of his wins, feel free to look forlorn. Another weird note on the four-strikeout inning: it was the second such inning in the big leagues today since Jason Berken of the Chicago Cubs did it as well against the Cincinnati Reds.
The crooked number the Yankees put up in the fourth made the score 8-2, but the Blue Jays certainly deserve some credit for not quitting on the game. They got two back in the fifth when right fielder Moises Sierra belted his fifth homer of the season after a walk to Lind to reduce the lead to four. The Yankees got those runs back immediately in the fifth as Brett Cecil surrendered doubles to Curtis Granderson and Jayson Nix, and another RBI single by Jeter. The game was quiet for a few innings as Derek Lowe and Jason Frasor worked out of jams for their respective teams, so it took an awful Cory Wade to officially bring the Jays back into the game.
Upon entering the game in the eighth, Wade promptly gave up a monster Kelly Johnson homer to right-center field. He only recorded one out, which came between a J.P. Arencibia single and a Anthony Gose double. Surrendering an extra-base hit to a guy that entered the game with a sub-.600 OPS is no way to keep a team down, and Wade was gone. Joba Chamberlain came in and got a pair of ground balls, but both were hit too slowly to end the inning--Brett Lawrie beat out his roller for an infield single, and Mike McCoy reached first base since Jeter was only able to get Lawrie at second. Two runs scored and the game officially became a "save situation" at 10-7. Though he gave up a single to Edwin Encarnacion, Joba escaped the inning unscathed.
David Robertson gave Rafael Soriano the day off and actually had a stress-free inning. He struck out the side (Sierra, Johnson, and Arencibia) and earned his second save of the season. My theory is that he read Grant Brisbee's article about him from this morning and got angry. Yeah... that's the ticket.
Moving from one end of the competitive spectrum of the AL to the other, the Yankees will now play host to the Oakland Athletics for three games. Though the Athletics have somehow lost three of their last four games, they did destroy the Tigers in the ninth inning of today's game. More importantly, they've been playing at a .661 clip in the second half and are tied with the Orioles for one of the two AL Wild Card spots. It's perfectly reasonable to say that this series could be a playoff preview.
Flying Falcor of the Day goes to Ichiro (2-for-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, .256 WPA).
Kangaroo Kick of the Day goes to Cory Wade (0.1 IP, 3 H, HR, K, -.038 WPA).