Despite struggling with his command and walking four, two of those free passes forcing in a run in the second inning, Phil Hughes managed to pass a 2-1 lead (courtesy of a Jorge Posada solo homer in the top of the fourth) to his bullpen after 5 2/3 innings and 109 pitches. Unfortunately, the Yankee bullpen coughed up three runs before getting the final out of the sixth. Boone Logan walked the only man he faced, and David Robertson, after getting ahead 0-2 on Ty Wigginton, hit the Orioles’ replacement second baseman in the backside, then gave up a trio of RBI singles to the bottom three men in the Oriole lineup before finally striking out Adam Jones to end the inning. Alfredo Aceves took over in the seventh, but in the eighth Derek Jeter booted a leadoff groundball by Wigginton and Jorge Posada threw a rainbow into center field when pinch-runner Julio Lugo attempted to steal second with two outs, setting up a crucial insurance run.
Baltimore starter Kevin Millwood was similarly inefficient, but lefty Alberto Castillo and righty Jim Johnson held the Yankees to just two hits over 2 2/3 innings, handing a 5-2 lead to newly promoted Alfredo Simon in the ninth. A Nick Swisher one-out single and a pinch-hit walk by Nick Johnson set up, sandwiched between strikeouts of Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter, set up a pair of two-out Yankee runs, the first of which scored on an error on a groundball by Brett Gardner (which, curiously, was also how the first Yankee run of the game scored), but after Mark Teixeira got the Yankees within one and pushed Gardner to third with a first-pitch single, Alex Rodriguez’s hopper up the middle was corralled for the final out of a 5-4 Oriole win, their fourth of the season.
Hughes’ performance was actually quite encouraging. He allowed just one run on two hits despite having far from his best stuff, but he was undermined by sloppy play around him. In addition to Logan and Robertson’s failures in the bottom of the sixth and Jeter and Posada’s errors in the eighth, the Yankees gave away two outs in the top of the sixth when Robinson Cano, who has been thrown out on 54 percent of his stolen base attempts in his career, followed a leadoff single by being caught stealing. Jorge Posada followed Cano with an ironic walk, then with two outs was caught rounding second too far on an infield single to the left side (Nick Swisher singled off Miguel Tejada’s glove, and Tejada wrangled the ball before Posada realized he never had a prayer of making it to third base). The Yankee offense also failed to score a run with the bases loaded and one out in the third when Alex Rodriguez lined out and Cano flied out.
I’m tempted to chalk this one up to a hangover from the team’s big day at the White House on Monday (Michael Kay said during the broadcast that he had never seen Joe Girardi look more exhausted than he was Monday night). Hey, Randy Winn got his first Yankee hit, so that’s . . . something. Of course, he also slipped when attempting a throw home in the bottom of the sixth, resulting in a throw that barely trickled into first base from shallow right field. It was that kind of game.
In other news, Johnson, who has reverted to number 36 which he wore in his first stint with the Yankees, should be in the starting lineup Wednesday night, but Chan Ho Park was unable to throw off flat ground and thus seems no closer to returning to the Yankee bullpen.