Big night for the Bombers' bats
Win sparked by four homers, Jeter's 2,500th, Abreu's five hits
BALTIMORE -- Friday's game summary reads like a laundry list of accomplishments: nine runs, two sets of back-to-back home runs, a five-hit night for Bobby Abreu, Derek Jeter's 2,500th career hit and a 9-4 victory over the Orioles.
But in truth, it was far from an easy win.
The Yankees came back twice on Friday night -- once by way of back-to-back homers off the bats of Robinson Cano and Jose Molina -- and once by putting together base hits and exploiting the Orioles' bullpen to stay within six games of the American League Wild Card.
"I felt good about the guys' at-bats and the way their approach was tonight," said manager Joe Girardi. "It's a tough game. The score doesn't really indicate how tough of a game it was."
Mike Mussina was able to limit the damage through six innings, although he left on the hook for the loss in what was then a 4-3 game. He finished with a no-decision and six innings of four-run, nine-hit baseball. It was his best start against Baltimore this season.
Forgoing the dominance he displays on the mound against most other teams, Mussina is 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA against the Orioles in 2008. He has only been able to last 11 2/3 combined innings in three starts -- including a May 20 outing in which he was knocked out after just two-thirds of an inning. Friday's start actually brought the right-hander's ERA against Baltimore down from 11.12.
"That was pretty good," Mussina said. "To hold them to four runs, considering what I did the last two times, wasn't too bad. [I] could have been better, could have been a little sharper -- at least I gave us a chance this time."
And that chance was all the Yankees needed. Mussina exited after the sixth, but it was in the eighth when the Yankees were able to reap the benefit of their starter having kept the game within reach.
The Yankees were able to batter the Orioles' bullpen in the top of the eighth. After scoring the tying run when Abreu came home on a wild pitch by rookie hurler Kam Mickolio, they tallied the game-winner in the same at-bat on Xavier Nady's RBI single to right.
It was a rally that was almost erased when Abreu came close to being thrown out at third base on a snap throw with Jason Giambi at the plate before Nady.
"When the umpire said 'safe' there, I got a little relief," Abreu said.
It was all part of a career-high-tying 5-for-5 night for Abreu, who had welcomed the Venezuelan Little League team to the park before the game. Abreu, who is many of the Little Leaguers' favorite player, brought the team in from Williamsport, Pa., paying for their travel, game tickets and dinner.
"So far, it's a beautiful day," Abreu said. "You do things for the kids to make them happy, and you come over here and have such a nice game and win, so I think it couldn't be a better day than today."
In the ninth, the Bombers embodied their nickname and put on yet another home run show. Cody Ransom, batting for Giambi, sent a three-run shot into the left-field stands, and he had barely finished rounding the bases when Nady sent out a solo shot of his own.
It was the eighth and ninth times this season the Yankees have hit back-to-back jacks. Cano's shot to open the fifth inning was an absolute bomb to right-center. The homer traveled an estimated 425 feet, bouncing off the top of Boog's BBQ and landing on Eutaw Street. The Yankees have now hit five of the last seven homers to land on Eutaw Street -- three of them this season.
Molina followed suit, placing a 1-0 slider just over the left-field wall. Between the two batters, Orioles starter Radhames Liz threw just four pitches. Three batters later, the rookie would be done for the night.
And as for Jeter's milestone hit, the captain got that out of the way early, with a bloop single on the first pitch of his first at-bat of the game. The hit helped set up the Yankees' first run of the night, but for Jeter, who went 0-for-4 the rest of the night, the win was more significant than the hit.
"It means we won the game tonight," Jeter said. "I guess if you play long enough, you're bound to hit some milestones, but more important, we won the game. We needed this win."
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.