By Anthony Locicero
Only days removed from a historically bad outing with runners in scoring position, the New York Yankee bats were on display in a 7-0 blowout road win over the AL-leading Oakland Athletics Friday night.
The Bronx Bombers cranked out 12 hits – none were home runs – and were 6-for-13 in RISP situations. Six different players drove in runs for New York, now winners of four straight.
“That’s the recipe for scoring a lot of runs,” said Yankee manager Joe Girardi, whose club has now scored 13 runs in the past two games.
New York had lost their last seven at O.Co Coliseum, and the pitching matchup – back-of-the-rotation starter David Phelps, who had lost his last four outings, against A’s ace Sonny Gray – certainly favored Oakland.
But Phelps, a 27-year old righty, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before allowing a soft single by A’s catcher Derek Norris.
Phelps gave up only one more hit – a double by shortstop Jed Lowrie – in 6.2 innings. He walked three and struck out four to earn his second win of the season (2-4).
“It’s definitely one of the best starts of my career,” said Phelps, who lowered his earned run average to 4.32. "I was attacking guys. The last couple starts I was trying to be too fine with my pitches and digging myself in a hole. But tonight, they did a great job scoring early for me and kind of let me settle in a little early."
The bullpen was perfect the rest of the way. Dellin Betances was once again dominant (1.1 innings, two strikeouts), and rookie Jose Ramirez pitched a clean ninth.
New York went to work early against Gray, taking a 3-0 lead after two, sandwiching a Mark Teixeira sacrifice fly between RBI singles from outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.
Gray (6-3) settled down, retiring 13 in a row until Ichiro Suzuki’s two-out infield single in the sixth. Gray allowed seven hits over six innings, striking out seven, while walking one and giving up three earned runs.
The Yankees padded their lead in the eighth, scoring four runs on five hits against A’s reliever Jeff Francis.
"We have very good hitters one through nine, and it's fun when guys are swinging the bats well, putting good at-bats together,” said Ellsbury, who has a 17-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors. “I think that was the key tonight, just getting some big hits with runners in scoring position."
Second baseman Brian Roberts and third baseman Kelly Johnson each had RBI singles.
Oakland third baseman and AL WAR leader Josh Donaldson went 0-for-4 and is mired in a 0-for-26 slump.
Oakland, which leads the majors in run differential (+130) is now 40-27, and holds a 3.5 game lead over the second place Angels.
The Yankees have now won four straight, with a three-game sweep of a pretty decent Seattle Mariner club preceding the victory over the A’s.
New York improved to four games over .500 (35-31) and is 3.5 games behind AL East-leading Toronto.
The Yankees continue to have success on the road – 5-2 on the current road trip and now 22-15 away from the Bronx.
New York has struggled at the plate and were a horrific 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position in a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals June 8. Gardner, Derek Jeter, who improved his average to a more respectable .275 in his farewell season, Ichiro, and Roberts each had two hits. This was the captain’s fourth straight multi-hit game.
Is this a fluky stretch by what has been a mediocre team, or the start of bigger and better things?