SEATTLE - Oh, right.
After a furious day of intrigue surrounding the Yankees' near-acquisition of Cliff Lee, Phil Hughes showed why getting the Mariners' ace would have been a luxury rather than the answer to a major need.
Hughes, backed by two solo home runs by Mark Teixeira and a four-run sixth that broke open a close game, was superb in a 6-1 victory over the Mariners Friday night in front of 39,645 at Safeco Field, the Yankees' season-best seventh straight win. They are 5-0 on this West Coast road trip, having allowed a total of six runs, and have moved three games ahead of the Rays and five ahead of the Red Sox.
"Our pitching has carried us all season, it really has," Teixeira said. "We still haven't clicked offensively. We've had two or three guys carry the team for a while, two or three here and there. But one through nine, I still don't think we're clicking like we're capable of."
Hughes, who had given up 11 earned runs in 112/3 innings in his two starts since being skipped at the end of June, clicked Friday night, allowing one run and six hits in seven innings.
He said his work with pitching coach Dave Eiland, who recently returned from an absence of nearly a month, paid off. There had been an issue with his arm slot, which had a negative effect on his fastball.
"It was kind of a problem that accumulated over the last few starts,'' Hughes said. "I was pushing the ball a little bit and Dave wasn't around to help me out with it, noticing it. I would kind of get away with it sometimes but it wasn't as crisp as I'd like it to be. I really tried to make that adjustment in my sides [sessions] and it just felt a lot better today."
Hughes (11-2, 3.65 ERA) became the Yankees' third 11-game winner, joining Andy Pettitte (11-2, 2.70) and CC Sabathia (11-3, 3.19). That gave the Yankees (55-31) three 11-game winners before the All-Star break for the first time since 1955. The 1999 Astros were the last team to have three 11-game winners before the All-Star break, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's like we have three aces," Teixeira said.
Pettitte and Sabathia aren't big surprises. Hughes, as a fifth starter, has been a revelation after emerging from a five-man competition in spring training to claim the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
"I felt in spring training that I'd be able to have a good year," Hughes said. "I kind of got that confidence back from last year, but I don't think a lot of people expected a ton out of me, being that I was the No. 5 starter and that basically all we needed was a solid No. 4 guy. Maybe not all that much pressure was put on me, but I really felt a lot of pressure from myself that I could have a good year, and so far, so good. So I do take pride in that because the front office puts a lot of belief in you and it's kind of up to you to deliver on that."
Teixeira hit two-out homers in the first and ninth innings, batting lefthanded the first time and righthanded the second. That gave him 17 homers and 59 RBIs.
Teixeira has gone 12-for-34 in July with four homers and 11 RBIs in nine games. He has an on-base percentage of .439 and a slugging percentage of .824 this month.
"It's one of those things, I'm seeing the ball well from both sides," Teixeira said. "I'm not having to fight one side or the other, and that happens on and off all during the season. Right now I feel pretty good from both sides."
David Pauley, making his first start of the season, replaced Lee, Friday's scheduled starter, and pitched well. He allowed Teixeira's 16th homer of the season, which momentarily tied Robinson Cano for the club lead, in the first, and it stayed 1-0 until the Yankees scored four times in the sixth to drive Pauley from the game.
The Yankees sent nine to the plate in the inning, starting with Brett Gardner, who reached on a walk. His walk ended a string of 13 straight batters retired by Pauley after Alex Rodriguez's single in the first.
Derek Jeter followed Gardner's walk with a hot shot at third baseman Jose Lopez, who was up on the grass. The ball banged off the glove of Lopez, who was charged with a tough error, opening the door for a big inning.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsui called on Chad Cordero and Nick Swisher - coming off a four-hit night Thursday and a three-hit night Wednesday - laid down a sacrifice bunt. Teixeira walked to load the bases and a sacrifice fly by A-Rod (70 RBIs) made it 2-0 and moved Jeter to third. Cano followed with a two-run triple into the gap in right-center to make it 4-0 and Curtis Granderson drove him in with a single.
Hughes commanded all of his pitches, showing a particularly nasty breaking ball, in striking out five and walking none.
Hughes allowed a two-out double to Russell Branyan in the first but got Lopez to fly out.
He retired the Mariners (34-52) in order in the second but got into trouble in the third when Jack Wilson and Ichiro Suzuki hit consecutive one-out singles. Chone Figgins forced Ichiro at second, and after he stole second, Hughes struck out Branyan with a nasty 77-mph curveball.
Hughes had another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth and got Michael Saunders to ground out to start the fifth before Rob Johnson doubled to left-center. Hughes struck out Wilson with a 95-mph fastball, but there still was the matter of dealing with Ichiro. Hughes fell behind 2-and-1 before getting the dangerous leadoff man to pop to short to end the inning.
The Mariners got their run in the sixth to make it 5-1. Figgins led off with a double and scored on Lopez's double to left, which Gardner didn't appear to get a good read on. But Teixeira's home run off Luke French in the ninth pushed the Yankees' margin back to five.
"We're playing good ball," manager Joe Girardi said. "We're pitching, we're getting some timely hitting and tomorrow's a new challenge."