Sergio Mitre started a game for the Yankees Tuesday, and the somehow Yankees find themselves back in first the AL East today.
The baseball gods must be smiling kindly on the Bombers right now.
Mitre allowed four runs in 5-2/3 innings, but Yankees played some small-ball and enough timely hits to defeat the Orioles 6-4 at Yankee Stadium for their fifth straight win. The Red Sox lost to the Rangers for the fourth straight defeat, moving the Yankees into sole-possession of first for the second time this season.
Mitre was not able to continue the Yankees' streak four straight of quality starts, but what he gave was adequate enough for a No. 5 starter, especially going against Rich Hill, who did not have great stuff.
Actually Mitre was more than adequate through five innings, allowing just two runs, one earned, while throwing just 75 pitches.
Joe Girardi may have been pushing his luck a bit by sending Mitre back out there for the sixth, but with a four-run lead, he enough of a cushion to try to squeeze some more outs of his starter and take some pressure off the bullpen.
Mitre surrendered two hits and a groundout before allowing Melvin Mora's two-run single to make it 6-4. He struck out Nolan Reimold before Girardi lifted him. Alfredo Aceves finished off this inning and pitched the seventh before Phil Coke took care of the eighth and Mariano Rivera the ninth for his 27th save.
Mitre, who hadn't pitched in the majors since Sept. 15, 2007, because of Tommy John surgery and missed the first 50-games this year because a drug suspension, was clearly nervous from the start, allowing two hard hits to the first three batters and surrendering a run.
But he settled down nicely, and ended up allowing four runs -- three earned -- on eight hits and just one walk. He struck out four and threw 57 of 91 pitches for strikes.
Alex Rodriguez, playing DH, got the run back in the second by leading off with a walk, stealing second, advancing to third on a productive out -- a fly ball to right by Jorge Posada -- and score on Nick Swisher's sacrifice fly.
It was a great piece of small ball and something the Yankees need to do much more if they are going to be able to beat teams such as the Red Sox and Angels. They must punish teams much more often when they issue leadoff walks.
A throwing error by Mitre helped the Orioles take a 2-1 lead in the third, when Adam Jones' ground out brought in Brian Roberts from third.
But the the Yankees seized the lead in the bottom half as Cody Ransom, playing third, walked and went to third on Derek Jeter's single. Jeter stole second and after Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases with two-out, two runs score on A-Rod's single to left.
Robinson Cano extended the lead with a two-run homer in the fourth with no outs and Johnny Damon gave the Yankees an insurmountable with a single that brought in Ransom to make it 6-2.
And with that kind of support, Mitre was able to relax and give the Yankees a feel-good win.
All is going right when your able to call up a retread from the minors and get a win. There is plenty to feel good about -- especially because the Yankees are in first place.
Let's enjoy it for now, but let's also realize that there is still 69 games left in the season -- an eternity -- and if the season has taught us anything is that things can turn quickly.
The division race is no where close to over. There is still a lot of work to do.
Runners In Scoring Position
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
Vs. Red Sox
Wednesday, 1:05 p.m., YES
Jason Berken (1-7, 6.44 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (8-4, 3.81)
A.J. to this streak started with a quality start, but no-decision. Let's see him continue it with a great start of at least seven innings and a win.