Phil Hughes looked awful in the first two innings of last night's 9-2 win in Toronto. He was missing Jorge Posada's target by several feet and needed some big plays in the field to escape some serious damage early on. With the bases loaded and two-outs in the first, Aaron Hill laced a grounder up the middle but Hughes managed to swat it down and get the out at first to escape the jam unscathed. With men on first and second and none out in the second, Hughes benefited from an unusual 8-5 fielder's choice courtesy of Melky Cabrera's arm on a flare to center that forced the runners to hold up, and a spectacular diving catch by Johnny Damon on a ball laced into the left field gap. Those plays prevented the Jays from advancing and delivered Hughes two crucial outs. A subsequent single by Russ Adams and a two-base error by Cabrera throwing behind the runner at second (his throw skipped past the bag and rolled into the Yankee dugout) plated both runners, but Hughes got Alex Rios to ground out and shut the door from there, allowing only one base runner on an error by Alex Rodriguez (a bobble) over his final four innings to turn in his second straight six-inning, two-run quality start. Hughes still wasn't all the great even in those later innings, however. He was still frequently missing Posada's target. He only struck out one man all night, that being Vernon Wells leading off the first, and of those last 12 outs, only three of them came on the ground.
It was enough, however, as the Yanks touched up Shawn Marcum for eight runs in 4 1/3 innings, the big shot being an opposite field grand slam by Jason Giambi in the fifth, his first homer in 35 plate appearances. Edwar Ramirez pitched around a pair of singles for a pair of scoreless innings in relief of Hughes, striking out five of the eight men he faced. Ross Ohlendorf then made his major league debut with a 1-2-3 inning that started with a strikeout of Lyle Overbay and concluded with a pair of grounders to fellow member of the Randy Johnson package Alberto Gonzalez. Ohlendorf, who did not pitch well in the minors this year prompting a move into the bullpen, threw 11 pitches, seven of them strikes, and hit 95 on the radar gun with excellent control and great movement on his fastball. For those who might have missed it, that means the Yanks held the Blue Jays to two runs (one earned) on five hits (four of them singles) by using nothing but rookie pitchers. The performances from Ramirez and Ohlendorf are particularly encouraging given the fact that Luis Vizcaino has added a stiff lower back to the shoulder problem that has shut him down over the past week.
Elsewhere, Shelley Duncan was sent back to New York after complaining of abdominal pain that could prove to be a hernia, and the Tigers split a double-header with the Rangers, giving the Yankees an even four-game lead in the Wild Card and a five-game lead in the loss column.
Finally, an update on Roger Clemens courtesy of Pete Abe who reports that Clemens "said he is ready to face Boston on Sunday. He threw for about 15 minutes at 80 percent today and will get after it a little more on Thursday. He had two cortisone shots in his elbow last Wednesday in Houston. He also revealed that there was some ligament damage."