Teixeira powers Yankees past Tigers

Phil Hughes was pumping 97 mph fastballs past the Tigers, striking out six in two innings before Mariano Rivera finished Detroit.

The New York Yankees have found their setup man.

“It’s just a matter of, you know, adrenaline taking over,” he said.

Mark Teixeira bailed out a shaky A.J. Burnett with a go-ahead, three-run homer off an injured Joel Zumaya, and the Yankees opened the second half with a 5-3 victory Friday night.

New York, which trails AL East-leading Boston by three games, has won its post-All-Star break opener in eight straight years, the Yankees‘ longest stretch since 1940-49, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“There’s a huge room for improvement,” Teixeira said. “It’s not like we went out there and played flawless baseball.”

New York trailed 3-1 against rookie Luke French, then started its comeback in the fifth when left fielder Josh Anderson allowed Teixeira’s single to skip under his glove for one of three Detroit errors, allowing Johnny Damon to score.

Zumaya (3-3) relieved to start the seventh, gave up a leadoff single to Derek Jeter and a long double to Damon that glanced off the glove of Clete Thomas and ricocheted against the wall above the right-field scoreboard.

Rather than issue an intentional walk that would load the bases for Alex Rodriguez, Zumaya pitched to Teixeira and fell behind in the count 3-1. Teixeira lined the next pitch into the second deck in right field for his 22nd homer, just his second since June 12, and his third hit of the night.

“Disgusted, upset, don’t know what to think right now,” Zumaya said. “Obviously my arm’s not right.”

He said he felt a “slight little pop” in his pitching shoulder on his fourth-to-last pitch, fouled off by Nick Swisher. Swisher then walked, and Melky Cabrera grounded out.

“They just did X-rays,” Zumaya said. “I’m leaving for Detroit tomorrow, and I’m going to get an MRI. I don’t even know how I threw the last three pitches. I just tried to throw them down the middle. I was in some serious pain. I couldn’t even lift my arm.”

Hughes made seven starts before switching to the bullpen on June 8 and has struck out 19 over 15 2-3 scoreless innings in his last 12 appearances, the longest shutout streak for the Yankees since Rivera three years ago. His velocity is up about 5 mph, and he’s lowered his ERA from 5.45 to 3.76 since joining the bullpen.

“It happens to all guys that are starters that become relievers and vice versa,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “If you’re going from the rotation to the ‘pen, your velocity’s going to go up, and if you’re going from the ‘pen to the rotation, your velocity’s going to go down.”

After a 57-minute rain delay two pitches into the bottom of the eighth, Rivera finished for his 24th save in 25 chances as the Yankees successfully began a 10-game homestand. He allowed a two-out double to Placido Polanco before Marcus Thames popped out.

“We couldn’t get that extra hit. That hurt,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

New York rebounded after closing the first half with three straight losses at the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees improved to 6-15 against teams currently leading their divisions: Detroit, Boston, the Angels and Philadelphia.

Burnett struggled all night, starting seven of his first eight batters with balls and 15 of 27 overall. He gave up three runs, six hits and five walks in six innings, throwing just 57 of 104 pitches for strikes.

French, a 23-year-old rookie, allowed two runs – one earned – and five hits in five innings in the Tigers‘ first game at new Yankee Stadium. Detroit has lost three of four against the Yankees this year.

Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera hit a run-scoring grounder in the first, but Hideki Matsui‘s RBI single tied it in the bottom half. Polanco put the Tigers back ahead with a run-scoring single in the second, and Curtis Granderson‘s homer made it 3-1 in the fifth – his 19th home run of the season but only his second since June 19.

Hughes and Rivera are combining to give the Yankees perhaps the most lethal back end of the bullpen in the majors.

“It’s just a joke to see him coming out of the ‘pen and do what he’s doing,” Burnett said of Hughes.


Mike Mussina, Dwight Gooden, Mel Stottlemyre and Don Zimmer are among those expected Sunday for the first Old-Timers Day at new Yankee Stadium.