The New York Yankees’ prolific offense trumped the Washington
Nationals’ formidable pitching staff in the series opener between
these division leaders.
They’ll now try to make things tough for Jordan Zimmermann – who
has been susceptible to the long ball lately – as they go for an
eighth straight victory Saturday at Nationals Park.
New York has been scoring runs consistently during its recent
surge, and it got the better of Gio Gonzalez and the Washington
bullpen in a 7-2 victory Friday to end the Nationals’ six-game
winning streak. Curtis Granderson drove in three runs for the
Yankees, who have won 17 of 21 to open a 1 1/2-game lead over
second-place Baltimore in the AL East.
The Nationals (38-24) are atop the NL East largely due to a
staff that owns a major league-best 3.01 ERA, but they conceded
their most runs since May 13 on Friday.
“We knew that they were playing really well,” winning pitcher
Phil Hughes said. “Thankfully, we scored some runs.”
The Yankees (38-25) have been doing plenty of that lately,
reaching the six-run mark in half of their last 20 contests. They
were on the verge of winning a game without homering for the first
time all season until Granderson, batting .360 with three home runs
during a six-game hitting streak, hit his 20th in the ninth inning
New York leads the majors with 97 home runs, and Zimmermann
(3-5, 2.91 ERA) has surrendered eight homers in his last five
Against Boston on Sunday, Zimmermann allowed David Ortiz’s solo
shot and two other runs while striking out seven in seven innings
of Washington’s 4-3 win, although he didn’t get the decision.
Having yielded three runs or fewer in nine of his 12 starts, the
right-hander easily could have a few more victories, but his run
support average of 3.26 ranks among the worst in the majors.
Washington could again have trouble offensively Saturday with
the Yankees giving the ball to Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81).
Pettitte, who turned 40 on Friday, has pitched at least six
innings in each of his six starts and is fooling batters at a
surprising rate, striking out 40 in 41 2-3 innings. His ratio of
8.6 strikeouts per nine innings is nearly two above his 17-year
“People ask me about all the strikeouts, and I can’t explain
it,” he told the Yankees’ official website. “I’m just going to roll
Pettitte is also holding left-handed hitters to a .178 average,
but that is unlikely to intimidate rookie sensation Bryce Harper,
who is hitting .383 off lefties.
Pettitte gave the Yankees a bit of a scare against the New York
Mets on Sunday, when he snared Scott Hairston’s sixth-inning
comebacker with his bare hand. He finished the inning before
exiting, and ended up allowing three runs and five hits while
striking out eight in a 5-4 comeback win.
X-rays were negative and he reported no problems during a
bullpen session Wednesday.
Pettitte is 3-1 with a 4.29 ERA in six career starts against the
Washington franchise, with his last outing coming in 2006 – two
years before Nationals Park opened.
This will be Zimmermann’s first start against the Yankees, but
he has proven to be quite confident pitching against the AL. His
1.82 ERA in nine interleague starts since 2009 is the fifth-best in
the majors in that span among those with at least 50 innings