NEW YORK (AP) — Jorge Posada hit a grand slam and drove in six runs in his first game since being benched six days ago, and Phil Hughes made his case to remain in the New York Yankees’ rotation with six effective innings in a 9-2 victory Saturday that ended the Tampa Bay Rays’ five-game winning streak.
Curtis Granderson hit his 33rd homer to tie Jose Bautista for the big league lead and Robinson Cano had two hits and scored twice to help the Yankees rebound from a loss to the Rays on Friday night.
Getting the start at designated hitter on the day his pal Derek Jeter was honored for reaching 3,000 hits, Posada laced a bases-loaded single off Jeremy Hellickson (10-8) in the second to give New York a 2-0 lead. He singled in the fourth then hit his 10th homer and 10th career slam in the fifth off Brandon Gomes.
Posada has not played since being dropped from his regular spot as the designated hitter Sunday at Boston.
In the final year of a four year, $52.4 million contract, Posada turns 40 on Wednesday. He is in what most likely is his final year with the Yankees, and it’s been a trying one.
He took himself out of the lineup in May when he was dropped to ninth in the order then apologized to his teammates a day later. He has had difficulty adjusting to his role as a full-time DH after being the team’s primary catcher for most of his 17-year career.
Posada said before the game Saturday that he wants “to do everything I can to try to stay in the lineup.”
He sure came through in the clutch: Posada’s run-scoring hits both came after a Rays pitcher walked two batters to load the bases.
Hughes (3-4) is in jeopardy of being dropped from the rotation despite two consecutive solid starts. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is committed to going to a five-man rotation from the temporary six starters and the two names being mentioned most for demotion were Hughes and A.J. Burnett.
Hughes has struggled this season after going 18-8 last year and earning his first All-Star trip. The 25-year-old right-hander was 2-4 with a 7.11 ERA coming into Saturday with a long stint on the disabled list. But he threw a rain-shortened, six-inning three-hitter in his previous start Aug. 2 and gave up four hits — one a homer to Desmond Jennings leading off the sixth — and two runs this time. Hughes walked one and struck out seven.
Hughes made 44 relief appearances for New York in 2009, when they won the World Series title, boosting the likelihood that’s where he’ll end up.
Mark Teixeira led off the second with a single then Hellickson lost the strike zone, walking Cano and Nick Swisher. Eric Chavez popped foul to the catcher ahead of Posada’s single.
With his dad Steve Hellickson watching in the crowd, the 24-year-old rookie with a dog named Jeter, pitched at an extremely deliberate pace but it did not help. New York reached base in each of the five innings he started and only once did Hellickson retire the leadoff batter. He gave up a homer to Granderson to open the fifth, and now is 3-8 in games he yields a homer as opposed to 6-0 when he doesn’t.
Hellickson was pulled when Cano hit a one-out double. Gomes preceded to walk his first two batters before Posada connected to right field, sending the crowd into a sustained ovation that stopped when Posada was pushed out for a curtain call.
Jennings hit a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall to open the sixth and Johnny Damon hit a liner that went under the glove of a diving Brett Gardner and ended up with a triple. Damon scored on Ben Zobrist’s groundout.
Teixeira and Chavez each drove in runs in the sixth.
NOTES: New York signed former Yankees RHP Scott Proctor to a minor league contract. … Posada last had six RBIs in Sept. 2006. His career high is seven. … Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez (knee surgery) will DH in a second rehab start Saturday. He homered and doubled as DH Friday and was scheduled to play third in his second game but looked tentative running out a double. … Jeter donated the batting gloves and helmet he used on July 9, the day he got his 3,00th hit, to the Hall of Fame during a pregame ceremony honoring the milestone. … On Sunday the Rays will take the train to Boston and wear 50s-era hats. … Rays RHP James Shields faces Yankees RHP Freddy Garcia in the finale of the three-game series Sunday. In his last outing, Shields pitched a six-hitter against the Royals for his sixth complete game this season. Garcia hasn’t allowed a homer in 64 2-3 innings.