The Yankees showed a little offensive life on Sunday afternoon in Anaheim, but still needed a big error to put the winning runs on the board.
With Felix Hernandez on the mound for the Mariners Monday, we were going to find out if the team-wide slump was really over or if the bats were still easy pickings for good pitchers. It took a while, but the results are in and they are quite positive.
The Yankees went down meekly in the first two innings, but they must have found some of Seattle's renowned coffee in the clubhouse before the third. They scored a run in that inning and then pounded King Felix, who had won six of his nine career starts against the Yankees, en route to a 9-3 win that put them four games ahead of the idle Red Sox in the AL East.
That's the biggest divisional lead of the year for the Yankees and, with the Rays winning as well, Boston is now closer to being out of the playoffs than they are to being divison champions. That's not really where they'd like to be with 16 games left in the regular season, but it suits the Yankees just fine.
Phil Hughes' six innings of work also suit the Yankees just fine, even if his outing was a reminder of why you still need to send scouts out to watch players in our sabermetric age. Based on numbers alone -- six innings, one run, five hits, three walks, three strikeouts -- Hughes had a decent, if not overwhelming, outing.
Actually watching the game left you with a different impression, most of which had to do with wondering if the 2011 Mariners are the worst offensive team you've ever seen. Hughes wasn't sharp, wasn't overpowering and his stuff isn't going to play against an offense that can do something with mediocre pitches sitting on meaty parts of the plate.
After the game, Joe Girardi sounded a different note and continued to resist entreaties to share his thoughts about the team's postseason rotation. That makes it seem like Hughes still has a chance of being part of it, which comes as a surprise unless Girardi knows something we don't about Freddy Garcia's health.
Garcia has been shaky of late, but if you needed to choose between him, Hughes and A.J. Burnett at this point in the season it would still have to be Garcia based on the total body of work. Even if the stats say that it was a quality night's work, the reality is that nothing Hughes does at this point should matter anymore.
The offense does matter, though, so it was nice to see so many slumping players have their moments. Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner each had two hits, and Robinson Cano, who hasn't been nearly as bad, hit a bases loaded double to continue his remarkable work with the bags full this season.
Keep that up and that division lead isn't going to go away. The Red Sox might, but let's not be too greedy on a Tuesday morning.