Yankees crush Pirates behind five-homer attack
Teixeira, Almonte, Gardner, Soriano, McCann go deep to back Phelps
NEW YORK -- When your starting pitcher can't get deep in the game, your bats have to do it for him. Erstwhile reliever David Phelps threw 100 pitches and completed five innings Saturday, but the Yankees bats matched a season-high with five home runs en route to a 7-1 win over the Pirates.
The five-homer outburst marked just the second time that the Yankees have gone deep more than three times in a game this year, and the homers accounted for all of New York's runs Saturday. The Yankees have homered at least once in nine of their last 10 games and are 6-4 in that span.
"We won with the home run today, which we're capable of doing," said first baseman Mark Teixeira. "I'd like to see us be a little bit more consistent hitting the ball out of the ballpark, score a little bit more."
Teixeira, one of New York's hottest hitters, got the power surge started with a two-run blast to right field in the first inning. Teixeira, a switch-hitter, pulled that shot off Pittsburgh starter Edinson Volquez, and he's now hit nine home runs in 23 games since returning from the disabled list on April 20.
Three players -- Zoilo Almonte, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano -- added solo homers for the Yankees, and Brian McCann capped the scoring with a two-run job in the eighth. New York had gone deep five times in just one other game, a 7-4 victory over the Red Sox back on April 12.
The Yankees (22-19) have hit 25 home runs at Yankee Stadium in just 20 games compared to 13 in 21 games on the road, and manager Joe Girardi said the team was designed to play that way.
"Our team is built for this park," said Girardi. "When you put a team together, you talk about the kind of hitters you want. You build it around your park because you know you're guaranteed 81 games there. I think that's why you see us probably score more runs at home than on the road."
Phelps, the beneficiary of all that support, earned his first victory of the season. The right-hander was making his third start after a spate of injuries to New York's rotation, and he held the Pirates hitless for three innings. Phelps (1-0) threw 100 pitches and left with a three-run lead.
And while the Yankees will take that end result, it wasn't always easy. Phelps was at 50 pitches after two innings, and he got some help from his defense in the fourth. One runner was thrown out trying to steal second in that inning, and another runner was cut down at the plate.
"I wasn't thrilled with it," said Girardi of the way Phelps worked in the early innings. "But I felt he could settle down and he did. He got us through five innings. You take it a day at a time."
New York's bullpen allowed one earned run in four innings, and the pitching staff as a whole has given up just one run in the last three games. Dellin Betances allowed the only run -- a homer by Starling Marte -- but the relief staff made sure Phelps would be rewarded for his effort.
"It was a grind out there today," said Phelps. "I didn't have my best stuff. I feel very fortunate that the guys made some plays for me. [McCann] did a great job walking me through the at-bats. It's one of those days where you don't have your best stuff and you're fortunate to get out of there in five innings. The biggest thing is we won. The offense did a great job putting up some runs for me today."
Volquez allowed four homers. The right-hander retired nine consecutive batters in between the Almonte and Gardner homers and left in the seventh inning. Volquez (1-4) gave up one homer in his first five starts but has allowed eight in his last four.
Teixeira's homer, a line-drive shot to right field, wasn't just an indicator of how hot he's been. It was also a career milestone. The veteran first baseman hit career home run No. 350, and he joked with reporters afterward that it might be a while before he hits another round number.
"That's a lot of home runs. It means I have to play a lot longer to get to 700," he said jokingly of a statistical peak reached by only three players. "It's a great number. It's a nice round number. If you had asked me when I was a rookie whether I'd hit 350 homers, I'd have probably said, 'You're crazy.'"
The Yankees led off three innings -- the third, sixth and seventh -- with home runs, but Teixeira's blast would've stood up on its own. He played in just 15 games last year due to a wrist injury, and Girardi said he impacts the Yankees' lineup in a way that's tough to quantify.
"We missed him a lot last year, with a lot of other players. It's great having him back," said Girardi. "You think of the numbers he's put up and he's missed 13 or 14 games because of an injury."
The Yankees, despite the win, are playing through a sustained run of adverse results. New York is just 9-10 in its last 19 games, and it came into Saturday's action trailing first-place Baltimore by one game. Pittsburgh (17-24) and the Yankees will finish their series with a Sunday doubleheader.
New York used three relievers in the victory, and Girardi said he isn't concerned that his bullpen will be exhausted after Sunday's double dip. The Yankees will likely call up a pitcher, he said, and Friday's rainout and an off-day on Monday combine to give the relievers some extra rest.
"It's not what you want on a consistent basis," said Girardi of his starting pitcher completing just five innings. "But I knew we had a day off the day before, so it's a little bit easier to do."