A long-dormant Yankees offense broke out of its funk on Tuesday, pounding the Angels for 14 runs. Asked before Wednesday's contest whether his club could build on such a performance, New York manager Joe Girardi played down the possibility.
"This is a game that every day is really, in a sense, controlled by the starting pitcher -- the one that you have on your side, and the one that you're facing," Girardi said.
That worked out just fine for the Yankees on Wednesday, when they pounced on the Angels' Jered Weaver for eight early runs in an 11-3 victory. But it could be tougher on Thursday afternoon, when the teams finish their four-game series in the Bronx.
The Yankees have a chance to complete the sweep, win their fifth straight overall and close their homestand at 6-1. To do so, they'll need Phil Hughes to snap out of his slump.
Hughes (4-11, 4.99 ERA) has struggled mightily all season at home, where he has posted a 6.18 ERA and served up 16 home runs in 12 games. He is 0-4 with a 6.43 ERA over his last six starts overall, and has given up 14 runs on 22 hits in his last 11 innings, spanning three outings.
After the right-hander's latest appearance, on Saturday against the Tigers, Girardi suggested Hughes' rotation spot was safe, but only because of a lack of alternatives.
"Right now, I don't know if we have any options," Girardi said. "So we need him to pitch well. That's the bottom line."
New York's surging offense will have to contend with Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson (12-6, 3.49 ERA). Over his past eight starts, Wilson is 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings, and he held the Indians to two runs over 5 1/3 innings on Saturday, although he gave up seven hits and four walks.
Wilson limited the Yankees to two runs over seven innings back on June 14 and owns a 2.67 ERA in four career starts at Yankee Stadium. He also is happy to be taking the mound there in the afternoon.
"I like pitching day games at Yankee Stadium," Wilson said. "It levels the playing field for me, because I feel like there's no buildup. You just go straight to the game. I think pitching in Yankee Stadium is kind of intimidating in a lot of ways, because you know there are going to be 45,000 or 50,000 fans there.
"You know that the Yankees are always going to give you a good ballgame. They're always going to have tough at-bats, they're always going to have a lot of discipline. This is the hallmark of their club. So a day game, there might be guys who are like, 'Oh, I'm a little sore, I'm not going to play today.' Things like that. Hopefully I get a lineup I can get some whiffs with."
Wilson will try to help pull the Angels out of a slide that has seen them lose four straight and 14 of 18.
"We have had some positives on our club, but overall it's been very frustrating," manager Mike Scioscia said. "The big focus is to never get out of that mode of going out and winning a game every night. You have to go out there and really bring your best game every night. And that's what we're going to focus on. You can't really sugarcoat what's happened. We've struggled in some key areas and had some non-performances in some key areas that has really set us back. But the challenge is still there to go out there and play good baseball."
Angels: Aybar, Kendrick out
For the first time since last Sept. 1, shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick both were out of the Angels' lineup for Wednesday's game.
Kendrick is on the disabled list with a sprained left knee, although he took batting practice on Wednesday, a week before he is eligible to be activated.
Aybar exited Tuesday's game in the third inning with a left calf cramp. Although he didn't start on Wednesday, he went through his normal pregame routine and said he could be available off the bench.
• To help patch that hole in the middle infield, the Angels recalled Andrew Romine from Triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday and optioned pitcher Nick Maronde to Double-A Arkansas. Romine got the start at shortstop and went 1-for-3.
Yankees: Soriano on fire
Left fielder Alfonso Soriano has led the Yankees' offensive charge over the past two games. He set a career high with six RBIs on Tuesday and topped that with seven on Wednesday, homering twice in both contests.
In his second stint with the Yankees, Soriano has seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 17 games. His first stint began with a September callup in 1999, when Girardi was in his final season as the team's backup catcher.
"I was here in the month of September when he didn't get to play a lot that year, but I remember them talking about this was a young shortstop that could hit, and they were thinking about where they were going to put him because we had this one guy [Derek Jeter] playing short at the time," Girardi said. "But just being a wiry kid and seeing how much power he had, it was like, wow. He's bigger than you think, and he's extremely strong. He looks like more of a defensive back or wide receiver. Those guys are strong, but they don't necessarily have that big presence to them."
• The Yankees own a 4-2 lead in the season series going into Thursday's finale.
• Ichiro Suzuki has the most plate appearances against Wilson of any hitter and is 9-for-46 (.196) with two doubles, one RBI, four walks and 12 strikeouts.
• Hughes hasn't faced the Angels this season but surrendered 13 runs over 8 2/3 innings against them last year.