posted on Aug, 13 2004 @ 11:09 AM
During a year marked by unemployment and a grueling rehabilitation, Orlando Hernandez figured it was only a matter of time before he was wearing
pinstripes and winning games again.
So far, El Duque looks as good as he always did.
Hernandez won again with another excellent outing for the New York Yankees and Miguel Cairo hit his first career grand slam Thursday night in a 5-1
victory over Texas Rangers.
"He's gaining confidence with every start," New York manager Joe Torre said. "He's been like old Duque to me."
Hernandez (5-0) has a 2.08 ERA in seven starts since rejoining the rotation a month ago. He re-signed with the Yankees in March and rehabbed his
shoulder in the minors for the first half of the season.
El Duque allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, helping the Yankees clinch the season series 5-4 against the Rangers. He struck out seven and
Hernandez had a satisfied smile on his face after the game as he recounted his journey from an unemployed pitcher to one of the Yankees' most
"I'm not surprised because I work hard. It's a surprise for people who haven't seen me in a while," Hernandez said, pointing at a few reporters. "I
planned on coming back. I'm happy to be here again. My teammates have accepted me with open arms."
Cairo gave Hernandez all the run support he needed in the second inning, sending Scott Erickson's fastball 407 feet into the Yankees' bullpen in
left-center field. Erickson briefly watched the flight of the ball before turning around and shaking his head.
"It was awesome. I didn't know it was gone," Cairo said, "But I just tried to hit it hard and it kept carrying and carrying."
John Olerud homered off Joaquin Benoit in the eighth to give New York a 5-1 lead. It was Olerud's sixth of the season, and first as a Yankee.
The Rangers lost for the sixth time in seven games, dropping from the AL West lead to 2½ games behind Oakland during that span.
"This is frustrating," Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "You don't win many games with this kind of offense."
Socks pulled high and legs kicking up to his chin, Hernandez was the source of the Rangers' frustrations Thursday night. Just as he was a few years
Hernandez helped the Yankees to three straight World Series titles and four pennants in five years from 1998-2002, but spent last year on Montreal's
disabled list after getting hurt in spring training.
He had rotator cuff surgery in May 2003 to repair a small tear and returned to the Yankees this spring, signing a $500,000, one-year contract.
El Duque's clearly been worth the money, so far.
Hernandez has given a surprising boost to the Yankees' injury-depleted rotation since getting called up on July 11. The Yankees have won each time
"He's been a terrific bonus for us," Torre said. "We felt good about signing him, but we didn't know he'd do this. He's given us a big shot in the
Tom Gordon, Scott Proctor and Mariano Rivera combined for two innings of scoreless relief.
Meanwhile, the Arlington debut of Erickson (0-2) didn't go nearly as well as his first start -- also a loss -- in Baltimore.
Erickson, obtained in a trade with the New York Mets on July 31, allowed three straight singles to start the second before Cairo's homer gave the
Yankees a 4-1 lead.
The crowd of 48,925 promptly began showering the Rangers' newly acquired right-hander with boos.
Erickson went 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with four walks.
"It's tough when you score one run," Texas manager Buck Showalter said. "This guy's going to make his next start."
Former Yankees star Alfonso Soriano produced the Rangers' only run of the night, hitting a leadoff double in the first and later scoring on
Hernandez's wild pitch.
Alex Rodriguez, traded to New York for Soriano in February, went 0-for-3 with two walks in his final game of the season against his former team. As
they did the previous two nights, fans booed him throughout the game.