In grand fashion, Yanks complete sweep

In grand fashion, Yanks complete sweep

NEW YORK -- Before Sunday's game, as he donned his catcher's gear for the first time in four weeks, Jorge Posada became the subject of some teasing. His teammates, it seemed, felt the need to remind him where home plate was.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

Just ask the Astros' pitchers, though, and they'll tell you: Jorge Posada knows how to find home plate, and quickly. Especially when the bases are loaded.

Posada clubbed his second grand slam in as many days Sunday, propelling the Yankees to a 9-5 win and a three-game sweep over Houston at Yankee Stadium. Posada became the first Major Leaguer to hit grand slams in back-to-back contests since Carlos Beltran in July 2006 and the first Yankee since Bill Dickey in 1937.

Posada, of course, made the instant connection.

"Another catcher," he said about Dickey. "It's amazing how baseball, out of all those people, it's another catcher. Hitting two grand slams is pretty special."

Even more special? Sunday's slam came from the opposite side of the batter's box as Saturday's. No Yankee had pulled that trick on consecutive days before.

Posada's blow ensured that, for the second consecutive inning, the Astros would pay for their pitchers' wildness. Starter Brian Moehler walked the bases loaded with two outs in the fourth inning before giving up a two-run bloop single to Ramiro Pena to break a 1-1 tie.

An inning later, Moehler and reliever Gustavo Chacin combined to walk the sacks loaded again, and this time Posada doubled the damage with the slam off of Casey Daigle. It helped that Daigle fell behind him 2-0.

"I threw a first-pitch breaking ball and I thought he was going to be aggressive, and he wasn't," Daigle said. "The next pitch was a sinker that just missed away and then 2-0 with the bases loaded, the last thing I want to do is walk a run in. I made a decent pitch, probably could have been a hair more down, but it was a decent pitch and he was ready for it."

"He had to come in and throw a strike in that situation," Posada said.

In all, Houston hurlers walked a season-high 10 batters; they had not walked more than seven in a game this year. Seven of those free passes came in the fourth and fifth innings alone, when the Yankees scored seven runs. Five of those seven runs were scored by Bombers who reached base via the walk.

"I love it," manager Joe Girardi said of the walks. "We talk about being patient and getting your pitch and not going out of the zone. Our guys did a good job."

His counterpart was not as happy.

"That definitely was a killer today," Houston skipper Brad Mills said. "When you have a good-hitting lineup, that's going to hurt you eventually. That was our Achilles' today."

Posada's slam provided enough support for Phil Hughes to pick up his ninth win of the season, but not by much. Hughes gave those four runs back with two outs in the top of the sixth on a two-run single by Tommy Manzella and a two-run homer by Kevin Cash -- the bottom two hitters in an altogether anemic Astros' offense.

"Bad sixth inning," Hughes said, adding that he didn't feel as strong at the start of that frame after the Yankees' four-run fifth took a half-hour. "I should've pitched better than I did. I felt like I could have gotten out of that sixth inning."

Before that sixth inning, Hughes had allowed only a Carlos Lee sacrifice fly, and he hadn't given up a hit with a runner on base. He was helped in the latter regard by Pena, who made a tremendous diving catch while playing in at third on a Michael Bourn line drive in the third.

Hughes finished with a pedestrian line, giving up five runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. It was the first time in his last four starts and only second time in his nine wins that he didn't complete six innings.

"We've seen him pitch better, and we've seen him go deeper into games," Girardi said. "But he still did what he had to do."

Robinson Cano opened the scoring for the Yankees with a solo shot in the fourth -- his team-leading 13th home run. Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner added RBI singles in the sixth to help reestablish some breathing room for the Bombers at 9-5.

Chad Huffman, in his Major League debut, picked up an infield single in his first big league at-bat in the third.

Posada ended up leaving the game after eight innings with general soreness in the right foot that suffered a hairline fracture on May 16.

"I'm not surprised that he's sore," said Girardi, who added that he was "a little concerned."

"There's always going to be a level of concern until he doesn't have any pain."

Posada said he would continue treating the foot and see how it feels after the off-day Monday to determine whether he can catch in Tuesday's opener against the Phillies.

Sunday's victory ends a 16-game stretch in which the Yankees played 13 games against teams well below .500. They won 11 of those games to climb back into a first-place tie with the Rays for the first time since April 21.

"It's impossible to ignore the scoreboard, because it's right there in front of you and it's really big in every park that we go to," said Girardi. "But you have to play well on a consistent basis to be here right now and here where we want to be."

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.