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Yankees hang on for fourth straight win

Yankees hang on for fourth straight win

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NEW YORK -- You would have expected the Yankees to be in higher spirits on an afternoon when Nick Johnson and Nick Swisher homered, Mark Teixeira slugged a two-run double and the Bombers posted their second series sweep of the young season.

But some of that enthusiasm was dampened by Andy Pettitte's early exit with left elbow inflammation, placing his next start in doubt. The Yankees' bullpen then had to outlast a late Orioles attack, closing out a 7-5 victory on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees have won four straight and seven of their last eight, but the clubhouse mood certainly wasn't jovial. The homestand has been costly: Curtis Granderson may miss a month with a strained groin, Mariano Rivera missed three save opportunities with side stiffness, Jorge Posada is guarding a right calf strain and now Pettitte's status is unknown.

"It tempers it a little bit, but you're going to go through that during the course of the season -- aches and pains," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "There's no doubt about it.

"I've always said about players is the only days they feel 100 percent is the first and second days of Spring Training, and it's all downhill after that. You don't want to see these nicks, but you have to deal with them."

The "Nicks" that Girardi would have preferred to be talking about were his designated hitter and right fielder.

Johnson reached base five times in a 3-for-3 showing, including a solo homer off Orioles starter David Hernandez in the first inning. Swisher clubbed a long solo shot of his own in the second inning, staking Pettitte to an early advantage.

The home run for Johnson snapped a 44-at-bat homerless streak, his second, while Swisher belted one between the right-field grandstand and the bleachers in the second, his fifth of the year.

Signed in large part because of his perennially high on-base percentage, Johnson entered the game batting just .134 but may finally be coming out of his funk.

"I just cleared my head, more than anything," Johnson said. "The last three or four days, I've been feeling pretty good. I'm trying not to think too much. I'm just going up there and trying to hit the ball."

"When you're going through stuff like that, you need that one breakthrough game to get your mind at ease," Swisher said. "That was a monster game for him today. If you watched his swings today, his backside was working the way it should be. ... I couldn't be more happy for him."

For Swisher, the homer was his third of 2010 at Yankee Stadium. Last year, he didn't club his third home round-tripper until June 8, a drought he later admitted wore on him.

"I love Yankee Stadium," Swisher said. "I just think I've been trying to be as consistent as I could. Every time I'm up there, I feel like I'm going to put a good swing on the baseball."

The Yankees got to Hernandez for six runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings. Alex Rodriguez added a run-scoring, bases-loaded single in the third inning, a play that saw Johnson cut down at home plate on an outfield assist.

New York chased Hernandez with three more runs in the fourth. Derek Jeter notched a run-scoring fielder's choice, and Mark Hendrickson immediately allowed the two-run double to Teixeira, closing the book on Hernandez.

That seemingly put the game well in hand for Pettitte, who is now undefeated in his past nine starts against the Orioles, faring 7-0 with a 3.02 ERA over that stretch.

He gave no outward signs of struggle during his five innings of work, getting the benefit of three double-play grounders while limiting Baltimore to one run -- a bases-loaded Nolan Reimold walk in the fourth inning -- on six hits.

But Sergio Mitre had started warming while the Yankees were batting in the fifth inning, and Pettitte's day was done when the sixth began, revealing tightness near his left elbow to Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland.

Mitre started a third inning of relief in the eighth but allowed a two-run Ty Wigginton homer that landed in the second deck in left field, cutting the Yankees lead to 6-3. Damaso Marte struck out the only batter he faced, and Dave Robertson was called on to end the eighth.

New York's insurance run in the home half on a Johnson single and Wigginton error proved important, as the Yankees refrained from using Rivera and refused to let Joba Chamberlain touch the mound on a third straight day.

After recording a pair of outs, Robertson's struggles continued, as he served up the Orioles' first back-to-back homers of the year -- Matt Wieters to right and Nolan Reimold off the left-field foul pole. Robertson has a 14.21 ERA in nine appearances spanning 6 1/3 innings.

"I still believe I've got it," Robertson said. "It's been rough lately. I'm looking to turn it around. Nothing's feeling different; I'm just not throwing enough strikes, and when I do, they're getting hammered."

Alfredo Aceves put the potential tying run on base with a pair of walks in the ninth inning, but the righty got Wigginton to fly out to right field for his first save of the year and second of his career.

"We've got a strong bullpen," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "I think everybody can do the job. It's not just Mariano or Joba. A couple of guys had tough times today, but they will come back fresh and ready to go."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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