ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- 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
So far, El Duque looks as good as he always did.
"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
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 walked three.
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 dependable starters.
"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
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 ago.
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
He had rotator cuff surgery in May 2003 to repair a small tear
and returned to the Yankees this spring, signing a $500,000,
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 started.
"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 arm."
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
"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.
Torre was grazed by Kenny Lofton's foul ball in the fourth
inning, sending him tumbling down the steps and knocking his hat
off. Coaches and players gathered around Torre until he popped up,
smiled and doffed his hat to the crowd. After the game, Torre had a
small bruise on his head. "It sort of skimmed the top of my head
and I don't have much hair to lose," he said, smiling. "I was
lucky. It was scary." ... Deter Jeter extended his season-high
hitting streak to 13 games. ... Cairo's grand slam was New York's
seventh of the year.