I realize this is the sort of predictable, unavoidable comment that always comes from a player who’s just been traded from a losing team to a second-place team, but for whatever reason, Chase Headley’s cliche words seemed to provide a little bit of outsider perspective this afternoon.
“From the beginning of spring training, it’s about giving yourself a chance in the postseason,” he said. “We’re right in the thick of it, and I couldn’t be happier to go from the situation I was in to being right in the middle of it.”
The lesson: If you’ve only been with the Yankees for three days, and each of those days has ended with a narrow win full of good pitching and timely hits, you’d have no problem realizing the Yankees are “right in the middle of it.” In fact, today’s win put the Yankees into a tie for the second wild card spot. Later tonight, when the Orioles and Mariners finish playing a West Coast game, the Yankees will be either still in line for the second wild card or only two games out of the division lead.
And speaking of perspective, here’s Joe Girardi on whether he’ll watch that Orioles-Mariners game to find of where his team stands.
“I’m sure I’ll put it on, and it will help me go to sleep,” he said. “… Look, it’s baseball, we’re baseball people, we know where we’re at. But we know there’s a long ways to go.”
The Yankees still have plenty of questions about their health and their offense and the long-term viability of their rotation, but winning six of seven games in the first week after the All-Star break has provided at least a few answers. Or at least it’s suggested that the Yankees might have found some answers. Their new third baseman had key hits in two of those wins, and their new starting pitcher looks like a potential difference maker.
Brandon McCarthy has a 1.45 ERA with the Yankees. He had a 5.01 ERA with Arizona.
“I was at a point where I really felt like I wanted more pressure, more something,” McCarthy said. “Kind of the fight or flight thing. I’ve always responded well to it. To get into a situation now where that’s the case – especially doing it for a team like the Yankees – it’s ramped up all the way.”
If you’ve watched the Yankees all year, then one week of good but not great baseball is probably not enough to wipe out all of those lingering, well-earned concerns. But in this first week after the All-Star break, the Yankees have played well, taken advantage of a long home stand, and given themselves a boost in the standings. Long way to go, it’s true. But it’s also true that the Yankees are right in the middle of it.
“We’ve pitched extremely well, and we’ve had some timely hitting is the big thing,” Girardi said. “You put those two together, and you’re going to win games.”
• The Yankees have won all three of McCarthy’s starts. He’s gone at least six innings each time, and he’s allowed just one earned run each time. The biggest difference after leaving Arizona? “Mostly not giving up runs, which is the opposite of what I had done earlier this year,” McCarthy said. “Sequence-wise, some of the things that we’ve talked about here, some of the things me and Mac talked about and now with Cervelli, sequences that are a little bit different and things we can do to keep some hitters off my pitches. I feel like I’ve executed pretty well and hit most of my spots. I’m throwing with a lot of conviction. It’s one of those runs where things kind of go in your favor.”
• Early in the game, the Rangers did a pretty good job of fouling off pitches. McCarthy had four strikeouts in the first two innings, but his pitch count got up pretty quickly, which held him to six innings on 109 pitches. “You could look at the first at-bat Rios put on him,” Girardi said. “It was probably a 10-pitch at-bat, and they fouled off a lot of pitches, but he just kept at it. He kept throwing strikes with his sinker and his cutter and his breaking ball, and he just found a way to get through it.”
• McCarthy has spoken highly of pitching to McCann, so was it different pitching to Cervelli? “Not different at all,” he said. “I’ve heard good things about Cervy. I know Cervy and Mac talked before, and we’re all kind of the same page now. It was a pretty comfortable transition. It looks like a little bit different target, that’s the only thing. They wear different gear. Other than that, in terms of game-calling, they’re very similar. They put in their preparation ad they know what we’re going to do going in.”
• The Yankees have won each of McCarthy’s first three starts. The Diamondbacks won just one of his first 16 starts earlier this season.
• Not only has McCarthy allowed just one earned run in each of his three starts, the Yankees pitching staff has now allowed four runs or less in each of their past 10 games dating back to July 11 in Baltimore. Yankees starters have a 2.12 ERA in the past 12 games.
• Francisco Cervelli had the go-ahead double, which was his third double in two days — basically a game and a half. He’s hit safely in eight of his past nine starts. “I appreciate every moment because of all the things I’ve been through,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve got to be ready for every opportunity. I just want to win. That’s what I like to do. I’ve been here for 12 years, and that’s been the philosophy on the Yankees. Win win win win. That’s all I know.”
• Hasn’t Cervelli felt at least a little drained by playing an extra-inning game and then a day game after a night game. “I’m good,” he said. “My season started the other day, so I’m fresh.”
• Girardi on whether he’s worried about Cervelli’s recent workload: “No. Not at all. Not with Cervy. Probably as energetic as any player I got. He loves to play, so I’m not surprised. I’ll probably have to pick a day somewhere here to spell him a day, but he’s done a really, really good job.”
• Headley was 1-for-4 and has a hit in 14 of his past 16 games (including all three with the Yankees). “Most important are the three wins,” he said. “I feel pretty comfortable. It’s a little bit of a learning experience not knowing any of the pitchers really. But, for the most part, swings have felt good. I just missed a couple balls and squared some up too. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.”
• Dave Robertson got his 25th save. Adam Warren allowed a solo homer, but that was the only hit allowed in three innings by the Yankees bullpen.
• The Yankees have come from behind in each of their past four wins, and they improved to a Major-League-best 32-20 in games decided by two runs of less.
• Final word goes to Girardi, talking about this weird but ultimately successful series: “Like you said, the days were strange. This series started out really strange with five errors in one game. Then to be able to win the next two and beat Yu Darvish 2-1 — I know it was rain-shortened, but we beat Yu Darvish 2-1 — and then to come out today, we were behind and came back and won the game. It was nice.”
Associated Press photos