Familiar questions resurfaced this afternoon, but the Yankees seem to have moved on to bigger and better things. The questions are the same — Will there there be even more changes to the rotation? Should there be? — but the questions seem less pressing when the team has won eight in a row.
The lineup is producing, and that’s obviously crucial, but the Yankees bullpen has been just as important, making up for many of the rotation’s inconsistencies.
“The guys are fired up,” Mariano Rivera said. “There are ready to go. It doesn’t matter the situation. They’re just happy to be there.”
Since July 27, the Yankees bullpen has a 1.57 ERA with 98 strikeouts and a .183 opponents batting average. That’s more than a month of dominance, during a span when the rotation was in flux. Rivera has been his old self, Boone Logan has been a revelation and both David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain have clearly picked up their games since shaky beginnings to the season.
But it seems little coincidence that this run of success coincides almost perfectly with Kerry Wood’s arrival. He gave the Yankees another hitless inning this afternoon and has allowed just one earned run in 16 innings since coming over from Cleveland.
“Our scouts had filled us in,” Joe Girardi said. “We had seen him a little bit this year. I was somewhat familiar. I watched tapes of him. I think until you actually see him on a daily basis you’re not going to know exactly what he has… He seems to be getting better and better for us.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame.
Speaking of Girardi’s postgame: He spoke quite a bit about today’s fifth-inning bullpen decision.
On his decision to turn to Dustin Moseley over Javier Vazquez with the lead on the line, when just three days ago he had decided he’d rather have Vazquez as his starter: “I was going with the fresh arm. That’s why I made the decision.”
On his decision to use Moseley instead of Boone Logan to face left-handed hitter Lyle Overbay: “Nope (never considered Logan). There’s a guy also behind Overbay that crushes left-handers.”
That guy behind Overbay was John Buck, who ultimately made the final out of the inning. Also of note about the Overbay decision: Overbay was 1-for-4 in his career against Logan, 0-for-7 against Moseley. His left-right splits are minimal this season.
• Turns out Austin Kearns is out with a thumb injury, which helps explain how Marcus Thames wound up playing the field. “(Kearns) took some extra BP and bruised it a little bit,” Girardi said. “He’s day-to-day. I asked him after yesterday, are you feeling OK. He said it’s a little sore so I decided to give him a day off. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
• Thames knew what to expect when he went to the plate in the seventh. “Slider,” he said. “They threw me all sliders all day. The first one (of the at-bat) I got out in front of it a little bit. I knew he was going to throw me one so I sat slider on the next pitch and didn’t miss that one.”
• Speaking of home run sliders, both Blue Jays home runs were on mistake sliders from Vazquez.
• And speaking of Thames, the Yankees should have Alex Rodriguez back tomorrow, and Lance Berkman is hitting pretty well lately, but Girardi said he’ll find ways to keep Thames and his hot bat in the lineup. “Oh, we’ll find at-bats for Marcus,” he said, and it was definitive.
• Jose Bautista took great exception and was ejected for arguing a called strike three against Joba Chamberlain in the seventh. “I thought it was a good pitch,” Chamberlain said, with a smile. “That’s what we were going for.”
• The Yankees are now 19-6 in their past 25 games against left-handed starters. They’ve won eight of their past nine against lefties.
• After his two-run double in the third inning, Robinson Cano is hitting .600 with three doubles, two home runs and 23 RBI in 15 bases-loaded at-bats.
• Francisco Cervelli is hitting .600 in his past three games. Today was the first two-double game of his career.
• Brett Gardner has walked in his past nine games in which he’s had a plate appearance. According to Elias, that’s the longest such streak by a Yankee since Jason Giambi in 2006 (also nine games). Elias also made a note that Gardner has now tied five others for the longest such streak in the majors this season.
• Since making those mechanical changes in Texas, Curtis Granderson is hitting .414 with three doubles and two home runs against lefties.
• Chamberlain got his second win of the year, and his first since May 14 in Minnesota.
Associated Press photos of Cervelli, Vazquez and Thames