Joe Girardi believes in the rules, but tonight he broke one of his own. In the seventh inning, Girardi turned to Joba Chamberlain, then he stuck with Chamberlain through the eighth. It was the first time this season Chamberlain had pitched three days in a row, the kind of bullpen workload Girardi usually avoids at all costs.
“It just felt like we needed to win this game,” Girardi said. “I don’t want to say it was a must-win, but it was as close as you can get to a must-win in the month of May.”
There was a sense of relief in the Yankees clubhouse tonight. Not only because the snapped a six-game losing streak, but because they played well in the process. After Alex Rodriguez hit those two home runs, something seemed to click. Suddenly the Yankees were executing the fundamentals, getting key outs and hitting with runners in scoring position. Dave Robertson pitched out of a jam, Brett Gardner laid down a perfect bunt single and Jorge Posada doubled to spark a cushion-building, two-run seventh.
“It was desperation,” Rodriguez said. “We definitely needed to win a game. We haven’t won in a while and hopefully this was the start of something good.”
Girardi said he won’t use Chamberlain tomorrow, no matter the situation. Frankly, as big as Chamberlain’s seventh-inning out was, no outs felt more must-have than Robertson’s back-to-back strikeouts in the sixth. If this game was going to turn on the Yankees, it was going to happen right there. Robertson did what he does, and he charged off the mound showing more emotion than perhaps the Yankees had ever seen from him.
“I told him,” Ivan Nova said, “that game was his game.”
And here’s Rodriguez.
• Oddly enough, Rodriguez said it was hit first at-bat — the ground out to third — that let him know his swing was in better shape. He was happy with that at-bat, and he homered in his next two at-bats. “I’ve had one good swing here, another one there, but the consistency hasn’t been there,” Rodriguez said. “Not only there (in games), but it hasn’t been there in my work. That’s one thing that Kevin and I are looking for is consistency and really start driving into my lower half. I thought my leg kick was under control for the most part and every swing I took I was happy with tonight.”
• Two hits for Posada in his return to the lineup. “Just be able to put everything away and behind you and go out there and play ball,” Posada said. “It’s one of those things that, you’re happy to be back in the lineup and it’s a good feeling.”
• You might have seen on television that Nova slammed his glove when he came out of the game. He said he was upset at himself because of his command. “I won the game which is important, because we had bad moments and lost six in a row,” he said. “My command, I don’t feel too good about that. I know I can do better than what I showed today.”
• After B.J. Upton burned A.J. Burnett by hitting a curveball for a home run last night, Robertson attacked Upton with fastballs. “I felt good with my fastball, so that’s what I was going to throw to him,” Robertson said.
• Similar story for Robertson against Casey Kotchman. “Another fastball,” he said. “Just wanted to come in a little higher, and not leave it down at the knees because I don’t want to give him a chance to drop the head on it and get it out. It turned out to be strike three, so I was pretty excited.”
• Chris Dickerson said that RBI single in the seventh felt like his first Major League hit. He felt like he could exhale a little bit when he got to first base. He also said there was some comfort getting the bunt signal in his first at-bat. “That’s easy,” he said. “Coming from the National League, I’ve always been a good bunter. As soon as I saw him (give the sign) I was like, OK, this will be easy. This will be an easy way to contribute right here, because I know I can get this down.”
• Why not go straight to Mariano Rivera in the ninth? “We had a five-run lead and I wanted to try to get three outs out of Sanit,” Girardi said. “I told him if a couple guys get on, I’m bringing Mo in. Give Mo some wiggle room if something happens. That’s just the way I did it.”
• By the way, Girardi said he checked with Chamberlain before the game to make sure he felt up to pitching if necessary. “Because he didn’t throw a lot of pitches and he’s been economical, I just felt that I had to do it,” Girardi said. He was trying to avoid using Boone Logan and Luis Ayala tonight.
• Both Nova and Girardi said pace was important for the Yankees starter. “I thought he got better in the fourth and fifth,” Girardi said. “He picked up his pace a little bit. It seemed like he was working slow the first three innings. He was getting in a lot of long counts. He was almost at 70 pitches after three innings and he got into the sixth, so I did see some improvement.”
• Strange review play on the Shoppach fly ball in the ninth. Both Brett Gardner and Girardi said they were sure it hadn’t hit the catwalk. If it did hit the catwalk, it would have been a home run.
• Robertson seemed almost embarrassed by his outburst of emotion, but Mark Feinsand suggested he should start yelling and screaming all the time. Robertson laughed at the very idea of it. “Oh yeah,” he said. “because I’m such a loud guy.”
• A different way of looking at this finally finished losing streak: “We haven’t been out there in a week to shake hands,” Girardi said.
• Phil Hughes made 45 throws today, 30 from 90 feet and 15 from closer to 110. He’ll keep doing stuff like this for the next few days and ramp things up when he gets back to New York at the end of the week. He’s been doing his normal weight training.
Associated Press photos