In the beginning, this three-game series was all about Oakland young starters. In the end, it had much more to do with the Yankees veterans.
“Our guys have pitched pretty well too,” Joe Girardi said. “Bartolo got us off to a great start, and Freddy’s been throwing the ball well, and I just felt that our club, we had a chance to win every game on this road trip, and we’ve been playing better. I just felt we had a chance today.”
Following the lead of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia — and CC Sabathia’s final start in Seattle — A.J. Burnett gave the Yankees seven strong innings. He allowed a two-run homer in the first inning, then allowed one more hit the rest of the way. Girardi said Burnett got stronger. His best innings, Girardi said, were the fifth, sixth and seventh.
“Once you’re out there you don’t think about it,” Burnett said, “but obviously you don’t want to be the guy that makes the winning come to an end either. I think we’ve done a good job here of late, and to keep it going, it’s up to us to go out and set the tone. Our defense and our hitters see that confidence and see we’re in those games. It helps them out as well.”
Credit obviously goes to the Yankees lineup, which has done a nice job with both situational hitting and trademark home runs, but in these four straight wins — the Yankees longest winning streak of the season — the Yankees 30-something starters have outpitched their 20-something peers. At a time when all facets have been pretty good, the Yankees focused seemed to turn time and again to their starters.
“We’ve beaten three pretty darned good pitchers,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Our guys have been terrific. You can’t say enough about the jobs Colon and Garcia have done. Those guys have been Godsends for us, and A.J. was terrific today.”
Said Girardi: “Pitching is the key, obviously. You have to pitch well to win a lot of games. Whenever we pitch well I get excited, but it’s good to see our offense swinging the bats. It’s great.”
In the fourth inning tonight, Nick Swisher missed the sign from third-base coach Rob Thomson. Swisher thought he saw the bunt sign. There were two on, none out, and the Yankees were trailing by one, so Swisher showed bunt when he took ball one. When Thomson didn’t wipe off the sign — signaling that the Yankees were changing the strategy — Swisher assumed the bunt was still on, so he showed bunt again on ball two.
That’s when the pitching coach came out to talk to Gio Gonzalez, and Swisher called for a conference with Thomson.
“I went over to Thomp and said, ‘What do you want me to do right here?’” Swisher said. “He said, ‘I want you to let it loose.’ So I did.”
Swisher hit the very next pitch for a three-run home run, the decisive blow in a two-run win. When he got to the dugout, Swisher found out that he was supposed to be swinging away the whole time.
“We wanted him to swing the bat,” Girardi said. “So it worked out really well for us. It got him into a good count.”
Here’s Swisher, able to laugh about the whole thing because of the final result.
• The Yankees got their first three-game series sweep of the season. Every other series sweep this year has been a two-game set against the Orioles. With Sunday’s win in Seattle, this is also the Yankees first four-game winning streak of the year.
• Girardi pointed out that this game wasn’t necessarily easy for Burnett. The final numbers are outstanding, but he was laboring, especially early. The difference, he said, was an adjustment away from his four-seam fastball, which was finishing too far up in the zone. “I think at times in the past I would stick to it and get beat up,” Burnett said. “I realized that the two-seamer kept me down in the zone today. To righties I used that more and changeups to lefties. Everything was down.”
• No surprise, the home run was a four-seamer. “Commitment-wise, it wasn’t there 100 percent,” Burnett said. “In tat situation he’s looking for a heater and if I miss, I miss. So what? We’ve got a base open. After that, I didn’t want to leave anything over the plate.”
• For the second day in a row, the Yankees had a pitcher get out of an inning by making a reaction grab on line drive back to the mound. This time it was Joba Chamberlain. Yesterday it was Freddy Garcia. “We’ve had two guys that they have to check their pacemakers,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees have won 10 straight against the A’s, and they’ve gone 24-4 against them since Girardi became manager in 2008. “That’s hard to believe because they’ve got a really good team,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Billy Beane has done a great job of gathering talent and great pitching.”
• When Swisher was traded to Chicago, Gonzalez was one of the primary pieces coming from the White Sox to the A’s. Swisher said he had no idea until this morning that he was facing a guy he was once traded for. “I just found out about that this morning, that we were in the same trade,” Swisher said. “No one likes getting traded, bro. You don’t really pay attention to who was on the other side of it. He’s a great pitcher, no doubt, and he’s got a lot of potential. I wish him the best of luck.”
• A first-inning double moved Derek Jeter within 16 of career hit No. 3,000. “I can’t wait, man,” Swisher said. “I can’t wait to see that. I’ve seen someone hit 500 (home runs), seen Mariano save 500, but I’ve never seen 3,000 hits, man. I’m excited to see that.”
• Jeter has a seven-game hitting streak and has a .512 on-base percentage when leading off the first inning this year. That’s the highest such on-base percentage in the Majors.
• Russell Martin is hitless in his past 16 at-bats. On the flip side, Mark Teixeira has a nine-game hitting streak.
• Mariano Rivera picked up his 14th save of the season. He’s now pitched in 1,002 games, tying Goose Gossage for 14th on baseball’s all-time games pitched list.
• Burnett had not won a game on the road since August 10, 2010, an 11-start streak without a victory. He was 0-5 with a 5.64 ERA. No other Major League starter failed to get at least one win on the road over that stretch (minimum 60 innings pitched) and only one had a higher ERA. That one? Carl Pavano, of course.
• Dan Haren is scheduled to start against the Yankees on Saturday, but apparently he felt some pain in his back during a bullpen this afternoon. He cut the bullpen session short. “He says he’ll be fine, but we’ll see,” Mike Scioscia said.
Associated Press photos