There was an unmistakable energy in the Yankees clubhouse tonight. It was the feeling of a team heading home and looking forward to it. The final day of a long road trip feels different depending on the outcome, and it was obvious the Yankees felt good about this one.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever face a nine-game stretch of that kind of starting pitching again,” Mark Teixeira said.
Even the bad starters on this trip were pretty good, but the Yankees won six of nine and played legitimately good baseball. The games they lost were all one-run games. The starting pitching was tremendous, the bullpen did its job, the offense came to life and the defense was especially good the past two nights. Less than a month ago, the Yankees lost six in a row and seemed to be spiraling. Now they’ve won 13 of 18 heading into this week’s showdown against Boston.
“I thought we played pretty well at home before we left, the Mets and Toronto series,” Girardi said. “But before that, we were struggling. We were struggling to win series. There were times we’d win the first agme and we couldn’t win the next two and we weren’t playing well, but we’ve played much better the last five series, and that’s encouraging.”
Pitching deservedly got a lot of credit this road trip, but Teixeira had five home runs during this West Coast swing, including two of them today in Anaheim. He has eight home runs and 19 RBI in the past 16 games. He’s still not hitting for much average, but he’s driving the ball taking his walks.
“I feel good physically,” he said. “Sometimes when you don’t hit home runs, a lot of it’s because you’re a little tired. Your bat’s a little heavy, your bat’s a little slow. Physically I feel like we’ve had a good amount of off days. I feel like I’ve taken care of myself like I always do, and up to his point, my bat’s felt pretty good. Pretty much all season it’s felt pretty quick. I’d still like to get a few more hits. My average is probably not where I want it, but that’s just really good pitching.”
Pitching doesn’t get much better than what the Yankees saw during this road trip, but six wins in nine games shows how well they’re playing heading into tomorrow’s off day and this week’s three-game series against the Red Sox.
More than anything, it seemed the Yankees wanted to talk about their bullpen after this latest win. Bartolo Colon didn’t have his usual command, so the Yankees had to lean on their relievers for 3.2 scoreless innings.
“That might have been the toughest of all the wins that we had,” Girardi said. “It seemed like we had two runners on every inning form the sixth on, maybe even the fifth on, I don’t know, but that was a tough win… When (the relievers) had to get it, they got it.”
Dave Robertson struck out Maicer Izturis to strand the bases loaded in the sixth. Joba Chamberlain struck out Howie Kendrick to strand two runners in the seventh, then he got a double play to end the eighth. Mariano Rivera let the winning run come to the plate in the ninth, then ended the game with a quiet fist pump after the Yankees turned a quick double play.
“There’s a lot of days when you feel great and you’re blowing fastballs by people,” Chamberlain said. “This is the time you have to pitch. You rely on your command, your catcher and your defense most importantly. You’re not going to get a strikeout here, but you’ve got to let them put it into play and let them make plays behind you.”
Both Chamberlain and Robertson called it a battle. Neither had his best stuff, but both found a way. Girardi said some of the credit goes to the rotation for pitching so deep into games lately that he could stick with Robertson and Chamberlain through slightly extended outings.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I just put the winning runs on base,’” Robertson said. “I was struggling, I couldn’t find the strike zone, but I wasn’t going to give in. I was going to give everything I had to get out of it.”
And he did.
• Colon only walked two, but it was clear this wasn’t his best day, and he didn’t have his usual command. “I couldn’t find a good grip on the ball,” he said. “I was trying to throw my two-seamer, and I couldn’t.”
• More than any other Yankees pitcher, I would say A.J. Burnett talks most often about shutdown innings, scoreless innings after the Yankees have scored. Colon only had one of those tonight. The Yankees scored in the second and third, then he let the Angels tie in the bottom of the third. The Yankees scored two more in the fifth, and Colon gave up a run in the bottom half. “The good thing is we got the two-run lead again, and he only gave them one more,” Girardi said. “That was the important part.”
• Colon called Robinson Cano’s charging, barehanded play to end the third inning, “the play of the game.” It really was a remarkable play from a guy who’s been surprising inconsistent defensively this season. “The barehanded play is incredible,” Girardi said. “That’s just an incredible play, and that saves a run as well.”
• Derek Jeter had another single, this one to right field to pull within 14 of career hit No. 3,000. “As a club we’re starting to get excited,” Girardi said. “I think the fans are starting to get excited. We would love to see him do it at home during the home stand.”
• Jorge Posada said he didn’t think anyone was in position to catch the throw from left field, that’s why he rounded second base on his fourth-inning double. He saw the relay men in front of him and didn’t think any one was behind him. “To be honest,” Girardi said. “He hit the double and I looked down, and I was looking over this way, and the next thing I know, he’s in a rundown. I’m like, what happened? First baseman did his job, he followed, and I guess they threw behind him. I didn’t actually see the play because I assumed it was a double.”
• Posada had his first two-hit game since May 17. He came into the game 1-for-16 on the road trip
• Brett Gardner also had two hits. He had one hit in the first seven games of this trip, now he has four hits in the past two.
• Gardner was caught stealing for the seventh time this season. He’s never been a guy who gets caught stealing very often — nine times all last year — but for whatever reason he keeps getting thrown out this year.
• Swisher on Robertson: “D-Rob’s been doing it all year long, man. That kid doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves. It boggles my mind.”
• This was the 30th career multi-homer game for Teixeira. It was his third multi-homer game in this ballpark, one as an Angel, one as a Ranger and one as a Yankee.
Associated Press photos