After last night’s game, the picture at the top of these postgame notes was of the Yankees bench in the seventh inning, heads hung low as the game was slipping away. Tonight, the picture is of the Yankees bench in the ninth, heads up high as the game is reaching its inevitable end.
“That’s what good pitchers and good players do,” Freddy Garcia said. “It can be rough the night before, then the next day you can be the hero. That’s the way baseball goes.”
This game seemed to be all about second chances for the Yankees, from their rotation to their bullpen to their very best player this season.
Last week, Garcia was pitching on 11 days rest, and it showed. He was rusty, much more sloppy than what he’d been in the first half. Tonight was the Garcia the Yankees were used to seeing. He was sharp, and although the Rays got their hits, they didn’t take a single walk and Garcia got big outs when he needed them. The Rays were 0-for-6 with four strikeouts with runners in scoring position. Three of those strikeouts were inning-enders by Garcia.
“You’re a professional, so you expect to do your job,” Garcia said. “I’m a pitcher. I try to do my job every time I go out there, win some games and help the team.”
This was the third time in his past four starts that Garcia didn’t allow a walk. He hasn’t allowed a home run in his past 46 innings, the longest streak of his career. Opponents are hitting .173 against him with runners in scoring position. That average dips to .163 when there are two outs and runners in scoring position.
“Because (Garcia and Bartolo Colon) are older, people seem to think, ‘Is this the end?’ every time they have a bad start,” Joe Girardi said. “Freddy didn’t start for about 15 days after being skipped by the rain (last time), so I wasn’t sure how sharp he was going to be. I’m not surprised he did what he did.”
Logan’s first two and a half months mean he’ll probably be a punching bag the rest of the season, but he’s been pretty good since the middle of June, and tonight he got a massive strikeout against baseball’s third-leading hitter. One night after Logan’s error cost the Yankees the ball game, he and Casey Kotchman battled through a seven-pitch at-bat that ended with Kotchman swinging through a 94-mph fastball.
“It felt good,” Logan said. “Felt just as good as I did yesterday, luckily he didn’t hit the ball back to me. They’re all big outs, and coming in after what I did yesterday and coming out to get that big strikeout, I got pretty pumped up.”
Until the ninth inning, Granderson two-run home run was responsible for the only scoring in the ball game, but that wasn’t his most memorable moment. With two on in the fifth, Evan Longoria drove a ball to deep center field. It was a much more difficult catch than the ball Granderson lost in the roof last night, and this time he made a sprinting grab just before slamming into the center field wall.
“I saw that one all the way,” he said. “I thought I was going to be able to stay and brace myself because I could see (the wall) coming up and I got my hand out. The good thing is, this wall doesn’t have much behind it so there’s a lot of give. It just kind of pushed me off and I fell back off it. It probably looked worse than it actually was… If that would have been in Yankee Stadium it wouldn’t have been pretty by no means.”
Let’s go with the Garcia audio tonight.
• Granderson has taken a beating these past two days, and he said that hit-by-pitch in the eighth inning knocked the wind of him for a second. There’s no way around it, that one hurt. He’s also been hit in the left foot, fouled a ball off his right calf and slammed into a wall. Girardi said he’ll check with Granderson before playing him tomorrow, but Granderson feels confident that he’ll be good to go. “For the most part, I think I’ll be alright,” he said. “We’ll see how things go waking up in the morning, but it should be fine. Should be ready to go.”
• David Price apologized to Granderson on the field after drilling him between the shoulder blades with a 95-mph fastball. Obviously there’s no chance Price was trying to hit him, but he apparently felt a little bad about that one.
• After 6.2 scoreless from Garcia, Logan got a big out against a lefty, Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera struck out four through hitless eight and ninth innings. “That’s a perfect scenario,” Logan said. “That’s what we want to do. When the bullpen comes in and shuts it down, you can’t ask for more from it, and it’s always a good feeling when we all go out there and do our job.”
• For Garcia, the biggest difference between this start and the last start was his command, especially with his split. Once again, both Garcia and Girardi praised Russell Martin’s ability to block that pitch when Garcia buries it. “He’s going to bounce it,” Martin said. “You want him to keep it down in the zone, so it’s going to make me work a little bit. I’ll work if it’s getting us outs.”
• Garcia’s been through his own health problems in the recent past, and tonight he was asked whether he’s feeling stronger as he gets further removed from surgery. “It doesn’t matter,” Garcia said. “That surgery happened three years ago. I don’t think about it. I have to go out there and pitch my game. It doesn’t matter how hard I throw, I find a way to get people out. That’s the most important thing. A lot of people throw hard and don’t get anybody out. You gotta make your pitch and try to survive.”
• Girardi on the decision to face Longoria instead of giving him the open base in the fifth inning: “We thought if Freddy made his pitches, he had a good chance of getting him out. He had to make his pitches. Matt Joyce is a dangerous hitter, too, an all-star in the first half. Freddy had gotten him out the time before, had gotten him to chase some splits and his split was good, so we decided to go after him.”
• Girardi on Granderson’s catch to end that at-bat: “Outstanding. To be able to go back on that ball, and Grandy plays fairly shallow, he showed tremendous range. It was a big out… He’s good at going back. There are center fielders who have different ideas about how to play; he plays shallow and it’s worked for him.”
• Brett Gardner reached base two more times tonight, and he’s hitting .346 since June 4, raising his batting average from .244 to .291. He’s now stolen 16 bases in a row, including at least one in five straight games.
• Gardner is the first Yankee with consecutive 30-steal seasons since Alfonso Soriano did it in three straight, from 2001 to 2003.
• Granderson now has 26 home runs for the season, 10 of them off left-handed pitchers. He has two homers in 24 career at-bats against Price. All other left-handed hitters have two homers in 399 at-bats against him.
Associated Press photos