The Yankees needed this one. A third of their lineup has been sidelined with injuries, they haven’t had a full group of available relievers in several days, and even their healthy hitters have been struggling. Today they caught a break on a dropped fly ball, and it just enough luck to snap a four-game losing streak and extend their lead in the American League East.
“We’ve been through a lot lately,” Mark Teixeira said. “And for us to scratch this one out, we could kind of smell it. Once we got that lead, we weren’t going to give it back.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of the day: The pregame ceremony was incredibly touching, two rookie catchers were splitting time behind the plate, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher were once again on the bench. There was a lot going on, but there was also this undeniable fact.
“We lost the last four in a row, so we needed a win, period,” Mariano Rivera said. “We got a little bit of luck today, but that’s part of the game.”
Eric Chavez had an early RBI single, and Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano homered in the middle innings, but the decisive blow was a seventh-inning sacrifice fly that glanced off Peter Bourjos’ glove. When he coupled that error with a bad throw, the Yankees were able to score not only the tying run, but also the go-ahead run.
And this time, they had all of their late-inning relievers available to seal it.
“Tex drove that ball a long way,” Joe Girardi said. “The sun helped us today… We’ve had some tough losses here. These guys are a tough team to beat, and we know that. We had a chance to win three games in a sense. To be able to get this one was important.”
A lot of eyes on Jesus Montero today. He’s made a quick impression — and a quick impact — which his bat, but today was his first time behind the plate in a Major League game. He was catching a familiar veteran in Freddy Garcia, but he was also catching a guy who likes to throw a ton of offspeed pitches and bounce splitters in the dirt.
It’s hardly a surprise that Girardi decided to use Austin Romine as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning — the Yankees have never denied that Romine is a better defensive catcher — but Montero threw out the first guy who tried to steal against him, and the Yankees seemed happy with his ability to hold his own in this situation.
Garcia: “He did a really good job. We were on the same page. We talked about it before the game, what I like to do, and he did pretty good. I was really happy for him.”
Girardi: “I thought he did okay. There’s balls going every which direction when you catch Freddy. Some splitters are going to go straight down, some are going to left and some are going to go right. I thought he did a good job. To be thrown into that situation against an aggressive ballclub after losing two games, I thought he did a nice job.”
Montero: “A little nervous the first time, but after that it was like, let’s work. Let’s win today. Let’s help our team to win… We talked before the game. We talked about everything: ‘I like to throw this, I like to do this.’ I was OK. He told me, ‘Be ready to block.’ That’s what I did. We did a nice job together.”
• Rivera got career save No. 599 today. Up next, becoming the second pitcher to ever reach 600. “It’s a great number, definitely,” Rivera said. “It’s going to happen if it happens. I’ll be fine. I won’t lose any sleep if it doesn’t happen, but it’s a great number.”
• Obviously this wasn’t Garcia’s finest start — he’s had two shaky outings in a row — but leaving the bases loaded in the fifth inning might have been the key to the game, specifically the 3-1 pitch that Mark Trumbo popped up for the second out. “I was really glad that Joe gave me the confidence to finish that inning,” Garcia said. “It’s really important for any pitcher in that situation. We lost the first two here, so to give me the chance to get out of that inning, it was big.”
• Although the numbers weren’t great, Garcia wasn’t beating himself up and Girardi seemed generally pleased with the start. A lot of infield singles all week, and tonight the Angels were able to capitalize with two key two-run homers. “The home run to the center fielder, that was a good pitch,” Garcia said. “Nothing you can do about it. Those guys know how to play the game. They take pitches and make you work.”
• Crazy day for Austin Romine, who drove from Scranton to Kentucky — where he’s in the process of moving — then found out last night he was being called up. He woke up at 4:30 ET, flew to LA, got to the park around noon and made his big league debut as a defensive replacement. “I had a million things thrown at me at one time,” he said. “They were showing me pictures of hitters and counts and stuff like that. I just took a deep breath and treated it like spring training. I’d caught him before — I’d caught all these guys before – and I’d played here before, so the comfort level was higher than I thought it was going to be. I just took a deep breath and didn’t think.”
• Speaking of Romine, he said he didn’t throw to second on the strange stolen base in the seventh because Torii Hunter was in front of him. “He was in front of me,” Romine said. “I didn’t want to try to throw it around him and throw it into the outfield. I figured, we have a guy on the mound who can get people out. Let him get them out, rather than have me throw the ball into the outfield and put us even or down a run. I just didn’t want to throw it away.”
• Russell Martin said his thumb is better, but Girardi said he expects either Montero or Romine to catch tomorrow night in Seattle. “You’ve got two guys that, if you add them up, are the same age as Jorge,” Girardi said. “They both did a good job. I remember my first game in the big-leagues and I was as nervous as you could be. For them to do what they did, I’m proud of both of them.”
• Speaking of feeling better, the Yankees aren’t ruling out the idea of Nick Swisher playing tomorrow. He hasn’t been hitting or throwing, but Swisher said his elbow isn’t as sore. “Normal moving around, picking things up, it feels better,” he said.
• Teixeira on his sac fly, which turned out to be the game-winner: “I thought I hit it really well. I knew at the very least it got the job done… I was running hard the whole way, just in case.”
• Montero on throwing out the first runner who tried to steal against him: “Well, thank God I make a nice throw right there. I know Callaspo likes to run and I was ready to throw the ball to second base real quick, and that’s what I did.”
• Apparently I only put this on Twitter pregame and forget to actually put it on the blog: Steve Garrison was designated for assignment to make room for Romine on the 40-man roster.
Associated Press photos