The words themselves didn’t mean much, but the fact Derek Jeter said them meant something.
“When things are going poorly, you’re usually not as bad as it looks,” Jeter said. “When things are going good, you’re always that good.”
A joke. An actual joke from The Captain, who doesn’t joke in the middle of losing streaks or crack a smile when the Yankees are playing poorly. A five-game winning streak has a way of changing the mood, and things are suddenly light and hopeful in the Yankees clubhouse. This was their first three-game series sweep since April 9-11 against Baltimore, and this winning streak is their longest of the season.
“We’re playing better,” Joe Girardi said. “I still don’t think we’ve hit on all cylinders. I don’t. I think we can even get better, but we’re playing better and winning games. That’s the most important thing.”
Although it’s the offense that’s been significantly improved lately, the Yankees have also won two games in which they’ve scored fewer than four runs. They’d done that only once before this winning streak. And these past five wins have each gone to the Yankees starting pitchers, each of whom has pitched well in this turn.
Obviously this Oakland lineup is terrible, and a two-run game doesn’t say much about the Yankees offense, and a five-game winning streak doesn’t mean the Yankees are suddenly the greatest team in baseball. But it’s a start. It’s a drastic difference from where the Yankees were a week ago.
“You strive for perfection,” Mark Teixeira said. “But you know it’s never going to happen, so wins are enough for us right now. … It’s pretty simple. Winning is good. Losing is bad.”
• When he’s been bad, Hiroki Kuroda has pitched some pretty awful games. But he’s allowed three runs or less in seven of 10 starts this season, and today was the second time he pitched eight scoreless innings. “I thought he used his sinker and slider really well,” Girardi said. “I thought those were the two big pitches for him, whether he was throwing it away from lefties or away from righties. I thought he did a really good job of getting back into counts with his slider and then using his sinker effectively.”
• This was the first time Chris Stewart caught Kuroda in a game, and Stewart helped him get through the first inning by throwing out Jemile Weeks trying to steal second. “I had complete trust in him,” Kuroda said. “I was just focusing on throwing all the pitches into his mitt. That’s what I was able to do.”
• Kuroda gave a lot of credit to Stewart for guiding him through that seventh inning when the A’s put runners at the corners with one out. “He just got a little rushed,” Stewart said. “He was trying to force pitches instead of throwing them, and I just wanted it calm him down, let him know he doesn’t have to try to overdo anything, just trust his stuff and let it do what it’s going to do like he did in the beginning of the game. Once he was able to take a breath and realize his stuff was good enough he made some really big pitches and got out of a big jam.”
• This was Kuroda’s first win on the road this season. “I was aware that I hadn’t won any games on the road, but that didn’t really concern me,” he said. “One thing that really concerned me was that I hadn’t had a win in a long time. I was relieved that I was finally able to get that.”
• Teixeira stayed hot with two doubles and an RBI. He’s hitting .435 with nine RBI in his past six games. “I’ve been waiting for that hot streak and I’ve found it the past few days,” he said. “Sometimes that’s the name of the game. It’s just getting hot, and as a team we’re winning some games, which is great.”
• Playing against his old team, Nick Swisher went 5-for-13 this season.
• Curtis Granderson went 1-for-3 and has reached base in 43 of 47 games this season.
• Russell Martin said his neck was a little stiff when he went for his usual workout yesterday. While he was lifting, he aggravated it, and that’s why it was still an issue today. He expects to be fine tomorrow. “I think so, but we’ll see tomorrow,” Martin said.
• The plan is still to have Brett Gardner hit and Dave Robertson throw in Tampa tomorrow.
• We’ll give the last work to Teixeira, who was asked about the importance of winning some close, low-scoring games, something the Yankees weren’t doing earlier this season. “It’s so important,” Teixeira said. “That’s probably the difference in your season is winning close games. Most teams are going to win by big margins a bunch of games, lose by big margins a bunch of games, but really everyone has to win those close games or you’re not going to get into the playoffs; you’re not going to have enough wins. So it’s really important for us to win those close ones.”
Associated Press photos