In the Yankees clubhouse, Cody Eppley is about as anonymous as it gets. The transaction was hardly noticed when the Yankees claimed him off waivers at the end of spring training, and he’s shuttled from Triple-A to the big leagues three times already without making much noise or fuss.
But in finishing off another three-game sweep, the Yankees biggest outs were Eppley’s. Filling in as the setup man for an overworked and depleted bullpen, Eppley got Martin Prado to ground into a double play that left the tying run stranded at third base in the eighth inning. He was the final bridge to Rafael Soriano, who closed out the Yankees ninth win in their past 10 games.
“You never know where it’s going to come from when you start a season,” Joe Girardi said. “You just don’t. You don’t know how far you’re going to have to reach into your minor leagues to get help, and the depth that you need, but you can be pretty sure that you’re going to have to reach at some point. And these guys have really stepped up. I can’t say enough about what our bullpen has done in the absence of two great pitchers. They’re getting it done.”
Cory Wade was told he had another night off, and Clay Rapada was untouchable after pitching four nights in a row. If you had any questions about where Eppley ranks in the pecking order, Girardi certainly answered that tonight.
“We got a lot of good arms,” Eppley said. “I think we feed off each other going out there, and the way we’ve been able to pitch, each guy to the next, makes each of us want to do better than the previous guy.”
The Yankees scored just three runs in two of three games here in Atlanta. Home runs by Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher have made a lot of noise the past two nights, but it’s this Yankees pitching staff that’s truly carried this team to the best record in the American League. That includes Eppley.
“You need to pitch,” Girardi said. “If you’re going to have a chance you need to pitch, and that has made the biggest difference.”
• It certainly helps that the Yankees can hit the ball out of the ballpark. It took one half inning for the Yankees to counter Brian McCann’s two-run homer with a two-run shot from Granderson. It was Granderson’s team-leading 19th home run of the season. “We didn’t plan on coming here and trying to lose,” Nick Swisher said.
• Quote of the night: Granderson was asked how it is that he keeps saying he’s not a home run hitter, yet he’s on pace for more than 40 home runs. “Math is just crazy like that,” Granderson said. Hilarious!
• Granderson explaining his home run at-bat against Tim Hudson: “I finally got a pitch around the plate that I could somewhat handle a little bit. He’d done an exceptional job throughout the game of throwing balls just up out of the zone, just down out of the zone, just in, just out out of the zone. That’s what he’s known for doing, so it’s really hard to get a pitch consistently or an approach against him to square him up and say, this is what I want to do. That particular pitch I was able to get, and I didn’t miss it.”
• Kuroda has been outstanding lately. Tonight he had eight strikeouts, four of them to end innings with at least one runner on base. “I gave up a lot of hits,” he said. “They’re great hitters in that lineup, but I came through. I had to grind, but I was able to come through. This is something really rewarding.”
• Kuroda passed Daisuke Matsuzaka on the all-time strikeout list among Japanese-born pitcher. He has 579 strikeouts in his career, 11 behind Tomo Ohka for second all-time.
• This was Kuroda’s 150th career win between the United States and Japan. “It’s a great milestone,” Kuroda said. “When I first started as a professional pitcher, I never thought that I would get here. I’m so happy that I was able to reach this milestone.”
• Alex Rodriguez singled in the Yankees first run. It was the 1,923rd RBI of his career, one behind Jimmie Foxx for sixth-most all time. The Yankees are 17-0 this season when Rodriguez drives in at least one run.
• Derek Jeter is now batting .340 with a .353 on-base percentage when leading off an inning this season.
• Robinson Cano’s 10-game hitting streak came to an end.
• This was Rafael Soriano’s 11th save of the season. He had to face McCann, Uggla, Jones and Heyward in the ninth inning. “He’s been great for us,” Girardi said. “When you look at what he’s done in Mo’s absence, he’s stepped up for us, he’s been relaxed, he’s done a tremendous job. You look at what he did tonight, he went through four guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark at any time. He’s been a big reason we’ve been on this big run.”
• Give the final word to Granderson: “You’ve got to understand that things are going to go in cycles. We didn’t play the way we wanted to early on, now we seem to be playing pretty well, but you have to keep in mind that things could change in a matter of a heartbeat. We still could do a couple of things better, whether it be getting more hits, getting more hits with runners on base, getting guys on base, just to make things a little bit easier.”
Associated Press photos