One week ago, when the Yankees left New York on a plane bound for Chicago, they were leading the American League East by five games. Tonight, they return home with that lead cut to four games. All things considered, they’re fortunate.
“Really fortunate,” Joe Girardi said. “We need to turn around, play better when we get home and put together a good series. Just continue to win series. That’s the important thing, winning series.”
The Yankees salvaged a series win here in Cleveland, which was at least a small victory on a road trip that saw a series sweep in Chicago and four losses in the previous five games. To lose only one game in the standings — at a time when the Rays have been red hot — is close to the best the Yankees could have hoped for after such a rocky trip.
Now they come home to begin their final 35 games, during which they play American League East opponents 29 times.
“We play everyone,” Derek Jeter said. “It doesn’t make a difference what happened up to this point. We play everyone who’s in this race the entire month of September, so we need to play well. We need to win our games.”
The key to winning this game was the Yankees bullpen, which delivered 4.1 scoreless innings. Boone Logan got five outs. Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano got four outs apiece. All three relievers came into the game with at least one runner on base and left all of them stranded, a good day for a bullpen that had been struggling lately.
Of all the relievers, it was Robertson who most wanted to get on the plane back to New York. His wife was due to give birth a week ago, and he said he’s gotten nervous every time the phone’s rang. Robertson was going to fly home if his wife went into labor, and Girardi was just happy Erin Robertson held off long enough for the Yankees setup man to stay through the end of the trip.
“I think I’ll probably send her a gift when she has the baby,” Girardi said. “I’m sure my wife did already, but now she might get two.”
• After the game, Curtis Granderson found a bottle of Champagne chilling at his locker. The nameplate above his locker had been replaced by a slip of paper that said, simply, “200.” It was a small congratulations from the clubhouse staff for Granderson reaching 200 career home runs. “I just wanted to get one, and then be happy with that one,” he said.
• Of those 200 homers, 74 have come since the beginning of 2011, the most in the Majors in that span. He’s homered 28 times against left-handers the past two years, including 13 this season (third-most in the Majors). Today’s homer came off left-handed reliever Tony Sipp.
• This was the third time this season that Soriano got a save of more than one inning (eighth time in his career).
• Girardi on his decision to pull Freddy Garcia after 4.2 innings: “Just what I had seen the last four hitters. He had gotten in some long counts, and I just felt it was time to make a change. You want to get him through (five innings) — I wanted him to go six for us today — I just felt it was time to make a change. He had a long third and the fifth got kind of long then, too. I just felt we better go to Boonie.”
• Boone Logan took the loss in Monday’s road trip opener. Today he got the win after pitching 1.2 scoreless innings. He faced five batters in a row — stranding two runners — before allowing a single that chased him from the game and brought Robertson in for two outs in the seventh.
• Garcia had pitched 4.2 scoreless before that fifth inning got out of hand. When he couldn’t get the final out of the inning — double, hit batter, walk, two-run single — Garcia was pulled after 90 pitches. “I made my pitch, ground ball to first hit the base,” Garcia said. “I made the pitches to get out of the inning. I don’t have too (much) luck last couple of games, but I’ve been making the pitch.”
• Garcia wasn’t too happy with home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, especially after Garcia appeared to strikeout Carlos Santana with the bases loaded in the third. Santana wound up flying out to end the inning. “The umpire was struggling man, to tell you the truth,” Garcia said. “He was struck out with the bases loaded. He was struck out twice.”
• Robertson also had an unusual but mild run in with Cederstrom in the eighth. Robertson seemed to throw his hands up a little bit after a ball that he thought should have been a strike. Robertson said there was some confusion because he heard the umpire say something, and Robertson wasn’t sure whether the ump was talking to him or Chris Stewart. That’s when Girardi came out of the dugout for a conversation. “I just wanted to make sure everyone stayed in the game at that point,” Girardi said. “Just try to get everybody to turn the page and here we go.”
• In a way, I want to give today’s final word to Marc Carig, the Yankees beat writer at the Star-Ledger, who officially announced today that he’s leaving the Ledger to take the Mets beat at Newsday. It’s a terrific and well-earned opportunity for Marc, who will be incredibly missed in the Yankee Stadium press box. I’m fortunate to call him one of my closest friends, and Yankee fans were fortunate to have such talented and dedicated reporter following their team. Good luck, my friend. See ya in the Subway Series (and probably several times before then).
Associated Press photos