With or without the home run, Russell Martin has become a go-to guy in the Yankees clubhouse after games like tonight. He’s a good big-picture quote, a guy who seems to really think about the hard questions and have fun with the light ones, and tonight he was asked about bouncing back from a crushing loss last night.
“Crushing loss if you’re weak mentally,” he said. “I feel like we’re not weak mentally. I feel like we have a tough team. We’ve got guys that have battled, been in tough situations, and it’s not the first time we’re going to lose a tough game. It’s not the last time we’re going to bounce back either.”
Intentional or not, this did seem like a bit of a statement from the Yankees. Knocked back into a first-place tie last night, the Yankees simply played a better tonight. They did some of the little things that Alex Rodriguez has been talking about — they took their walks, used singles to setup scoring opportunities — but they also did what they do best with three home runs.
“It starts with the little things,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously we talked about the DNA of the team and all that, and home runs are good, but it starts with good at-bats. Robbie had a good walk. Swisher got hit. Guys are on base, putting together good at-bats. It adds up. … It’s going to come down to guys who have done it before, guys in the middle of the order to get big hits and drive in big runs and everyone will follow suit.”
Now the Yankees are back in first place with their two best pitchers starting tomorrow night and Sunday. Last night was crushing, or it could have been crushing had the Yankees let this series get out of hand tonight. Instead, they’re back in sole possession of first place.
“Just looking over and seeing Jeet right now, that’s comforting in itself,” Phil Hughes said. “Having Andy come back for hopefully this playoff run, you never feel like you haven’t been there before. There’s always guys that have been through pretty much everything.”
• Speaking of Hughes, he now leads the Yankees with 14 wins, and he looked pretty sharp tonight. He gave up the home run to Adam Jones — we all know he’s prone to those — but otherwise, he was pretty good against a pretty dangerous lineup. “Don’t miss over the plate with fastballs, because these guys were geared up for the fastball,” Hughes said. “Had to try to hit spots with my fastball. I throw a lot of them. I can’t just abandon it because they’re geared up for it. Expand with breaking balls late. They’re a strong group of guys. They have a lot of good hitters in that lineup.”
• That new slider/cutter thing was pretty good tonight. I really noticed it in Hughes’ third-inning at-bat against Jones. “The slider was a big help for me, and the changeup as well,” Hughes said. “So I just tried to mix my fastball in and out, and everything was working well.”
• After the home run, Hughes got through Matt Wieters, Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis to finish off the sixth inning and leave on a high note. “You obviously don’t want to make that mistake, but once it happened, and I still had nobody out in the sixth,” Hughes said. “I just had to say, ‘Look, I’ve still got a lead here.’ I’ve got to bear down and get some outs here, just get those next three guys, get back in the dugout, and give us a chance. I feel really good in the dugout with a four-run lead.”
• Girardi on the decision to pull Hughes after 95 pitches: “I just thought he had been through a lot that inning. That inning was kind of a tough inning on him and it was time to go to the bullpen.”
• The big three out of the bullpen were good tonight, especially Boone Logan and Dave Robertson. Logan retired three straight, and Robertson retired two in a row on four pitches. Those two hitters, by the way, were Jones and Wieters, who homered and singled off Robertson last night. “You have bad outings, you immediately want to get back out there,” Robertson said. “I’m glad I was able to get it done tonight.”
• I told Robertson he was just trying to make a point after I asked him about his curveball this afternoon. He said it was just a situation that called for the pitch, that’s why he started his night with three straight curveballs to Jones. “I had a good curveball tonight,” he said. “I got him to chase a first-strike curveball. Threw it again, he swung. I saw an opportunity to hopefully get a strikeout there and was able to get a good curveball down and away and he took a swing at it.”
• By the way, Robertson left no wiggle room. He said he’s not superstitious at all, but he wore his pants down tonight — they were up last night — because of superstitious teammates. “I’m not, I swear,” he said. “There’s other guys on this team who are very superstitious. I was told (to wear the pants down).” At that point, Robertson pointed to Logan’s locker. It was the lefty who made the setup man’s fashion choice tonight.
• Rodriguez’s home run was his first since the day before he broke his hand in Seattle. It was also his 300th as a Yankee. “I had no idea I had 300,” Rodriguez said. “But the only numbers we’re worried about right now are W’s. Whatever you’re going to do for the year is already done. Numbers are done, stats are done, we are worried about one thing and that’s winning games. That makes it a lot of fun. So a lot of good things happened today.”
• Martin has been hitting lately, and tonight’s home run was a big one. He’s 6-for-14 with two home runs, a double and seven RBI on this road trip. “It felt pretty good,” Martin said. “It looked like it got our bats going a little bit after that homer. We just took advantage of his mistakes. It looked like he was leaving pitches up in the zone a little bit. We were fighting to get to this pitches, but he probably made a few more mistakes than he wanted.”
• Steve Pearce hit his first home run as a Yankee. His most recent home run before this one came July 6 as a member of the Orioles.
• Logan leads the American League with 66 appearances this season. Of those 66 appearances, 53 have been scoreless.
• Final word goes to Rodriguez: “I said in Tampa, I think (this rough stretch) was the best thing that happened to this team. We start playing playoff-type baseball, caliber and intensity, in the middle of September which I think has been great for our team before. It’s very exciting. It’s a lot of fun. … This is really an exciting time. It’s going to come up to us, the veterans, the guys in the middle of the order, to show the way. We relish this opportunity.”
Associated Press photos