Lyle Overbay was standing at first base, runners at the corners with one out in the sixth, when first-base coach Mick Kelleher mentioned that the Astros second baseman was playing in a little bit.
“Mick kind of mentioned it the pitch before,” Overbay said. “We talked about it where we can’t run into a tag there because there was a runner on third. As soon as he hit it, I’m like, there’s no way I’m going to get past him without getting tagged. I just stopped and did what I did. If he throws home, then I go to second. If not, then we get the run.”
It wasn’t flashy, but it was the play that won this game for the Yankees. Overbay froze at first base, kept Jose Altuve from getting an easy tag and a quick double play, and gave Eduardo Nunez time to score the winning run from third base. The Yankees had blown a four-run lead early, and they went on to miss a chance to extend the lead late, but the still go out of Yankee Stadium with their sixth win in seven days, plus a 17-10 record that’s the second-base in the American League.
“You’re going to have to win some ugly ones,” Overbay said. “That just shows you. We had opportunities, we just didn’t come through tonight, me being one. I had bases loaded and nobody out and I struck out. Those are little things that we’ve got to kind of hone in on and get a little bit better.”
Goes without saying that the Yankees are far from a perfect team — the lineup is clearly depleted, especially against lefties — but during this stretch of 16 games in a row, the Yankees went 11-5, winning every series but one. Veteran players are doing things like what Overbay did on the bases, and the back of the bullpen is holding onto late leads.
“We pulled together and got a nice win today,” Dave Robertson said. “It was a tough ballgame. They fought us real hard and any time you can win a one-run ballgame with the pen pitching a lot, it’s good. It’s good for the team.”
• Chris Nelson is supposed to be with the Yankees on Friday. They’ll make a 25-man roster move then — my first thought is that this isn’t good news for Corban Joseph — and they’ve already put Francisco Cervelli on the 60-day disabled list to open a 40-man spot. “We feel that a right-handed bat will help us,” Girardi said. “We’re pretty left-handed right now and we’ll see (what Nelson can do). He’s going to get a chance to play at some points.”
• Nelson has limited experience at shortstop but Girardi mentioned on second base and third base as defensive possibilities.
• Robertson kind of limped off the mound at the end of the eighth. Girardi said Robertson is fine. Robertson didn’t seem worried, but acknowledged that he felt something. “I just kind of felt some discomfort,” he said. “I thought it was my left knee, but it’s probably just my hamstring. Just really tight, and felt like I may have tweaked it a little bit. … I don’t feel it right now. It was just a little sore when I came into the dugout. Immediately go get some ice on it and try to keep it from getting inflamed up.”
• Mark Teixeira did, in fact, do tee and toss this afternoon. “He said he felt really good,” Girardi said. “He will do it again, I’m assuming, Friday. And we will continue to try to progress, so it’s another step in the right direction.”
• Yankees caught a bit of a break in the ninth when Matt Dominguez lined to Robinson Cano for a double play. “I thought (Cano) was going to get there, I did,” Girardi said. “I was really pleased that he did.”
• Cano hit his team-leading eighth homer. He now has 185 in his career, passing Charlie Keller and tying Paul O’Neill for 17th place on the Yankees all-time list. His 733 career RBI breaks a tie with Elston Howard for 20th on the Yankees list.
• None of the Yankees — not Girardi, not Chris Stewart, not David Phelps himself — seemed especially down on Phelps after today’s start. Phelps was obviously kicking himself for that four-run fourth, but for the most part everyone seemed to agree that he was making pitches. “It was weird,” Phelps said. “I felt like I was still making decent pitches, just a lot of singles. There was the one double, but I felt like I made my pitch there. I hit a couple guys, which really didn’t help. But it was weird. Those first three innings, I felt like I had the best control I had all year. And then I got out of the stretch in the fourth and I feel like I might have lost it for a couple, and it just snowballed a bit.”
• Girardi certainly sounded as if he’s fully expecting Phelps to make his next start. “I didn’t think Phelpsy got hit hard,” Girardi said. “The mistakes he made were that he hit people. Those were the mistakes he made, and those situations you don’t want to give in. We urge our guys to pitch inside, but you can’t hit people and give up free base runners. But I think he’s disappointed because he gave up those four runs, but it wasn’t like they squared a lot of balls up in that inning. It was kind of a broken bat here and a well-placed ball here. Another well-placed ball. Nuney almost gets to the other ball. Those things are going to happen. It’s just going to happen, so you’ve got to be able to turn the page.”
• Phelps was the first Yankees pitcher to hit back-to-back hitters since Javier Vazquez in 2010.
• Just making some small talk with Overbay pregame, he specifically mentioned the back of the bullpen as the reason the Yankees have kept winning this season. Then the bullpen delivered 3.1 scoreless. “Coming into this start I was just thinking, pitch as deep as you can,” Phelps said. “I was hoping to get through the sixth because I know the strength of our bullpen is the back end – it’s one of the strengths of our pitching staff. You just have to get them to the sixth with a lead, and let them take it from there. They’ve done a great job all year and they did a great job tonight.”
• Brett Gardner had two stolen bases in April, and two stolen bases tonight. … Ben Francisco hit his first Yankees home run, and first extra-base hit of the season. … Ichiro Suzuki is hitting .419 in his past eight games with five multi-hit games. His average is up to .279 now, 79 points higher than it was nine days ago.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “Veterans have been through a lot of situations in their career. Sometimes when you have a lot of veterans you have to manage days off a little more, but they make heads-up plays. They know how to play the game. They’re not going to get frazzled by situations. That’s really important because those situations are going to come up time and time again during the season.”
Associated Press photos