Joe Girardi issued the above quote about David Phelps, who was strong throughout a career-long seven innings in today’s 7-2 win over the Blue Jays. Of course, it applies to Robinson Cano, too. Consider that as much of a no-doubter as Cano’s second two-run shot today, which carried through the bullpen to the bleachers in right-center.
Phelps and Cano powered the Yankees to their eighth victory in nine tries this season against the Blue Jays, who were thought to be preseason contenders in the AL East but now trail by 10 games. They’ve also dropped nine straight here at Yankee Stadium, including all six this season, and matched the franchise’s longest losing streak in the Bronx. The Yankees also won nine straight here against the Jays from June 21, 1979 to Sept. 17, 1980.
• For Phelps, the outing started slowly. He walked two in the first and fell behind 3-1 to Adam Lind. Phelps — with an assist from Jayson Nix — saved himself, escaping when Nix ducked behind Jose Bautista and snared Phelps’ pick-off throw. His tag ended the inning and escaped a jam that saw Phelps struggle with his control less than a week after walking five against Cleveland.
“It got me out of a jam right there,” Phelps said. “I think it was 3-1 on Lind right there. That could be the game with a big first inning, but I was able to put up a zero.”
• Phelps went on to throw a career-best seven innings and allow just one run on six hits and three walks. He struck out eight against the free-swinging Jays. The right-hander pumped his fist when he retired Melky Cabrera to end the seventh on pitch No. 113.
Phelps isn’t overpowering, but his slider was sharp today. He has now struck out 15 in his last two starts and has lasted at least six innings while allowing no more than two earned runs in his last three.
“I’m really encouraged,” Girardi said. “He’s giving us distance. He’s doing a lot of really good things.”
• Girardi wasn’t prepared to insert Phelps permanently into Ivan Nova’s vacated rotation spot, but Phelps’ ability to juggle relief and rotation roles has impressed the manager.
“It’s not easy to do,” Girardi said. “You see clubs that struggle with that. He’s done a good job the last two years doing that for us and he continues to make strides. He’s very important to us.”
• Here’s more from Phelps:
• Cano’s two-homer game was the 12th of his career and his second of the season. He’s never gone deep three times in a game and he struck out given the opportunity to do just that in the eighth against veteran lefty Darren Oliver.
• Cano took the AL lead in home runs briefly, although Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and Cleveland’s Mark Reynolds tied him when they hit No. 12 as well. Cano didn’t hit his 12th homer until June 17 last season.
• Cano took advantage of the short porch on his first homer. He was a little fooled, but said he kept his hands back and got enough to muscle the two-out changeup into the right-field seats off Brandon Morrow. Cano caught a better piece in the fifth when he sent another two-out pitch over the bullpen in right-center.
That time, Cano struck again with two outs and staked Phelps to a 5-1 lead. He also yet again underscored his importance to a lineup that continued to play without three of its four starting infielders and its starting catcher.
• Here’s more from Cano:
• Amid constant lineup shuffling, Cano has been the one, well, constant.
“I’m glad that’s not a moving part,” Girardi joked. “That’s been really nice.”
• Cano, who will be a free agent at season’s end, was asked if he tried to put on a show for Hal Steinbrenner, who was at the park for Photo Day.
“No,” Cano said, “I just go out there to win games.”
• Travis Hafner (shoulder) looked fit playing his first game since May 13. He went 1 for 4 with a home run. He also yanked another ball foul that traveled home run distance and made a hard out up the middle.
Hafner’s seventh home run came in just his 100th at-bat. He now has five home runs in 54 at-bats at Yankee Stadium.
“I think you could see there’s a difference,” Girardi said. “The last couple weeks he’s been playing with a little bit of a soreness and there didn’t seem to be the same whip. But it’s back.”
• Curtis Granderson went 0 for 4 making his first career start in right.
• The Yankees are now 18-0 when scoring first. They are not only the only team in baseball yet to lose when doing so, their 18-game streak is an American League record to start a season (per Elias). It’s their longest stretch at any point of the year since 2002, when they won 19 straight times when scoring first.
• If and when Reid Brignac plays, expect him to play shortstop for Jayson Nix and David Adams to remain in the lineup at third. Girardi basically said as much after the game.
“I envision moving him around,” Girardi said. “We envision him more as a shortstop than anything else, but he has the ability to play other places.”
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