Vernon Wells said on Thursday that he’d been hitting of a pitching machine that “throws as hard as any machine that there is.” Wells said today that he took extra batting practice off Kevin Long, “and he was throwing really hard to me.”
While trying to snap out of his 9-for-90 slump, Wells had been trying to shorten his swing, and he’d been trying to do that by adjusting to extra velocity. In the process, he just might have been preparing himself for Jake McGee.
“That might have been the case,” Wells said. “If I’m able to slow things down and make things seem slower, then you’re not really worried about anything. You’re allowing everything to get to you. That was the big thing. I was catching more things out in front than I should have and not letting balls travel enough. If I’m able to slow things down visually, then I’m able to do the same thing physically and allow my hands to work.”
Joe Girardi took a chance today. Bases loaded, two outs, trailing by one; Girardi called on the same guy he’d essentially benched the day before. He said he’d liked Wells’ at-bats against lefties, liked the matchups, but somewhat dismissed the idea of specifically liking Wells against a guy who throws 90 percent fastballs.
Wells didn’t dismiss that part of it.
McGee threw five straight fastballs, each of them at least 96 mph. Wells was ready for that.
“I took the first pitch just to see what it was like and I saw it really well,” Wells said. “So I looked up on the board and it said 96. I was like, OK, that’s a good feeling. It’s not a good feeling when you go up there and they throw a ball and all of a sudden it’s in the glove and you don’t see it. After that point, it was a matter of, alright, let’s get a good swing on the ball, not try to do too much, and let him supply the power.”
The double was redemption for Wells, whose most recent extra-base hit had come way back on May 31, and it was redemption for Girardi, whose previous decision to intentionally walk the bases loaded had backfired.
Then again, if you believe Chris Stewart — who was pinch hit for — Girardi really couldn’t have gone wrong either way in the seventh inning.
“I get back in the dugout after hitting the double,” Wells said, “and Stew looks at me and says, ‘I would have hit a homer, but I’ll take the double.’”
• Until that sixth inning, CC Sabathia pitched really well today. He gave up the home run to Evan Longoria, but he’d thrown just 57 pitches and had retired 11 of the past 12 heading into that sixth. The big mistake, obviously, was a 1-2 fastball — 94 mph according to Gameday — that Wil Myers hit for this first big league home run, a grand slam. It was the fourth straight fastball of the at-bat. “I was feeling good and wanted to challenge,” Sabathia said. “Fastball just got too much of the plate and he put a good swing on it.”
• On the decision to intentionally walk Evan Longoria to face Myers with two outs: “(Longoria)’s a lot of success off of CC over the years, and he seems to be swinging the bat really well,” Girardi said. “He also homered off Andy Pettitte the other night. He really hits lefties, and in that situation I’m going to go after the younger kid that hasn’t been in that situation a number of times, and it didn’t work out.”
• I’m not sure there’s anyone in the stadium who thought the Myers ball was gone off the bat, but the ball was traveling today. I honestly thought it was a fairly routine fly ball off the bat, and Sabathia crouched on the mound in apparent disbelief when it left the park. “I’m used to playing here and knowing balls are going to get out that probably won’t get out anywhere else,” Sabathia said. “That wasn’t the frustration, it was being one pitch away and not being able to execute that pitch.”
• This was Sabathia’s eighth win, the most on the team. He’s won four of his last five starts and has lost one in his past eight starts at Yankee Stadium. He’s 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA in those starts.
• The Yankees have allowed three grand slams this year, matching their total for last season. They haven’t allowed more grand slams in a season since 2009 when they gave up five.
• Not a bad first impression from Zoilo Almonte who had a two-out, two-run single and a pair of walks, one of them with the bases loaded. “We had a lot of opportunities early and we weren’t able to cash in,” Girardi said. “He was the one that had the two-out hit and then had the walk which really helped us out.”
• Speaking of walks, the Yankees had nine of them, one short of a season high. Robinson Cano walked four times for the first time in his career. David Adams, who hadn’t walked in his first 86 major league plate appearances, walked twice, including one with the bases loaded to setup the Wells game-winner.
• Kind of odd that Adams took this long to walk. He didn’t have unusually low walk totals in the minors. “I talked to a friend of mine a week ago about the same thing,” Adams said. “Maybe trying to do too much or worried about putting the ball in play early. Just getting away from my strengths. Today I tried to relax and tell myself, he’s got to come to me and throw me a strike, one that I can hit. Hopefully this is a trend.”
• Wells said he was hitting off a tee a half inning before his pinch hit at-bat. He’s 2-for-5 as a pinch hitter this season and wanted to be ready. “Any time you can make the stadium go crazy late in games, that’s the fun thing about being here,” he said. “We haven’t won too many games like that lately.”
• The Yankees improved to 24-0 when scoring at least five runs. They’re the only team in the big leagues that has yet to lose when scoring that many. They’ve scored at least six runs in four of their past six games, something they’d done in four of their previous 24 from May 21 to June 15.
• Mariano Rivera has 26 saves and has converted each of his last 40 overall save opportunities at Yankee Stadium dating back to the start of the 2011 season. He’s converted each of his 27 career save opportunities against the Rays at home.
• We’ll give the final word to Wells: “Never lose confidence. As soon as you lose confidence, you’re done. I haven’t felt like I’ve been off that much. I’ve had some good at-bats. I’ve hit some balls hard. Obviously I’ve had some bad at-bats mixed in there, but that’s part of this process. Struggling, it’s a relative term in this game.”
Associated Press photos