I can’t remember which of the other writers actually said it as we walked in the clubhouse tonight, but it was once of the first things all of us noticed.
“When’s the last time you heard loud music in here?”
The Yankees are a pretty steady bunch, and I wouldn’t say they were inconsolable during this recent losing streak, but these guys know when they’re playing well, and they know when they’re not. They’ve played poorly for a little more than a month now, and tonight’s eighth and ninth innings were a welcome relief from the disappointment.
“Our guys have really kept a good attitude, even in our tough times,” Joe Girardi said. “I have not seen them hang their heads. And that’s what I talk about. They’ve kept the fight. They keep fighting, and that’s what you want to see, and eventually it pays off.”
Make no mistake, the Twins handed the Yankees plenty of breaks tonight, but what made the difference was the Yankees ability to capitalize. Given a right-handed reliever in the eighth inning, a bunch of lefties did their jobs. Given a handful of defensive mistakes, the Yankees pulled away. Given a chance to win, the Yankees took advantage.
A lot of those June losses were close games. There were blowouts mixed in there, but for the most part, the pitching staff kept giving the lineup a chance. And there were plenty of times that the Yankees put runners on base only to have nothing to show for it.
“Lately we have a chance early in the games, and we never take advantage,” Robinson Cano said. “We’re always trying to get on in the seventh, eighth inning, but always with two outs. Now we start early, and that’s what we’ve got to do. Start early in the game and get men on base and take our chances. … We’ve got to start early and just focus from the first inning because we’re not the team any more that we can say this guy might hit a home run the next inning. We’ve just got to take advantage when we get men on base.”
One win in a sloppy game isn’t going to turn overwhelming pessimism into unflinching optimism, but at least one night it gave the Yankees a reason to celebrate a little bit. The clubhouse wasn’t wild or anything, just happy for the first time in about a week.
“Any time you’re in a losing streak, you want to end it as soon as possible,” Chris Stewart said. “The way we did it tonight, we came back in the eighth inning and put some good at-bats together. We finally got those hits with runners in scoring position that we haven’t been getting. I thought that was pretty big confidence booster for us. It shows us that we’re capable of it and re-instills the positive that’s going in here, that we can do it, and we’re capable of anything. Hopefully we keep that going for a while.”
• As you might expect, Andy Pettitte was disappointed in his outing, but my gosh, the man has more Yankees strikeouts than Whitey Ford. Or anyone, for that matter. “I feel fortunate to be able to be around as long as I have,” Pettitte said. “To be ale to be mentioned with Whitey’s name, it’s always an honor.”
• Also a milestone night for Girardi, who got his 600th managerial win. “I didn’t know until after the game,” Girardi said. “It’s nice. I had some really good players along the way.”
• But back to Pettitte, the bullpen was active in the first inning, but Pettitte settled in to pitch the next five scoreless before allowing the go-ahead homer. “You can’t give up another run, that’s it,” Pettitte said. “Just figure out a way to go out there, go six or seven and don’t give up another run. That’s exactly what I was thinking. You feel like you’re getting it done, then you go out and give up a leadoff home run in the sixth inning. It’s frustrating, that’s for sure. It makes it a lot easier to swallow that we were able to come back and win.”
• Pettitte was mad at himself for the leadoff walk. He said he threw a “terrible” pitch to Ryan Doumit. He couldn’t believe he allowed a go-ahead home run to a lefty. But Stewart is usually a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy, and he actually seemed pretty happy with Pettitte’s outing. Said he was better than the results. “The second hitter, he made a good pitch on, he just hit it down the line and made a better swing,” Stewart said. “Other than that, he left a ball up to Doumit for the double to drive in two runs. He slipped on that one ball to create the third run. He was able to settle down and throw strikes with everything. He went deep in the ballgame. After that first inning you didn’t really know how deep he was going to go, and fortunately we went in there and he got to the sixth inning for us.”
• Robinson Cano is absurd on this road trip. Three more hits tonight, including two more home runs. He has three homers in two games and four straight multi-hit games. “Hopefully I can continue doing that because you know how baseball is,” Cano said. “You can be hot for an amount of time and next thing you know, you go through a slump. Hopefully not. Just continue doing this thing and win games and do my job with men on base.”
• By the way, Zoilo Almonte had another three-hit game. He also had his second multi-RBI game. “I have not seen him really become overwhelmed by a situation,” Girardi said. “He seems to relax in every situation we put him in.”
• Ichiro Suzuki was bunting for a hit in that eighth inning. That wasn’t a sac bunt, and forcing the Twins to make a play ultimately put the go-ahead run on base. “Ichiro put some pressure on them with the bunt and his speed and it kind of changed the inning for us,” Girardi said. “We capitalized on some mistakes on their part.”
• Also a two-hit game from Brett Gardner who had his team-leading 21st double. Three of his last five hits have been doubles, and he’s hit safely in 29 of his past 36 games.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “Just good at-bats. I’ve said I like the fight that we’ve had. Even in these struggles, think about last night, we had a chance last night. Our guys don’t quit. I’ve said, you hope that the hard work that they’re putting in pays off, and maybe tonight is the start of something.”
Associated Press photos