The Yankees can’t satisfy themselves with winning series this final month and a half. They need something better than that. Getting into the playoffs is going to require a real winning streak, a remarkable surge down the stretch. And doing that is going to require something special. It’s going to require moments like these two games by Alfonso Soriano.
“It’s pretty hard to do, I don’t care how good you’re swinging the bat,” Joe Girardi said. “To have 13 RBIs in two days is really hard, but it’s been huge for us. He was a huge part of the offense tonight, huge part last night. And we need these kinds of things to continue.”
Make no mistake, the Yankees are still a long way out, but this four game winning streak — and Soriano’s stunning two-game performance — has ignited some glimmer of hope. There’s at least a reason to think that just maybe this team could get hot and make a serious run. It remains to be seen, but these are impressive first steps.
From yesterday’s fourth inning through tonight’s second inning, the Yankees scored in seven consecutive innings. They reached double digits in back-to-back games for the first time since early April (and scored at least 11 in back-to-back games for only the third time in five seasons).
Soriano became one of three Major Leaguers since RBI became an official statistic in 1920 to have at least six RBI in consecutive games (Geoff Jenkins and Rusty Greer also did it). He’s the first Yankee to have back-to-back multi-homer games since Jason Giambi in 2005. His first-inning grand slam was the fifth of his career, and his first since 2009.
“We just were laughing,” Robinson Cano said. “That’s unbelievable.”
Soriano won’t do this every night. Girardi joked that he’d be perfectly happy if he did, but it’s just not going to happen. The more important thing is that Soriano represents something more than a flicker of hope for these Yankees. They’ve waited all year to have a reliable offense, and for the moment, they seem to have one.
“I hope it stays for a couple more weeks,” Soriano said. “I know it’s not going to happen often, those two days. So that’s something I want to remember because I only play for like 13 years, and I have to remember having games like that.”
For now, all’s well and the long road ahead seems at least a little bit easier.
“We’ve been positive the whole year,” Cano said. “When you’re not winning, you’re just trying to figure out what’s wrong, what you have to do to win. But when you’re winning you just have fun. You don’t have to figure out anything.”
• David Huff is on his way back to the Yankees. Donnie Collins reported that Huff was being congratulated in the RailRiders clubhouse tonight, and the Yankees are preparing to bring him up tomorrow. Haven’t heard who’s going down, but the Yankees will have to open a 40-man spot. Huff has pitched well out of the Triple-A rotation and could be — just guessing here — either a candidate to start next week’s double header, or a temporary long man so that Adam Warren can start one of those games.
• Goes without saying that Huff will not be replacing Ivan Nova, who allowed 10 hits tonight, but also walked done and once again pitched into the eighth inning. Count this as another in that string off strong starts that date back to him being recalled from Triple-A. “We gave up a lot of groundball hits,” Girardi said. “That you can live with. He kept the ball in the ballpark, balls just out of reach. I thought he did a really good job.”
• Nova didn’t have his good curveball, but he was locating his fastball down in the zone. That’s often more important for him than his breaking ball. “My sinker was good, first of all,” he said. “When you don’t have your curveball — that’s my strikeout pitch — I focus more on getting ground balls. I gave up a lot of base hits today with it, (but) they were pretty much ground balls. If you keep the ball down, you get ground balls.”
• The way Nova’s been pitching lately, he deserves more than his six wins, but the Yankees made it easy for him to get one this time. “I don’t pitch with a lead like that in a long time,” he said. “It feels really good. The hitters start getting hot. It’s a good sign for us.”
• In 11 appearances since returning from the disabled list in May — he was sent down in the middle of this — Nova is 5-3 with a 2.17 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 11 appearances (eight starts).
• How often does someone have a four-hit game that’s completely overshadowed? It happened to Cano tonight. He was 4-for-4 to matched the Yankees single-game season high. “Just trying to hit the ball up the middle of the field,” Cnao said. “Not trying to do anything or do too much.”
• Cano now has 1,590 hits, passing Phil Rizzuto for sole possession of 15th place on the Yankees all-time list. Rizzuto had 1,588.
• Soriano’s 13 RBI is the second-highest consecutive-game total by any Yankees player, trailing Tony Lazzeri’s 15 RBI on May 23 and 24, 1936. That’s from Elias.
• STATS LLC says that Soriano’s two-game total is the most for any Major Leaguer since Sammy Sosa had 14 RBI in back-to-back games in 2002. He had nine and five.
• Jered Weaver tied a career high by allowed nine runs. He fell to 1-2 with an 8.17 ERA in four career starts at Yankee Stadium.
• The Yankees No. 3-6 batters reached base in 13 of 18 plate appearances going 10-15 with nine runs, three doubles, two homers, nine RBI and three walks. “This is the team that we are,” Cano said. “In the past, we weren’t getting on base, which is the difference the last two games.”
• Final word goes to Curtis Granderson: “The big thing is to come out and try to do the basic things. Don’t try to do too much. I think that’s a key right now. No one’s up there trying to win it with one swing. Getting themselves on, get it to the next guy, the next guy drive them in, the next guy, then get some good pitching, play some good defense, and we’ll see if we can sweep them tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos