Exactly four weeks ago, the Yankees came to this very same stadium to face this very same starting pitcher. Care to guess how many Yankees were in the same spot in the lineup on that day and today?
Three. Brett Gardner leading off, Robinson Cano batting third and Chris Stewart hitting ninth. The rest of the lineup had been either rearranged or complete reinvented in less than a month.
“I think right now that we definitely feel confident,” Alex Rodriguez said. “I feel like the first day I came in, I felt like five runs should be a baseline for us and then go from there. I think every day gets a little better.”
With another double-digit outburst, the Yankees got their sixth win in eight games. They reached a relatively modest benchmark of four runs for a fourth straight game. Doesn’t seem like much, but this is actually the Yankees first four-game streak of at least four runs since early June.
“We have a lot more power in the lineup (against lefties), and we probably have a few less lefties,” Joe Girardi said. “And right-handed power in this park helps if you’re a pull guy, so it’s a different lineup for sure.”
The Yankees two big blows came on home runs from two of the new right-handed hitters. Mark Reynolds went deep in the second inning, and Alfonso Soriano hit one out in the third. The Reynolds homer was an introduction. The Soriano homer was something awfully familiar at this point.
“When we start winning, we start having fun,” Soriano said. “This game is all about winning. When we’re winning, we’re having fun.”
• Soriano went 3-for-4 with four RBI, three of them on his home run. According to Elias, he’s one of six players all time — fourth Yankee — to have 18 RBI in a four-game span joining the Cardinals Jim Bottomley (1929), the Cubs Sammy Sosa (2002), and the Yankees Lou Gehrig (1930), Tony Lazzeri (1936), and Joe DiMaggio (1939). “I don’t consider myself a power hitter, but I’m close to 400 (career homers),” Soriano said. “I like to hit line drives. I think I’ve been blessed with my hands; God gave me quick hands. I’ve put everything together to try to get better. That’s what I try to do every day.”
• Rodriguez describing Soriano right now: “Like playing slow-pitch softball.”
• Reynolds is the 14th player since 1961 to homer in his first plate appearance with the Yankees. The last to do it was Andruw Jones in 2011. “I think my last game I played was August 4,” Reynolds said. “I hit BP and stuff with the Indians before I got designated, but that’s the first live pitching I’ve seen in quite a while. Maybe I just need to sit on the couch and come out and play.”
• Since the beginning of 2011, Reynolds has 11 home runs against the Red Sox, tied with Curtis Granderson for the second-most by any playing against Boston in that time (Jose Bautista has 13). The only team Reynolds has homered against more often since the start of 2011? Naturally, it’s the Yankees (13).
• Robinson Cano has an 11-game hitting streak.
• Say what you will about the guy, but Rodriguez has done a pretty good job of blocking out the boos and playing well in this hostile environment since coming back. “We’re in playoff baseball right now,” he said. “Every game means the world to us. We’re trying to stay very focused and collective in here; stay very united no matter what’s thrown at us. Our focus is to win games, and that’s the only thing we care about right now. The reaction is pretty tame usually.”
• Asked whether his swing is already better than it was late last year, Rodriguez didn’t hesitate. “Definitely,” he said. “Not (like) a day from last year. I was thinking that I shouldn’t have been out there last year.”
• Andy Pettitte got his first win since July 11 and his first road win since June 8. It was the 253rd win of his career, moving him into a tie with Carl Hubbell for 43rd on baseball’s all-time list. It was his 20th win against the Red Sox, sixth-most for any Yankees pitcher against Boston.
• Tonight snapped a string of eight straight starts in which Pettitte had allowed a first-inning run. It was the longest such streak ever for a Yankees pitcher.
• Pettitte on his performance: “After the second inning, I felt like I hardly made any mistakes, except in that last inning. I just got a little tired and left some balls in the middle of the zone. It was one of those nights where everything was working and you’d hope you’d be able to get through the game like I did. My curve was working, my two-seamer I was locating that to both sides of the plate. My four-seamer also. Stew called a great game and we scored a lot of runs. It was a good win, a great win for us.”
• The results were better tonight, but Pettitte said his stuff was basically the same. “That’s what was so frustrating about my last two starts,” he said. “I finally felt like my stuff was coming around and I wasn’t cutting my two-seamers. Prior to the starts before that, that’s what I was giving up a lot of my runs on, balls I was trying to throw away and they were cutting back to the middle of the plate. The start against Chicago and the start at home against the Tigers, my balls were doing exactly what I wanted to as far as running away from righties and going in to righties when I wanted to. I wasn’t being successful. So hopefully I can just continue to hold what I’ve got here and hopefully my stuff will be crisp when I go out there.”
• Reynolds was the 50th player used by the Yankees, one shy of the franchise record reached in 2005 and 2008.
• Final word goes to Reynolds: “We battled these guys with the Orioles last year, but this is different. When you’re on deck, I mean, you can’t repeat what the fans say to you, but it’s just a different vibe, a different atmosphere for sure. But all that stuff does is motivate us as players to go out there and perform better. It’s all in good fun, and it’s a great spot to be in, in this rivalry.”
Associated Press photos