“I don’t think anybody’s got their head down. I think everybody’s giving a great effort.
We’ve just got to keep doing that, and hopefully we can figure out a way to turn this thing around.”
Andy Pettitte four weeks ago
“If we play good ball the rest of the way, we’re going to pull this thing out.”
Andy Pettitte tonight
Three and a half games out of the wild card with a little more than five weeks to play. Maybe it’s not an ideal situation, but it’s certainly not an impossible deficit, either. And after 11 wins in 14 games, the Yankees look like a team fully capable of making up that ground. About a month ago, they were looking for answers and hoping they would come. Two weeks ago, they were looking lost and in need of lowered expectations. Today, they’re heading to Tampa with reason to feel confident.
“I don’t think in our eyes it was ever unattainable,” Vernon Wells said. “Still a lot of baseball to be played. I’ve seen crazier things happen in this game. It was just a matter of us putting a run together and we’re hopefully just at the beginning of this thing, because we’re going to have to win our share of games going down the stretch.”
Up next is Tampa Bay, and that’s a challenge, but… “I like the way we’re going in there this time,” Wells said.
A few numbers worth noting: The Yankees have come from behind in their past five wins. They’re 12-1 against the Blue Jays this season, and play them six more times. Since being swept in Chicago earlier this month, the Yankees have won four straight series, two of them against first-place teams. In that time, they’ve gone 7-1 against non-first-place teams.
“We’re making up ground, and that’s what we need to continue to do,” Joe Girardi said. “We need to continue to win series like we’ve been doing, and continue to pitch well and swing the bats. Obviously each day you’re able to pick up a little ground it seems more attainable, and that’s good for the guys in that room. … When you’re winning, there’s always a different vibe. There is a different vibe because we’re playing well and winning. We had a really good vibe in the beginning of the season as well, but we went through some tough times. But it’s back.”
It really is back. The Yankees clubhouse never got especially down during the bad times, but there does seem to be a different sort of swagger in that room these days.
“You knew this was going to happen,” Pettitte said. “It was just a matter of when, and you just hope it’s not too late. And it’s not too late.”
• A quick update from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where Derek Jeter played five innings in the field and went 2-for-3 at the plate. He doubled in his first at-bat and had a two-out RBI single in his third at-bat. Both Girardi and Jeter said he’ll play at least one more Triple-A game. Jeter will not be with the Yankees tomorrow.
• Here in New York, Pettitte had a ton of base runners — what’s new? — but allowed one run through six innings. It’s his second consecutive win. “I wasn’t as good as I was my last start in Boston as far as all my pitches, but for the most part I was able to locate both sides,” he said.
• It’s easy to look back at the two ugly starts against Chicago and Detroit — the two earlier this month — and think Pettitte has moved on from those disappointments to pitch more like in his last two starts in July, when he allowed two runs each time. But Pettitte said it’s actually the opposite. “I felt like I threw the ball OK against Texas and LA and had good starts, and I felt like I threw the ball real well as far as where I wanted to throw pitches against Chicago and the Tigers, and had horrible starts,” he said. “So those were the starts I was building on, to tell you the truth. I know that’s crazy, but that’s how this season has been.”
• Pettitte has allowed no more than one earned run in each of his past three starts.
• Both Pettitte and Girardi said the difference has been mostly fastball location. Tonight, his defense helped him out with some big plays. “Andy got a lot of ground balls,” Girardi said. “Some of them were base hits, but I thought our guys played well.”
• Eduardo Nunez made a nice play on that 6-5 putout in the seventh, but it’s hard to overlook the double play that Alex Rodriguez started to get out of the bases-loaded jam in the fifth. “Just smoked right down the line,” Rodriguez said. “Just put my glove down. That ball caught me almost, stepped on the bag and was able to throw to first. That was a big play.”
• Rodriguez also stole a base today and seemed to be moving better after getting the day off yesterday. “I definitely felt better today,” he said. “My body felt pretty good. I thought I moved around well today.”
• A lot of confusion on that go-ahead play in the fifth inning. It was Wells who hit the ball. “I couldn’t tell (whether he caught it),” Wells said. “I was just looking for an answer and didn’t really find one. … It looked like he caught it from the replay. That’s what I gathered, but it didn’t really matter at that point.”
• Chris Stewart thought the ball fell, but he turned and went back to second when he saw Eduardo Nunez tag up. “I was sprinting in,” he said. “I thought the ball was getting down. Apparently he got a lot closer. I didn’t think he was even going to get close to it. … I don’t think anyone really had a good view of it.”
• Crew chief Ted Barrett on the play: “We looked at the replay and it look to us like it bounced, but probably inside his glove. So on replay, probably would have been ruled a catch.”
• Dave Robertson said he really felt no different coming to the park today knowing he was the closer. Just another day when he’s planning to pitch a key late inning. He got his second save with a perfect ninth.
• Curtis Granderson’s home run against J.A. Happ was his first homer against a lefty this season. According to the Yankees, he still leads the Majors with 31 home runs against left-handers since the start of 2011.
• This game started with a rain delay of more than three and a half hours. “Sure enough, it was worth the wait,” Granderson said.
• Final word goes to Wells: “We’re putting ourselves in positions where we’re giving ourselves a chance each and every night to win games, whether we’re playing their best pitcher or whatever it may be. … When you have all three phases of the game going the way they’re supposed to – pitching, defense, and putting some runs on the board now on a consistent basis – we’re going to win our share of games.”
Associated Press photos