First, an admission: When Joe Girardi brought Dave Robertson into tonight’s game, I thought the Yankees setup man was the wrong choice. Not because I thought Robertson would falter, but because he was far too large a weapon for a five-run lead with five outs to go against a last-place lineup. Save Robertson for the Red Sox series, and let either Preston Claiborne or Shawn Kelley clean up that two-on, one-out mess.
Five batters later, the situation was too dire for even Robertson to handle. Mariano Rivera emerged like Superman to clean up the mess, get the save and keep this easy win from unraveling into the worst kind of loss.
This is part of the difficulty of playing — essentially — a month of playoff baseball, just to actually make the playoffs. Each winable game has to take the highest priority, not to be replaced until the next game, which again takes the highest priority.
How often will Joe Girardi go to Rivera for a four-out save down the stretch?
“As much as I need to, I guess, and as much as he’s capable of doing it,” Girardi said. “The other day I used Robbie for four outs as well, so as much as I can do it and they’re able, I guess, is the answer.”
How strange was this outing for Robertson? He allowed a bases-loaded single to Josh Phegley. Robertson had retired the past 25 batters he’d faced wit the bases loaded dating back to April 19, 2011.
“That’s definitely what I don’t want to do,” Robertson said. “I don’t want to come into a game like that, turn around and make it to where it’s a one-run ballgame. I stunk out there and Mo had to come pick me up. It happens. You pitch in 65, 70 games a year, you’re going to have a couple bad ones. Tonight was one of them.”
It’s going to take all sorts of wins to make this playoff push happen. Tonight was a close one — closer than it should have been — but it worked. Up next, the latest most important game of the year to start a series against the Red Sox.
“We’ve been fighting since the beginning of the year,” Rivera said. “We’ve been fighting with the team that we have. Now we have basically almost everybody back. We’re still fighting. We not giving up and just pushing and pushing and pushing. We’ll see if we can go that far.”
• Hard to remember the last time CC Sabathia walked off the field to the ovation he got in the eighth inning. He was hardly perfect, but in a lot of ways, that’s what made this a vintage Sabathia start: Even without his best stuff, he was able to get deep into the game and pitch winning baseball. “I feel good about the game because a couple of times earlier in the year, command was off and things would get out of hand,” Sabathia said. “Being able to battle back and kind of battle through that game feels good.”
• This was Sabathia’s longest outing since August 7 and only the second time his past 10 starts that he pitched into the eighth inning. He’s won four of his past five starts despite a 5.58 ERA in that stretch. He’s never lost to the White Sox as a Yankee.
• Two walks and a double in the first inning for Sabathia. “The first inning, command was kind of all over the place,” Sabathia said. “It was really all night. But I was just happy I was able to make pitches and get out of the inning. … I just think getting back to myself and being aggressive and just going out and pitching in the strike zone is something I was able to do today.”
• What went wrong for Robertson? “It just seemed like every pitch I made was too short or too low or right down the middle and it got hit,” he said. “It’s a tough outing. But like I said, you pitch in enough games and you’re going to get knocked around in some of them.”
• Robertson said he was trying to get the umpire to check the ball for a mark when they ruled Jeff Keppinger had tipped it on what should have been a swinging strike. Did Girardi think Robertson was upset by the missed call? “No, I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “He ended up getting the guy out, so I don’t think so. But I was.”
• The Yankees won their fifth straight game against a starting pitcher making his Major League debut. “We didn’t know much about him,” Robinson Cano said. “We just know that he pitched really good in the minors. We were able to score some runs early, and we took advantage when he threw some pitches over the plate.”
• It was Cano who first got to Erik Johnson with a first inning home run. “I went to the plate just trying to get a pitch that I can get a good swing because that’s a guy that you’ve never faced before,” Cano said. “You don’t know how it’s going to be.”
• The biggest hit of the game really belonged to Brett Gardner, who went 2-for-4 including that two-run triple in the fourth inning. Seven of Gardner’s past 10 hits have gone for extra bases. “Guys on second and third one out, needed to get a run in,” Gardner said. “He fell behind in the count 2-0 and I got a good pitch to hit.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “It’s time for everybody to step up. We’ve got three weeks left and every game is a must-win. Great win tonight. Come back here tomorrow and try to get off on the right foot against Boston.”
• Or maybe this is a better final word from Sabathia: “A win is a win, and we need a lot of them.”
Associated Press photos