Hoping to catch a flight in a few hours, so I’ll try to make this fairly quick.
A lot of good stuff happened for the Yankees tonight. A lot of good pitching performances from the not-so-usual suspects, big hits at big moments, a few breaks in the top of the ninth, and the game’s greatest closer in the bottom of the ninth. They’re a game out of the second wild card heading into this weekend’s series in Boston, and that’s a lot better than most would have expected a few months ago.
But this good night came with bad news. Brett Gardner is heading for an MRI tomorrow. The initial diagnosis is a strained left oblique, which Gardner felt on a check swing in the first inning. Gardner acknowledged that there’s a chance he’ll find out tomorrow that his season is over.
“I know we don’t have much time left,” Gardner said. “And we’re trying to fight and get into the playoffs, so I haven’t really looked too far ahead into that. I guess it could be a possibility, but hopefully I get some good news tomorrow. It’s frustrating. I know how important all the games are. I’ve been happy all year with the way that I’ve felt, and to be able to go out there every night and compete, and tonight obviously this thing popped up. It’s frustrating.”
After that first-inning at-bat, Gardner tried to stretch in the tunnel to see if his side would loosen and the discomfort would go away. It didn’t. He said he’s never had an oblique injury, so he’s not sure how bad this one is, but if it’s a bad one, that’s a serious blow to this Yankees lineup.
“It doesn’t hurt just standing here,” Gardner said. “But it definitely was something I could tell would bother me if I stayed in the game, so I came out.”
• Although Girardi made is sound pregame as if he wouldn’t use Mariano Rivera, and despite Rivera’s recent workload that would have left him unavailable a month ago, Girardi said tonight that his plan all along was to use Rivera in a save situation. “For a number of years he’s meant a ton, and this September too,” Girardi said. “He’s been huge for us.”
• It took Rivera only 10 pitches to finish off the ninth inning, but he didn’t get the save. The official scorer is supposed to give the win to someone else if the usual winning pitcher — in this case, Dave Robertson — is deemed to be ineffective. Clearly Robertson was ineffective, and so the scorer gave the win, not the save, to Rivera. “That’s what I heard,” Rivera said with a smile. “I’m fine with that. We won.”
• I’ve seen that rule used before. I thought the win might go to David Huff, but maybe that’s not allowed. I don’t know the particulars of the rule. Seriously, though, Rivera seemed perfectly indifferent to the whole thing. Would have been his league-leading 44th save of the season, by the way.
• Phil Hughes knew he was on a limited pitch count, and David Huff was told he would likely be the first reliever out of the bullpen. It was Girardi’s plan all along to basically piggyback Hughes and Huff tonight, and it worked. Hughes said he was happy with his command, which was his biggest concern heading into the game.
• Tag-team those two again next time through the rotation? “We’ll see about the next start,” Girardi said. “I’ve got to worry about tomorrow before we get that far.”
• Dave Robertson threw a bullpen Tuesday and pitched Wednesday, but he said he didn’t feel tired tonight. Just couldn’t make pitches when he needed to with two outs. “I don’t think (pitching the past two nights) really made a difference,” he said. “Even though Manny almost took me deep, I still got the first out, so I should have been able to make some pitches. In a three-run ballgame, you can’t afford to be walking anybody, and I didn’t walk anybody, but I just kept giving up hit after hit after hit and they just got rolling on me.”
• Speaking of that first out… “The first homer that I steal from somebody,” Soriano said. “I’m very excited, because it was a close game, and a very important catch, and very important for me.”
• Soriano said he thought the ball would be well out of his reach at first, but he chased after it anyway. After the catch, he took a moment before showing the ball to everyone. “As soon as I catch the ball, I just took two or three seconds for me,” he said. “I realized I make the catch, and I wanted to enjoy it first, for two or three seconds, by myself, and after that I just throw the ball to the infielder.”
• Mark Reynolds’ home run was the 200th of his career.
• Weird first at-bat for Chris Stewart, who struck out on two strikes. The first pitch was a ball, but Stewart said he heard the umpire say something and assumed it was a strike. After strike two — Stewart thought it was strike three — he walked back to the dugout and umpire never told him any differently. Really weird.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “It’s important. We need to continue to win and we need to continue to take series if we want to play in October. We got a lot of good performances out of people tonight, starting with Phil Hughes. Huffy did a great job. Cesar Cabral gets a huge out. We got some big hits. Two hundredth home run for Reynolds. Big two-RBI hit for Vernon. It just goes around and around.”
Associated Press photos