As reporters began to gather around David Phelps’ locker tonight, all the lockers around him had emptied except the one right next door. That’s where Chase Whitley — a tall guy in a small space — was still tying his shoes, blocking the clearest path to the night’s starting pitcher.
“Chase!” Phelps said. “Get out of here!”
Whitley laughed. Phelps laughed. Reporters laughed. Amazing how four wins can really change the mood in the clubhouse. It goes without saying, and it’s said all the time, but the atmosphere really does feel different. This was a really good win against a really good team, and the Yankees left this ballpark feeling … happy.
“It’s definitely one of the best starts of my career, probably,” Phelps said. “Come in here against a team that’s first in its division with one of the best records in baseball, my biggest thing is going out and trying to give us a chance to win every time out. Our offense gave me a chance to be successful out there, so I tip my cap to them because they did a great job for me, giving me a cushion early on. They made some great plays behind me on the defensive side too.”
Phelps allowed just two hits. Six different Yankees drove in a run. Mark Teixeira started a key double play in the sixth. Jacoby Ellsbury kept his hitting streak going. Derek Jeter had his fourth straight multi-hit game. Dellin Betances and Jose Ramirez pitched well out of the bullpen. Even Brendan Ryan was laughing postgame after being hit in the funny bone and thinking, for a moment, that he might have been seriously hurt.
“When a team’s clicking offensively, it just builds confidence within the team,” Ellsbury said. “You want to be a part of it. The last few games, guys having been swinging the bats great. … We have very good hitters one through nine, and it’s fun when guys are swinging the bats well, putting good at-bats together. I think that was the key tonight, just getting some big hits with runners in scoring position.”
The Yankees are now 5-2 on this road trip, meaning they’ve guaranteed themselves a winning record on the trip and they have a chance to have a really good trip if they can win one of these next two. A 7-0 win against the team with the best record in the American League. This was an awfully good win, and the Yankees were feeling awfully good afterward.
“Right now, every win is a big win for us,” Teixeira said. “We don’t have a huge margin for error. This is definitely a big win, yeah.”
• Ryan said he’s fine after going down in a bit of a heap when he was hit in the elbow by a ninth-inning curveball. I thought he was seriously hurt at first. He certainly reacted as if it were a major injury. “Oh, my gosh, right on the funny bone,” Ryan said. “I mean, I know what it looks like. I’m embarrassed. I know I’m going to be subject to a lot of flak from the guys, I’m sure. Deservedly so. I don’t know what it hit, but it felt like it hit the thing, it hit the funny bone. My fingers curled up. I couldn’t move my fingers. And the whole thing was like on fire. It’s just embarrassing it was on a curveball, you know? I don’t think I’ve ever reacted like that to a breaking ball.”
• That moment of embarrassment came after Ryan was booed when announced as a pinch hitter for Jeter. Fans want to see Jeter; not much Ryan. He gets it. “I thought it was funny,” Ryan said. “I was like, finally, some boos. I was fully expecting them anytime I stepped on the field, so, I expect it. If I’m one of the fans I’m probably doing the same thing. So I thought it was, yeah, appropriate. … You know what, it means they’re paying attention, that’s all. I don’t blame them one bit.”
• Nothing wrong with Jeter. Just came out of the game to get some early rest and let Ryan get an at-bat.
• Dellin Betances struck out Coco Crisp on a breaking ball that either hit Crisp or nearly hit him. Either way, Crisp tried to get out of the way, but the umpires ruled he also swung. “If you swing and it hits you, you’re out,” Girardi said. “It’s pretty frustrating for a hitter, to do that, but he’s got that type of breaking ball where you’re going to see that from time to time.”
• Ellsbury’s 17-game hitting streak was kept going by a single in his first at-bat. He later walked. He’s hitting .373 with 13 RBI during the streak. It’s the longest Yankees streak since Jeter hit in 19 straight in 2012, meaning Ellsbury could match that mark if he gets a hit these next two games.
• Also quietly having a good road trip is Ichiro Suzuki who went 2-for-4 tonight and is hitting .364 on the trip.
• Biggest key for Phelps in getting back on track after two particularly bad starts? “I was attacking guys,” Phelps said. “Last couple of starts I was trying to be a little bit too fine, trying to be maybe perfect with pitches because I was digging myself into a hole and knowing I had to keep it there. Tonight they did a great job scoring early for me. That let me kind of settle in so that I Could be a little bit more aggressive in the zone.”
• On big at-bat in particular was the John Jaso double play in the sixth. Phelps had walked the leadoff batter. “It was huge,” Phelps said. “It was a 3-2 count and nobody out. If you look back just one start ago, if I walk him there I’m probably out of the game. That’s just the way things escalate. Mac called sinker down and away, and I was able to get it there.”
• The Yankees had lost seven in a row at O.co Coliseum, their second-longest road losing streak against the A’s franchise since 1914 (they lost 10 straight in Oakland from 1989 to 1991). The Yankees had won nine straight at the Coliseum before the most recent losing streak.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “I think we’ve pitched and I think we’ve had timely hitting, and we’ve scored a few more runs each night. I think we won 3-2, 4-2, 6-2, and now 7-nothing. We’re swinging the bats better and we’re pitching extremely well.” Actually, that third win was 6-3, but you get the idea.
Associated Press photos