Shane Greene called it a blackout, then said it’s more like tunnel vision. It’s what happens to him on the mound when he gets locked into the moment, then walks away and realizes he doesn’t know what exactly just happened. A lot of pitchers can remember individual counts, specific pitches and basically every at-bat. Greene said he’s not one of those guys. Said he’ll walk into the dugout and not remember who he just faced.
“I have a couple of checkpoints that I do to keep my mind right, for sure,” Greene said.
So did Greene realize what was happening tonight when he walked off the mound in the eighth inning and got a thunderous standing ovation on the road?
“How could you not?” he said. “I had goosebumps.”
Against the first-place team in the American League East, with the Yankees desperate for something positive, Greene delivered a real gem tonight. He lost his no-hitter in the fifth inning, but went on to pitch 7.2 scoreless innings with four hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. He won for the second time in as many starts since coming up less than a week ago.
“He’s stepping up, that’s for sure,” manager Joe Girardi said. “To come and face two pretty good lineups in Cleveland, with a lot of left-handed hitters in it, and Baltimore, who swings the bat extremely well, and keep the ball in the ballpark for the most part, you’re throwing the ball pretty well. He’s earning starts. That’s what he’s doing.”
With a mid-90s sinker and a good slider, Greene has been a real boost heading toward the All-Star break. He cruised through the early innings and got out of some trouble in the late innings. He struck out all-star Nelson Cruz three times, and he struck out Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy two times apiece.
“Outstanding,” Derek Jeter said. “He was going after guys. He was pitching in the zone. He had control of the game pretty much the whole time, so it was exactly what we needed. … Any time guys go down to injury, it gives other guys opportunity. When you have those opportunities, you need to make the most of it. He’s done that. He’s come out and thrown strikes and put us in a position to win every time he’s pitched.”
Two starts don’t make a career, but Greene’s stuff has looked awfully good in these games. He earned today’s ovation, and the Yankees have to feel good about giving him the ball again in the second half.
“A dream come true,” Greene said. “It means a lot that I got the opportunity, and it means a lot that I can come up here and help the team win.”
• Brian McCann acknowledged that he was worried when he fouled that ball off his right foot. He was checked on the field for quite a while but ultimately stayed in the game and said he hopes to play tomorrow. “Worried at first? Yeah,” McCann said. “I mean it hit me right on the bone, right on the first toe, the big bone right there. Put pressure on it and it hurt pretty bad. I was hoping for the best.” X-rays were negative.
• Chase Whitley found out postgame that he’s starting tomorrow. He said he had a pretty good idea that he’d be the guy, and said the late notice actually plays into his bullpen experience. “As a starter, you’re trying to give the team length,” Whitley said. “My starts that have been ‘length’ in my terms, that’s how I’ve been is aggressive. I think I’ve just got to be aggressive, trust my stuff, and go out and do it. Have that mindset of a reliever.”
• Derek Jeter had two hits and drove in a run with a two-out RBI in the seventh. Before that at-bat, the Yankees had scored only one run past the fifth inning in their past eight games combined. That one run was a 14th-inning home run.
• This was the Yankees first win in which they did not score five or more runs since they beat Toronto 3-1 on June 17. They had scored at least five runs in each of their past 10 wins before today.
• Dave Robertson has converted 11 straight save opportunities. He hasn’t blown a save since June 1 against Minnesota.
• McCann had three hits and has hit safely in eight of his last nine games. He has reached base in each of his past 11 starts. This was his 15th multi-hit game of the season and his fourth three-hit game. He’s actually hit pretty well lately.
• Back to Greene for a bit, he’s now won seven consecutive decisions between Triple-A and the big leagues. He last lost a game on May 15 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. “My last two starts in Triple-A were pretty good too, the ones before that were a little shaky, but I felt good in those starts,” he said. “I think just making my pitches, not overthrowing, trust my stuff, attack guys. It’s way easier to pitch when they’re in pitchers’ counts and not hitters’ counts.”
• Greene said he was basically just following Francisco Cervelli’s game plan. Greene trusted that Cervelli knew the hitters better than he did. “I think McCann’s and my job is to try to control everything,” Cervelli said. “Especially the emotion because I know this is a team where everybody expects to win, so they come with a little pressure.”
• Jeter on Greene’s poise: “He’s got great poise. It’s easy to have good poise when you’ve got great stuff. He’s got great stuff. He throws strikes. He throws a fastball that moves and a pretty good slider, so when you have good stuff, you show a lot of poise.”
• At one point, Girardi went to talk to home plate umpire Jim Joyce after one of two Yankees were thrown out at the plate. “We were just talking about the rule (about blocking the plate),” Girardi said. “I didn’t think they did anything wrong. We were having discussions about the rule and how it’s been the toughest to probably (call this season). … The one thing that I have seen is I have not seen a lot of collisions, which I think is good. I think that’s good for the game. I think it’s brought awareness to it.”
• Tomorrow is the final game before the break. The Yankees will be either three games out or five games out at the All-Star Game.
• Final word goes to Jeter: “We want to win every game. It’s important for us to win series, and we have an opportunity to do that, so we’d like to play well tomorrow night just like those guys over there want to play well. It’s going to be a tough one, but hopefully we play another good game.”
Associated Press photos