Perhaps the only mistake the Yankees made in today’s 7-1 win was a fat fastball to the Reds’ Chris Heisey. Brandon McCarthy, cruising at the time, saw his fifth-inning offering shipped into the left field seats for a solo home run.
For a pitcher who has now surrendered 16 home runs in just 20 starts, McCarthy’s reaction was pretty reserved. The Yankees led at the time, no one was on base and he threw the pitch he wanted to. In fact, according to McCarthy, that has been the main difference in his two starts here – and the reason for his optimism amid a woeful season.
Of most importance, McCarthy said he has found a team that will allow him to throw his cut fastball. That pitch and easy chemistry with catch Brian McCann has left the lanky righty at ease so far in New York. He showed it Saturday in another strong outing, an economical six-inning, one-run, six-hit, nine-strikeout effort to earn his first win as a Yankee in his pinstriped debut in the Bronx.
“He’s got top-of-the-rotation stuff,” McCann said. “We’re really glad to have him.”
At the behest of the organization, McCarthy had curtailed that stuff in Arizona, almost completely shelving his cutter. He said he threw just one (a rare frontdoor cutter to NL MVP Andrew McCutchen) in his last two starts with the Diamondbacks compared to 10 or more in his first two with the Yankees.
“It wasn’t something I totally agreed with,” McCarthy said. “Now, coming here, and them going back over everything I’ve done and realizing that was a big part of my success, we decided to add that back in. It’s been a nice change.”
McCarthy and McCann said reintroducing the cutter has allowed McCarthy to pitch all all quadrants of the strike zone. He became reliant on his sinker in Arizona, but he has thrown the sinker, the cutter and a four-seamer here with the Yankees.
“The sinker was there and it could work, but it has to be kept alive,” McCarthy said. “The cutter today I thought set that up well.”
McCarthy said returning the cutter to his arsenal was among the topics in his first meeting with McCann and the coaches. McCann compared McCarthy’s repertoire to that of Tim Hudson, whose primary weapon is also a sinker.
McCann believes McCarthy can continue to pitch well for the Yankees, who could certainly use another anchor in their rotation with four-fifths of the opening day rotation on the DL.
“He has the ability to do what he did tonight every fifth day,” McCann said. “I truly believe that. I think his stuff’s always been there. What I saw today and from his first start, he’s got it.”
• Here’s more from McCarthy, who, among other things, talked about his wife (Amanda) being stuck in traffic:
• McCarthy had been dreadful in three previous starts in this ballpark. Here’s what he said about the opportunity to pitch in New York:
“It’s the Yankees. I think just pitching for the Yankees is an opportunity no matter what the circumstances are. For me, it’s at a point in my career where I want to be challenged, I want to be in a pennant race, I want to be close to the playoffs. I want to be close to the playoffs. I want to be in a market that is difficult. It’s a great opportunity in that sense.”
• McCarthy’s sinker – the highlight being a 95-mph seed to strike out Billy Hamilton – is the reason the Yankees acquired him, according to Joe Girardi. So far, so good:
“I really liked what he did in Cleveland, too. Both of his starts have been very good. I think his sinker has been very effective in both his starts. That’s one of the reasons we went out and got him. He’s a ground ball pitcher, and he’s able to pitch down in the zone and use his curve ball. His two starts have been excellent.”
• McCarthy is now 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA in his last four starts. His team has won all four games.
• Carlos Beltran hit a solo home run in the second inning and has now had two strong games at the plate to open the second half. Is it something to build off of?
“I really hope so,” Girardi said. “I said before, he started to swing the bat pretty well before he decided to hit the ball off his nose. I thought he was getting going. I was hoping the week off wouldn’t hurt him, and he seems to be doing well up there.”
Beltran is now batting .308 with three home runs in his last 10 games.
• Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton combined to toss three scoreless innings of relief. The Yankees recorded 13 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter, making this the first time since July 7, 2006 and first time at home since Sept. 28, 2001 that they had that many strikeouts without issuing a walk.
• The Yankees announced all of their draft signings today. Not among them: Mariano Rivera Jr. I’m told he’s expected to return to Iona for his senior season.
• The Yankees will go for the sweep on Sunday. They had actually lost three consecutive home series, and have won just six of 16 series at home.
Photo by Getty Images