Dave Robertson was smiling, but it was kind of an uneasy smile. There was some sheepish embarrassment in it, some raw joy, some sense of gratitude, and a whole lot of relief.
“I feel like the luckiest guy on Earth right now for escaping that inning as bad as I pitched,” Robertson said. “It was really bad. I started out great and just fell apart. I couldn’t find the strike zone. I had three walks, two hits and two runs and still managed to get the job done. It was by the skin of my teeth that I got it done.”
It really was bad, and it was very nearly awful, but the offense had exploded a few innings earlier, keeping a rough night by the bullpen from being a brutal loss for the Yankees. Robertson, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances — the Yankees go-to late-inning relievers — turned a blowout into a nail biter.
“Give them one hiccup,” Mark Teixeira said. “Let them have a hiccup because they’ve been picking us up all year long. We haven’t been picking them up. It was kind of our night for the offense to pick those guys up.”
Warren faced four batters. He walked two and gave up a single. Betances faced five batters. He walked one and gave up two hits, including a crushing grand slam. Robertson faced eight guys. Three walked, two had hits, and Adrian Beltre was at the plate with two outs, the bases loaded, and a 3-2 count. Hard to be in a more dangerous situation in a one-run game. Beltre hit the ball deep to left, but Brett Gardner caught it in front of the wall.
“I could tell by (Beltre’s reaction) that he didn’t hit it out,” Robertson said. “He wasn’t celebrating. But any time you see him take a cut like that and hit a ball in the air, there’s always a worry that it’s gone. … That’s about as bad as you can suck out there and still get lucky enough to get one of the better hitters in baseball out and not lose the ballgame.”
Obviously there was a lot of good in this game. The offense had a huge day, Gardner stayed hot, Teixeira returned with a home run, and the Yankees got a win they needed. But whew, it got awfully close at the end.
Dare to imagine how bad of a loss this would have been?
“I don’t really want to,” Joe Girardi said. “But it would have been a really tough loss, especially with the leads that we had. Those are the games you need to win. You need to make sure you win.”
• Gardner has seven hits and three home runs in the past two days. Tonight he matched a season high with four hits in a game, and he long ago passed his career-high for home runs in a season. “I just feel good,” Gardner said. “Feel like my timing’s real good. Feel like I’m seeing the ball real well. Not really trying to do anything different.”
• Against the Rangers this season, Gardner is hitting .455 with four doubles, four homers and four walks in six games.
• Good return to the lineup for Teixeira. He hadn’t started a game in more than a week, but he returned with three walks and a big home run. “I felt good,” he said. “Seeing the ball well is always a good sign, just not swinging at too many bad pitches. Obviously the home run felt good.”
• Turns out that home run was huge. It felt like one last blow to put this game out of reach again, but it wound up being the difference in the game. “I haven’t been able to swing the bat like that right-handed in quite some time,” Teixeira said. “Just really happy the way that I bounced back and hopefully it continues.”
• Another two-hit game for Derek Jeter, who has his batting average up to .280.
• Carlos Beltran has a hit in six straight games. He’s hitting .409 with six RBI in those games. He had two hits and two RBI tonight. Zoilo Almonte and Brendan Ryan also had two RBI apiece.
• Brandon McCarthy improved to 3-0, but this one wasn’t easy. He allowed four runs in six innings, and three of those runs came with a two-out rally in the third inning. “You could tell from the outset it was going to be a bit of a fight,” McCarthy said. “And especially that third inning, I was glad I was able to get through and get deeper in the game, take some of the load off the bullpen, which was important after kind of putting the team down in that hole early.”
• Why wasn’t McCarthy sharp tonight? “I was pitching in Texas,” he said. “This is kind of my ballpark. This is the place I just struggle with. Didn’t feel all that fresh tonight. It was just kind of one of those nights. Every once in a while you’re going to have to fight through it. Disappointed. Even the third inning, I still had chances to make pitches and get out of it. Kind of failed there. But at least getting beyond that and having the offense pick me up was huge and gave me a boost to kind of get deeper.”
• On the grand slam, Betances said he was trying to throw a fastball for a strike. But he’s pretty sure he actually left the ball up and out of the zone. “It wasn’t a strike, but he put a good swing,” Betances said. “That whole at-bat, I was behind the whole time. It just gave him a lot better chance, and he definitely put a good swing on it.”
• The grand slam was one of two home runs tonight by J.P. Arencibia, who’s having a horrible year but has crushed the Yankees. He joined Jose Canseco and Josh Hamilton as the only players in Rangers history to have 12 total bases and seven RBI in a game.
• The Yankees and Rangers combined to throw 84 pitches in the seventh inning. The Yankees threw 49 of them.
• Final word goes to Gardner: “It shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but a win’s a win. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Every day that’s the goal, to win a ball game, and we’ll try to win the series tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos