A four-run victory isn’t exactly a blowout, but after a stretch of 16 consecutive games for the Yankees that were each decided by two runs or fewer, Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers sure felt like a rout.
Chris Capuano outdueled Justin Verlander (pause for a moment to let that sink in), Brian McCann hit the go-ahead homer in the seventh and the Yankees tacked on three insurance runs in the ninth for some rare breathing room.
It was a critical bounce-back win after Tuesday’s extra innings loss, and more importantly, it helped the Yankees keep pace with the Blue Jays, who beat the Orioles to maintain a one game lead over the Yanks for the second and final wild card spot in the American League.
“It was nice to give (closer David Robertson) a night off and (set-up man) Dellin (Betances) got a night off,” McCann said. “It’s a win-win.”
In three nights, the Yankees faced the past three AL Cy Young Award winners, and they went 2 for 3. That’s better than most expected, and while they didn’t knock any of them around, they were able to find enough offense to support some stellar pitching performances.
“It just shows you what our guys have done pitching, and our guys have put some good at-bats on these guys,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve pitched extremely well so far in this series and it doesn’t get any easier (Thursday). (Rick) Porcello is throwing extremely well.”
• Don’t look now, but McCann has been heating up after a rough first few months in pinstripes (rough from an offensive standpoint, at least). He’s now homered in back-to-back games and has reached base safely in 24 of his last 27. “It was a big moment in the game, and I was able to get a pitch up in the zone and put a good swing on it,” McCann said of his homer off of Verlander. “It felt really good to give the team the lead.”
• Verlander was sharp early, retiring the first 11 batters that he faced, and the Yankees really only did damage against him on two home run balls — one from McCann, and another from Chase Headley. Did they feel that he was more vulnerable later in the game? “I don’t think so,” McCann said. “You go seven innings and give up two runs, that’s a pretty good day at the yard.”
• Headley continues to help the Yankees in a variety of ways, and his fifth-inning homer was a no-doubter into the second deck in right field. “You look at what he’s done,” Girardi said. “On the first day (after being traded from the Padres), he gets the game-winning hit. He hits a big home run to tie up the game today off of Verlander. He’s made a number of outstanding plays at third base. He’s really shored up our defense over there, so he’s been a great addition.”
• You couldn’t help but feel good for Capuano, who did not allow an earned run over 6 2/3 innings and struck out eight. That was his highest strikeout total since August 17, 2012 and he has now tossed at least six innings in each of his first three starts with the Yankees. “Being designated (for assignment) by the Red Sox earlier in the year, it’s a tough feeling,” Capuano said. “I had to reset myself and get back on track.”
• What did the manager think of Capuano tonight? “I’ve seen him do this before, and that was one of the reasons why we went out and got him,” Girardi said. “If I’m not mistaken, he did it to us last year here. So, he does know how to pitch, and we talked about that. He gave us a great performance tonight. He knows how to change speeds, and he knows how to move the ball in and out. He used his curveball, he used his changeup extremely well tonight, too. Him and Mac had a good game plan.”
• And the catcher? “Everything,” McCann said when asked what was working for Capuano tonight. “He was locating on both sides of the plate, and when he’s got that changeup going like that, you’ve got to sit soft. He’s able to pound you in with the cutter and a four-seamer. Once he finds his release point, he’s very tough.”
• Capuano was pulled in the seventh inning after allowing back-to-back two-out singles, but Adam Warren came in and got a quick out to preserve what was a 2-1 lead at the time. Warren got into trouble in the eighth, thanks in large part to Stephen Drew’s two errors on one play, but he got two crucial outs with runners on the corners to end the inning. “I got behind (in the count) and (pitching coach) Larry (Rothschild) came out and said, ‘We’re not giving into these guys,’ ” Warren said.
• Warren didn’t pitch yesterday and talked after the game about feeling fresh. The Yankees were able to give Robertson, Betances and Shawn Kelley the night off tonight, which Warren thought was big. The Yankees have some bullpen depth, and Warren said that it’s been helpful to cycle guys based on who is the most rested. “It was huge to get your legs back under you,” he said. “I feel like we have a lot of guys down in the bullpen, so we can do that.”
• Drew has played solid defense so far at second base — a position he hadn’t played since high school before being traded to the Yanks — but you could see the growing pains on his double error in the eighth. “(Warren) picked us up,” Girardi said. “It was a tough play for Stephen Drew, and these are some of the things that when you’re a shortstop and you see a slow roller, you’re used to charging really hard to come get it. It’s just something he’s going to have to get used to, in a sense, but we feel really good about him there.”
• The defensive play of the game probably came from Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth when he robbed J.D. Martinez of an extra base-hit on a gorgeous catch before crashing into the wall. “You’re just hoping it stays in the park,” Capuano said. “I thought it was getting out. To watch Ells come up with it was exhilarating.”
• The Yankees tacked on three more runs in the ninth thanks to an RBI single from Mark Teixeira and a replay review that went in their favor. But the one negative to come out of this game was that Tex cut his hand while sliding into home plate, which required stitches in his left pinky finger. “I don’t think he’s a player for tomorrow, and I’m not sure what this means with the stitches. I didn’t have a chance to talk to the doctor, but he won’t be in there tomorrow,” Girardi said. “You have to deal with. We’ve had to deal with it all year long, and we’ll find a way.”
• Here’s Teixeira’s explanation of the play in which he got cut: (He referred to the cut as “really, really bad” and said that he thought he might have seen his bone.) “There was only a little bit of plate available,” he said. “I thought we had rules about that, but that’s a different story. So, I slid. I just got my hand in there and his foot was right on top of the plate and I slid into his foot instead of his cleat, so my hand got into his cleat.”
• Final word goes to Warren: “I think we’re playing good baseball right now, so I think we have a good chance to go out tomorrow and take the series.”
Associated Press photos