Having gone nearly two weeks without scoring more than four runs in a game, a group of Yankees hitters gathered this morning for an “enough is enough” meeting. Brett Gardner said they “cleared the air” a little bit. Chase Headley said a few players talked about playing with more energy and emotion.
“Play the way that we’re capable of playing,” Headley said. “We understand that we’re a lot better offensively than we’ve shown. That was kind of the point, to come out with a little bit of fire and hopefully put some runs on the board.”
The Yankees showed exactly that kind of fire during a three-run spurt in the second inning, but the reason they won this game and avoided a sweep rested almost entirely on Brandon McCarthy. Maybe the offense is ready to do something big and turn itself around, but for at least one more day, the pitching did the bulk of the heavy lifting.
This was McCarthy’s ninth career complete game and fourth career shutout. He hadn’t thrown one in more than a year, and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to throw one today. Even though it doesn’t show in the scorebook, McCarthy said he started to fatigue in the fifth inning and felt “wobbly” through the middle of the game.
Whatever McCarthy was feeling, apparently Francisco Cervelli would have none of it.
“He was angry with me,” McCarthy said. “He was like, ‘Your stuff’s so good, let’s go. We’re going to get all the way through this.’ From early on in the game, he was on me. He was just making sure I knew what we were doing, what the plan was, making sure that I continue to execute it. And then when I was lulling a little bit, he made sure to stay on top of me. He was yelling at me more than anything, which was that nice little kick in the a** that I needed.”
A three-run game when the Yankees again had just one hit with runners in scoring position wasn’t exactly the offensive explosion they wanted, but this was absolutely the win they needed. An early lead, a quick and dominant performance by McCarthy, and the team’s third victory since August 8.
In the clubhouse afterward, Ice Cube’s early-90s anthem “It Was a Good Day” blared from the speaker that sits between Cervelli’s and David Huff’s lockers. Maybe it wasn’t a perfect day — not a big offensive day — but McCarthy made sure it was still a good day.
“What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working,” Brett Gardner said. “So hopefully we can take this momentum, carry it over into the weekend and play some better baseball. … It was a good talk (during the pregame meeting) and hopefully we continue to do what we did today – and that’s win.”
• Headley and Gardner each indicated that the pregame meeting wasn’t necessarily called by anyone in particular — at least, not that they were willing to identify — but Gardner said there “might have been” some coaches involved in the conversation. “Just some of the position players got together and said enough is enough, and let’s go,” Headley said. “… It was just, let’s get on the same page and let’s go. I know everybody wants to win, everybody’s working, everybody’s doing the right things. You need that little extra sometimes and I think sometimes those little discussions – I don’t know if you’d really call it a meeting – but getting those guys together and getting guys on the same page can go a long ways.”
• Pretty funny quote from Gardner when asked what he meant when he said the team “cleared the air” during the meeting. “I just told Derek how much I didn’t like him,” Gardner said. Pretty good line.
• But seriously, did the offense need a meeting like that? “I don’t think it ever hurts,” Gardner said. “At this point, we’re trying to mix things up a little bit. … A lot of guys talked. It was good. Hopefully a game like today kind of gets us going a little bit and we can carry that momentum over into the weekend.”
• It was Headley who first mentioned the meeting, and while he didn’t really seem embarrassed to have spilled the beans, he seemed intent on creating the proper impression of what it meant and what it was about. “It was just guys getting together and kind of talking about how things have been going and what we can get better at,” Headley said. “It’s not a matter of trying harder. I promise you, there’s not a lack of effort in here.”
• Speaking of Headley, he had the only RISP hit of the game to drive in two of the Yankees three runs with a second-inning double. Two RBI were his most in a game since July 18 with San Diego.
• McCarthy was 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA in Arizona. With the Yankees, he’s 5-2 with a 1.90, the lowest ERA of any Yankees pitcher who’s made at least one start this season. “I think my pitch mix is better now,” McCarthy said. “The cutter and the four-seam have become pitches I can use as weapons again. In turn, that just starts to build confidence. Kind of becomes a self-fulfilling thing. In Arizona, I’m not getting out of jams and not performing well. That starts to roll (the wrong way). Here I feel confident again. I feel like I’m able to get through situations I wasn’t there. Then you start to believe you can. It’s just kind of the story of the season, riding those ups and downs. In the future I’d like to mitigate that a little better, make sure you don’t get too high, too low.”
• Biggest jam of the game was the seventh inning when McCarthy allowed a one-out ground-rule double that put runners at second and third. That was one of the moments when Cervelli got on McCarthy and made sure he was on top of his game. “I didn’t want to give any runs,” Cervelli said. “So I kind of feel like we can strike the next guy out and work with the next one, and that’s what he did. Just tried to give him a little push and that’s it. But he was so great.”
• McCarthy described Cervelli’s between-inning conversations as “yelling.” How often does Cervelli have that sort of interaction with a pitcher? “It depends on the situation,” Cervelli said. “Just trying to make him believe that he was so good today, and I wanted it for the whole game, just to let the bullpen breathe a little bit too.”
• More from McCarthy on the role of Cervelli in getting him through nine innings. “In the dugout it’s just a stern, ‘Hey lets go. You stay with me. Let’s go we’re going to get through this.’ Even after the seventh where I’m fighting through that inning and getting out of a jam, you feel like you’ve left everything there, he’s like ‘C’mon, we’re going to go back out for the eighth. We’ve got more in us. We’re going to keep going.’ And that’s a great thing to have when you feel like you’re fatiguing, and it’s someone else who says, ‘Let’s go, you’re going to come with me.’”
• Girardi had Dave Robertson up in the ninth inning and said he was going batter to batter with McCarthy. If a runner got on, Robertson was coming in to finish it off, but McCarthy retired the last eight batters he faced.
• Funny how, as he’s continued to play so well, Gardner has become a go-to source for big picture comments in the clubhouse. With that in mind, we’ll give the final word to Gardner: “It was nice to have a quick game and a win. Obviously we would have liked to score more than three runs, but at this point we’ll take a win any way we can get it. It’s good to get back on the right track and hopefully have a good weekend against the White Sox.”
Associated Press photos