Twenty six games to go, and the Yankees are five games out of the second wild card. They need to make up more than a game a week and climb ahead of three different teams, and that’s just to sneak into a playoff spot that didn’t even exist two years ago.
It’s certainly not ideal.
“If you could go win 26 in a row, you’d probably be in pretty good shape,” Joe Girardi said. “Saying that, that’s not easy to do.”
Nope. It’s certainly not. Then again, I’m not sure what else Girardi can say about a situation that more or less speaks for itself. Maybe that’s why I didn’t really have a problem with Brett Gardner getting himself ejected in a big spot last night. Yes, Gardner was the No. 3 hitter, and the Yankees could hardly afford to lose a key hitter.
But at least someone made it clear that the game mattered.
I honestly don’t doubt the Yankees’ desire, and I do think they’re putting in the effort, but I don’t think a veteran group like this shows its sense of urgency in a way that’s easy to see. The Yankees talk about staying even keel, and guys like Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran have learned to be that way, but it’s not a bad thing to have someone show some emotion about the situation.
If he had it to do over again, how would Gardner handle last night’s called strike three?
“The same way,” he said. “As soon as he called it a strike, I was getting thrown out of the game. He threw me out before I even said anything to him. I knew where the ball came across, and I knew it wasn’t close to the plate, and I wasn’t happy about it. … Frustrating game, frustrating loss, and we’ll do it again tomorrow.”
Associated Press photo
One pitch off the plate. Was that the difference in this game? It was a big situation, bases loaded in the fifth inning, and Brett Gardner’s been good enough this season that the Yankees had him hitting third. Gardner took the pitch, Tim Timmons called it strike three, and Gardner immediately flung his bat and slammed his helmet.
“I saw the replay of it,” Gardner said. “Obviously it was outside, right where I thought it was. Obviously I got frustrated after my first two at-bats, and then I felt like I got the bat taken out of my hands in a big situation. Pitcher’s on the ropes, and I just let my emotions get the best of me.”
Gardner said his outburst and inevitable ejection had nothing to do with the bigger picture. He said this wasn’t about a team that’s lost five of seven, and it wasn’t about an offense that now ranks 13th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored. But at this point, how can some of that frustration not come boiling over from time to time?
“Did I think at this point in the season we would have score more runs? Absolutely,” Joe Girardi said. “In this ballpark? Absolutely. But it hasn’t happened for various reasons. We need that to change.”
Thing is, the Yankees have been talking about needing that to change for months now. Rather than changing, it seems that they’re sticking with the same script. Tonight, they were beaten at home by a pretty bad team. A team that’s played poorly, anyway. This was an opportunity, and the most explosive thing the Yankees did was slam a helmet to the ground.
“It’s not like you can just say, ‘We’re going to win tonight,’” Mark Teixeira said. “The effort level is there. That’s one thing. We’ve been battling all year. We’ve been fighting all year. The effort level is there. That’s not going to change no matter what the standings are. Some nights, it doesn’t matter how much effort you give, it’s not enough.”
Coming out for a pinch hitter in the ninth inning wasn’t simply an opportunity to give Chris Young an at-bat in a game that was already pretty far out of hand. Turns out Prado felt something in his left hamstring. Dr. Chris Ahmad was at the stadium and gave a very preliminary diagnosis of a “tight hamstring,” but there are obviously tests scheduled for tomorrow.
“That’s not someone that we want to lose,” Girardi said.
Before he got hurt, Prado was 2-for-3 with a home run in this game. He is hitting .429 with four doubles and two home runs in his past seven games at Yankee Stadium. In his past 16 games overall, he’s hitting .381 with six doubles, four homers and 11 RBI.
• Shane Greene’s 10th big league start was definitely his worst. This was his first loss since July 21, snapping a six-start undefeated streak. Although Greene said his location was clearly the problem, he wasn’t sure what caused the control issues. “I’m not real sure,” he said. “I felt really good in the bullpen, and then even when I was out there, so I’ve just got to keep working at it.”
• The Yankees had won each of Greene’s past five starts.
• Six runs were a career-high, and 2.2 innings were career low. “It’s my first one (like this), and it probably won’t be my last one like this,” Greene said. “Just got to keep grinding.”
• Girardi on Greene: “He had (his slider) for strikes at times and he could expand, but he never got the counts really in his favor to expand with it. He just had a tough start tonight. … It’s going to happen. They’re not going to be perfect, we know that. Greenie’s thrown the ball extremely well for us all year long. He just had a tough start tonight. It’s going to happen. You don’t want it to happen now, but they’re not going to be perfect.”
• Although Larry Rothschild went to the mound once during the two-run first inning, he never went out during the four-run third inning. “I leave that to Larry,” Girardi said. “He knows his pitchers and he knows what they need. Every once in a while I’ll send him out if I want to stall, but I leave that to Larry.”
• When Prado singled in the fifth, the runners ahead of him had to hold up because it seemed the ball might be caught in left field. Prado didn’t realize they weren’t running and was caught between first and second base when he finally realized Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran had stopped. “Prado was looking at the ball, and that’s going to happen,” Girardi said. “That’s normal, but you also have to look at the people in front of you.”
• Did Girardi have a problem with his No. 3 hitter getting ejected from the game at the end of that inning? “It’s human nature,” Girardi said. “That’s the fight in him. That’s what we love about Gardner. That’s the fight in him and it’s frustration and it’s a lot different when it’s 3-2 in that situation with the bases loaded, (down) 7-3. He has to throw a strike, and we all know Gardy has a very, very good eye. He knows strikes and balls, Gardy, so he got frustrated with him and I think most people would have.”
• Was the pitch a ball? “(David) Ross did a heck of a job,” Girardi said. That’s a yes.
• Prado has now hit five home runs in 29 games with the Yankees. He hit five home runs in 106 games with Arizona earlier this season.
• Stephen Drew appeared in his 1,000th career game when he entered in place of Gardner in the top of the sixth (Drew went to second, Prado moved from second to left).
• Chris Young and Chaz Roe each made their Yankees debuts tonight. Young struck out in his only at-bat and Roe allowed four base runners in his only inning. Another September call-up, Rich Hill, also got in the game. Hill was up last month and re-added when rosters expanded.
• Final word to Girardi: “I think I’ve made it known, the importance of these games. If you could go win 26 in a row, you’d probably be in pretty good shape. Saying that, that’s not easy to do. These series are extremely important and it’s not how you want to start off a home stand.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi made a change at the top of the order today, just not the change so many have been suggesting. Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the leadoff spot, Brett Gardner is batting third for the first time, and Derek Jeter is still right in between them as the No. 2 hitter.
“For the first four months of the year, he was probably one of our most consistent hitters,” Girardi said. “One of the three most consistent hitters in our club. I consider us kind of to be in playoff mode right now, for us, because we obviously need to win games. Throughout his career, he’s been clutch in the playoffs, and we’re leaving him there. He’s a hot topic always just because of who he is, but there’s other issues that we have in our club that we have to get better at as well.”
Is there pressure to keep Jeter in that spot for his final month?
“No, not necessarily,” Girardi said. “… If I had eight other guys hitting .300, it probably wouldn’t be difficult (to move him down). When you look up and down at our numbers, we’ve had a number of guys that have had tough years. Years that we wouldn’t have projected. So (if) I move him, who am I going to put there? That’s my question. Who you going to move there that’s been more consistent during the course of the season. We haven’t hit collectively as a team, and to single him out is not fair. … (Rank) 13 out of 15 in runs scored. That’s not all Derek’s fault. That’s collectively we haven’t hit.”
Of course, it’s hard to know how much of Girardi’s persistence with Jeter is because of external pressure — because of who Jeter is and what his final season means — and how much is because of the disappointing hitters around him. The Yankees really haven’t had many consistent alternatives. Martin Prado is hot right now, but his first few weeks with the team were underwhelming. Gardner is coming off a bad month. Mark Teixeira is coming off a terrible month.
“(Jeter) could hit .600 and if the other guys don’t produce around him and through the lineup, then it’s not going to matter what he hits,” Girardi said. “So, as I said, it’s going to have to be a collection of all these guys that can swing the bat extremely well. And if one guy’s not, the other guy picks him up. That’s the bottom line.”
• Masahiro Tanaka has been examined by Dr. Chris Ahmad, who diagnosed him with nothing more than arm fatigue. “Every manual test that they did came out really well,” Girardi said. “They just said he had some arm fatigue. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen sometime this week and hopefully he’s ready to do it.” Tanaka played catch today and apparently had no issues.
• For those confused by the move: Putting Tanaka on the 60-day doesn’t really mean much. Those moves are always retroactive, and he’s missed close to 60 days already. He could still come back this season.
• David Phelps threw a 25-pitch bullpen this afternoon (fastballs and changeups), and he’s scheduled for a 35-pitch bullpen on Friday (all of his pitches). Phelps said he expects to throw a simulated game on Sunday, and that might be the final step toward getting him off the disabled list and into the bullpen. “I know that we’ve been going kind of conservative with it just to make sure everything comes back,” Phelps said. “All of the steps have been good along the way, so it shouldn’t be too long.”
• Of the Yankees eight September call-ups, five are relievers. Two of those — Whitley and Mitchell — are basically long men. “Obviously pitching is always important this time of year,” Girardi said. “It gives you more options, with a doubleheader coming up eventually here.”
• Why John Ryan Murphy but not Austin Romine? “The organization made the decision to go with (Murphy),” Girardi said. “Obviously I don’t get to see either one of them play a lot. So they went with Murphy.”
• Not much of a surprise that Chris Young got a call-up. I have to imagine that was a condition of any contract he was looking to sign after being released. “(He’s) been pretty productive in his career off left-handers,” Girardi said.
• If there’s a surprise among the call-ups, it’s certainly Antoan Richardson. “Speed off the bench,” Girardi said. Richardson played with Atlanta a little bit in 2011. He was 26-for-27 stealing bases with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he also had a .380 on-base percentage. Kind of a custom-made September call-up, just wasn’t sure the Yankees would actually make the move to get him on the 40-man.
• Zoilo Almonte was designated for assignment after leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in home runs and RBI this season. After Almonte struggled in New York last season, Girardi just never seemed to have much faith in his ability to hit big league right-handers the way he did in Triple-A. His splits are so extreme that, despite being a switch hitter, he’s likely a platoon player at best. Last year might have been his opportunity to show something, but he hit .236/.274/.302 (vRHP .250/.296/.342).
• Why Gardner batting third? “He’s probably been as good against right-handers as anyone in our lineup,” Girardi said. “I left Jake in the one hole. My concern in switching the guys when they both were going well was that they’re both going well, why move them. So I put Jake in the one hole when Gardy got hurt and he did extremely well. I’ll leave him there and just put Gardy third.”
• On Ellsbury’s health: “I saw him run on Sunday, which, I was really encouraged,” Girardi said. “He said he felt better yesterday and felt better today and that’s why I have him in center. In saying that, I told him, look, if you feel that it’s an issue out there you’ve got to let me know. If you feel you need to DH a day, you have to let me know.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees made David Price throw 28 pitches in the first inning. In the second inning, their first two hitters singled. Price pitched out of each jam, but already the Yankees offense was showing some signs of life, and that was before the nine-hit third inning.
“It’s fun, but you don’t see that very often,” Derek Jeter said. “We had some good at-bats. We were lucky we found some holes. That’s why you play the games. Price is as good as anyone in baseball, so we were fortunate. But we needed it.”
They did need it, and that’s the real significant of what happened that inning. It’s not only that the Yankees batted around — nine straight hits, straight through the order — against one of the best pitchers in baseball, it’s that they did it one night after seeing their five-game winning streak come to an end.
This team has repeatedly crumbled just when it’s seemed things are finally going their way, so to regain momentum right away felt significant.
Their past three wins came in games started by Chris Sale, James Shields and Price.
“It’s important,” Joe Girardi said. “We’re talking about winning series, but the other thing is who we’re playing. This is one of the teams in front of us. It’s the last time we see them and the only chance to make up ground that we can rely on ourselves, so we need to win.”
Players said they didn’t realize what exactly had happened after Francisco Cervelli got that RBI single that chased Price from the game. The Yankees obviously realized they were having a good inning, but Jacoby Ellsbury said he didn’t realize everyone had gotten a hit until Kevin Long told him.
“I realized there was no outs when I was on second base,” Brett Gardner said. “But I didn’t realize we had already hit around the order a full time.”
It just kind of happened. There were a few hard-hit balls. A few grounders that found a hole. One infield single when the shortstop simply had no play.
“It’s tough to get that many hits, even if the guys hit the balls on the screws,” Ellsbury said. “… It builds confidence, you know? You want to be the next guy up, just keep the line moving. Even though we only scored that inning, I thought we still hit some balls hard and still had great ABs the rest of the game.”
Said Gardner: “It’s surprising to get three or four hits against him over the first couple of innings, to be honest, as good as he is. We just had some things go our way. Some balls fall. Some guys swinging the bats well. It was a big inning for us.”
• For obvious reasons, Shane Greene was pretty thoroughly overshadowed by the lineup’s one big inning, but the Yankees rookie starter delivered yet another gem of a pitching performance. Two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts through seven innings. The Yankes have won each of Greene’s past five starts, and they’re 5-0 when he starts on the road. “I got to give the credit to Cervy,” Greene said. “I’ve been following his lead for the most part. He knows these guys a lot better than me, so I just listen. Every once in a while I’ll shake him off, maybe two or three times in a game, but other than that, it’s all him.”
• This was Greene’s second strong start against this dangerous Detroit lineup. The big difference this time: Miguel Cabrera was in the lineup (he had the day off last time Greene faced the Tigers). Cabrera had one double against Greene, but Greene got him the other two times they squared off. “I live for that,” Greene said. “I live for those moments.”
• Greene’s key pitch is almost always his sinker, but tonight his slider was tremendous. “I hope it’s good for me every time,” Greene said. “But Cervy will let me know if it’s not or if it is. Just stay with him, you know. Probably by the second I could tell I had a good slider.”
• Why go to Dellin Betances in the ninth inning? “He’s had about three days off,” Girardi said. “And I was well aware of who was the tying run and the winning run, too. I didn’t want to get a couple guys on and then have to get Robby in, so I just felt I would go to Dellin. He was up and hot, so I thought I’d go to him.” — Had the Tigers put together a ninth inning like the Yankees third inning, the tying run was Miguel Cabrera and the go-ahead run was Victor Martinez.
• Because Seattle lost, the Yankees pulled within 2.5 games of the second wild card. They also gained a game in the division. “I didn’t look at (the out-of-town scoreboard),” Ellsbury said. “I know if we play well and we do what we’re supposed to do, it’s going to take care of itself. Obviously I’ll check tonight.”
• What’s Greene thinking as the Yankees offense has that big third inning? “Sometimes you think, hurry up, I want to get back out there,” Greene said. “But it’s nice when a team can go out there and put up runs like that. … When you put up that amount of runs it’s more of just, I need a quick inning, don’t give them any chances, don’t back down. Something like that.”
• Gardner said his ankle felt pretty good. “I was happy with the way it felt,” he said. “Obviously there’s still a little discomfort, but I felt pretty close to full-speed so I was happy with it.”
• Ellsbury leads the Majors with 28 games with two-or-more hits and two-or-more stolen bases since 2008. He had two of both tonight.
• The Yankees are 8-0 this season when Jeter has two or more RBI.
• A few third-inning facts: The Yankees were two shy of the Major League record for consecutive hits in an inning. … The last American League team to have nine straight hits in an inning was Detroit in 1996 (the Cardinals did it last year). … Nine hits was a single-season high for the Yankees. So was right runs. … This was the second-shortest outing of Price’s career and eight earned runs matched his career high.
• Rock solid pregame ceremony by the Tigers, who included Jeter’s family — his nephew stole the show by tipping his cap — his high school coach, former teammates Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain, Tigers greats Al Kaline and Willie Horton, and various kids from Jeter’s foundation in Kalamazoo. “I thought it was very nice that they involved my family and our leadership program from Kalamazoo,” Jeter said. “We appreciate it a lot. It was a class act by a class organization to include them. Our foundation means a lot to us, and for them to include them, it meant a lot to us.”
• Final word to Jeter on how badly the Yankees needed to keep last night’s loss from becoming a losing streak: “We don’t think like that,” Jeter said. “We think we have to win a game. We had to win today, now regardless of what happened today, we need to win tomorrow. That’s the approach you have to have. You can’t think about winning streaks and losing streaks; we just have to play well.”
Associated Press photos
Assuming the rain goes away, tonight will be Derek Jeter’s eighth start at designated hitter this season. He’s still a long way from his single-season career high — 25 DH games in in 2012 — but it seems significant that four of those turns at designated hitter have come in his past nine games.
Now that Carlos Beltran is available to play some right field, it’s clear that Joe Girardi is taking advantage of the opportunity to get Jeter a half day off now and then. Perhaps it’s strictly a rest issue. Perhaps it has a lot to do with Stephen Drew’s glove.
“I’m in the mode that I’m just taking it day by day,” Girardi said. “But with Carlos being able to go into the outfield once in a while, it gives me more flexibility to do this. … We’ve had some long stretches. We have a lot of lefties coming up the next five days after today where he’s going to play (probably at shortstop), so try to give him a little blow when I can. And I thought today was probably a good day. Two plane flights in two days, and as I said, we have day games after night games, so we’re going to need him in there a lot.”
Obviously Jeter prefers playing the field, but he said he understands the DH days, and he seems to embrace them — even when he’s had so many these past couple of weeks.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve done it,” Jeter said. “What, three or four times this year? I think a couple of years ago, in 2012, I may have done it 20 or 30-something times. Because of injuries, Carlos had to DH, so I haven’t really thought about it. My job is to come here, and when I’m in the lineup, play. I like to play every day. I like to play shortstop every day. Everyone is aware of that. But I get it. I understand it. We’ve had a long stretch here. I think we only have a couple of more days off, and then we have another long stretch at the end of the year. So, I don’t know what his plans are. My job is to play.’
Late last season, we saw Girardi use Mariano Rivera a little more heavily, making sure to get every last bit out of the retiring closer. Would he do the same with the retiring shortstop, running him out there with very little rest down the stretch?
“I don’t think I can play him much more than I’ve played him,” Girardi said. “He’s played in all but about 10 games maybe, maybe a few more than that, but there was a time when he missed three because his leg was bothering him. But when you get in these long stretches, these 13-game stretches, I’ve usually given him on day off. And that might be all he gets in this.”
• Brett Gardner was hoping to run today, which he sees as the final test for his sore ankle. If he can run today, he thinks he should be available in some capacity tonight. Gardner didn’t run at all the past two days. “Hopefully that goes well and I’ll be available to play tonight,” he said.
• Here’s Girardi on his approach to the Gardner injury: “My concern was: he said he felt better but he needed to run,” Girardi said. “Gardy’s pretty tough, and Gardy’s played through a lot, which made me believe that it’s probably not 100 percent, which it might not be for a while. This extra day will probably do us some good. My concern is that he favors it, or that he gets out there and he can’t run, and then I’ve got to make a change. It can just really mess things up.”
• Not much concern about Mark Teixeira’s hamstring. “I think you’re always going to watch it a little bit,” Girardi said. “I think the day off probably helped, and we just tell him to play smart. I mean, he did play smart the couple of days that he had it, so he’s just going to have to continue to do that.”
• Masahiro Tanaka threw today, and as long as he still feels fine tomorrow, he’ll remain on track to throw a simulated game on Thursday.
• Initial Arizona Fall League rosters were announced this afternoon. The Yankees are sending RF Aaron Judge, 3B Eric Jagielo, OF/IF Tyler Austin and 1B Greg Bird. They’re also sending pitchers Caleb Cotham, Branden Pinder and Alex Smith. There remains a TBA spot on the roster listed as a Yankees catcher. Pretty interesting group of position players. I actually thought Ramon Flores might go, but I guess not. Jagielo seemed like a near lock in my mind after missing so much time. Bird and Austin make a lot of sense too.
• On the current Yankees momentum: “I think they feel pretty good about themselves,” Girardi said. “But the thing about baseball is you’ve got to go do it every day. It starts with your starting pitcher that night, and I don’t know how you could for any more (than) what Brandon McCarthy has done, but we need him to continue to pitch like this.”
• On the importance of three games against a team that’s also in the mix for the second wild card: “You’ve got to win the series. It’s extremely important. We know they’re a very good team, and we’re facing a good pitcher tonight who didn’t give up too many runs against us the last time. But Brandon pitched really well. You’ve got to win games.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees are making a one-day stop in Kansas City to make up for a early season rain out. I’m not there and will pick up the team tomorrow night in Detroit. A few quick things as the Yankees prepare to face James Shields for the second time this season.
That’s brutal luck, by the way. They caught him during the original trip to Kansas City — he went six innings, no earned runs — and now they have to face him again. And they could face him a third time when Kansas City comes to New York early next month.
Shields is awfully good, and the Yankees could see him three times (amazing, considering he plays for a team the Yankees were supposed to face in only two series this season).
Anyway, a few notes…
• Sounds like Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup for two reasons. He does have awful numbers against Shields, but he’s also been bothered by a nagging left hamstring issue for a few days now. The combination of a mild injury and a tough pitcher seems like a good enough reason to give Teixeira a day off. By the way, he’s setting some sort of record for the most nagging injuries in a season. Maybe everyone deals with this stuff, but for whatever reason we keep finding out about all of Teixeira’s bumps and bruises.
• Speaking of bumps and bruises, Brett Gardner is going to sit out one more game because of that sore ankle. He is planning to do some drills and said he hopes to play tomorrow.
• Not sure it means a whole lot — it’s not like we ever see any team make a ton of acquisitions this time of year — but Peter Gammons reports that the Yankees are one of the teams putting in a lot of waiver claims lately. He actually quotes an official saying the Yankees are, “claiming everyone.” Just giving themselves some options as some of these guys potentially hit the market.
• Two Yankees minor leaguers have been suspended under the drug policy. Right-handed pitcher Andy Beresford and first baseman Leonard Thompson have each received a 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for an Amphetamine. Beresford is with Charleston and Thompson is in rookie ball. Not to knock them, but I honestly didn’t recognize either name.
• Yangervis Solarte seems to be making a positive impression out in San Diego. At the very least, he seems to have set himself up to have a career as a utility man who can hit a little bit.
• Anyone want to bring back Nixy? The Pirates designated the familiar infielder, but even with expanded rosters around the corner, there seems very little reason to actually bring Nix into the mix for the Yankees. They’re already plenty versatile, they have three guys who can play shortstop, and Zelous Wheeler seems like a similar option at second, third and the outfield corners.
Associated Press photo
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
The schedule won’t let the Yankees give Hiroki Kuroda six days off before every start down the stretch, but they were able to give him that many this time, and it seemed to make a difference. Coming off a rough outing against Cleveland, Kuroda looked like a dependable piece of the rotation again this afternoon.
At times, he looked like more than that.
“When he’s got his stuff darting like that to both sides of the plate, he’s tough to beat,” Brian McCann said. “… He was splitting both sides of the plate, kept them off balance all day. They came out really aggressive, he slowed them down a little bit with some offspeed early in the count. He pitched awesome.”
Last time out, Kuroda couldn’t make it through the fifth inning, and the Yankees would like to believe that was simply a bump in the road, not a sign that he’s about to begin the down-the-stretch collapse that became familiar the past two seasons. Before that disappointment last Sunday night, Kuroda had pitched to 3.49 ERA in his previous nine starts.
“The two extra days, I was able to physically get refreshed, as well as mentally,” Kuroda said.
Kuroda is the only part of the Opening Day rotation that’s lasted the whole season. He had a pretty rough month of April, but he’s been pretty consistent ever since. There have been some short, ineffective starts mixed in there, but he hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs since the beginning of May.
“He had everything in his arsenal today,” Joe Girardi said. “I think it was important because people would start asking questions, ‘Is he tired?’ Maybe the extra days helped him. … We will do it when we can. Unfortunately, we lose one off-day going to Kansas City where he could have been afforded it, but I think he’ll only go one start this time through with five days. It should help, yeah.”
• Mark Teixeira’s home run was No. 361 in his career, passing Gary Gaetti and tying Joe DiMaggio for 80th place on baseball’s all-time list. He was the first Yankees hitter to reach 20 home runs this season, the latest they’ve gone into a season without a 20-homer guy since 1995 when Paul O’Neill reached that number on September 12.
• Brett Gardner’s two-run signle in the fifth inning gave him 52 RBI for the season, matching his single-season career high. For a little while, Gardner was tied with Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury for the team lead in RBI, but both Teixeira and Ellsbury drove in runs later in the game.
• That two-run single up the middle was a huge hit for the Yankees, who had been hitless in the game until the batter before, Martin Prado, came through with a double. For a team desperate for offense, that Gardner at-bat felt like a must-have opportunity. “I’m thinking about trying to get a run across, you know?” Gardner said. “I’m just thinking about trying to find a way to get a pitch to handle. I’m definitely not thinking negative thoughts.”
• Including Gardner and Prado, five straight Yankees reached base with two outs in that fifth inning. “You get an excellent at-bat from Stephen Drew, a long at-bat (for a walk),” Girardi said. “A long at-bat from Prado, then Gardy gets the big hit there. Then Ells; a big hit as well as Jeter. To be able to put those together when it looks like you have nothing going and he’s rolling along with a no-hitter, it’s big.”
• It was Ellsbury’s first hit of the road trip. He was 0-for-17 on the trip before that two-out RBI single.
• Derek Jeter has a hit in 12 of 14 games this month. He went 4-for-13 this weekend. Of his 11 hits against the Rays this season, seven have come with two strikes. How’s that for relatively obscure stats coming from the Rays media relations department?
• After allowing those back-to-back singles in the first inning, Kuroda retired his next 17 in a row. “I think my slider, especially against righties, was a pretty decent staple,” Kuroda said. “For me, the thing was I wanted to pound the zone today and be aggressive; a lesson from the last time.”
• Kuroda threw 72 pitches in the first six innings, but he threw 25 pitches in the seventh before being removed with two outs. Shawn Kelley got a huge strikeout to get Kuroda out of the jam. Really, that might have been the at-bat of the night. Runners were left stranded at the corners, and it was only a one-run game at the time. “That’s a huge out, obviously,” Girardi said. “If he doesn’t, they’re going to tie the score and have a chance to take the lead. It’s a really big out.”
• Dave Robertson has now converted 21 straight save opportunities. Oddly, though, he hasn’t had a strikeout in three straight appearances. He’s stuck at 499 career strikeouts. This is only the fifth time in his career that he’s gone three consecutive outings without a strikeout. He also did it back in April.
• McCann on returning to the lineup after more than a week off: “Good after the first couple innings. I felt it get in game speed. The first couple innings were a little fast on me, but then (things) settled down and it was just like another game.” McCann said the speed of the game struck him more behind the plate than at the plate.
• Yet again, excellent infield defense for the Yankees. Chase Headley made a diving play at third, and Martin Prado made at least three really nice plays at second. “It was really good,” Girardi said. “They made some excellent plays. Prado made some excellent plays today and some tough plays. You can look at the play in the eighth inning where he doesn’t try to do too much; he understands to just get an out. It was outstanding.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “Well, we’ve won our last two games. Obviously we’ve got another off-day tomorrow and hopefully we’ll go home and have a good week at home. We didn’t do what we wanted to do in Baltimore and obviously losing Friday night here, but the last two days have gone pretty good. We continued to pitch great and hopefully this week our offense can pick up the slack and give our pitchers a little breathing room.”
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “We’re running out of time” • 08.16.14
One week ago, there was some actual optimism around this Yankees team. Maybe not enough evidence to think the team was out of the woods and on its way, but certainly reason to think they just might be ready to at least make it interesting. As of last Friday, the Yankees had won three of four against the Tigers, six of seven overall, and they’d just scored 10 runs against the Indians. They were seven games above .500 and had generally played pretty well since the All-Star break.
They haven’t won a game since. And the offense – even with its new additions filling the bottom of the order – has scored just seven runs in its past five games.
“Morale’s down a little bit,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “But it’s our job to try to keep it up and keep guys as positive as we can during a time like this. That’s one of our biggest challenges. We’ll stay at it, come ready to work tomorrow. We need something to turn. And we need it to turn in a hurry.”
As of tonight, the calendar is crossing into the second half of August. There’s a month and a half remaining, there are three teams between the Yankees and the second wild card, and it could be five teams if the Yankees are swept this weekend at Tropicana Field.
“We’re running out of time,” Brett Gardner said. “Every day that goes by and we don’t win, it makes us one step closer to being home at the end of September.”
Alex Cobb pitched well tonight. A few days ago, the Yankees were beaten by Cory Kluber, who’s been terrific. But at some point, tipping a cap is a pretty empty gesture. At some point, the Yankees are simply a team that other pitchers see as an opportunity to pad their own stats.
“You want to score four or five runs a game,” Long said. “That’s what you set out to do. Sometimes the pitching doesn’t allow you do that. Sometimes there’s days when I feel like we really should, and we don’t do it. Against a Corey Kluber, or this guy tonight, it’s understandable that the runs are going to be down. But you’re going to have some days where — not to throw Chris Tillman under the bus, but he didn’t have his best stuff the other night. That’s a guy where you want to capitalize and take advantage of it. Again, when you have a couple guys like tonight, and Kluber, and before that we faced the three Cy Young guys, there’s going to be tough days. But some of those other guys, we should be able to get to.”
Joe Girardi seems to have settled into a stance of absolute confidence. That’s his approach — really, it’s his personality — and it’s honestly hard to imagine this veteran roster responding to some sort of fiery speech from the skipper. Girardi is trying to show confidence that veteran hitters will eventually hit. Maybe he believes in them, they’ll believe in themselves. While Mark Teixeira said he thought morale was just fine, there’s a definite sense in the clubhouse of players who realize the margin for error has worn extremely thin. And everyone is well aware that the offense is the biggest culprit.
“It’s not really baffling,” Teixeira said. “We’re just not getting the job done. You win and lose as a team, and we definitely haven’t been winning as a team lately because up and down the lineup, we just can’t get it done. We all need to step it up.”
It has to happen soon, because just one week after things seemed to be coming together, it’s all falling apart again. And there’s not much time left to pick up the pieces.
• Quick injury update: Brian McCann said he doesn’t really expect to be activated tomorrow. He said he’s really shooting for Sunday. Today was the first time he’d done any on-field drills since the concussion.
• Leadoff man reached base five times for the Yankees, and at no point did that runner advance past first base. But the best run-scoring opportunity was the eighth, when both Jacoby Ellsbury and Teixeira struck out with the bases loaded. Those are the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, in case you’d forgotten. “And we weren’t able to do it,” Girardi said. “You’re where you want to be in the order, but we weren’t able to come through with a hit.”
• Here’s Teixeira on the idea of hitters trying to do too much in those situations: “That’s natural,” Teixeira said. “If you’re not scoring runs as a team and you get up there and there’s a man on first (you think), ‘If I hit a home run here, we’re back in the game.’ Or, bases loaded, ‘I have to get a hit here.’ Yeah, that’s natural. That’s baseball. That’s why you win and lose as a team because if you’re relying on one guy to get the job done, or you yourself think ‘I’m the only one that’s going to get the job done,’ you’re not going to score runs. Good teams feed off each other. Unfortunately, hitting’s contagious, but not hitting is contagious as well.”
• Of course, here’s the line everyone will love: “I felt like we had a chance (in the eighth) until that guy came out and just made quality pitches,” Teixeira said. “Ells and I were talking about, we didn’t feel that we got a pitch to hit. The guy throws 96 with a good changeup, and we just couldn’t get it done.”
• Quite often guys like Long or Girardi will say that at-bats are good even if results aren’t. Long wasn’t saying that tonight. “At-bats, the last five days, they haven’t been as good as they probably should be,” Long said. “That tells me guys are probably trying a little too hard. There’s not a lot of laughter, there’s not a lot of at-ease at bats, and that makes this game even more difficult.”
• Brandon McCarthy wasn’t hit hard tonight, but he got no run support and took his second loss. Not a lot of ease for the pitching staff, either, when the offense is struggling like this. “It puts pressure on all of us,” McCarthy said. “I know the hitters are feeling it. Anytime you go through this, it affects as a team. You feel it. It’s not a me situation of woe-is-me, they’re not scoring runs. We’re not scoring runs. That’s something I’m sure that weighs on everyone, and everyone is doing what they can to correct it. It’s not a time to have your own personal feelings hurt and worry about yourself.”
• Bad first inning for McCarthy, which he said was all about not feeling quite right in the bullpen during warm-ups, and carrying that feeling into the game. “First inning, I didn’t really have a feel for anything. Warming up, I felt really weird. Same in the first inning. I went out for the second and everything kind of felt normal again, and I was able to get back in a groove and throw strikes. First inning was just kind of weird.”
• Twice the Yankees had a chance to turn a double play in the first inning, and each time they couldn’t do it. Neither was a routine double play, but each seemed to have at least a chance. Girardi didn’t seem to have a problem with the Yankees not turning them, and neither did McCarthy. “I know one kind of ate Stephen up, and Chase has to reach for that other one,” McCarthy said. “Some days those might turn into double plays. Some days they’re tougher plays. I’ve got to do a better job of not getting into that jam where you’re relying on something happening behind you.”
• Headley snapped a streak of 62 straight games without an error at third base. His career-high errorless streak at third is 67 games.
• Derek Jeter actually reached another obscure milestone tonight. It was his 1,007th multi-hit game with the Yankees. According to Elias, that’s the third-most since 1900 for a player with one team, passing Hank Aaron who had 1,006 with the Braves. Stan Musial had 1,59 with the Cardinals and Ty Cobb had 1,211 with the Tigers.
• Final word to Teixeira: “It’s definitely getting late. I said it when we were in Baltimore, or before that series, every game is kind of must-win at this point. We really need to win some games. There’s definitely a sense of urgency in here. We just haven’t been scoring runs.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees pregame: Tanaka still in play • 08.04.14
Masahiro Tanaka tested his right elbow for the first time since his platelet-rich plasma injection three weeks ago. He threw 25 times at 60 feet in the outfield. And the elbow passed its first test.
So how does he feel?
“Good,” Tanaka said in English.
“I thought it went all well,” he added in Japanese.
Tanaka said he felt “relieved.” The hope is he can be a starter again for the Yankees for the final month.
But Joe Girardi wasn’t ecstatic because this was only the first step, just a light catch. Tanaka is scheduled to play catch again tomorrow.
“It’s a positive day, but there’s still a long way to go,” Girardi said.
Obviously mound throwing will be the real test of whether the ulnar collateral ligament will hold up.
Girardi needs a starter for Friday night against the Indians now that David Phelps has gone on the DL with elbow tendinitis. Michael Pineda threw 58 pitches for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Sunday, plus another five in the bullpen. Pineda said he was feeling good and in a normal routine now. Could Pineda be a possibility for Friday?
While Girardi didn’t rule it out, he made it sound unlikely. He would like Pineda built up to at least 90 pitches, which would take another two rehab starts. Girardi did say that he thought the start would likely be taken by someone on the staff now.
Brett Gardner was named the AL player of the week after batting .478 with five homers and seven RBI in six games.
“It’s been fun, and if he wants to do it this week, that’ll be great, too,” Girardi said.