Yankees Postgame Notebook: Veteran savvy helping Yankees excel

05/02/2013 12:34 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

David Phelps went 5 2/3 innings and gave up four runs in the Yankees' win Wednesday night.(AP)
On Wednesday, the Yankees won their sixth series in their last seven with a 5-4 victory over the Astros in the rubber match of their three-game set at Yankee Stadium.

David Phelps had a Jekyll-and-Hyde outing, cruising through the first three innings before Houston batted around in the fourth, but the bullpen gave the Yankees 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and Boone Logan ended up getting the win.

Phelps spoke at length about his all facets of his outing, but one of the things he said was that he was most frustrated with himself about was that he may have let an opportunity to seize a full-time rotation spot slip through his fingers.

"One of the reasons I was frustrated with today is because I could've grabbed the reins and taken care of things," he said. "But it's baseball; it happens and we just have to do better the next time."

The bullpen bailed him out, however, and both Phelps - who just a week ago was one of the relief corps - and catcher Chris Stewart praised the back end of the staff and their consistency.

"They do a great job. Coming into this start I just wanted to pitch as deep as I could, because I know the back end is the strength of our bullpen," Phelps said. "I did the same the other night, and we got a couple wins."

"(The bullpen) takes pressure off the starters because they know they don't have to go deep into a ballgame to get a win," Stewart added. "They're going to focus on each inning and try to get the ball in the bullpen's hands."

And, when it comes to that fourth inning, manager Joe Girardi knows that it's going to happen with young pitchers like Phelps, but a lot can be learned from it. "It's going to happen. A lot of times you'll see the veteran guys who are consistent winners figure out how to get out of those innings," Girardi said.

Other news and notes from around the clubhouse as the Yankees prepare for a day off:

-It won't show up in the box score, but the play of the game for the Yankees may have been Lyle Overbay's decision to stop running on Ichiro Suzuki's grounder in the sixth, a move that forced Houston to have to turn a 4-3-6 double play but also allowed Brett Gardner to score what was the winning run. "I'm out anyway either way, so I'm just trying to be smart," Overbay said. "I don't think they double up Ichiro if (Jose Altuve) throws to second, and it's not like I was going to be able to get in there and take out the shortstop, so it was kind of a no brainer."

Joe Girardi said he gave Overbay "a lot of credit" for making a "very smart, heads up play," and chalked it up to a veteran knowing the situation and once again coming through when needed.

"Veterans have been through a lot of situations in their career. Sometimes when you have a lot of veterans you have to manage days off a little bit more, but they make heads up plays," Girardi said. "They know how to play the game. They're not going to get frazzled by situations and that's really important because those situations are going to come up time and time again during the season."

- Although he was pinch-hit for in the fifth inning, Ben Francisco had his best game of the season, walking in the second and hitting a solo home run in the fourth. Francisco said he knew he was in a hitter's count and was looking for a fastball over the plate - which he got - and he hopes this game, even if truncated, is the beginning of a renaissance after he hit just .103 in April.

"It's nice to contribute and get the first home run out of the way, and it's nice to get going," Francisco said. "Everything in the past is the past, so you can't worry about it; you focus on your next at-bat and the next day. I've had about 30 at-bats and it's early; I'm not off to the start I wanted to get off to, but I'm confident that I'm going to turn it around."

With a very lefty-leaning team right now, Girardi said the righty-hitting Francisco is one of the guys he'll need to lean on at times, and praised tonight's performance as a step forward.

"We hope that it gets him going because we are pretty left handed and we could use some of those right handed bats to step up," Girardi said. "I don't know how many left handers we saw in this stretch, but we saw a lot; we don't always worry too much about our lefties against left-handers, but it's nice to get the day off once in a while and there's some splits we can really take advantage of."

-One of Girardi's top lefties, Ichiro, went 2-for-4 with a walk, and he is now 13-for-31 with three walks over his last eight games. Suzuki was hitting just .200 after April 21 loss in Toronto, but has gotten back up to .279 in the last nine days and has rewarded his skipper's faith in keeping him in the lineup.

"He's just done this time and time again in his career, so I think when he gets hot we'll have a shot," Girardi said. "You remember the series he had against Toronto where it seemed like he had 12 hits in one day. He can get hot."

-On the injury front, Mark Teixeira did in fact take some swings in the batting cage today, doing both tee and toss drills, and Girardi said that progress is "a move in the right direction."

"He took some swings (and) he said he felt really good," Girardi said. "He will do it again, I'm assuming Friday, and we will try to continue to progress. It's a step in the right direction."

-And, finally, as the Yankees wrap up a stretch of 16 straight days, Girardi was very happy with the state of a team that went 11-5 in that stretch and won four of five series.

"I feel pretty good. … We lost Cervelli, but for the most part we stayed pretty healthy during that stretch and won a lot of games, so I'm pleased."

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