Yankees Postgame Notebook: 4K today, four-game sweep tomorrow?
It wasn't a walk-off like Tuesday, but it was close enough, as Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer with two outs in the eighth gave the Yankees their final cushion in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays.
The homer broke an 0-for-17 slump for Soriano, who was on a tear before the last few days, and manager Joe Girardi summed up the slump-busting homer in three words.
"He was due," Girardi said. "He got a knuckleball up in the zone, and he's had some success off knuckleballers - he had seven homers and 14 RBI, and he added to that. It was also a good at-bat by Robby (Cano) to get on for him, too."
That broke a 2-2 tie and made a winner out of David Huff, who relieved the spot-starting Adam Warren in the third inning and allowed only one hit in five shutout innings - even making a nice defensive play to get him out of a jam.
"Adam Warren, to give us what he gave, and then David Huff…tremendous job by both of them," Girardi said. "They were really important. We've had to use our bullpen a lot, so it was important to give a few guys the night off, and it was an outstanding performance."
"All I had to do was execute pitches," Huff added. "I had a great defense behind me making plays, so all I had to do was throw strikes.
For Warren, who left after 61 pitches and three-plus innings, the start was "a little different" considering he's been coming out of the bullpen all year, but he said he didn't do anything differently and just tried to go as long as he could.
"I have my routine, but I tried to keep that the same and pretend I was coming out of the bullpen for a long relief outing, and the biggest thing was just trying to go as long as I could," Warren said. "I wasn't sure how long I could go, but I tried to give us a chance to win and Joe told me to go as hard as I can. I ran out of gas a little at the end and had more base-runners than I wanted, but I feel like I battled through it and kept us close."
And when he was done, Huff turned in a five-inning outing that he said was helped by the fact that roughly half of Toronto's lineup has spent time in Triple-A at some point this season.
"I've had a few nights off, so I knew we needed length tonight and I tried to give it," Huff said. "I've seen a lot of those guys while I was down in Scranton - Gose, Pillar, and Kawasaki for sure - so I had a pretty good feel on them and knew what they could do."
He even helped himself with what he called a "lucky" defensive gem in the eighth, scooping up a Josh Thole sacrifice bunt in the no-man's land between first base, second base and the mound - executing a backhand glove flip to first to get Thole.
"I got lucky," Huff joked. "Nine times out of 10 I'll throw that up the line or too short or over Lyle's head, but I got it that time."
That set the stage for Soriano's heroics and eventually for Mariano Rivera, who struck out two for his 37th save, despite Girardi not knowing until game time whether or not "The Sandman" was even available after pitching both ends of last night's doubleheader.
"I talked to him after BP and he said he felt good, and I talked to Larry (Rothschild) and Hark (bullpen coach Mike Harkey) before game and said 'Mo said he feels good, and if the situation arises, I'm going to use him'," Girardi said. "But, I probably won't use him tomorrow."
Rivera even got a defensive gem to help him out, as he picked off Rajai Davis at second on a slick play between he and Robinson Cano, one that Girardi pointed to as a turning point.
"Robby was playing close to the bag and its fortunate; the guy in the box was the tying run, so that's a huge out," Girardi said.
And as for "Ichiro 4K," Rivera said it was "an honor and a privilege" to play with the surefire Hall of Famer, and both Suzuki and Girardi had different takes on that.
"I'm sure it's special for him, his family, and his country, and it's nice to get it out of the way," Girardi said, "and it's a testament to how hard he's worked, how long he's been in the game, how he stays healthy and the way he goes about his business - he's a great player, and he's been a great player for a long time."
As for Ichiro?
"When you play for the Yankees for so long, you get good at making comments like that," he joked. "But I'm very honored that he said that, and what I realized today is that the Yankees are so used to great things like this happening, they're good at presentations and ceremonies like this."
On such a momentous day, the only negative - and a big one - for the Yankees was that infielder Jayson Nix suffered a fractured left hand after being hit by a pitch in the second inning, and it's possible that he could miss the remainder of the regular season.
"I feel terrible. He's going to be out for a while, and I feel really bad… after a great day for him yesterday and what he's done for our club, playing so much shortstop with Jeter out and Nuney going down," Girardi said. "I always talk about Nixy being a guy who just does things right. The things that he contributes don't always show up in the box score, but he's a guy that just makes good decisions and does things right."
Girardi wasn't sure what kind of move the Yankees would make to replace Nix, only saying that immediately activating Derek Jeter, who is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment in Scranton on Thursday, was "very unlikely."
In the end, when Thursday comes, the Yankees will be going for a four-game sweep of the Jays, and the last word goes to the skipper on how his team is pulling together and, win, lose or draw, they've made this run to the playoffs an epic one.
"I think our team believes a lot. You can tell by the way the guys are playing. The schedule hasn't been easy, but everyone's playing hard and everyone's contributing. Think about our players; we have guys who have had 40 home runs who sit down, guys with 4,000 hits who have sit down, guys with Silver Sluggers and All-Stars who have sit down…everyone's contributing and it's all about the team. No one is complaining about playing time and I applaud them for that."