Yankees Postgame Notebook: It's not how you win, it's how often
On the mound, it was a tale of two halves for CC Sabathia, who was perfect through three innings but then gave up five runs on seven hits before departing with two outs in the fifth, a situation that surprised the big southpaw but was one Girardi calculated with cunning at a "pivotal" moment.
"The first three innings he was really, really sharp, and then the first run he gave up was a ball off the end of the bat and then a jam shot," manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm sure he was surprised about coming out because he's not used to coming out of games, but I felt it was the right move. (Danny) Valencia's job is to face left-handed pitchers and he's swung very well, so I thought I'd bring in a righty."
"(Being taken out) did (surprise me), but I guess I can't be surprised by anything that happens this year," Sabathia added. "I'm just grinding it out and trying to do anything I can to help the team win. The way the year's been going, I don't blame him."
Sabathia still ended up as the winning pitcher, and the whole of the situation illustrated Girardi's pregame point about the offense needing to pick up the starters on days where they aren't as dominant.
"We got behind and we were able to come back a couple times. We got some big home runs and base hits, and it was a nice job all around," Girardi said. "We feel that our lineup is a lot deeper and we have some guys that can swing the bats down there, and that helps. Ichiro gave us that big two-run home run there that put us ahead.
"(The comeback was) unbelievable, and that's what I always talk about is, 'If I can keep these guys in the game we have a chance of winning'," Sabathia added. "I was barely hanging on there, but they were able to get a bunch of runs."
All in all, though, the only result that mattered was the notch on the left side of the win-loss ledger.
"I didn't think he threw like the numbers indicated, they just put some balls in some good spots," Girardi said, with Sabathia adding that "I feel like I threw the ball pretty well, there were just a couple times where they were able to get to me and it turned out to be not as good of a start, but we won."
Speaking of that offense, the Yankees were also quiet for three innings before Alfonso Soriano's two-run blast - his 12th in 32 games as a Yankee - gave them back a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
"He's playing like an MVP. You look at what he's done over the last month, those are MVP numbers when you put them over six months," Girardi said of Soriano. "He's stealing bases, he's playing defense…he's been a complete player for us."
"I try to keep it simple, see the ball and swing at strikes and make a good swing," Soriano said. "I'm working hard, and when I get to the plate I try to be selective and wait for my pitch….I'm working hard every day and I love what I do, so I just try to keep getting better every day."
Sabathia surrendered the lead in the next frame, but the offense responded with a five-spot in the bottom of the fifth that saw four consecutive extra-base hits - including a two-run shot by Ichiro Suzuki - and seven straight batters reach in all.
Curtis Granderson and Mark Reynolds got that rally started with back-to-back doubles, the latter of which was the first of Reynolds' three hits. He has now had two consecutive games with three hits and is 7-for-12 in the last three games after going 5-for-26 in his first nine games, a streak he credits to a slight adjustment in his swing.
"It's definitely kept me on time more, I've been able to recognize more pitches, not swing at as many balls, and make better contact," Reynolds said. "Hopefully I can stay consistent with it. You never have this game figured out, but it's good to rebound and have a couple good games in a row."
"He's a guy that can carry a club. That's the type of power he has," Girardi said. "I went with a hunch because he was swinging the bat well, and he had three more hits today."
The Yankees added their final run in the seventh on an Alex Rodriguez RBI single, but a potential threat ended when the inning ended on a bizarre play. With runners on second and third and two out, Granderson dropped a bunt down the third base line against the shift - the second time on the night he tried that - but Soriano was caught in between. He had to race home because Rodriguez was already almost to third, but he was easily tagged out on what was a 1-2 force from the pitcher to the catcher.
"I'm okay with it because Sori can basically get at least halfway down the line; it's a read by Sori and it may have shocked him, but I don't have a problem with it," Girardi said. "I'm not giving him the bunt sign, but if they're going to give Curtis a base, we have some guys now who can hit the ball out of the ballpark behind him, so I'm okay with it."
"It surprised me; my mind said stay but my body said go, and it was too late," Soriano said of the play. "Next time I have to be more ready."
It ended up not mattering, as after a mix-and-match sixth and seventh, Girardi turned to David Robertson for a four-out appearance and then turned the ball over to Mariano Rivera for the ninth - a pattern he said he wouldn't hesitate to use again if need be in the right situation.
"There are days you don't have to make as many moves and those days are fine too, but there could be some days like this," he said. "We had an off day and some guys have had some days off, so I felt like I could to it. I can't do it every day because I'll wear them out and they'll struggle, but I felt like I could do it tonight and I'll do it when I can."
"The situation doesn't matter, I still have to come in and make quality pitches, and I was fortunate tonight to be able to sneak out of a jam," Robertson said. "We did a good job out there; CC battled long enough to keep us in the ballgame, the offense was great, and once we got the lead, all we had to do was hold it…it seems like our offense is really firing right now and hopefully it will continue."
And going back to his thoughts on picking each other up, Girardi knows one day will always be different from the next, so he just hopes the right buttons click when they need to.
"I hope (this offense can continue), but let's get the pitchers right too. We have to click on all cylinders. We may score runs one night and not the next, and that's when the pitchers have to pick up the hitters."