Yankees Postgame Notebook: A little is more than enough in win over A'sThe Yanks get just enough offense and pitching to top the A's on Thursday
On the mound, Masahiro Tanaka wasn't his usual sharp, dominant self, but he got the job done. In spinning his 12th-straight quality start and earning his ninth win of the season, Tanaka only struck out four and threw 104 pitches, but he also only allowed one run on five hits and one walk.
"With how hard they made him work, I think you could say it was maybe his biggest performance for us," manager Joe Girardi said of his hurler. "Shutting them down after he gave up an early homer, I thought it was a gritty performance. They're tough outs, and they make you work."
"As far as my personal performance goes, I don't think it was my best performance of the season," Tanaka added through his interpreter, "but given that the team has been in a bit of a funk, and that we were facing one of the best teams in the league, I was happy to be able to contribute to a win."
It was a tale of two halves for Tanaka, who retired 10 in a row after allowing John Jaso's first inning solo homer - the first home run he's allowed in over a month - before leaving two men on in both the fourth and fifth innings and escaping the sixth on a nice play up the middle by Brian Roberts.
"The batters battled, and that's Oakland's style," Tanaka said of the sudden change. "It was a tough game for me today, and I think the Athletics were really resilient; they didn't give in."
"I think he threw 45 pitches for the last four outs that he got, and they put some really long, tough at-bats on him, but he found a way to get out of those innings," Girardi added. "He never let up and kept going at them, and he ended up getting the big outs he needed to get."
The much-maligned-of-late bullpen made it hold up, as Dellin Betances was dominant in a 1-2-3 seventh, Adam Warren escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the eighth, and David Robertson stranded the tying run on third to lock down his 13th save of the season.
"It's important for our club that they bounced back, and it's important for them as well." Girardi said. "You don't want to let another one get away, and we didn't give them a huge margin of error, but they did a great job."
"We've been having a little slump in the bullpen too; when leads have come, we haven't been able to hold them," Robertson added. "But that happens in baseball. We were able to hold it down today, and it was a big win today."
Robertson and Warren were both beneficiaries of great plays, as Warren was helped by a running catch in right-center field by Ichiro Suzuki - who had pinch-run for Soriano in the previous inning - and Robertson took a comebacker that could've been a game-tying hit to center but luckily bounced into a 1-3-1 putout for the second out of the ninth.
"Off the bat I thought it would get in the gap, but it held up a little longer and Ichiro was able to get to it," Warren smiled about the Ichiro play, with Girardi adding that the catch was "very good, obviously a big play in the game."
Robertson, however, was perhaps even more relieved about his luck.
"I was probably the happiest guy in the stadium when the ball hit me," he said. "I was even happier to get an out of it; with Gentry on second, as fast as he is, if that one gets by me, he probably scores. But when I saw Tex had a chance on it, I was hustling over to get to first. I wasn't sure if I was at the bag or not, but when I reached back and felt it with my foot, I was pretty happy."
As for the offense, the Yankees managed just seven hits, but five of them came in the first three innings and that ended up being enough. The Athletics lucked out when a video review turned a possible Jacoby Ellsbury homer into a non-scoring double in the first, but Drew Pomeranz's luck ran out in the second when left fielder Brandon Moss misplayed Brian McCann's single and let McCann reach second.
McCann was summarily driven in by an Alfonso Soriano single to make it 1-1, and Brett Gardner's solo homer to lead off the third made it 2-1 and ended up being the difference. Soriano's seventh-inning double - on a ball Coco Crisp lost in the sun - and a Jacoby Ellsbury single off Jim Johnson in the eighth was the rest of the tally, but for Girardi, it's all good as long as it leads to a win.
"(Dealing with sluggishness) is part of my job; I've done it as a player and a manager, and you do your best to make the right decisions and put guys in a position to be successful," the skipper said.
And in perhaps the most shocking stat of the day, four of the Yankees' seven hits (and lone walk) came from lefties, with two of the other three coming from Soriano - who made a slight adjustment after going 0-for-his previous 16.
"I was working yesterday on my timing. I watched some video with (hitting coach Kevin Long) and saw that I need to let the ball come to me, so that's what I did - I stayed back and waited for my pitch," Soriano said. "I feel much better today."
"I think it was important, and I thought his at-bats were pretty good today," Girardi added of Soriano. "Most of his struggles have been against lefties, and that's why I ran him out there again today. He's had good at-bats against lefties, and we'll get him going."
All in all, it adds up to a win, and even though they were just 2-5 on the homestand, the finish is huge for the Yankees as they head out on a 10-game road trip.
"It's important to try to build on this win. Kansas City has some very good pitching and dangerous hitters in their lineup, so it's an important win for us as we go on the road," Girardi said. "We've played pretty well on the road, and hopefully that can continue because we have a long trip ahead."
A few more notes from the final game of the homestand:
-Carlos Beltran was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but Girardi said "I'm not going to judge him on one day," and Beltran himself was just happy to be back: "I felt like the game was going real fast, but I've been in these situations before. I missed three weeks, so I wasn't really expecting to go out and feel great, but I felt good (physically)."
-Girardi again relied on the Betances/Warren/Robertson trio to finish the game, but in a stretch of 17 games in a row, he knows he won't always have that luxury with the young arms: "You just do the best you can with the guys, see how they are and try not to overuse them. Sometimes I'm going to make judgments on my own based on what I think they need, because sometimes people try to play hero and we don't want to have them end up on the DL. But, I knew they had yesterday off and I needed them today, so I used them."
-Robertson's appearance was his third straight in a tied or one-run game, but he knows that as the team's closer, you have to take what you can get: "You get into a lot of stretches during the season where the game is really tight, and it's taxing on you, but that's what we're paid to do. Tight games mean we're going to get more chances to pitch, and more chances to prove how valuable you are."
-Soriano's 2-for-3 performance wasn't just huge in the box score, but also in his head: "Sometimes when something's wrong it gets in your head, but we found something and I got some hits, so now my mind is more relaxed."
-We'll give the final word to the skipper, with his responses to a pair of questions about whether or not Tanaka was the "ace" of the staff and how important it is that he has been so consistent: "The most important pitcher is the one pitching that day, and that's who you want the ace to be; when you take into consideration what he's done in Japan, he's the most experienced, and he's definitely stepped up here and done a tremendous job for us. … I think there's an expectation when he goes out there that he's going to shut down the other club and give you a chance to win, and that's nice."