Yankees Postgame Notebook: 'That felt real good'New York's 6-0 win Friday night provides many reasons for optimism
No answer he gave seemed to satisfy the critics, so perhaps it was best that Nuno himself silenced them by spinning 5 2/3 innings of two-hit, shutout ball in the Yankees' 6-0 win over the Red Sox on Friday night.
"I've had confidence in him, because he's had some good outings for us and given us some chances to win," Girardi said, "and I think (the performance) was important to him. It's important to our club, too; he seems to always bounce back after a tough stretch, and he did that tonight after a rough outing last time. That's what you need guys to do."
"I haven't changed my routine since day one; I just kept trusting my stuff and pounding the zone," Nuno added, "and this was another day that I had an opportunity to prove I can pitch. It's a big series as we head to the break, so if I can go out there and help the team win, it's huge."
As both Girardi and catcher Brian McCann noted, Nuno rarely fell behind, which means that he wasn't in a position to make a mistake that could end up out of the ballpark - and when he can do that, the lefty is often successful.
"I thought his location was outstanding. He never had a real long inning, and he mixed all his pitches in," Girardi said, and McCann added that "he really answered the bell tonight. He established the strike zone and stayed out of hitter's counts."
"I was trusting all my pitches and getting after it and attacking hitters," Nuno said of the performance. "Mac did a great job calling the game; I really don't shake him off, because he has a game plan, so I just went out there and did what I had to do to get outs."
Offensively, the Bronx Bombers made the long ball a bug-a-boo for Boston pitching, with Johnson and Brett Gardner going back-to-back in the fourth to turn a 1-0 lead into a 4-0 advantage. McCann later added a two-run shot in the eighth for some extra breathing room.
"When you can put up crooked numbers in multiple innings, it's really important," Girardi said. "Those two tack-on runs were important - and it was a big hit for Mac - and that's what we want to see."
"It was nice to get a little cushion for Nuno to work. It's a lot easier to pitch when you have some breathing room than when it's 1-0 or 2-0," added McCann.
As much of a boost as it may have been for Nuno, it was also a boost for the team as a whole, who had gone through a hitting slump over the last couple weeks but now seems to be coming out of its shell with some recent outbursts.
"It seems like we've been hitting a few more (home runs), so I believe they're going to come," Girardi said. "We've gone through some up-and-down times, but I believe these guys are going to contribute and put up numbers."
Added Johnson: "Even though all we needed was one, it was nice to score a lot of runs."
With both Nuno and the offense clicking tonight, the bullpen had no choice but to make it a trifecta of successes, even if it was all but over by the time Dellin Betances relieved Nuno with two outs in the sixth. No matter, as he, Adam Warren, and Matt Thornton put up a string of zeroes and allowed just two runners to reach.
"They've been on point lately," Nuno said, "and it was great to see them do so well tonight."
"It's all about keeping momentum on your side; you give up a run here or there, and they think they can get back in it, so you want to shut them down," Warren said. "Momentum is a big thing in baseball, so if you can keep it on your side it's huge."
And perhaps paramount to all of it, the Yankees did it all efficiently, with the pitchers allowing just three hits total and the game going a brisk two hours and 42 minutes
"I think our mentality is be aggressive and trust our stuff," Warren said. "If you do that you're going to be efficient, get them to put the ball in play and get quick outs."
A few more notes and quotes from a jubilant Yankees clubhouse:
-Johnson hit his first home run since May 3, the homer "a good feeling" that helped both him and Nuno stay relaxed: "It gave us some breathing room, 3-0 is a tad easier to work with than 1-0…and when Nuno's on, he's as easy to play behind as anyone."
-McCann had two big hits, including an opposite-field single in the fourth that put him on ahead of Johnson's homer, and said both were huge for him: "I got a fastball away and put a good swing on (the single), and (the home run) I got a 3-1 fastball kind of middle and was able to drive it, which I haven't done a lot of. It was good to actually drive a baseball."
-The skipper on McCann's shift-beater: "He's done it before, but obviously it helps him stay on the ball. I don't want him to get away from what he does too much, but when you can start hitting the ball the other way, it changes how people defend you."
-On a night where they became the first pair of over-40 position players to start in the same game for the Yankees, Ichiro was 0-for-4 and Derek Jeter was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Not a bad first game in his forties for Jeter, to which Girardi surmised that "I'm not so sure he feels 40, which is a good thing."
-Girardi and the training staff came out to check on Betances after he slipped on the mound in the seventh, but they were quickly shooed away. The skipper's humorous explanation: "He said his stride was a little long on that pitch…well, it's long on every pitch when you're 6-foot-8!"
-Sticking with pitching, the parting shot goes to Girardi, explaining why he believes in Nuno so much: "He's a fighter, and he's beaten the odds and worked his way up. He's not a guy who throws 95 or has a wipeout slider; he just goes out and finds a way to get it done. He throws strikes and doesn't get intimidated by situations, and he gives you everything he's got."