BOSTON -- It could be just a mirage -- the Boston Red Sox, after all, have one of the worst records in the AL and their pitchers gave the New York Yankees 12 free baserunners over the past two nights -- but it certainly appears as if the Yankees trade deadline acquisitions have revitalized what was looking like a tired, beaten roster just a couple of days ago.
Sunday night, Stephen Drew, a player no one seemed to want all winter and one the Red Sox gave up just four days ago, knocked in four runs, and Esmil Rogers, cut loose by the Toronto Blue Jays around the same time, threw three nearly spotless innings to earn his first win since last Sept. 8. Throw in Chase Headley, who has played a better than good third base since being acquired in a trade for Yangervis Solarte on July 22, and the Yankees look like a better team than they were even at the beginning of the season, when all the shiny, new, expensive toys in their roster were healthy and functioning.
Whether they make enough of a difference to sweep the Yankees into October, or at least keep them in the race long enough for help, in the form of Michael Pineda and maybe even Masahiro Tanaka, to arrive, remains to be seen.
But for the first time all season, the Yankees seemed to have plugged a few of the holes in both their lineup and their infield.
Drew, who was hitting just .176 after missing the first three months of the season while waiting for some team to acquiesce to Scott Boras' demands for a multi-year deal, had an RBI double, a two-run single, and a groundout that drove in a fourth run in the Yankees 8-7 win over the Red Sox in the series finale. And for a guy who hadn't played second base since he was a 10th grader, Drew has looked better than adequate there, as well.
"This is a good player," Joe Girardi said, and Drew is more than that. He is a good player playing for another free-agent contract, and the Yankees will need a second baseman next year. That's motivation aplenty.
Same goes for Rogers, whose fastball touched 95 mph Sunday night on strikeouts of Mike Napoli and Xander Bogaerts, and whose 86 mph slider completely fooled Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh inning. Rogers, who had been a starter last year for Toronto but control problems and HRs sent him to the minors this May. The Yankees dusted him off, and in his first outing, he gave them more than they probably could have hoped for.
Now, with David Phelps probably missing at least one start with inflammation behind his right elbow, the Yankees might even ask more of him.
"He’s obviously built up," Girardi said when asked if Rogers might be the man to make an emergency start. "Obviously we’ve got some time to think about it."
"I was starting in Triple A, and I'm healthy," Rogers said. "I'm just here for the opportunity, no matter what. Doesn’t matter what I’m gonna be, I’ll be ready."
Rogers admitted to feeling "like some butterflies" when he realized he would be going into a game the Red Sox were leading, 7-4, after four innings, but when asked if he was nervous on the mound, he said, "No. Why?"
Like Drew, Rogers has nothing to lose over these next 52 games, and everything to gain.
Martin Prado, perhaps the best of the Yankees' trade-deadline additions, has yet to start hitting -- he was 0-for-3 Sunday night and has one hit in his first eight at-bats as a Yankee -- but made an excellent running catch on a fifth-inning Daniel Nava drive to right, a position he had played for all of two innings in his previous nine seasons.
But it has been Drew who has been the standout so far, playing second base as if he hadn't really been a shortstop his whole life, and making more impact with his bat in three games than it seemed as if Brian Roberts had in the previous 107.
"I feel like my timing is coming around," said Drew, who tried to stay sharp during his three-month exile by hitting against high school kids. "My numbers for the last three weeks are better. I don’t even worry about looking at the board, I'm just trying to have consistent at-bats."
On the whole, the just-completed Texas-Boston road trip was not a success -- splitting six games against two last-place teams is unsatisfactory, especially since the Yankees desperately need wins and the Red Sox quite publicly ran up the white flag on their season on Thursday by dumping three of their starting pitchers -- but they head home now for a tough four-game series against the Tigers, and their three former Cy Young-winning starters, on the mini-roll of a two-game winning streak.
"Obviously we would have loved to do better," Girardi said. "But it could have been worse, too."
Without the help of three players with something to prove, it surely would have been worse, a lot worse.
Now, for the first time in months, the tired blood pulsing through the Yankees roster looks as if it might have gotten a shot of adrenaline.
The trick now is to make it last another 52 games.