Thursday, June 16, 2011
Updated: June 17, 8:06 AM ET
Yankees finish homestand strong
By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- They were embarrassed, bullied and swept by the Boston Red Sox.
They lost Joba Chamberlain for the season and Bartolo Colon and Derek Jeter for at least a couple of weeks, and were forced to rely on a myriad of neophytes to step up on the grandest stage.
And yet, despite all the trials and tribulations they had to endure during their most recent 10-game homestand, the New York Yankees will head to Chicago for Friday afternoon's series opener against the Cubs at Wrigley Field a season-high 11 games over the .500 mark (39-28).
"I think the best thing, and I've said it over the course of the last couple days, is our ability to reset and forget no matter what good or bad has happened the previous day," Curtis Granderson said after the Yankees' 3-2, 12-inning walk-off victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday afternoon capped off a 6-4 homestand. "You saw it again this series with us scoring so many runs the first two games and then not so many [Thursday], but we've just tried to find a way to be victorious at the end of the game."
The Yankees had just completed a 6-3 West Coast road trip and were flying high when they kicked off a three-game set with the Red Sox. But Boston pummeled New York, outscoring the Yankees 25-13 and putting them right back in their place -- second place in the American League East -- prompting Alex Rodriguez, after the Yankees lost six straight games at home to the Red Sox to open a season for the first time since 1912, to call the team's effort "embarrassing."
Infamous Yankee killer David Ortiz was having his way at the plate, while Red Sox pitchers were imposing their will on Yankees hitters -- whether they were plunking them or getting them out.
Boston had finally started looking like the juggernaut it was thought to be at the beginning of the season, while New York was looking like the most flawed yet talented team in the majors.
"That homestand started off terrible with those three losses to the Red Sox," manager Joe Girardi said. "And to play the way we did and respond against a couple other first-place teams like we did -- and when you think about it, the game we lost, we lost 1-0. I'm very proud of our guys."
Despite not having the services of Chamberlain (Tommy John surgery), Colon (strained left hamstring) and Jeter (right calf strain -- his pursuit of 3,000 hits will have to wait), the Yankees were able to close out the homestand with a 6-1 mark, thanks in large part to several unsung heroes.
David Robertson (4.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 SO in his past four appearances) has solidified the eighth inning in front of Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, and 24-year-old rookie Eduardo Nunez (4-for-11, home run, two RBIs in his past three games) has looked like a very competent replacement for Jeter. Meanwhile, journeyman Brian Gordon, a 32-year-old converted outfielder, stole the show Thursday afternoon in an emergency outing in place of Colon, surrendering just two runs in 5 1/3 innings. And a patchwork bullpen featuring the likes of Hector Noesi and Cory Wadecombined for 6 2/3 scoreless frames in relief.
"Ever since last year, (we've had) guys that can come in and pick up the slack," said Granderson, who currently is tied with first baseman Mark Teixeira for the major league lead in homers with 21.
It was Granderson and Teixeira who failed to deliver game-winning RBIs for the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth Thursday, but Brett Gardner picked them up three innings later, smacking a single into right field that plated Granderson from second and sent an elated bunch onto the field in celebration. And it all culminated in Gardner receiving a signature pie in the face from A.J. Burnett after picking up his third career walk-off hit and first since Aug. 16, 2008, versus Kansas City.
"We just battled as a team," said Russell Martin, who has played in just two of the past nine games because of a stiff back. "That was a big knock by Gardy. It was a collective effort, and those are the types of wins we need to have."
There's no question the Yankees took their bumps and bruises -- they were hit by a pitch 13 times, including at least once in eight games -- during the homestand, but they also inflicted their share of damage. In their past seven games, they scored at least nine runs four times and outscored the Indians and Rangers 51-19.
Yes, they're still trailing the Red Sox in the standings. But after enduring another humiliating Boston massacre, it could be worse. Much worse.
"It doesn't matter against who or who you're playing next; you want to turn things around as soon as possible," Gardner said. "And we were able to do that after they left town against Cleveland and Texas."
|Brett Gardner's hit in the 12th inning lifted the Yankees to the sweep over Texas. |
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.