Yankees showing they are not going away

By Rich Mancuso

If the New York Yankees manage to sneak into the post season as that second wild card team, they will look at their win in extra innings Sunday afternoon against the Chicago White Sox as one that helped them get to October. This time it was a Brian McCann 10th inning walk-off three-run home run that propelled them to their fourth straight win, 7-4, and a three-game sweep of the series.

Sunday it was McCann who came off the bench and became the hero.  The schedule won’t get easier during this stretch run, 22 of their next 31 games against teams with winning records. But the Yankees departed the Bronx as a confident team with momentum, after a 5-2 home stand that got off to a bad start losing their first two against the lowly Houston Astros.

There is this sudden fight that was not evident weeks ago. The Yankees are showing teams in front of them, and their fans, that they are not going away that easy. The next four games they play two of those teams with winning records, a makeup game Monday night at central division leading Kansas City and three at the Detroit Tigers.

After their Thursday afternoon finale in Detroit, perhaps there will be a better perspective regarding this Yankees late season surge for a post-season spot.

“It’s a much better feeling when we are leaving,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Consider who we were facing and were able to come back.” He was referring to the how his team coped with White Sox’ starter Chris Sale who came into the game as one of the premiere pitchers in the game at 10-3 and a 2.12 ERA.

 It was to the Yankees another big win of the year, just like the one they had Friday night when newcomer Martin Prado had a walk-off game winning hit in the ninth inning. And it was a huge win to keep pace with those teams in front of them. After opposing the Royals’ James Shield (12-6) Monday night, the task is trying to beat two of the Tigers best.

 Rick Porcello and David Price, both with records of 14-8, and with successful win ratios opposing the Yankees, could take  away whatever momentum was gained this week in the Bronx and over the past four games.

But don’t tell the Yankees they can’t do it. They say this is what baseball is all about and that they will be in this until the end.

“It’s what you play for,” McCann said about his sixth career “walk-off” hit, a home run that went over the 314-sign in the right field corner. It was his second dramatic game ending hit of the season that came off a change-up on a full count.  The Yankees are playing their best baseball of the season right now, again also taking into the fact that these last four wins have come against two teams that are playing for next year and have nothing to lose.

And as they say in baseball, you need to get the games that are winnable, and beat teams that you are expected to handle. The Yankees have come to realize how true that is.

The enthusiasm is showing in the clubhouse. McCann, who experienced his first award winning moment as a Yankee said “The atmosphere is better, everything is better.” Winning of course will change the environment and the post game clubhouse was distinctly different from what was seen after those two let downs with Houston that started the home stand.

The lineup Girardi put on the field was also different. McCann sat and Francisco Cervelli got the start behind the plate. Derek Jeter was in the leadoff spot for the third time this season and Brett Gardner, who has been the Yankees most consistent hitter, had the day off with a bruised right ankle that was sustained in their win Saturday.

As for what McCann did off the bench, Girardi said, “It just shows you that he had stayed ready all day. Mentally, he was ready.” Girardi did say that taking four of six would be a good home stand, and that’s good enough to keep this run going, realizing that at anytime the Yankees could once again revert to losing games in the late innings as they did so often this season.

But Gardner may have said it best: “A lot of times, the team that wins the World Series isn't the best team all year, but the team that gets hot. We're good enough. We just have to play the way we're capable of playing."

It will have to be a remarkable ending though for the Yankees to be one of those post season teams, but the way schedules are structured with teams they have to bypass, this stretch run could be to their advantage. They have to keep winning and that is always the prevailing question mark with this Yankees team.

And the win was almost questionable in the ninth inning.

Girardi went to his closer David Robertson for the save. He let a curve get away and was charged with his first blown save since June 1.  Avisail Garcia led off the inning and on the first pitch hit a home run that cleared the right field stands, thus ending 22 straight save opportunities, second longest in baseball this season.

 The manager may be using his closer at the right moment, and has been also seen again, the Yankees bullpen is overused and susceptible to the home run ball. Robertson was used a third consecutive day and gave up the game trying home run, Tuesday night to Chris Carter of the Astros.

Carlos Beltran is feeling better. The cortisone shot to a right elbow has put him back in the lineup and Beltran was a part of that inning before the McCann heroics when he doubled off losing pitcher Jake Peticka (0-3) with two outs.  Girardi said Beltran is feeling good and a healthy and productive Carlos Beltran is what the Yankees need to make this an interesting playoff run.

“We’re playing good baseball,” Beltran said. “Things are going our way.”  Six games out of first place in the division, as the made up some ground with the Orioles who hit a little struggle. That second wild card is in reach, 3.5 games separate them from Seattle and Detroit.

The late additions to this team have also made a difference. Chris Capuano made his sixth start and with the exception of giving up two home run balls, his six innings were effective. Girardi did say, the new additions make a difference because they are healthy and have experience.

But it all comes down to this: The Yankees these past four games have been a better team and this week it could determine if they are going to be playing for something down the stretch and not going away.

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