The slump is over.
On a night the Yankees completed their seventh consecutive win (sixth straight at home for the first time since 1998), thanks largely to another good pitching performance by Michael Pineda, the star of the game, for me, was first baseman Greg Bird.
After Aaron Judge’s apparent home run in the second inning was ruled a triple due to fan interference, Bird smashed a 'no-doubt-about-it' 444 foot homer to right, scoring Judge. The Baseball Gods smiled. Mystique and Aura were alive and well, and dancing throughout the Stadium.
Bird was 3-for-3 for the game with two runs scored and the two RBI’s courtesy of the long homer. He raised his batting average by 100 points (from .038 to .138). It was a beautiful sight to see. Bird’s bat is instrumental to the long term success for the team so it was great to see the strong offensive explosion. Maybe he did take my slump-busting advice after all (reference to Mark Grace's infamous slump buster quote).
A week ago Saturday, when the Yankees stood at 1-4, it was hard to be optimistic. Now, at 8-4 and just a half-game behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles, the glass is half full once again. If not for the Orioles (8-3 in one less game), the Yankees would be tied for the best record in all of Baseball.
Michael Pineda delivered a very solid pitching performance, allowing only two runs in seven innings of work. He did allow six hits (including Yadier Molina’s home run in the seventh) but he walked only one and struck out six. I was thinking to myself that the Yankees pitchers, excluding Masahiro Tanaka (so far), seem to be playing a game of ‘one-up-manship’. But then I came across a Jordan Montgomery quote. “Yeah, well every staff I’ve been a part of, (when we) get rolling like this, we’re all just trying to beat the last guy that were out there. Kind of one-up him, and one-up and then one-up.” Yep, he one-upped me. Now, if Masahiro Tanaka could join the One-Up Party.
Hats off to Ronald Torreyes. He was not my choice for starting shortstop when Didi Gregorius but the so-called “Toe” has been a great fill-in. He drove in two with a ground rule double in the eighth inning to push his team-leading season RBI total to ten (two more than the Aarons who both have eight). I am looking forward to the return of Gregorius, but Torreyes has impressed. He’s doing his best to ensure that Ruben Tejada never puts on the Yankee pinstripes at Yankee Stadium.
I hate to say that I was nervous with a 9-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning but I gotta admit that Bryan Mitchell had me a little worried. The inning did not start well with a double by Eric Fryer. A wild pitch advanced Fryer to third, and Mitchell ended up walking the next batter (Jedd Gyorko) on four pitches. Randal Grichuk then hit a ball toward third which Torreyes made a great stop but then hurriedly threw the ball to second baseman Starlin Castro for a force out attempt. The throw was too low and Castro couldn’t come up with it, and Torreyes was charged with the throwing error. Fryer scored on the play. A home run at that point could have brought the score to 9-6 (too close for comfort). Fortunately, Mitchell settled down and got the next three batters out by strikeout and two fly balls, and it was game over.
I felt bad for Matt Holliday as he missed his second game with the lower back stiffness. So it wasn’t much of a reunion for Holliday with his old mates, and he finished the series with his Friday night performance (0-for-4, three strikeouts). Per Manager Joe Girardi, he was available to pinch-hit so hopefully that means he’ll be back in the saddle tonight against the Chicago White Sox. Of all the things I want to see with the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury as the clean-up hitter has not been one of them. Hopefully, Girardi is able to pencil in #17 for the clean-up spot tonight.
Playing the Chicago White Sox brings a few former Yankees back to the Bronx. Starting pitcher Jose Quintana, Closer David Robertson, relievers Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak, and outfielder Melky Cabrera. Friday night, in a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, the White Sox made “Garcia” history when every starting outfielder was named Garcia. Willy in left, Leury in center, and Avisail in right. Quintana pitched on Saturday in a 6-0 loss to the Twins and will not be available this series. I’ve already read a few ‘trade for Quintana’ articles this morning. Stop it. Forget Quintana and move on with life. You're going to upset Bryan Van Dusen.
Have an awesome Monday! Eight would be great!