Hot stretch has Yanks tied for first in AL East
Welcome back to first place, Yankees.
The Bombers’ 3-0 victory at Atlanta Monday night brought them into a tie for the top spot in the American League East with Tampa Bay. It was the first time the Yankees have been in first in 43 games since April 24. The Yankees have been a first-place team for seven days this year but only one (April 21) all by themselves.
Other such days may soon be in their future as the Yankees are on a roll. They have won four consecutive games, nine of 11 and 14 of 18. June has really been busting out all over for the Yankees, particularly their starting pitching. The rotation has done two complete turns this month, and in those 10 starts combined for a 7-1 record and 1.76 ERA with 16 walks and 71 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings.
Perhaps the hottest of those hands has been Ivan Nova, who shut the Braves down for seven innings while allowing five hits, all singles, and one walk with six strikeouts. Nova also got his first major-league hit, a single in the second inning, and made a nifty defensive play in the third to turn a wicked line drive by rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons into a double play.
Nova, who has not lost a game on the road for more than a year, is on a four-game winning streak during which he has pitched to a 2.83 ERA and lowered his season ERA from 5.69 to 4.64. With an 8-2 record, Nova has taken over the staff lead in victories over CC Sabathia, who is 7-3 and will go for his eighth victory Tuesday night.
With Rafael Soriano unavailable because of a blistered finger, Yankees manager Joe Girardi mixed and matched with his bullpen and got two scoreless innings from an ensemble of Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada, Cory Wade and Boone Logan.
Considering the wildness of Braves starter Randall Delgado (six walks and a wild pitch), the Yankees probably should have scored more than three runs, but they stranded 11 runners. Again, their problems with the bases loaded surfaced as they went 0-for-3 with the bags full and are now hitting .149 in 67 such at-bats this season.
The Yanks’ offense had some solid moments as well. They scored a two-out run in the first on a double by Alex Rodriguez and single by Robinson Cano. Raul Ibanez, who had never homered at Turner Field in 105 career at-bats, ended that drought with a drive to right in the second. The next inning, daring base running by Rodriguez fueled a rally that produced a run on a wild pitch that scored A-Rod.
The fielding gem of the night was a wall-climbing catch in right field by Nick Swisher, who robbed Brian McCann of a potential two-run home run in the seventh that would have made it a one-run game. The Braves never got that close again.
The only Yankees player who batted but failed to reach base was Sunday’s hero, Russell Martin, who was 0-for-4 Monday night. But as Girardi pointed out Sunday, it takes different people to contribute at different times.
The Yankees are a season-high 10 games over .500 and back where they belong, in first place.