Freddy, Andruw examples of Yanks’ support group
One of the strengths of the 2012 Yankees is how they have overcome injuries. Much has been made in this weekend series at Fenway Park about the makeshift lineups that manager Bobby Valentine is throwing out there because of injuries to key Red Sox players, but the Yankees have not been exactly running on all cylinders, either.
And yet the Yanks have the best record in the major leagues just past the midway point of the season, due in large part to the contributions of players filling in for those on the disabled list. What better example could there have been than the matinee of Saturday’s split-admission twin bill with Freddy Garcia and Andruw Jones reaching back into their past glory to put their stamps on a 6-1 victory.
Garcia, who was banished from the rotation three months ago, has been given a second chance as a starter with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the DL, and he has responded with two straight quality starts. The righthander pitched into the seventh inning for the first time this season in his longest start (6 2/3 innings) over a calendar year and held the Red Sox to five singles, a double and two walks with five strikeouts to post his first victory as a starter this year.
Granted, Boston’s lineup won’t make anyone think of its 2004 or ’07 World Series champions, but Garcia had the kind of stuff that might have handled those squads as well. Freddy’s fastball was in the upper 80’s, which made his breaking stuff more effective. Considering that Pettitte will be out probably until around Labor Day, Garcia could become a fixture in the rotation for a while.
Jones, who along with Raul Ibanez has made up for the nearly season-long loss of left fielder Brett Gardner, supported Garcia with two solo home runs and a splendid play at the base of the Green Monster in the sixth inning that became a stylish double play at the expense of Adrian Gonzalez.
One day after winning a game without hitting a home run, the Yankees left the yard four times Saturday afternoon. Jones was part of two back-to-back homer innings for the Yankees. He followed Nick Swisher’s three-run bomb in the first with a home run and went yard again in the fourth in front of Jayson Nix, who played shortstop to give Derek Jeter a half-day off as the designated hitter. Swisher’s homer ended a hitless stretch that had reached 17 at-bats.
The Yankees’ four-run first gave Garcia a comfort zone. Unlike teammate Hiroki Kuroda, who blew a 5-0, first-inning lead Friday night in a game the Yanks eventually won, 10-8, Garcia protected the early bulge. The only run he allowed came in the fourth on successive singles by David Ortiz, Gonzalez and Mauro Gomez.
Jones added another solo homer in the nightcap, a sloppy, 9-5 Yankees loss in which they committed four errors. Three more first-inning runs, on Mark Teixeira’s 15th home run, makes it 14 first-inning runs for the Yankees in five games this season against Boston. Phil Hughes failed to hold the lead, and one-day call-up Cory Wade continued to have problems as the Red Sox batted around in both the sixth and seventh innings to produce seven runs.
Garcia and Jones are just two examples of players who have plugged holes for the Yankees. Cody Eppley (2.74 ERA), who pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, has been an effective situational right-handed reliever in the absence of Joba Chamberlain and while David Robertson was on the DL. And the panic the Yanks felt at first following the knee injury to Mariano Rivera back in May has subsided with Rafael Soriano stepping in for 20 saves in 21 opportunities.
Think also of the recent career week of reserve outfielder DeWayne Wise and the season-long steadiness of veteran corner infielder Eric Chavez and you have the ingredients that have kept the Yankees from tumbling down the standings despite the injuries they have sustained.