Thursday, August 07, 2014

Despite setbacks, Yankees Advance-Kepner, NY Times

8/7/14, "Despite Setbacks, Yankees Advance," NY Times, Tyler Kepner

David Robertson
"Facing a two-time most valuable player with two on, no outs and a one-run lead in the ninth inning Thursday, David Robertson meant to place his pitch low and away. But as he threw it, Robertson said, he simply cut loose. The ball ended up over the middle of the plate.

Miguel Cabrera swung, and Robertson got a break: a ground-ball double play. One pop-up later, the Yankees had won the game, 1-0, and taken three of four in the Bronx against the imposing Detroit Tigers.

“I was just trying to be smart,” Robertson said. “I didn’t exactly throw the pitch where I wanted to, but the outcome was exactly what I wanted.”...

Maybe, in spite of everything, this Yankees season can work out the same way....

The Yankees did not expect to have four injured starting pitchers and have nobody in the top 30 in the majors in on-base plus slugging percentage. But if the outcome is a trip to the playoffs — and the chance to make a deep run if things align as they did this week — it could still be a memorable season, after all. 

“This gives us a lot of confidence in that we can beat anybody,” catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “We’re still there. We’re going to compete, and we want to be in the playoffs.”

The Yankees have not been more games above .500 this season than they are now, at 60-54. It is an unlikely perch, given that they had to beat two Cy Young Award winners, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, as well as Rick Porcello, a 13-game winner this season, in the Tigers series to get there Thursday.

The Yankees’ starters in their victories against Detroit were Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano and Shane Greene. McCarthy started the season with Arizona, Capuano with Boston and Greene with Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

On Thursday, the Yankees’ second, fifth and sixth hitters were all newcomers: third baseman Martin Prado, first baseman Chase Headley and shortstop Stephen Drew. Prado made some nifty plays in the field, Headley singled and Drew doubled in the game’s only run.

That makes three starters and three everyday players, none having played for the Yankees before July (except for a third of an inning by Greene in April), all helping take a series from the A.L.’s glamour team.

“If you went back to the wintertime and said, ‘You’ll be able to get a Prado, that type of guy, a Headley, and you’re going to take a shot on Stephen Drew and move him to second base,’ I wouldn’t have expected any of that,” General Manager Brian Cashman said. “It’s just the way a major league season twists and turns.”

The players were available, of course, because they were underperforming, expensive or both. But even the moves that seemed easy, like snagging McCarthy for Vidal Nuno or acquiring Capuano for cash, were not. 

“You never expect anything,” Cashman said. “You have no idea where your conversations are going to take you. You really engage everybody possible, including Tampa on David Price and Boston on Jon Lester. But you have no idea what ones are going to fit and what will lead you where. I just knew it was going to be hard.”

He added: “We wound up getting McCarthy — eventually — but it took us two months. I had offers on the table they were rejecting. It took a long time. So I was not optimistic entering July because it took me so long to get a player who, at the time, was 2-10. It really dragged on.”

Cashman said he wanted Capuano when Boston released him in June. But Masahiro Tanaka was healthy then, and C. C. Sabathia seemed to be recovering from his knee problem. 

Capuano expected a better opportunity with the lowly Colorado Rockies, who never called him up from the minors.

“He had an out in his contract, and I engaged Dan O’Dowd,” Cashman said, referring to the Rockies’ general manager. “I said, ‘If you’re not going to call him up, trade him to me.’ So I bought him.”

The Tigers and the Oakland Athletics stand out as the favorites to play for the A.L. pennant in October. Detroit traded for Price, and Oakland traded for Lester after acquiring another All-Star starter, Jeff Samardzija, in early July.

But we hear all the time about how the best rotations rule October, only to forget what actually happens. Last year’s Cy Young Award winners, Scherzer and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, combined to make four starts in the league championship series. Their teams lost all four games. Verlander allowed one run in 23 innings last postseason — yet the Tigers somehow lost two of his three starts....

But the Yankees showed this week that if they catch a team at the right time, even as they stand right now, they have a chance.

Cashman, though, was not looking too far ahead. As he headed for Manager Joe Girardi’s office late Thursday afternoon, he had more immediate concerns, like making sure Esmil Rogers was cleared to start Friday.

“We could make things interesting,” Cashman said. “But we’ll see. We’ve got a lot of baseball left. We’re still trying to figure this thing out on a daily basis.”"

Image: "The Yankees’ David Robertson tracked Don Kelly’s pop out, which sealed the victory over Detroit," ap.

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