Yankees heed manager’s message

Yankees manager Joe Girardi could not have made it more clear before Wednesday night’s game. He said the players know the situation they are in, that they need to win games, “and we need to start tonight.”

Coming right up, the Yankees might have said. They did not let a disastrous first inning when they ran into two outs on the same play set the tone for the evening and went on to beat the Red Sox, 5-1.

Hiroki Kuroda earned his third straight victory with seven solid innings while his catcher, Brian McCann, had a four-hit game and drove in three runs. It was McCann who helped the Yanks ignore the sight of Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner being thrown out in a failed double-steal attempt when he connected off Boston starter Anthony Ranaudo for a two-run home run in the second inning.

McCann singled to lead off the fifth when the Yankees made it 3-0 on a sacrifice fly by Jacoby Ellsbury, who sure looks comfortable in that leadoff spot. Ellsbury tripled with one out in the seventh and scored on a single by Gardner. After a fielder’s choice and a walk loaded the bases for McCann, he singled again to pump the Yanks’ lead to 5-1. A second RBI was snuffed out when Carlos Beltran was thrown out at the plate. It’s a pretty good sign for a team that can get three players thrown out on the bases and still win the game.

“Sometimes you get a little too over-aggressive,” Girardi said. “I wasn’t happy with two guys getting thrown out, but that mistake didn’t cost us dearly.”

The Yankees could use some good signs these days. Kuroda provided a big one. He struck out five of the first seven batters and finished with eight punchouts in seven innings. He did not walk a batter, although he did hit one who came around to score in the sixth on a double by Brock Holt, the only one of the four hits off the Japanese righthander that went for extra bases.

“Hiro had a great sinker and split,” Girardi said. “He had fatigue issues in the second half last year, and we have tried to do some things [additional rest] this year to get him to this point.”

Girardi placed his own emphasis on this game by going to his 1-2 punch in the bullpen with Dellin Betances working the eighth with a four-run lead and David Robertson the ninth in a non-save situation.

The Yankees picked up a game on the Athletics and the Tigers in the wild card chase but still trail them by four games, are 3 1/2 behind the Mariners and even with the Indians. The post-season remains very much an uphill climb with several clubs to step over, but for this night anyway the Yankees did not take a step back.

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