McCann discovers you can go home again
Maybe that day off Thursday was just what the Yankees needed. They burst out of the gate Friday night at Atlanta at the start of a six-game trip that continues to Boston with five runs in the top of the first inning, which is one more run than they scored in all 27 of the innings in the recent three-game series against the Astros.
The Yankees were not content with that five spot. They poured it on again with four runs the next inning and four more in the eighth and two in the ninth off Jonny Gomes, Atlanta’s sixth pitcher and an outfielder by trade, for a 15-4 triumph. Just three days ago, the Yankees were on the other end of a 15-1 score.
It was an ideal homecoming for Georgia native Brian McCann, who walked three times, belted a three-run home run and got a fourth RBI with a sacrifice fly. He was even cheered by the Turner Field crowd when he homered.
As good as McCann was, Didi Gregorius was better. He set a career high with six RBI in a 4-for-5 game. Chase Headley had three RBI with a couple of doubles.
The Yankees were hitless in 14 at-bats in losing two of three games to Houston at Yankee Stadium, but they got off to a 2-for-2 start in those situations against the Braves and rookie righthander Williams Perez.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who did not play Wednesday while nursing a bruised right hip, was back in the lineup Friday night although he and Brett Gardner failed to reach base in the first inning. Carlos Beltran got the Yankees going with a two-out single that ran his hitting streak to 11 games.
McCann, who received a standing ovation from the crowd, followed with his first walk. McCann grew up in the region and was an All-Star catcher for the Braves before signing with the Yankees as a free agent prior to the 2014 season.
Perez walked fellow rookie Greg Bird, which loaded the bases for Headley, who ended the Yankees’ hitless stretch in the clutch with a double that bounced over the fence in left-center for two runs.
Gregorius then drove a 1-0 pitch to right field for a three-run home run, the Yankees’ second consecutive hit with runners in scoring position. It was the second home run in three at-bats for Gregorius, who had a two-run shot Wednesday.
Staked to the 5-0 lead, Masahiro Tanaka had a shaky bottom of the first inning and gave back two runs on an RBI single by Freddie Freeman and a sacrifice fly by Nick Swisher. It might have been worse for Tanaka if not for Ellsbury, who made a diving catch on that sore right hip on the center field warning track to rob Christian Bethancourt of a potential extra-base hit that probably would have scored two runs.
The Yankees followed a similar pattern in the second inning by putting up four more runs on the board with the rally again starting after two out. Singles by Gardner and Beltran and another walk to McCann filled the bases and spelled the end for Perez.
Reliever Ross Detwiler was not any better than his predecessor at throwing strikes. The lefthander walked Bird and Headley to force in two runs and gave up a two-run single to Gregorius, who has eight RBI in his past seven at-bats. After an intentional walk to Stephen Drew reloaded the bases, Tanaka tried to help himself as the 10th batter of the inning but struck out.
Tanaka did not do much wrong on the mound, however, as he shook off the uneven first inning. After giving up a solo home run to Freeman in the third, Tanaka retired 13 batters in a row before Adrelton Simmons doubled with two out in the seventh, which was the Japanese righthander’s last inning.
Bryan Mitchell pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, his first appearance in 11 days since he was struck in the face with a line drive by the Twins’ Eduardo Nunez and sustained a nasal fracture. But the day off did nothing to improve Mark Teixeira’s condition. The bone bruise near his right shin continues to hamper his running ability and kept him on the bench.