Buyers? Sellers? How about winners?
Take heart, Yankees fans, your club may just get in this race for a post-season berth after all. All this debate about whether they Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline could rage for another two weeks.
For the second straight night, the Yanks showed Baltimore they are not ready to be buried in the standings. A 7-1 victory pushed the Yanks’ record above .500 at 47-46 and within 6 1/2 games of the Orioles in the American League East standings. That is not an insurmountable deficit with 10 weeks remaining on the schedule.
As I mentioned in an earlier posting, if the Yankees were going to be taken seriously as a contender they had to start playing better within their division. Three straight victories over AL East clubs on this homestand is a nice start.
The Yanks’ keystone combination of second baseman Starlin Castro and shortstop Didi Gregorius were the chief architects of this victory. Each had two hits and scored two runs with Castro driving in four runs.
Gregorius had a premium at-bat with two out in the second inning against Orioles starter Vance Worley. After falling behind 0-2, Gregorius worked the count full and won a 10-pitch duel with a walk. Castro then crushed a 3-1 pitch to left field for his 11th home run. The Yankees pushed their lead to 3-0 in the fifth on an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury, but he was thrown out at third base later in the inning trying to advance all the way to third base from first base on a ball that eluded catcher Caleb Joseph.
An extra run would have come in handy in the sixth when the wheels fell off for Nathan Eovaldi, who had been banished to the bullpen two weeks ago but worked his way back into the rotation with 7 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Eovaldi was pretty effective for the most part Tuesday night. He got 12 outs in a row before he walked Ryan Flaherty with one down in the sixth.
A single up the middle by Adam Jones and a well-struck double to left by Joey Rickard produced a run and spelled major trouble for Eovaldi, who then walked Manny Machado to load the bases for major-league home run leader Mark Trumbo.
Anthony Swarzak came on and got two foul pop-ups to get the Yankees out of the jam. First baseman Rob Refsnyder made a dazzling catch down the right field line of Trumbo’s towering fly. Gregorius ran down Jonathan Schoop’s floater down the left field line.
“He made quality pitches,” manager Joe Girardi said of Swarzak. “He went right after hitters.”
Gregorius and Castro were at it again in the bottom of the sixth as the Yankees added two more runs. One out after a leadoff walk to Brian McCann by Orioles reliever Odrisamer Despaigne, Gregorius lined a single to left. Castro followed with a smoking liner to right-center for a two-run double.
Chase Headley put on the finishing touch with a two-run home run in the eighth off Mychal Givens.
The Yankees clearly won the bullpen game in this one and did so without having to use Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman. While the Orioles’ pen allowed four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, the Yankees’ Swarzak and Nick Goody combined for 3 2/3 hitless innings with five strikeouts.