Doubleheaders are never easy to sweep. But heading into the Yankees double dip with the Blue Jays, New York needed to do just that. If they want to make a late season run, losing to a last place team isn’t an option.
Game 1 starter Ivan Nova has been nothing short of spectacular since his return to the majors. One big inning could have sunk the righty, but Nova rebounded from a 4-run second to give the Yankees length, and time to chip away.
Down 4-3 in the, catcher Chris Stewart came to the plate with two on, and two out. Hitting in the low .200’s, and lacking power, Stewart came through in a big way. A three run shot to left, just his 4th of the year, and first since May, lifted the bombers to an 8-4 win.
Robinson Cano had a big game as well, going 4-4 and smacking his 200th career homer in the win. Ichiro Suzuki also picked up 3 hits, moving him to 3,999 in his career combined between his time in Japan and in Major League Baseball.
Game 2 featured Phil Hughes who was coming off one of his better performances of the year, a 3-run, 6 inning performance against the Angels. But Hughes has struggled not only this season, but his entire career at Yankee Stadium.
But after a first inning run, Hughes was impressive. Finally mixing in his secondary pitches, the big righty gave the Yankees 6 innings of 2 run ball. Unfortunately for Hughes, his lack of run support continued, and he left down 2-1.
In the 7th, Jayson Nix would tie the score with his 3rd homer of the year, saving Hughes from his 9th straight loss at the stadium. The bullpen shut the Jays down in the 8th and 9th, giving the bombers a chance for their sixth walk-off of the season.
The newly acquired Mark Reynolds would be walked to lead off the inning, and then pinch ran for by Suzuki. Eduardo Nunez than laid down a beautifully executed sacrifice bunt to move Ichiro to second, with one out. Nix, fresh off his game tying shot, was up next. Though already in scoring position, Ichiro attempted to steal 3rd, and if not for a better throw from Jays catcher Josh Thole, would’ve been easily out. But he was safe. Nix would then play the hero and give the Yankees the 3-2 walk-off win with a solid single to left.
Two wins, one day. The Yankees needed every bit of it, and they also got some much-needed help from the teams they’re chasing.
A day after passing Kansas City in the Wildcard standings, the Royals were shut out by the White Sox, putting some distance between them and the Yanks. And of the 5 teams ahead of them, 3 lost (Boston, Oakland and Baltimore).
The bombers are now 5 games out of a Wildcard spot, and if they can leap-frog the Indians (who they own the season series against), they have games left with all four teams ahead of them.
If Hughes can continue giving the Yankees quality outings, and if role guys like Nix and Stewart can help lengthen the lineup even more, you can’t count the 2013 Yankees out just yet.
And don’t overlook the contributions of catcher Austin Romine, who is finally starting to show some offensive punch. 3 hits last night, along with a great throw to nip a runner at second. Romine is a better option to start over game 1 hero Stewart, and has been highly thought of by the Yankees organization. If Romine can continue to provide some pop and grow with the staff, the future behind the plate for the Yankees may not be so scary, especially with prospect Gary Sanchez who was recently promoted to Double-A. In 12 games, he’s hitting .290 with Trenton.
***Game 3 of the 4 game set with Toronto continues tonight with long reliever Adam Warren making a spot start for the Yankees against last year’s NL Cy Young winner R.A Dickey.