Part of what has made the Yankees' start to the second half so strong has been their ability to shake off a bad game and come back strong the next. They didn't play particularly well in any aspect of the game yesterday, so they righted that wrong by coming out today and mashing the White Sox into the ground to lock up another series victory.
I was a big proponent of trading for Jeff Samardzija during the final days leading up to this week's trade deadline. Boy am I an idiot. Samardzija did not look good this afternoon and the Yankee bats were on him from the get go. Jacoby Ellsbury homered to center to lead off the game and that was just the beginning. Samardzija could not command his offspeed stuff and the Yankee hitters figured that out by their second turn through the order. They struck for 5 runs in the top of the 4th, starting with a single-walk-single stretch to load the bases with 1 out, following up with a 2-run single by Didi Gregorius, and finishing with a 2-run knock by 2015 American League All Star Brett Gardner.
A 6-run cushion was plenty to work with for Ivan Nova, who was making his first start since leaving early his last time out with arm fatigue. Whatever that fatigue was, it didn't carry over to today. Nova looked real sharp, sharper than he has at any point since coming back, in holding the White Sox scoreless through 5 innings. His sinker had great late movement and he was working well inside to right-handed hitters, and his curveball had great bite. He threw both pitches for called strikes and swings and misses and didn't expend a lot of energy doing it.
Samardzija survived the 4th inning, but he didn't survive the 5th. Mark Teixeira started it off with his 29th home run of the year, and a 2-out plunking of Chase Headley and walking of Didi ended Samardzija's day. Stephen Drew welcomed reliever Scott Carroll to the game with a 2-run double to further sully Samardzija's line and give his club a commanding 9-0 lead.
Nova finally surrendered a run in the 6th on a leadoff walk, a groundout to advance, and a 2-out single by the Melkman, but that was all he allowed and he ended his day in style with a 3-pitch swinging strikeout of Avisail Garcia. Chasen Shreve had a shaky 7th inning (gave up 2 solo home runs), but that was after the Yankees tacked on 3 more runs in the top half, so no worries. He was going to come back to earth sooner or later. Better it happen when he's pitching with an 11-run lead.
Branden Pinder had no problem with the 8th inning, nor did Andrew Miller in the 9th, and the Yankees extended their division lead back to 6 games. They're coming home for 6 with division rivals and a chance to start putting some teams away. If you don't feel good about this team, you're nuts.
- The bottom of the order killed it today. 2-4 with 3 R and 2 RBI for Didi, a 3-hit, 4 RBI day that fell a homer short of the cycle for Drew, and 2 hits and 3 R scored for Headley.
- Drew got his average up to .199 before his final at-bat and couldn't come through to get over the Mendoza Line. That's something to watch for this week.
- Ellsbury also drove in 3 runs today and it's been encouraging to see him hit with a little more thump lately. Between that and how smooth he looks in the outfield, it's safe to say that quad is fine.
- Only the second appearance in a week for Miller, which is why he got some work today in garbage time. He and Betances both got plenty of rest this past week, so hopefully Joe leans on them in winning situations against the Sox and Blue Jays.
- Seriously, give a call to Ivan today. He was great. 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. He threw 59 strikes out of 90 pitches, and 31 of those strikes were called or swinging. His command on the corners was there, the late life to his fastball was there, and the whiff-ability of his curveball was there. It would be awesome if that short bout of fatigue was a hurdle to be overcome and today's start was the sign of things to come. The rotation could really need another reliable, consistently good arm right now.
- Magic number is down to 53.