All cylinders clicking as Yankees find groove
ST. PETERSBURG -- Last week, Alex Rodriguez stood in front of a locker in the visiting clubhouse at Camden Yards and spoke about the "four facets" that the Yankees needed to do consistently if they were to achieve their goals this season: good pitching, good defense, timely hitting and baserunning.
Manager Joe Girardi scowled outside that same room and put it more bluntly -- if his team didn't tighten up all areas of its game, it could make for a long season. Consider that challenge answered for the moment, as the Yankees bobbed back to the .500 mark on Sunday by completing a series sweep of the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"Honestly, there wasn't a whole lot said about it in the clubhouse," said Yankees third baseman Chase Headley. "These guys have played the game for a long time; we know that we weren't playing well. We knew that we had to stop giving teams extra outs and start swinging the bats better. There was no panic -- it was more of just, 'Let's right the ship as soon as possible.'"
The series marked the Yankees' first sweep of three or more games at Tropicana Field since Sept. 13-15, 2005, as they refined their glovework and played errorless ball on the artificial turf.
"The infield played really well," Girardi said. "Really good plays, diving all over the place and taking them out of some innings."
Girardi was also pleased to see his team score in 10 of 27 innings, getting the leadoff man aboard in seven of nine frames Sunday. New York had a player record three hits in each game of the set -- A-Rod went 3-for-4 on Friday, Brian McCann went 3-for-4 on Saturday and Garrett Jones went 3-for-4 on Sunday.
"It was definitely a big series for us. Bats are starting to come alive," Jones said. "We're having good at-bats. Scoring runs for our pitchers; taking a load off them. Today was a good overall win, and we just want to continue building on that."
It made for a happy flight to Detroit, even though the Yankees know they will have their work cut out for them against a competitive Tigers club. The offensive turnaround provides reasons to be optimistic.
"It's been going on for about the last eight or nine days. It's great to see," Girardi said. "We felt that we were going to have a pretty good offense. We just had to get some guys back healthy and get them going. We've done that."