NEW YORK -- The Yankees returned from the All-Star break understanding that their impressive first half has them in position to enjoy a special season, but with nothing secured yet. As the decision-makers upstairs continue to search for upgrades, Domingo Germán’s electric right arm is easing the urgency to tweak
NEW YORK -- The Yankees returned from the All-Star break understanding that their impressive first half has them in position to enjoy a special season, but with nothing secured yet. As the decision-makers upstairs continue to search for upgrades, Domingo Germán’s electric right arm is easing the urgency to tweak the rotation.
German pitched like a Cy Young Award candidate early in the campaign, helping paper over the absence of ace Luis Severino, and that dominant presence appears to be back. Making his second start since returning from the injured list, German struck out seven over six brilliant innings on Friday night, leading the Yankees to a tidy 4-0 victory over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.
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"You always want to be economical out there," German said through an interpreter. "You want to go as deep as you can in a game. Coming back from the injury, I knew I didn’t have that many pitches. I tried to make an effort to get through the innings as quickly as possible."
Edwin Encarnacion belted a three-run double to highlight a four-run fifth inning, and Brett Gardner had a big night on the basepaths and in the field, legging out a triple and throwing out a runner behind German, who baffled with a high-spin curveball that generated 13 swings and misses.
"I thought the breaking ball was really good tonight," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Really, the first couple of times through, you could tell it was giving them a problem. A lot of good hitters took some funky swings at it."
After beginning the season 9-1 with a 2.60 ERA, the 26-year-old German turned in three subpar efforts, attempting to pitch through a left flexor strain that eventually cost him about a month. German returned to pitch last week to fire six innings of one-run ball, picking up the victory in the Subway Series finale at Citi Field.
He was even better in front of the Yankees' fifth sell-out crowd of the season, an energetic party of 47,162. Coming off an All-Star break in which he tossed a bullpen session at the Yanks' Dominican Republic complex, German scattered three hits and did not issue a walk, saying that he felt great command of his fastball, curveball and changeup.
“He’s got pretty nasty stuff," Gardner said. "Just his composure out there; he acts like he’s been here before. No situation is too big for him. When guys get on base, he makes his pitches, and he’s a guy who’s a lot of fun to play defense behind."
Though German was supremely economical, tossing only 78 pitches as he retired 15 consecutive batters between leadoff singles in the first and sixth innings, Boone said he sensed signs of fatigue as Toronto's hacks seemed to improve.
Tommy Kahnle worked the seventh and Chad Green pitched the final two frames to polish off the shutout.
"We weren't going to go too far with him tonight anyway," Boone said. "All in all, I thought he did a great job of really just being efficient, working fast and setting the tone for us."
German's 78 pitches were the fewest by a Yankee in a scoreless start of at least six innings since Chase Whitley (75) on July 22, 2014, against Texas. German improved to 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA in seven games (six starts) at Yankee Stadium this season.
"He’s looked great out there," Encarnacion said. "I faced German one year or two years ago. He looks a lot better. He has confidence, and he throws the pitch wherever he wants to throw it."
The crispness of German's arsenal is encouraging for the Yankees, who had quietly mulled how they would handle his rolling odometer, having never thrown more than 125 innings in a season. By relieving that issue, the injury may have been a blessing in disguise.
While acknowledging that German has earned his place in the rotation, Boone suggested that there are a variety of ways he could help the club down the stretch if general manager Brian Cashman accomplishes his goal of adding at least one front-line starting pitcher.
"[German] can fill so many pretty exciting roles for us: whether it's as a starter, whether it's as that guy that can give you multiple innings in a key spot out of the bullpen, or whether it's a high-leverage spot late, you'd feel good handing him the ball," Boone said.
With the July 31 Trade Deadline about 2 1/2 weeks away, German said he will understand if his job description changes for the postseason push.
"At the end of the day, we’re a team here," German said. "For me, my responsibility is to keep doing my job as a pitcher. If we get somebody else here, we’re going to welcome that person and hope that person comes in and helps us win too."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.