Hours before the Yankees took the field on Wednesday night, manager Aaron Boone spoke about the way his team has been “punched in the mouth” during its recent slide.
Then the Yankees finally punched back.
With the weight of a five-game losing streak accompanying him to the mound for his third Major League start, Deivi García gave the Yankees exactly what they needed. The 21-year-old fired seven innings of two-run ball, while Gleyber Torres paced an offense that supported its rookie starter, helping the Yankees to a 7-2 victory that ended their skid.
“Guys are really grinding hard right now, and for us to really play a complete game in a lot of ways, get a great start from our young pitcher, was huge,” Boone said. “Hopefully this is something that guys can exhale a little bit, go home and really start taking off. I feel like that's around the corner for us.”
The visiting clubhouse at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., was “like a discotheque” after the win, Boone said, as the Yankees experienced a collision of joy and relief. They kept saying they were better than what they had been showing of late, but Wednesday night, their play backed up that assertion.
“You could hear the music as we were walking off the field; you never want to take that feeling for granted,” Boone said. “We understand the business at hand and how important these games are.”
The victory allowed the Yankees (22-21) to avoid falling below .500 for the first time this season. They head back to the Bronx on Thursday for the first of four games against the Orioles, one of the teams challenging New York for a postseason berth.
“We believe in ourselves,” said Torres, who homered and drove in four runs. “We just try to play really good and win games. It's part of baseball -- tough games, you lose games. Most important for us is that we focus, be together and work hard.”
García allowed five hits, striking out six without issuing a walk. He retired 15 of the final 16 Blue Jays he faced, earning the first victory of his Major League career.
“No pressure,” García said through a translator. “I enjoy good competition.”
“People talked very highly of him before he got here and he's definitely living up to it,” Clint Frazier said. “He threw a really good game tonight.”
Torres and DJ LeMahieu hit solo homers against starter Tanner Roark in the early innings, while Derek Fisher’s two-run homer off García in the second accounted for Toronto’s only runs.
With the game tied in the fifth, Luke Voit put the Yankees ahead with an RBI single against Ross Stripling, then Torres added a two-run double later in the inning to bump the lead to three.
García took it from there.
The rookie was unfazed by the pressure, mixing his pitches to keep the Blue Jays off balance as he breezed through the next three innings.
“He's just got such good feel out there -- mound presence and moxie, I don't know what you call it, but the ability as a young pitcher to just kind of add and subtract with his fastball,” Boone said. “He got creative and went a little more to the slider that third time through the order. He just demonstrated a really good feel for pitching. … Just a real savvy performance by him.”
García said he believed the Yankees would win from the moment he arrived at the ballpark on Wednesday afternoon. The five-game losing streak was not news to him, but García didn’t cower in the face of the pressure to stop that skid. He welcomed it.
“It's in your mind, but I don't see it as pressure,” García said. “I see it more as a responsibility for me to go out there and give us a chance. I just enjoy competing, being aggressive on the mound and the competition itself.”
With 17 games remaining on the schedule -- including seven more against the second-place Blue Jays, whom the Yankees now trail by two games in the American League East -- the Yankees know how crucial each day will be as the season moves toward its conclusion.
“It's important to get some people off our backs right now, because obviously we're not playing the way that we know that we can,” Frazier said. “We’re capable of really good things and tonight we went out there and did really well. Exhale now, but be ready to go tomorrow and the day after and the day after that and just continue to try to build off tonight.”