Yanks dig in, have sights set on Jays
BOSTON -- The Yankees were just beginning to dig into plates of red meat and lobster macaroni in Fenway Park's cramped visiting clubhouse, wolfing down a celebratory postgame spread, when the Blue Jays' victory over the Indians flickered across the flat-screen televisions.
Between bites, they watched Ryan Goins circle the bases in glee at Rogers Centre and responded with a collective shrug. The Yankees have been expecting this race for the American League East to be a fight to finish, and their 3-1 victory over the Red Sox simply crossed another date off the schedule.
"We've still got a long way to go," said Stephen Drew, who contributed a key two-run double off Rick Porcello. "It's a month and it's a long process. Don't count anybody out. We're going to keep going, and hopefully keep this thing going."
New York continues to trail Toronto by 1 1/2 games for the division, leading the Wild Card chase, and getting its share of business taken care of on Tuesday served as a good blueprint of what the Yanks will need to continue to do down the stretch.
"I'm not even trying to worry about the race," Dellin Betances said. "We've got a lot of games against them. We've just got to try to win. We can't focus on them."
Michael Pineda shrugged off three mediocre performances, handcuffing Boston to a run on four hits over six innings, striking out seven without a walk. He hadn't looked sharp since a stint on the disabled list, and the Yanks will need to keep that caliber of pitching rolling to keep pace.
"I took August off, so I'm working really hard for coming back in September and keeping strong, to help my team finish strong this season," Pineda said.
The Yanks had the bad luck to catch Porcello on an all-time great night, as the righty rang up a career-high 13 strikeouts, yet managed to scrape together enough offense. Drew drove home his pair of runs off Porcello in the fifth before Brett Gardner launched a solo homer in the eighth.
Drew's low batting average (.205) has been a rallying cry for fans eager to see prospect Rob Refsnyder step in, but the Yanks are sticking with the veteran, lauding the stability of his defense and accepting whatever pop comes.
"If you take a step back, he's hit 16 home runs," catcher Brian McCann said. "That's impacting a lot of games. You can talk about batting average all you want, but he is impacting games. Plays Gold Glove defense. It's huge. He can hit. He's been hitting at this level for a long, long time."
The Yankees may have to lean on some less-heralded players while attempting to patch over the absence of Mark Teixeira, who will miss at least two more weeks with a lingering bone bruise. Eight reinforcements arrived from the Minors on Tuesday, including Refsnyder, but none appeared in the game at Boston. Those players are here to supplement, not supplant.
"The gratifying thing this time of the year is wins, no matter how you do it," Girardi said. "If you get a break, or however it happens, that's the gratifying thing. But our guys hit well when they had to and we got a huge hit from Stephen Drew."