During the last month, very few games have been stress-free for the Yankees.
On a few occasions, the Yankees have had wide margins of victory but more times than not, the slimmest margins have kept them in possession of a piece of the AL East. Last night, the drama and tension went away as the Yankees scored nine runs in the bottom of the second inning in a 10-2 rout of the Red Sox.
“It’s great to see,” said manager Joe Girardi, who only had to make one pitching chance. “That’s some kind of inning our guys put up.”
Giving the Yankees a night off from tense baseball were the bats of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Mark Teixeira, who gave the Yankees their third inning in team history with four home runs.
That foursome now has a combined 117 home runs and helped the Yankees coast to their 12th victory in 16 games and just their fifth by more than five runs since the All-Star break.
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Cano led off the inning with his 31st homer, a drive that cleared the center-field wall. Granderson hit a two-run shot down the right field line that just stayed fair. Martin followed Granderson’s 41st with a shot to right-center that was upheld by a brief review and Teixeira capped the power display by hitting a two-run shot off Alfredo Aceves that bounced off a fan’s hand in the first row of the second deck.
“It’s a great feeling,” Cano said. “Not only myself but the whole team right now [is playing well].”
Cano’s blast was part of his seventh straight multi-hit night and featured a career-high tying three extra-base hits.
Granderson’s blast tied his career-high set last year and it made him the first Yankee to hit 40 home runs as an outfielder in consecutive seasons since Mickey Mantle in 1961-62.
Teixeira’s blast also was a sign that his calf was feeling better, though he did not really have to test it. It gave him 20 RBIs against the Red Sox, the first Yankee do so since Mantle in 1958.
“It’s contagious,” Teixeira said. “Whenever you’re seeing guys and down the lineup driving the ball, it makes you feel like you can do it.”
The Yankees (93-67) entered their matchup with Clay Buchholz tied for first place with the Orioles. The Orioles were scoreless in Tampa Bay but shortly after Teixeira’s home run made it 9-0, Ben Zobrist gave the Rays a 1-0 lead with a home run off Wei-Yin Chen.
The Orioles were closed out by Fernando Rodney as they ended up losing, 5-3.
“I’m glad we have a lead,” Girardi said. “It sure beats the alternative.”
“If you look at the board, you’ll be able to see [the score],” Cano said. “But we don’t have to worry about the Orioles. We have to win.”
Boston’s lineup did not have Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and fielded four players hitting under .200.?
The Red Sox lineup that did not have Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and fielded four players hitting under .200.
That made things even more stress free for CC Sabathia, who allowed a Daniel Nava home run in the fourth among four hits while pitching eight innings. It also sent him into the postseason with three straight strong starts during a stretch in which he has allowed four runs in 24 innings.
“It’s nice,” Nick Swisher said. “Those two guys (Martin and Sabathia) rocking back there, you give him a couple of runs, give him some space [and] we got a really good feeling it’s going to end up a win.”
He was seen on the YES Network broadcast in the fifth inning consulting with pitching coach Larry Rothchild possibly about returning on short rest if needed for a one-game playoff.?
Afterwards, Sabathia and Girardi both said that they were not looking too far ahead.
“I’m not worried about Friday,” Girardi said. “I’m worried today. Now that today’s over, I can worry about tomorrow. I think if you start thinking too far ahead you get yourself in a bad position.”
“The bullpen has been used a lot,” Sabathia said. “Once we got the lead, I just wanted to go as deep as possible and give these guys a rest.”
Sabathia allowed a sacrifice fly in the seventh but finished the rest of his night with ease, ending at 101 pitches.
The only suspense was whether the Rays would close out the Orioles and when Endy Chavez made the final out, the Yankees put themselves in control of their own destiny and in position to clinch the division if events in the Bronx and Tampa Bay repeat themselves on Tuesday.
“That’s what you want,” Girardi said. “That’s what you hope that you have all the time when you’re playing this game that you can control your destiny and we have to go out and win a ballgame tomorrow.”
“We’ve wanted the division all year and the wild card is not a good second place,” Teixeira said.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.