By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK,AUGUST 23- Not many games have played out the way they did for the New York Yankees Friday night, but for a change there was solid pitching out of the bullpen, good defense, and most of all a game winning walk-off single in the ninth inning. And the hero was Martin Prado in the Yankees 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Brett Gardner said it was “the biggest win of the year.” Prado, who has become a versatile pick-up for the Yankees, said about his walk-off bases loaded single, “I can describe that as one of the biggest moments of my career.”
Maybe a big win for the Yankees Friday night, only because this was another one of those games they needed to win if they have any chance of one or two wild card spots in the American League. Already they lost two of three this week to the lowly Houston Astros. Now they need two more wins Saturday and Sunday afternoons against the White Sox, another team the Yankees are, expected to handle.
But, to reiterate, teams the Yankees are supposed to handle have become a task. It seemed to be going in that direction again, that is until Prado came to bat with the bases loaded in that ninth inning. Until then, once again the Yankees had their chances against Chicago starter John Danks and the awful White Sox bullpen.
The Yankees seemed more aggressive at the plate, and maybe a clubhouse meeting Thursday, still not known what was said, provided some spark, but they were hardly outstanding getting runners home again, 3-for-13.
Prado, a veteran, recorded his fifth career “walk-off” hit. “He’s looked really good,” said manager Joe Girardi.
Important again, as Girardi reiterated because his team is behind in the wild card standings and the only way to catch up is to win games. It also helped that Prado smacked his third home run as a Yankee with one on, in the third inning, that put the Yankees back in the game after Shane Green gave up three runs in the first.
The last two wins for the Yankees it has been the mid-season acquisitions that have done the job. Thursday afternoon it was the complete game shutout pitching of Brandon McCarthy, and this night it was Martin Prado. In a limited amount of time in the Bronx, McCarthy and Prado may have made more of an impact than the off-season and lucrative acquisitions of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
It certainly appears to be that way now, about how these moves of GM Brian Cashman have materialized for the better but the question is, with the Yankees in an uphill battle can they sustain the momentum and make a remarkable run for that post-season spot? That remains to be seen because of the inconsistency and there are doubts the Yankees can go on a vicious streak to make that run.
However, the last two games in the Bronx bring some type of hope. It is the close game the Yankees have not been able to win, and they did it in grand style with that Prado game winning hit. He had a great at bat, working to a full count on seven pitches. The last pitch off losing pitcher Daniel Webb went up the middle, and scored Ichiro Suzuki who opened the inning with a single.
Girardi said Prado made a quick adjustment with his new team. Extra batting practice has also helped his approach at the plate, and for the Yankees overall, extra swings before the game seem to have adjusted their approach a bit.
“It was a great win for this team,” Prado explained. “We all performed as a team and that’s all that matters by now.” The bullpen also came up strong, something that contributed to this first of a three game series win as Dellin Betances and David Robertson had no issues.
Robertson pitched the ninth, got the win and became the fastest Yankee to compile 500 strikeouts in team history. Betances had two strikeouts in 1/2-3 innings, staying consistent again with 113 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings pitched. Where would the Yankees be, especially in close games without Betances, especially the way this offense has performed?
“Today was one of our better days,” Robertson said, “nice to get a win that way, especially nine innings.”
And a game that went the Yankees way for a change. But the reality is one win has to lead to more because the Yankees see that time is not on their side. Three teams are ahead of them and a 3.5 game deficit, though not much will require winning a lot of their remaining 36 games.
Not impossible, but with these Yankees, this season, the odds have not been very good.
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