Freddy Garcia owed a small debt of gratitude to a Yankees offense that's still slumping. He owed much more to his bullpen, which helped seal his second win of the season, 3-1, over the Royals Tuesday night at the Stadium.
Garcia (2-2, 2.61 ERA) went six innings, allowing one run, six hits and two walks. He struck out three. "I didn't really have good command,'' he said, "but I survived."
Garcia's line was preserved when David Robertson came on with two on and none out in the seventh and, after loading the bases, escaped. More and more that is becoming the norm when the 26-year-old righthander gets into trouble.
"I wouldn't say I get used to them, but it's not un-normal for me to go into those," said Robertson, called the "Houdini" of the staff by, among others, Joba Chamberlain. "But I can't say I'm used to it. I'm still nervous when I'm out there."
The manager's explanation?
"Maybe because I do it so often to him," Girardi said. "But the kid's got good stuff. He's just had the ability to do that because he's a strikeout guy."
Chamberlain pitched the eighth in place of Rafael Soriano, who is to have a precautionary MRI on his right elbow Wednesday. Chamberlain set down the Royals 1-2-3 with a nine-pitch inning. Mariano Rivera, after allowing a leadoff single in the ninth, struck out a batter, then started a terrific 1-4-3 double play to record his 13th save.
But Tuesday night, as has been the case in recent weeks, it was about the Yankees' pitching. Garcia came in 9-13 with a 5.89 ERA against the Royals but, while finding trouble, he mostly survived, to use his word. Only former Yankee Melky Cabrera's solo home run in the fourth touched him up, tying it at 1.
In the last 21 games, Yankees starters have a 2.96 ERA. "Pitching is so important, and we're getting it," Girardi said.
Leading 3-1, Garcia gave way to Robertson in the seventh after Jeff Francoeur led off with a hit and Eric Hosmer walked.
Robertson got Mike Aviles to fly to center and, with Matt Treanor at the plate, Francoeur stole third. Robertson walked Treanor to load the bases and fell behind Alcides Escobar 2-and-0 before striking out the shortstop swinging at an 83-mph curve. Leadoff hitter Chris Getz struck out on a checked swing, also on a curve, to end the inning.
"The biggest thing for me is to just try to calm down and make a pitch," Robertson said. "If you can get ahead on a guy with the fastball, then I have a couple of different options I can go to. Tonight, the breaking ball was working well."
The Yankees took the lead for good in the fifth. Rodriguez, coming off a 6-for-26 trip and 0-for-2 on the night, grounded a two-out single to center that brought in Gardner and Jeter, making it 3-1.
Notes & quotes: The Royals announced before the game that tonight's starting pitcher, Bruce Chen, will be placed on the disabled list with a left lat strain. Vin Mazzaro will be recalled from Triple-A Omaha to start in Chen's place. Mazzaro was with the Athletics last Aug. 31 when he broke Mark Teixeira's right pinky toe with a pitch . . . Cabrera received the roll-call treatment from the Bleacher Creatures when he took his position in centerfield in the bottom of the first.