PHOENIX — Last week during a game in Anaheim, the two old war horses of the Yankees' rotation were having a conversation.
“Sitting on the bench, I was talking to CC [Sabathia] the other day about what we’re doing right now and sort of the way we’ve been playing,” J.A. Happ said after the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Giants with an 11-5 victory on Sunday in San Francisco.
What the veteran lefthanders marveled at was the Yankees not only hanging in but prospering with an injury list that currently has 13 players on it.
The Yankees, 6-1 on this nine-game trip that continues Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, have won 11 of 13 games and are two games behind the AL East-leading Rays.
“It’s just impressive,” Happ said. “Guys are playing confident, for the most part playing good baseball. We’re getting it done and that’s making it fun. We’re trying, and have been able to, weather some of these injuries.”
Two more players, DJ LeMahieu (right knee inflammation) and Gio Urshela (hit by pitch on left hand), had to leave Sunday’s game, but early indications are the Yankees were fortunate; both players' X-rays came back negative. LeMahieu, who said his “mindset” was he’d be in the lineup Tuesday night, underwent an MRI on Monday that showed the inflammation but no further damage. The Yankees described him as “day-to-day.”
With most of the injured expected to be back at some point, the Yankees eventually will be whole again – or at least relatively whole. And if they make the postseason, this stretch of winning while significantly hobbled might very well be the reason why.
“It’s been unbelievable watching what this bunch of guys have been doing,” said Sabathia, who enters his Tuesday start three strikeouts short of becoming the third lefthander in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts. “Just the grittiness, the way we’re playing the game; the defense, playing the game the right way. It’s been fun to watch.”
Second-year manager Aaron Boone used the same phrase.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “As I’ve said, I miss our guys all the time and kind of feel for them and hurt for them because I know how bad they want to be on the field and I look forward to all of those guys at different points coming back and impacting our club. But at the same time, it’s been a lot of fun to see people, young players from within our organization or [when] we’ve gone outside the organization and brought somebody in, to see them come in and contribute and perform and do their job really well to allow us to continue to win games. That’s been very rewarding.”
The examples seem never-ending — from Domingo German pitching like an ace to Urshela hitting and fielding like an All-Star at third to Tyler Wade swiping bases and adequately holding down multiple defensive positions to rookie Thairo Estrada, an infielder his entire life, starting consecutive games in the outfield Friday and Saturday and not missing a beat. Estrada replaced LeMahieu after he left Sunday and promptly went 2-for-4.
“I do believe guys are feeding off of that a little bit and rallying around it,” Boone said. “I feel like that room has gotten a lot closer through the adversity and I think they’ve really embraced it.”
The bottom line, Sabathia said, is there isn’t really another choice.
“That’s part of sports, it’s part of being on a professional team,” he said. “It’s next man up. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us, nobody’s going to hang their head. It’s up to us to go out and play well and try to keep this thing rolling, and these guys have been doing an awesome job.”