New York Yankees pitcher David Hale celebrates with catcher Gary...

New York Yankees pitcher David Hale celebrates with catcher Gary Sanchez after the Yankees defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 8-4 during a baseball game Thursday, July 4, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla.  Credit: AP/Scott Audette

David Hale earned the save Thursday night and the victory Friday night for the Yankees, the continuation of an under-the-radar season for the 31-year-old righthander, who is getting an increasing amount of important innings and appears to be handling it with poise.

“I’m glad it seems that way. Certainly not on the inside,” Hale said. “But I’ve done it before. Just rely on what I’ve practiced and go out there and do it.”

Hale, a third-round pick of the Braves in the 2009 draft out of Princeton University, has not allowed a run in 6 1/3 innings in his last five games. He has a 2.73 ERA in 13 games.

“More and more, just continue to gain confidence with him,” Aaron Boone said. “Feel like ever since spring training, he’s been throwing the ball really well. We’ve seen a little uptick in the velocity. He’s fearless out there and he’s got pitches to get guys out with. He’s been really important to us and continues to earn more important roles.”

Division dominance

Before Saturday's walk-off 4-3 loss to the Rays, the Yankees had an astounding 29-7 record against AL East teams. They had won 11 straight within the division and had gone 18-3 since May 19.

“That focus [winning games vs. the AL East] is there, but I think it’s more a product of our guys just playing really well to this point of the season,”  Boone said. “The fact that it’s come within the division obviously is an added bonus.”

The Yankees last won the AL East title in 2012.

Voit’s return

When the Yankees put Luke Voit on the injured list July 2 (retroactive to June 30) with an abdominal strain, all indications were the first baseman would return as soon as the 10 days were up. Boone, however, hedged a bit on that Saturday when he was asked if he is certain that Voit will be activated immediately after the All-Star break.

“Hoping that. We’ll see,” he said. “It’s going well, he’s doing well. Whether it’s that first day or not, we’ll see how the break unfolds. But I would expect it to be close to that.”

Pitching protection

With Nestor Cortes Jr. and Hale unavailable because of their workload on Friday night — Cortes pitched 1 2/3 innings and Hale pitched 2 1/3 — the Yankees optioned first baseman Mike Ford to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and added lefthander Daniel Camarena to the 25-man roster.

“With our pen situation, we needed a guy that can give us some length if we got in the situation,” Boone said. “He [Camarena] was scheduled to start today, so he’s obviously a starter and built up that way, so if we got in a situation, he’s a guy that could go out there and give us significant length. So we feel protected with him.”

Camarena, 26, picked in the 20th round of the 2011 draft by the Yankees, ended last season in the Giants' organization and started this season in the Twins’ organization. After returning to the Yankees, he was 3-3 with a 6.00 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) with Scranton.

No more Ripkens

Are the days over of players playing in all 162 games?

“I don’t think [playing all] 162 is ideal,” Boone said. “I think you’ve got to try and evaluate. Everyone’s a little bit different. Also, I think there are guys certainly capable of, where 150, 155 is probably a really good number. Some guys it may be 140.

"I think you have to, as best you can, try to understand individuals and make quality decisions as an organization in what you think is optimal, what gets the most out of a player and does a day off now and then really benefit them over the course of the long haul? And that’s what we’re always trying to make smart decisions on.”

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