The Yankees are doing exactly what they should with a schedule that turned egg yolk-soft last week.
Behind six scoreless innings from CC Sabathia, who allowed only an infield hit, and home runs by Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius, they made it six victories in their last seven games by beating the Rangers, 7-2, on Sunday afternoon in front of 41,304 at the Stadium.
Sabathia had his second straight strong outing, walking three and striking out seven in improving to 7-4 with a 3.32 ERA.
“These games are important,” Aaron Boone said. “We need our starters to go out there and give us quality outings. He’s been a big part of helping us right the ship a little bit [since the four-game sweep by Boston] and be able to rack up some wins here.”
The Yankees (74-43) had 12 hits, including two each from Stanton, Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Austin Romine and Brett Gardner. Stanton hit his 30th homer and Gregorius added his 21st, along with a terrific effort in the field.
It’s been mostly positive for the Yankees since the previous Sunday, when they blew a three-run lead with two outs in the ninth and lost to the Red Sox in 10 innings to complete the four-game sweep.
But there’s this cold reality: Even in winning six of seven, the Yankees gained exactly zero ground on Boston (85-35) in the AL East race. They’re the same 9 1⁄2 games behind that they were last Monday morning. And with the Red Sox playing at a pace that would give them a 115-47 record, the Yankees would have to go 41-4 to match that.
The Yankees remained 4 1⁄2 games ahead of the A’s for the first wild card and six games ahead of the Mariners for the second wild card.
The string of tomato cans on the schedule continues with a makeup game Monday night against the Mets — though, obviously, an asterisk applies to the Mets any time Jacob deGrom starts, which he will Monday — followed by three against the Rays, three against the Blue Jays, two against the Marlins, four against the Orioles, three against the White Sox and four against the Tigers. Those seven teams have a collective record of 336-487 (.408).
“You just try to play it one series at a time,” Gregorius said. “Control what we can control.”
Stanton, who has been battling a hamstring issue for the better part of a week, continued to swing a torrid bat. Serving as the designated hitter for a fifth straight game, he crushed a solo homer in the first off Texas lefthander Martin Perez.
Stanton went 2-for-4, making him 67-for-201 (.333) with 15 homers, 40 RBIs and a .388 on-base percentage in his last 51 games. He has five homers and nine RBIs in his last six games.
Gregorius’ two-out, two-run shot off Perez, who allowed seven runs and 11 hits in five innings, capped a five-run fifth that made it 6-0. Hicks had a two-run single earlier in the inning. Gardner doubled in the fifth and had an RBI single in the sixth.
Sabathia, who has totaled 19 strikeouts in 11 2⁄3 innings in his last two starts, again featured a superb cutter. It was a pitch he struggled with in a four-start stretch July 9-Aug. 2, when he allowed a combined 13 runs in 18 1⁄3 innings.
“It’s been a huge part,” Sabathia said of the pitch. “Especially because guys, with two strikes, have been looking for my back-door slider. So to be able to elevate a cutter just changes the eye level and it’s helping me get a lot of swings-and-misses.”
Gregorius had an all-around stellar afternoon but, as always, deflected attention away from himself. “Satisfied for the whole team,” he said. “The ‘W,’ that’s what we play for. Everybody helped. That shows you what this team is about.”