The real winner of Wednesday night’s war of ineptitude between the Phillies and Yankees?
The Mets, of course.
All they had to do was fly back home from Cincinnati, maybe watch their two rivals beat each other up for a few gruesome innings, then happily head off to bed after the Yankees survived, 6-5, in 10 innings -- effectively bumping up the Mets’ lead to 3 1/2 games in the NL East.
Sandy Alderson should make sure there are a few cases of Sam Adams waiting for the Yankees when they check in to their Boston hotel for this critical series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, which begins Thursday night.
Other than doing their Flushing neighbors a big favor, the Yankees didn’t have a ton of good vibes to take away from Wednesday’s four-hour, 17-minute slogfest in the Bronx. Victories don’t get much uglier.
But at this stage of the season, and now winning nine of 12, the Yankees aren’t worried about style points. When half the daily lineup consists of RailRiders, and the top bench options also were at Triple-A Scranton a few days earlier, this is a group with a very narrow focus. When each game could be your last in the majors, there’s no point in looking past the next pitch.
And on this current roll, that approach is working out pretty well. Look what happened Wednesday night. The Yankees kicked away the gift of all gifts from Brad Miller in the ninth -- he badly misplayed Giancarlo Stanton’s line drive by letting it soar over his panicked reach for a two-base error and they still stranded men at second and third. But they recovered in the 10th, courtesy of the ghost runner, when pinch-hitter Ryan LaMarre launched a deep drive over Miller’s head (legitimately this time) to score Gary Sanchez from third.
The Yankees tore LaMarre’s jersey to shreds during the wild walkoff celebration, and when asked about it, his response was priceless.
"I tried to button it back up for the interview [with YES’ Meredith Marakovits] and there were no buttons to be found," LaMarre said. "I don’t know how they fix those or if they just get you a new one. But I don’t think that’s coming back."
No need to get out the needle and thread up here, Ryan. The Yankees can afford another uniform. The pinstripes have been a perfect fit for LaMarre and his Scranton teammates, with more contributions coming Wednesday from Greg Allen and Estevan Florial, too.
Allen’s RBI-single tied the score at 2 in the fourth inning (he also had a double-steal with Tyler Wade). Florial supplied the go-ahead run in the seventh by reaching on an infield single, stealing second and then sprinting home when Stanton shortened up his swing to punch a base hit through the right side.
Remember back in late June, with the Yankees cratering, when Brian Cashman said, "There’s no cavalry sitting at Triple-A to say, take this person out and put this person in ... I don’t feel like right now that I have definitive, obvious upgrades that I can promote from within."
That feels like a very long time ago. Evidently, Cashman didn’t give his super-subs enough credit. Cavalry is the perfect description for what these Scranton imports are doing at the moment. Rail-riding to the rescue of a Yankees team that needed to be revived, if not saved altogether.
"Everyone’s hungry, scrappy, we’re getting it done in different ways than we’re accustomed to," Stanton said. "So it’s good to get a new look and get some guys in here and playing like it’s their last game every time."
Not exactly how the Yankees drew this one up. But nothing they’ve done lately has followed the original script for what was supposed to be a championship season. Starting Asher Wojciechowski, for instance. Or deploying both Nick Nelson (9.95 ERA) and Brooks Kriske (12.60 ERA) in high-leverage spots Wednesday night. Unlike Nelson, Kriske got the job done, following Aroldis Chapman to pitch a clean 10th and keep the ghost runner at third.
Boone said afterward that he had to stay away from Chad Green, who threw only 13 pitches the previous night but apparently needed the breather. Luis Cessa (29 pitches) and Lucas Luetge (28 pitches) were down as well. Boone did bring back Zack Britton, however, and thanks to Gleyber Torres letting a grounder bounce right through his legs for an error, the Phillies scored three runs in the eighth inning -- on four walks, one error, one hit and a wild pitch that was responsible for the tying run. The Phillies still left the bases loaded, too.
Eventually, somebody was going to win. And for the Yankees, who also got home runs from Torres and Rougned Odor, it shouldn’t have been that difficult. Then again, nothing has come easy this season, so add this sweep of the Phillies to the long list.
"I think the guys are really enjoying playing the game right now," Boone said.
Winning will do that. No matter how bad it looks sometimes.