The Yankees (43-42) entered this four-game series in Minnesota batting .223 overall and .141 with runners in scoring position, and while they’ve turned things around at Target Field, it’s hard to tell whether it’s a mirage or actual change.
New York has hit 6-for-14 for 12 RBIs with runners in scoring position, yet has won the back-to-back games against the punchless Twins by an average of two runs. The Yankees own the Twins at Target Field, now 13-3 since the park opened in 2010, but needed a stellar defensive play by first baseman Mark Teixeira, more solid innings from relievers and four extra-base hits by Roberts to seal the deal on Friday.
Roberts’ four extra-base outing is the first for a Yankee since Alex Rodriguez did so in 2005 and only the fourth such performance in the past 40 years for New York.
“I really think guys are starting to swing the bat a lot better,” Roberts said. “When you look at the way some of us have had our struggles and done what we had so far: McCann started swinging the bat well; Beltran started swinging the bat well. Hitting is contagious.”
The Yankees suffered without McCann in the lineup, who has hit 3-for-8 in his past two games, but had to survive off unlikely performances once again. On Thursday, it was major league rookie Zelous Wheeler with two hits and a home run. On Friday, the Yankees relied on Francisco Cervelli (hitting .192 before Friday) and Roberts (.248) to account for seven of the team’s 10 hits, as Carlos Beltran, Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Teixeira hit 3-for-19 (.158). Beltran and Brendan Ryan each had sac flies.
New York had averaged just three runs per game in the past 11 contests before beginning their 11-game road trip heading into the All-Star break.
They’re averaging 6.5 runs in these two wins in Minnesota.
“We’ve said all along: These guys are good hitters, and eventually it’s going to turn,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Last few days, we’ve swung the bat really, really well.”
Has it really turned?
We’ve seen a slight uptick in offensive production, but it must be taken with a grain of salt, as Minnesota as a team has a 4.37 ERA on the season, which is bad enough for 28th out of 30 teams. The Twins have plenty of issues on the mound, just like the Yankees, which can lead to misleading games.
For New York, Chase Whitley (3-2) lasted just three innings and now has a 14.81 ERA across his past three starts. David Huff (2-0) pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Whitley and picked up the win for the Yankees.
Huff hasn’t pitched more than 3 2/3 innings this season but said he could start if asked.
“I think I am. I don’t know how deep and how long I could possibly go,” Huff said. “Haven’t done it this year yet. We’ll have to see.”
As excited as Girardi was to see the Yankees put some runs on the board, it was defense and relievers who saved the game from going into extra innings.
Teixeira’s RBI double in the first inning help set up the Yankees’ 3-0 lead to start the game, but his low, reaching catch at first base robbed Eduardo Escobar of a RBI single in the eighth with the tying run at third.
“That’s a huge play, or we’re in a tie ballgame,” Girardi said.
David Robertson notched his 20th save on the season with three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth.
Though it’s a relief for New York to claim back-to-back wins after a five-game losing streak, the manner in which they’ve done so should make you wonder if it’s sustainable.