Yanks motor on to seventh straight win
As Jeter rests, Granderson remains hot with three RBIs
NEW YORK -- With Derek Jeter getting a routine day off Friday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi trotted out a lineup with Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson hitting first and second, respectively, for the first time this season.
It turned out to be a pretty good idea.
Yes, in their 7-3 win over the Blue Jays, the Yankees were propelled by a little G-force at the top of the order. The pair of speedy left-handed-hitting outfielders combined to reach base seven times, score four times and drive in four runs, tormenting Toronto pitchers all afternoon.
"It seemed like every ball they hit, they hit down the line or in the gap," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said of the Yankees' offense. "They used their speed to score some runs, get guys on at the right time with some speed."
Early on, Gardner and Granderson exploited Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow's lack of command. Morrow walked each of them to lead off the first, with both eventually coming around to score -- almost at the same time. On Mark Teixeira's double, Granderson nearly overtook Gardner on the basepaths, but third-base coach Rob Thomson was able to send Gardner and hold Granderson to avoid an out at the plate.
Granderson scored a batter later on a Robinson Cano groundout.
"I knew he was right behind me," Gardner said of Granderson. "I could feel him."
Indeed, Gardner and Granderson seemed to work in concert all afternoon -- dual thorns in the Blue Jays' side. In the second, Gardner worked a two-out walk from Morrow, after which Granderson curled a double down the right-field line. Austin Kearns scored easily from second, and Gardner came all the way around from first, beating the throw of Jose Bautista, who happens to be second in the league in outfield assists.
"Speed's one of those things where, if you have it, it's always a weapon," said Granderson, who perhaps appropriately sported a "Hulkamania" T-shirt postgame. "[Gardner] is sneakily one of the fastest guys in baseball. ... To score from first base on the ball I hit down the line, there's not too many people in the game that can do that."
The two combined to plate two more runs in the sixth, with Gardner tripling home Eduardo Nunez and Granderson connecting on his second run-scoring double of the day.
"I lucked out on a couple of balls today -- two balls off the end of the bat that got past the first baseman," Granderson said.
It might just be luck reaching equilibrium for the outfielder, who has seen his fair share of hard-hit balls locate defenders' gloves over the past several weeks. That said, Granderson compiled his third consecutive multihit game on Friday, and he now has 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in his past 22 games, dating back to the adjustments he made in his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long in Texas.
"What we did was move the hands back, and we closed up a little -- all things trying to eliminate inconsistency," said Granderson, who described the changes as as not being too "crazy/drastic."
They may not be drastic, but the returns have been fairly dramatic. Granderson hit a pair of home runs on Thursday, and he's batting .423 off left-handers since making the adjustments.
Gardner and Granderson were but the headliners on a day when the Yankees were led by some unusual suspects. Lance Berkman, Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez all collected two hits, and the bullpen pieced together 4 1/3 hitless innings behind Ivan Nova to preserve the lead.
Kerry Wood earned the win with 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief, recording two strikeouts. Wood lowered his ERA to 0.60 in 15 innings since being traded to the Yankees. He hasn't allowed a run since his second outing with New York, back on Aug. 3.
"I picked up 30 games in the standings, and I've started to throw the ball a lot better," Wood said. "I couldn't ask for things to be going better."
Nova was disappointed in himself after giving up three runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander was pulled in favor of lefty Boone Logan when he was one out from qualifying for a victory with a 5-3 lead.
"For me, it wasn't good," said the rookie, who mentioned that he didn't throw inside enough against the Blue Jays' powerful lineup.
The bullpen held the lead, though, and the Yankees won their seventh straight game, tying their longest winning streak of the season. The fact that they've done it without Alex Rodriguez, with several players shuffling in and out of the lineup and with an increasingly makeshift starting rotation only speaks to the team's depth.
"We've got a good lineup, a good enough bullpen and a good enough starting five that if a couple guys are down and some other guys have to fill in, we still can win," Girardi said.
"Our team is deep. There's a lot of talent on this club, and guys are stepping up and playing well. Guys are finding a way just to get it done."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.