06/25/09 12:44 AM ET
Unexpected source galvanizes Yanks
Girardi's ejection lights a fire under lineup in win over Braves
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
So Girardi's rant held up the sixth inning until triggering the magic thumb, and that argument injected some life back into a sleepy lineup. Silent heading into that frame, the Yankees came alive and rallied to post an 8-4 victory over the Braves on Wednesday at Turner Field.
"If they're going to score eight runs after I get ejected, I'll take the lineup card out tomorrow," Girardi said, grinning.
The play in question came after the Yankees had been stifled through five innings, with Atlanta starter Kenshin Kawakami throwing three perfect frames before leaving due to an injury and reliever Kris Medlen bringing the bid into the sixth.
Brett Gardner walked to shatter the perfect game, but the speedster was quickly picked off first base by Medlen. Watching from the third-base side in the visiting dugout, Girardi sprang onto the field, protesting first-base umpire Bill Welke's call while also mindful that an ejection could spark something -- anything.
"I just felt like we were scuffling to score runs, we're all frustrated in here, and I thought I had a great viewpoint," Girardi said.
Girardi made it back to his tiny manager's office in time to see the Yankees finally wake up. Francisco Cervelli belted his first Major League home run over the wall in left-center field, and Alex Rodriguez busted out of a 1-for-25 skid with a two-run single to right-center off Atlanta's Jeff Bennett.
"It's good for us -- they threw the manager out, so we have to do something for him," Cervelli said.
"Cervelli has been incredible," Rodriguez said. "Every start that he's played in, he's had a significant hit, a significant guy thrown out, he's done a great job of calling games. His energy is something that this team really gets."
The Yankees kept the runs coming, with Nick Swisher adding a seventh-inning solo home run, as they won for just the fifth time in their past 14 games.
"It was big for me, and it was big for the team," Rodriguez said. "We needed to break through there. The Swisher home run was a nice insurance run. The important thing was that we came to play and we came to win for nine innings."
The late rally came on a day when general manager Brian Cashman shunned a trip to see a Yankees Minor League affiliate in favor of showing up unannounced on his struggling big league squad, which had scored just 13 runs over its past six games.
Cashman poked his head in on a rare mid-series hitters meeting before Wednesday's game, and while his style is not to scream and yell, it was apparent that he hadn't flown from New York without a message to deliver.
"Sometimes the principal needs to show up in the classroom if the teacher is having trouble with the students," Mark Teixeira said.
The eight-run outburst off Atlanta's bullpen was enough support for starter Joba Chamberlain, who permitted three runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings. Though it was overshadowed by his early struggles, Chamberlain blanked the Braves through four innings until Jeff Francoeur connected on a solo home run to lead off the fifth.
Cervelli said that Chamberlain was able to command his fastball and use his slider as a strikeout pitch, racking up five while walking none in a 99-pitch (68 for strikes) outing.
"Every outing, no matter good or bad, you've got to take a lot from each of them," Chamberlain said. "My last few, I've been able to take my aggressiveness as far as being able to throw my fastball. That makes my other pitches that much better."
The opportunity to pitch in Atlanta was a "dream come true," Chamberlain said. The right-hander grew up as a Braves fan watching games on TBS, and he said that Chipper Jones had signed a jersey for him before the game, later chastising him for hitting a third-inning line drive off Kawakami's neck.
"It was awesome," Chamberlain said. "I tried to not get out of control too much, but when I hit the ball off [Kawakami], he came over and said, 'You're not supposed to take out my pitcher.' I'm 23, and I've looked up to that man for a long time. It was pretty special for me."
Rodriguez and Swisher each drove in two runs for the Yankees, while Johnny Damon had three hits.
"We never press the panic button, because we all understand how good this lineup can be," Chamberlain said.
The Yankees got a four-out save from Mariano Rivera, the 498th of his career, to polish off the victory, and they even enjoyed a light moment in the ninth inning, when the closer, who was forced to bat under National League rules, flied out to center field.
Though Rivera left the bases loaded after promising not to swing, he had all of his teammates on the top step of the dugout laughing and grinning -- a sight almost as rare in recent days as watching their closer handle a bat in a big league game.
"Sometimes it just takes one guy getting a hit with runners in scoring position to change what your club is doing," Girardi said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.