MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Yanks remain resilient no matter the calamity

Justice: Yanks remain resilient no matter the calamity

BALTIMORE -- It ended up being a 10-run blowout for the Yankees, an easy one, a walk in the park.

Only it didn't feel that way.

The Yanks didn't even get four innings out of their starting pitcher, Freddy Garcia, and so manager Joe Girardi again had to piece it together inning-by-inning. It was a two-run game until the sixth.

"I mean, that's my job," Girardi said. "I gotta figure it out."

Girardi used four relievers in all, beginning with a solid 1 2/3 innings by Joba Chamberlain in a 13-3 victory over the Orioles on Sunday afternoon.

At the moment, Chamberlain is one of the reasons the Yankees are optimistic about how this thing will play out.

In a season when they were unsure he'd throw a single pitch, he appears to be someone Girardi can count on down the stretch.

They need Chamberlain, too. In nine games this month, Yanks starters are 2-3 with a 6.61 ERA. They've been unable to get through the sixth inning in four of those nine games and finished seven innings just once.

"We're going to have to pitch better down the stretch," Girardi said. "No doubt about it."

Girardi went to his bullpen four times in a victory on Friday and six times in a loss on Thursday.

The Yanks arrived at Camden Yards clinging to a one-game lead in the American League East and left with a one-game lead. They've had at least a share of first place for 90 straight days, but that 10-game lead is a distant memory.

Three times in the past week, they could have fallen into second place with a loss. Instead, they won every game, including two here this weekend, splitting a four-game series with the O's.

If you're a Yankees fan, this is what you should cling to. In a season when the starting pitching has been erratic and the offense inconsistent, the Yanks don't back down.

"I've said it all along," Girardi said. "This is a resilient team. They come back. They have a lot of fight in 'em."

The Yankees suffered two brutally tough losses to the Orioles, especially on Saturday, when a blown call ended the game.

But both times they bounced back.

"It shows our character, shows our heart," Mark Teixeira said. "We battle for every pitch, every run, every game. We have a group of guys who want to win very badly."

If that sounds like the usual stuff, Teixeira has an even better one.

"We go about it one game at a time," he said. "It's the oldest cliche in sports, but we really do. Every game, we want to go out there and win. We have a chance to extend our lead, whatever you want to call it. We try to do that every day."

The thing about cliches is that they're also ultimate truths. It really is about showing up at the office and putting in a full day.

"Guys were upset yesterday," Derek Jeter said. "Other than that, I don't sense there's any stress. We're trying to win games. Look, we've played some tough teams."

The Rays, who are two games back, have been getting spectacular starting pitching. If that's what decides the AL East, it's hard to see anyone holding off Tampa Bay.

But the Yankees have Ivan Nova back and are optimistic that Andy Pettitte will be back in a few days.

With Chamberlain pitching well, with Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez hitting, the Yanks are about to be as whole as they're going to be.

"We lost a couple of times, but we kept battling back," Jeter said. "Today was a big one for us. We were ready to play. I like the way we've played."

It's easy to look at the Yankees and focus on what they don't have. But no one really doubts them. No one sees them as anything less. Their core group of guys has accomplished so much it's silly to discount them.

"The bottom line is we're still in first place," Girardi said. "And the one thing you want to be able to do is just rely on your club. You don't want to rely on other people."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.