"I kind of chuckled to myself after getting the second out and said, 'All right, you're already doing better than last outing,'" Phelps said. "The whole season is going to have ups and downs, and you got to roll with them as much as you can."
Tuesday night included mostly ups for Phelps, who earned his fourth win of the season. He struck out seven and allowed just one hit over six frames, three fewer than he allowed in one-third of an inning at Citi Field.
"I thought Phelpsie did a pretty good job," manager Joe Girardi said. "He shut them down. The way he got in trouble was walks, but I thought Cleveland put a lot of tough at-bats on us tonight."
Phelps did issue four walks, but he managed to work out of trouble each time. The right-hander walked Indians third baseman Mark Reynolds and designated hitter Jason Giambi to lead off the fifth inning, but he retired the next three hitters in order to keep Cleveland off the board.
"We didn't have anything to show for it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We made him work and we took our walks, but we couldn't push any runs across. It's rare to see you get one hit, and you look up and see a bunch of pitches like that. He did a very good job of not giving in."
The Yankees' offense also gave Phelps plenty of support, all of which came in the third inning. Right fielder Lyle Overbay hit a double to the right-center-field wall off Indians starter Scott Kazmir to open the inning and advanced to third on catcher Chris Stewart's single. Overbay scored on center fielder Ichiro Suzuki's single to left, and shortstop Jayson Nix's base hit gave the Yankees runners on the corners with first baseman Mark Teixeira coming to the plate.
And for the second time in as many nights, Teixeira delivered the big blow. After hitting a grand slam that helped propel the Yankees to a 7-4 win on Monday, Teixeira launched a three-run home run into the left-field seats to give the Yankees an early 4-0 lead.
"When you don't play, you don't miss making outs; you don't miss being the goat and you don't miss losing four or five games in a row," Teixeira said. "But you miss that big home run. You miss the energy in the dugout when you get back."
The Indians did manage to close the gap in the seventh inning, though. Reliever Joba Chamberlain walked Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana to lead off the inning and, after recording two outs, gave up a single to shortstop Mike Aviles. Right fielder Drew Stubbs drilled a home run into the right-field seats, cutting the Yankees' lead to just 4-3.
Chamberlain now has a 6.85 ERA in 12 career appearances against the Indians.
"[My confidence is] still high -- he got in some long counts," Girardi said of Chamberlain. "That probably hurt him."
The Yankees had a chance to respond in their half of the seventh, but second baseman Robinson Cano grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
The bullpen managed to secure the win without any more run support, however. Reliever David Robertson allowed the first two batters he faced to reach but got former Yankee Nick Swisher to line into a double play to end the threat. Closer Mariano Rivera threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn the save and secure the Yankees' second win in as many nights.
The victory proved to be a much-needed rebound for Phelps, who said he had been "champing at the bit" to get back on the mound after getting shellacked against the crosstown-rival Mets last week.
He wasn't perfect, but in the end, Phelps -- and the Yankees -- emerged with the victory.
"I'd prefer not to battle, but it's something that I've had to become accustomed to in my career because I'm not a guy that's going to come out and throw my fastball by people," Phelps said. "But I've got faith in my stuff that I can go out and throw a strike with any of my pitches in any count."