The Yankees put an end to their losing streak in style, exploding for 14 runs as Mark Teixeira celebrates Brian McCann’s home run.
A couple of minutes before 2 p.m., Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie strode from the Yankee Stadium mound on his way to the showers, his day done after 60 pitches and just 16 batters — only three of whom he’d retired — and you could just imagine the collective feeling in the home team dugout.
“Thanks, pal. We really needed that.”
Hoo boy, did the Yankees ever need a day like this — in which the traditional Fourth of July fireworks came one holiday sooner in the Bronx with five home runs, including the major league first by recent callup Slade Heathcott. After being swept over the weekend by the Texas Rangers to extend their season-high losing streak to six, and playing about as badly as a team can play in all aspects of the game for the previous 11 days, the Yankees had good reason to start harboring doubts about themselves and where this season is heading and when would this all stop. But stop it did, with a bang, five of them, in a stunning 14-1 beatdown of the defending American League champions.
“There’d been a lot of frustration around here,” said Chase Headley, “and we were looking for a reason to get excited.”
Guthrie, the 36-year-old finesse righty sure gave it to them, starting with a leadoff double by Bret Gardner in the first and a homer by Headley. From there the inning went on . . . and on . . . a single by Alex Rodriguez, a walk to Mark Teixeira, and another homer by Brian McCann before Guthrie finally retired his first two batters. But then he hit Didi Gregorius with a pitch and here came Gardner again, with yet another homer, making it an 8-0 game.
Jeremy Guthrie cannot even record an out in the second inning before allowing 11 runs.
“We’ve been through some tough, ugly losses of late,” said Joe Girardi. “To get a big early lead like that was nice.”
After a 47-pitch first inning, you might have thought Royals manager Ned Yost would’ve given Guthrie a supportive pat on the back and said: “Just not your day today, guy. Take the rest of the afternoon off.” Instead, he sent him back out for the second to take a further beating: A leadoff walk to McCann, a single by Garrett Jones and, oops, another three-run homer — on an 0-2 pitch — by .176-hitting Stephen Drew. Yes, everyone in the Yankee lineup got in on this one. But according to Guthrie, who started the day with a 4.75 ERA and ended it at 6.70 after a yield of 11 earned runs in one-plus inning of work, the Yankees accomplished all this carnage against him on merit. The home run pitches, he said, were down and in, and there was nothing wrong with his mechanics or his location.
“Most of the damage was a credit to them,” Guthrie insisted.
For the Yankees — and Heathcott in particular — it was certainly a Memorial Day to remember. The 24-year-old center fielder was recalled from the minors last Wednesday and given the unenviable task of at least partially replacing Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees’ best player, for the next few weeks. But considering all he’s been through after being selected in the first round of the 2009 draft — enduring a multitude of injuries that made for five mostly wasted seasons in the minors and then battling alcoholism, which prompted the Yankees to remove him from their 40-man roster last winter and get him into rehab — just being in the major leagues is a blessing. So far, however, he’s making the most of it, batting .417 with a double, homer, three runs scored and three RBI.
When Heathcott came to bat for the fourth time, in the seventh inning, he was probably somewhat surprised to see Greg Holland, the Royals’ formidable closer who’d been summoned into the rout to get some needed work after not having pitched in 11 days. The rust showed. After walking the leadoff hitter, Gregorius, Holland fell behind 3-1 on Heathcott, who then connected on a drive into the right field seats for his maiden major league dinger. According to Heathcott, this was the culmination of something “I’d dreamed about since I was 6 years old.” But he wasn’t about to milk it.
“I remember when I was a kid something Emmitt Smith said about not showboating after scoring a touchdown — ‘act like you’ve been there before’ — and that’s always stayed with me,” Heathcott said.
Still, in the Yankee clubhouse afterward, Heathcott was hard-pressed to contain his joy.
“I’m thankful to God, the Yankees and everyone in my life for helping me to get to where I am now,” said Heathcott, who also could celebrate being part of his first major league win.
For one glorious holiday afternoon in the Bronx, it was easy to forget how awful the previous 11 days had been. Then again, look at the AL East standings and it’s as if none of that happened.
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