By Sean Hartnett
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Without attractive trade chips at his disposal, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was forced to focus his eye on scrapheap additions as June turned into July.
Incredibly, Cashman was able to unearth a few gems that have kept the Yankees alive in the Wild Card race. New York is currently 2 1/2 games behind Seattle, which currently holds the second Wild Card berth. Tuesday’s starter, Brandon McCarthy, ranks at the top of the list of Cashman’s shrewd July acquisitions.
MCCARTHY HAS BEEN NOTHING SHORT OF SPECTACULAR
Since donning pinstripes, McCarthy has flat-out dominated. The 31-year-old sinkerballer is 5-2 with an outstanding 1.90 ERA through eight starts as a Yankee. McCarthy was previously 3-10with the Arizona Diamondbacks, posting a bloated 5.01 ERA.
Swapping struggling lefty Vidal Nuno for McCarthy was one of July’s biggest steals. Nuno had essentially pitched himself off the Yankees’ roster. The 27-year-old starter was carrying a 5.42 ERA and had surrendered 15 home runs through 78 innings pitched.
McCarthy stepped comfortably into the Bronx spotlight one day after ace starter Masahiro Tanaka last pitched for the Bombers on July 8. Tanaka was placed on the disabled list on July 10 after doctors diagnosed a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
With Tanaka sidelined and CC Sabathia shut down for the rest of 2014, the Yankees have $45 million of their rotation unavailable. McCarthy has been the Bombers’ unexpected fill-in ace. The 6-foot-7 starter is coming off a sterling complete-game shutout performance against the Houston Astros.
McCarthy is set to take the hill on Tuesday night at Comerica Park against Detroit Tigers superb righty Rick Porcello. This is going to be a dynamite, must-see matchup. Porcello is also coming off a complete-game shutout in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tigers are only a half-game behind the Mariners in the Wild Card race.
PRADO AND HEADLEY HAVE ENERGIZED THE BOMBERS
Switch-hitting third baseman Chase Headley was acquired by the Yankees on July 22 for third baseman Yangervis Solarte and right-handed pitcher Rafael De Paula.
Headley has provided sparkling defense at the hot corner. The former Gold Glove winner has only committed one error in 25 games, posting a .987 fielding percentage at third base since joining the Bombers. Headley has also filled in at first base for five games. He has not made an error at first base.
His play at the hot corner is reminiscent of popular former third baseman Scott Brosius. Headley has displayed quick reactions and has pulled off a collection of difficult barehanded plays.
The Yankees probably expected better offensive production from Headley, as he’s a former Silver Slugger Award recipient. Headley has batted .245 with two home runs and 10 RBIs through 30 games with the Yankees. Overall, though, he’s looked the part.
Cashman was able to pry utility man Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks before the July 31 trade deadline passed. Aside from catcher, Prado can play anywhere on the diamond.
He’s also supplied plenty of pop. Prado has hit four home runs and knocked in 12 RBIs through 22 games as a Yankee. He has raised his average from .230 to .278 during his current five-game hitting streak. During this stretch, Prado is batting .428 (9-for-21) with two homers and six RBIs.
Both players have provided dramatic game-winning hits. Prado recorded a walk-off RBI single last Friday, as the Yankees edged the Chicago White Sox 4-3.
These three acquisitions have given the Yankees a real shot in the arm at a time when they really needed it. Fans expected the Bombers to fall out of the playoff hunt this time of year.
McCarthy, Prado and Headley have all played a part in creating reason for excitement in the Bronx.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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