Last Friday, Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia were on opposite sides of a diamond in a ballpark at the opposite end of the country from Yankee Stadium. Four days later, they were together as Yankees, having been acquired just before the nonwaiver trade deadline as part of their new club’s effort to win at least one postseason game for the first time in five years. Garcia was the starting and winning pitcher for the Minnesota Twins in a 6-3 victory against the Oakland Athletics on Friday, while Gray, then the Athletics’ ace, was preparing for a scheduled start against the Twins on Sunday.
They’ll be wearing matching jerseys this week, as they are set to pitch in the first two games of a series against the Indians in Cleveland. Gray, who arrived at Yankee Stadium about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, will start the opening game Thursday, followed by Garcia on Friday. Jordan Montgomery, who will most likely be moved out of the rotation, will start Saturday, and Luis Severino, who threw 116 pitches in a five-inning outing Monday, will get an extra day’s rest and start Sunday
The Yankees’ hope is that the two veteran pitchers, the right-handed Gray and the left-handed Garcia, will solidify a starting rotation that has weathered the inconsistency of Masahiro Tanaka and a season-ending injury to Michael Pineda.
“I’m not sure it feels like 2009 again, but we’re really confident right now,” C. C. Sabathia said Tuesday night, referring to the season of the Yankees’ last championship. “Just adding guys like Garcia and Sonny Gray, we’re feeling pretty good in here.”
Sabathia, one of the more reliable members of the Yankees’ rotation this season, nevertheless had two rough innings against the Tigers, allowing a three-run home run to John Hicks in the second inning and a solo homer to Justin Upton in the third. The Yankees cut Detroit’s lead to 4-2 on Didi Gregorius’s two-run home run in the fourth, and pulled to within a run on Gregorius’s run-scoring single in the eighth.
But the Yankees could not close that gap in a 4-3 loss. They made things interesting in the ninth inning. In the top half, Brett Gardner cut down a potential insurance run at the plate with a fine throw from center field, and in the bottom half, they got runners to second and third with two outs. But the Yankees were stifled by the ex-Yankee Shane Greene, as Clint Frazier flied out to shallow center to end the game. The defeat dropped the Yankees to a half-game back of the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Cleveland Indians, 12-10.
It was the 500th regular-season start of Sabathia’s 17-year career — nearly double the number of starts by Gray and Garcia combined — and he lasted six innings, allowing six hits and striking out three. He dropped to 9-4 with a 3.81 earned-run average. Tanaka, who is 8-9 with a 5.09 E.R.A., will pitch the finale of the Detroit series, and the nine-game homestand, on Wednesday. Then it’s time for the Yankees to unveil their new starters. Garcia has taken the more winding road to the Bronx, as the Yankees are his fourth team in the past eight months. A member of the St. Louis Cardinals for his first eight seasons, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves last December and from the Braves to the Twins on July 24.
Gray’s journey was more conventional — the Athletics, who drafted him in 2011, were at home when Gray got the word he had been traded late Monday afternoon — but his Tuesday was a whirlwind. It began at 4 a.m. Pacific with a cross-country flight, a hurried trip from Kennedy Airport to Yankee Stadium and a quick bullpen session with the pitching coach Larry Rothschild before Gray met a large news media contingent about a half-hour before a game against Detroit.
“It’s been a long day but it’s been exciting,” said Gray, who was 6-5 with a 3.43 E.R.A. in 16 starts for the Athletics this season. “I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out.”
The Yankees parted with the infield prospect Jorge Mateo; pitcher James Kaprielian, their No. 1 draft pick in 2015; and outfielder Dustin Fowler for Gray.
“There always is a little bit of sadness, but that quickly gets overcome with joy and excitement,” Gray said. “As sad as it can be to leave some friends that you’ve made, at the same time, it’s going to be exciting coming to a place like New York where you’re expected to win and you’re expected to perform. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved.”
Gray, who had a 44-36 record and a 3.42 E.R.A. in five seasons with Oakland, missed much of the second half of the 2016 season with an elbow injury, but he pitched well in July, going 3-1 with a 1.48 E.R.A. and 25 strikeouts in 24 ⅓ innings.
“The baseball feels good in my hand again,” he said.
Garcia, who was born in Mexico but grew up near the border town of McAllen, Tex., said the trade to the Yankees was met with great joy by his family.
“The Yankees have always been my family’s favourite team and my favourite team growing up,” Garcia said. “My grandfather loved the Yankees, and he always told me when I was a kid he saw me playing for the Yankees someday. He passed away when I was 13. So the first call I made was to my mom. She got very emotional when I told her I was going to be a Yankee.”