ATLANTA - The Yankees staggered into this city after a frustrating homestand in which their bats went silent. They left for Boston on Sunday night feeling as good at the plate as they have all season.
Doing exactly what a contender should to a bottom-feeding team, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Braves with a 20-6 victory Sunday in front of 33,093 at Turner Field.
"It's nice to get back on the winning track," said Joe Girardi, whose team had lost five of seven entering the series and scored four runs in the previous three games.
The Yankees, who outscored the Braves 38-11 in the three games, had 21 hits, including three home runs -- a three-run shot with two outs in the second inning by Jacoby Ellsbury and two-out, two-run blasts by Chase Headley and Stephen Drew in a four-run third that made it 7-0.
"It was a good series for us," said Alex Rodriguez, whose pinch-hit two-run single began the scoring in a nine-run seventh that made it 17-5. "It was great to see the guys 1-9, 1-12 swing the bats extremely well. It's been a while since we swung the bats like this, so hopefully it sets the tone for September."
The splash of cold water?
The Yankees (72-57) gained no ground over the weekend as the AL East-leading Blue Jays, winners of 24 of 29, stayed 1 1/2 games up with a sweep of the Tigers.
"You just have to focus on what you're doing," Headley said. "Sure, we would have loved it if they lost a game or two, but all we can control is what we can do, and we're going to play them seven times until the end of the year. There's a good chance those games are going to have a pretty big impact on how things end up."
Drew, who had four hits to nudge his batting average above .200 for the first time this season, and Headley drove in four runs each. Headley and Carlos Beltran had three hits each.
The Yankees scored 16 runs with two outs, including the final seven runs of the nine-run seventh. They had scored nine runs in the first two innings Friday night after the first two Yankees batters were retired in each inning, and they accomplished that feat again Sunday in the four-run third.
Nathan Eovaldi (14-2, 4.17), who entered the afternoon 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his previous 12 starts, could not get out of the sixth inning, allowing five runs and eight hits.
"His split was up today," Girardi said of what had been one of the righthander's best pitches the last two months. "He didn't have the command of it he usually does."
Atlanta starter Julio Teheran (9-7) hardly commanded anything, allowing eight runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.Jake Brigham, the Braves' fifth pitcher, wound up taking one for the team, allowing eight runs, nine hits and four walks in 12/3 innings. The Braves allowed the most runs in a three-game series since their move to Atlanta in 1966.
With two outs and runners on first and second in the second, Ellsbury lined a full-count slider to right for his seventh homer to make it 3-0.
With two outs and no one on in the third, Greg Bird walked and Headley hit his 10th homer, a two-run shot to dead centerfield. After Gregorius walked, Drew hammered Teheran's first pitch to right for his 16th homer and a 7-0 lead.
After the Braves closed to within 8-5, Rodriguez's two-run single and Gardner's two-out RBI single made it 11-5 in the seventh. McCann added a two-run single, Bird doubled in a run, Headley had a two-run double and Drew contributed an RBI single later in the inning.
Even reliever Branden Pinder had a two-run double in a three-run eighth.
"Guys in here understand there's going to be the swings where you're playing really well and things are going your way and then times where things aren't going your way," Headley said. "This is a confident group. We were confident we were going to regroup and play well."