Published September 29, 2015
NEW YORK -- Dustin Ackley was a surprise trade-deadline acquisition by New York, arriving in a season-long slump with few credentials to support the early hype of a No. 2 overall draft pick. Then he got hurt.
Three weeks back from a stint on the disabled list, Ackley has hit his way into the conversation for a spot on the Yankees' playoff roster, especially with an ailing Stephen Drew unavailable down the stretch.
Ackley homered in the sixth to spark New York's late-waking offense Sunday and back Luis Severino's six innings of five-hit ball as the Yankees moved closer to a playoff berth with a 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
''I think he's healthy and he's made some slight adjustments,'' manager Joe Girard said. ''He's worked really hard and got himself in the mix.''
Severino (5-3) induced three double plays in shutting down the White Sox in his 10th big-league start, helping the Yankees cut their magic number for clinching at least a wild card to three and move within one of the franchise's 10,000th regular-season victory. They are four games back of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.
The crowd of 38,690 on a crisp September afternoon pushed attendance at Yankee Stadium over 3 million for the 17th straight year (3,036,446) with four home dates left. New York went 3 for 19 with runners in scoring position, leaving the Bronx ballpark without much late-season buzz.
With the Yankees revealing Drew has been sidelined about 10 days because of dizziness and a bad cold, Ackley could play a big role into the postseason.
''Whatever happens, happens with that. I didn't come over here and expect to be handed at-bats or anything like that,'' Ackley said. ''I think I definitely earned them as far as getting pinch-hits and making some spot starts for some guys that needed days off ... Just going to keep getting ready every day and hop for more at-bats.''
Drew has said there has been a little improvement and he is available, but said to play wouldn't ''be fair to him or to the'' team.
A top selection by the Seattle Mariners in 2009, Ackley never met the lofty expectations, batting .243 with 42 homers and 201 RBI in five seasons. He was hitting just .215 in 85 games when the Yankees acquired him, mostly because he added versatility on the field and another left-handed bat.
Five days after his arrival, he went on the disabled list with a bad back. But since his return on Sept. 1, Ackley is 11 for 28 (.392). He hit a big homer against the Mets -- after his former North Carolina teammate Matt Harvey was lifted from the game -- and hit another in the sixth inning Sunday to put New York up 2-0.
The White Sox finished their road schedule 36-45, three wins better than last season.
Brian McCann had a sacrifice fly in the first inning off Erik Johnson (3-1) that was set up by a leadoff walk and first baseman Jose Abreu's errors on consecutive plays, the second two-error game of Abreu's major-league career.
The Yankees repeatedly wasted chances against Johnson, who was making his fifth start this season. New York was 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position through four innings.
''Any time he got in a tough spot, he was getting guys to pop up, he really bowed his neck and he got through it,'' White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
Slade Heathcott scored on a passed ball in the sixth, and Jacoby Ellsbury had an RBI single in the seventh. Greg Bird drove in one in the eighth with a single and Heathcott had a sacrifice fly.
Severino got into trouble in the fifth, when the White Sox got a pair of leadoff singles, and in the sixth when Chicago put two on with one out. Each time the 21-year-old rookie induced a double play to get out of it.
White Sox: DH Adam LaRoche (sore right knee) was out of the lineup after playing Saturday. He played every other game in this series after sitting from Sept. 13 to Thursday's series opener.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (right hamstring) threw in the outfield and said ''I don't have a problem throwing a ball.'' Tanaka is set to do fielding drills Monday. Girardi said Thursday would be the cutoff day to get Tanaka one more start before he gets the ball in a potential wild-card game Oct. 6. Otherwise, Tanaka could get an inning or two next weekend to prepare him for the one-game playoff.
White Sox: RHP Jeff Samardzija (10-13) is coming off a one-hit shutout at Detroit, but he's 0-3 with an 8.15 ERA in three starts against Kansas City this season.
Yankees: RHP Ivan Nova (6-9), recently dropped from the rotation in his return from Tommy John surgery, will make a spot start as New York switches Sox and hosts Boston. Nova was 1-5 in his last six starts. Opponents were batting .301 against him in that span.