NEW YORK -- When Brandon McCarthy zipped up his travel bag to join the Yankees earlier this month, the right-hander experienced a rush of relief, knowing that his unimpressive season statistics could effectively be flushed. This, he said, would be a fresh start.
McCarthy is making the most of that second season, fitting nicely into pinstripes and providing the Yankees with another solid outing on Thursday. He permitted just one run over six innings as New York defeated the Rangers, 4-2, at Yankee Stadium.
"It's a nice feeling," McCarthy said. "It's the opposite of how I felt earlier this year, where I was a burden on my team. I was a guy that was holding things up. To come here and feel good about myself again, to contribute to a playoff race, is a great feeling."
Chase Headley and Francisco Cervelli each contributed run-scoring hits to pace the attack against Texas starter Colby Lewis, and David Robertson pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 25th save as the Yankees took three of four games from the Rangers.
New York has won six of seven games coming out of the All-Star break, all of them at home. The Yankees are now back to .500 at Yankee Stadium, owning a 24-24 home record, and they left the ballpark in a tie with the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card slot.
"We've pitched extremely well, and we've had some timely hitting," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You put those two together, and you're going to win games. We talked about the importance of playing at home. We have a lot of home games in the second half -- 40 -- and we need to take advantage of that."
Acquired from the D-backs on July 6 in exchange for left-hander Vidal Nuno, McCarthy has bolstered the reconstructed Yankees rotation, improving to 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three starts and helping make up for the loss of Masahiro Tanaka to a right elbow injury.
"I think we've won every game he's pitched," Girardi said. "It's extremely important. We've seen him pitch really well against us."
McCarthy was just 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA with Arizona, and some of the credit for the turnaround has been assigned to reinstating a cutter to his repertoire. Mostly, McCarthy said, he has been trusting his catchers and executing his pitches with conviction.
"I was at a point where I really felt like I wanted more pressure, more something," McCarthy said. "Kind of the fight or flight thing; I've always responded well to it. To get into a situation now where that's the case -- especially doing it for a team like the Yankees -- it's ramped up all the way."
The sinkerballer scattered four hits, walking two and striking out five. Texas brought in its only run off McCarthy in the third inning, as a soft Elvis Andrus flare fell beyond the reach of second baseman Brian Roberts to drive home Rougned Odor.
"He battles all the time; he can throw hard, too. It's really good," Cervelli said of McCarthy. "It's what we used to see when he was in Oakland. He's a tall guy, it's uncomfortable. The stuff is pretty good."
Against Lewis, who lost his third straight start, the Yankees managed three runs and four hits in his 6 1/3 innings. Playing his third game for the Yanks, Headley singled off the right-field wall in the fourth inning to chase home Brett Gardner with the first run.
"It's a little bit of a learning experience, not knowing any of the pitchers, really, but for the most part, the swings have felt good," Headley said. "I just missed a couple balls and squared some up too. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at."
In the fifth, Cervelli drove home Ichiro Suzuki with a double into the left-field corner, and Gardner lifted a sacrifice fly.
"Colby did a good job for us today; he was just erratic in that fifth inning, and that cost us some runs right there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We had opportunities, and we just didn't cash them in."
Adam Warren allowed a seventh-inning homer to J.P. Arencibia to bring the Rangers within a run, but he recovered to retire the next two batters.
Matt Thornton threw one pitch to finish the inning, and Dellin Betances pitched a scoreless eighth. Brian McCann doubled home a run in the eighth off Ryan Feierabend, restoring the two-run lead and giving the Yankees some breathing room.
"Hopefully, it just continues to give us confidence and we build on it and we keep playing extremely well," Girardi said. "It's important because the teams in our division are all playing well right now, and we need to keep that up."