ATLANTA — The slumping Yankees staggered south without their two most threatening bats in the lineup, one because there is no place for a designated hitter in a National League park and the other because his troublesome shin showed no sign of getting better.
No Alex Rodriguez?
No Mark Teixeira?
No problem as it turned out Friday night, the Yankees finding their footing after a day off and feasting on woeful Atlanta Braves pitching, scoring nine runs in the first two innings and coasting to a 15-4 victory.
Whether it was a sign that better days are to come for the Yankees, who have watched their once cushy American League East lead dissolve this month along with their proficient offense, seemed to matter little. For a team that appears to be wheezing toward the finish line, every victory feels as if it is a chance for the Yankees to rejuvenate themselves — especially a win that was so decisive.
“This was a big night for us, just to get some guys going,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “It just shows you that everyone is capable of producing in our lineup.”
The win kept the Yankees one and a half games behind first-place Toronto and maintained their four-game lead over Texas in the race for the first wild-card spot. It also made for a satisfying homecoming for catcher Brian McCann, the Georgia native who returned to Turner Field for the first time since leaving the Braves as a free agent after the 2013 season.
McCann was greeted warmly by the crowd in his first at-bat and commemorated the evening with a three-run homer in the eighth inning that just cleared the right-field wall.
But without Teixeira and Rodriguez, the slack was taken up by a more unlikely source: shortstop Didi Gregorius, who hit a three-run homer — his seventh home run of the season — and drove in a career-high six runs to go along with four hits. Chase Headley drove in three, including two with a first-inning double.
Headley’s double and Gregorius’s home run, which came consecutively in the first inning off the right-hander Williams Perez, were particularly welcome because they were hit with two out and runners in scoring position — an area in which the Yankees have struggled mightily in the last month. They were 0 for 14 in the series against Houston, in which they scored four runs in three games, and were hitting .184 in those situations since Aug. 5.
In addition to Rodriguez and Teixeira, the Yankees were also nearly without Jacoby Ellsbury. He injured his hip Tuesday, sat out Wednesday and was not cleared to return until making it through batting practice.
But he made two outstanding catches in center field. The first one was artful — and important. With two on and two out in the first inning, the Braves had closed to 5-2 when Christian Bethancourt belted a deep drive to center. Ellsbury turned and gave chase, making an over-the-shoulder catch as he fell on the warning track.
“It saved me,” said Masahiro Tanaka, who settled down after that, allowing only a solo homer to Freddie Freeman in the rest of his seven innings.
Ellsbury, who twice fouled balls off his leg, laughed to himself when he landed on his inflamed hip. “Already in the first inning,” he said.
The Yankees could not be catching the Braves at a more fortuitous time. The Braves have won just 12 games since July 8 and have lost 10 of 11. And it appears unlikely the Yankees will have Rodriguez or Teixeira for anything other than pinch-hitting duties at best in this series.
Teixeira has missed eight games since fouling a ball off his shin on Aug. 17, and he expressed frustration before the game that he felt no better than he did before having a day off Thursday. Though three separate tests — an X-ray, a magnetic resonance imaging test and a CT scan — showed only a bone bruise, Teixeira met with the Braves’ doctor before the game and went through a battery of movements before it was determined that he needs to rest to reduce inflammation in the tissues and ligaments around the bone bruise.
Afterward, he sounded somewhat relieved.
“I was probably a little too aggressive with it early, which kind of caused some of the inflammation to not go away,” he said. “I know the difference between sore and having serious pain. When I try to run it’s serious pain. That’s what worried me.”
Meanwhile, Rodriguez, who has been in a monthlong slump, has not played in the field since May 23 and with no designated hitter in this series is unlikely to do so.
“I played catch with my daughter yesterday; that’s about it,” Rodriguez said when asked the last time he picked up a glove.
Rodriguez said he hoped that four days with little activity would help him solve his poor form at the plate. He said the rests he has received early in the season were all beneficial.
“You can talk about swing mechanics, but it comes down to having a fresh body,” he said.
As for where the Yankees stand after a disheartening home stand, and with the uncertain status of Teixeira, whom he called the American League’s most valuable player, Rodriguez tried to take the long view.
“Look, I think it was disappointing,” he said. “Five and five for some reason felt like two and eight. I think a lot of that had to do with Toronto playing great baseball. But over all, keep perspective: If someone came to me in the middle of February or March and said you’re either a game up or a game behind, I think I would have taken that. We’re in a good place.”
On Friday they were — playing the Braves.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of games Mark Teixeira has missed since fouling a ball off his shin. It is eight, not seven.