The lineup hasn’t been posted yet at Yankee Stadium. But it would be a surprise if Johnny Damon wasn’t batting first and playing left field.
.347/.407/.545 – that’s what Damon has done since July 20 over 30 games. For some, those are too few games to erase the sins of his first 83 games. But this is a different Damon. For lack of a better word, he’s healthy.
Damon showed up at spring training out of shape, rushed to prepare himself and then suffered what in hindsight was a predictable series of minor injuries. Sore calf muscles, tweaked hamstrings, balky ankles, etc.
Damon has a little of the boy who cried wolf in him, talking at length about every minor hurt. So the Yankees kept playing him. Again, in hindsight, he belonged on the disabled list at some point.
But now he’s healthy, having worked himself into shape and forced Joe Torre to play him. In a way, it’s like the Yankees obtained a different player at the trade deadline.
Damon is the team’s best leadoff hitter. He works counts, finds ways to get on base and can run. As last night showed, he also has a knack for collecting big hits in big games.
Look at this way: Damon has 162 postseason at-bats and Melky Cabrera 3. Who do you want leading off in a future Game 1? Melky is a better weapon hitting ninth than first.
Playing Damon in left also will serve to keep Hideki Matsui upright and mashing into September as he deals with a sore right knee. Matsui sits in front of his locker after every game with ice bags larger than his noggin wrapped around both knees.
This leaves Jason Giambi on the bench. But Giambi hasn’t complained and probably won’t. Given all that has happened to him this season, he seems to realize it could be much worse.
Damon in left, Melky in center, kids barely old enough to drink in the rotation and a fist-pumping reliever named Joba holding the crowd in the palm of his hand.
This is not what anybody expected when the Yankees left Tampa all those days ago. But it’s exciting.
Meanwhile, Mad Dog Russo just said Andy Pettitte, “pitched OK.”
Time to put on some music.