How quickly things can turn around. After so much talk about the Yankees lack of production with runners in scoring position, they went 5 for 13 in those situations in an 11-5 win over the Angels on Sunday to take two of three against the Halos. Every Yankee in the starting lineup either scored or drove in a run, with six different Bombers finishing with at least one RBI. Make no mistake about it — this is still one of the most potent lineups in baseball.
“It’s not easy to get hits with runners in scoring position because the pitchers are bearing down,” said Derek Jeter, who went 2 for 5 with a double, two runs scored and a three-run homer. “But I think our at-bats have been pretty good for quite some time now, and the percentages are on our side.”
Jeter continued his resurgence, and is hitting nearly .330 in 72 games since he reached 3,000 career hits last July. Raul Ibanez also had a big game, coming through with runners on twice, including an absolute bomb into the upper deck in right field to put the game away in the seventh.
The 3-4-5 hitters in the Yankees order went a combined 5 for 12 with two doubles, two RBI, three walks and four runs scored after coming into the game with just three RBI through eight games. It was an especially rewarding night for Mark Teixeira, who reached base three times — including an RBI double from the left side a four-run third inning.
“Eventually, it’s going to change,” Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes we can get caught up in small samples. If you keep putting up good at-bats, good things are going to happen.”
• As usual, Jeter was borderline dismissive when asked about how he’s feeling at the plate. I think at this point he’s probably tired of the questions that insinuate he was slumping, because he has been swinging the bat well for quite some time. “I feel alright, but I’ve felt alright since the end of spring training,” he said. “All you want to do is feel comfortable. When you feel comfortable, the results will be there”
• Jeter has been consistent with his approach this season, and it’s been a great sign to see him staying back on balls and driving them the other way. But he’s also shown that he’ll take what the pitcher gives him, and can pull it or hit it straight away if the pitch calls for it. He seemed to think that the best contact he made all night was a loud out to left-center field in the bottom of the sixth. Off the bat, it looked like it had a chance to be his second homer of the night. “I did hit it better (than the home run), I just hit it to the wrong part of the field,” he said. “You have to hit it pretty good to get it out there.”
• The hardest hit ball of the night unquestionably came from Ibanez. According to the Yankees, the only other player to hit a ball into the upper deck in right field was Russell Branyan (who ironically is currently signed to a minor league deal with the Yanks). “He hit it pretty good,” Jeter said with a smile before pausing to rephrase his answer. “He hit it really good. That was one of the furthest home runs that I’ve seen here.”
• Without anyone bringing him up, Ibanez heaped praise on Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. Ibanez’s bat looked extremely slow in spring training, but he’s turned it around and been very productive so far. “Kevin has been huge,” he said. “He’s there with the information and he’s helping me make minor adjustments everyday. Having a guy like Kevin Long has been tremendous.”
• Girardi was asked about whether or not he’s had any discussions with Teixeira about adjusting to the shift. “You don’t,” he said. “You tell him to swing the bat, hit balls hard, and things will work out. It’s not like it’s something new to him this year.”
• Ivan Nova picked up his second win of the season, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out eight over six innings. Through two starts, Nova has displayed a higher strikeout rate than he had last year, while also surrendering quite a few hits in each outing — that tells me he’s challenging hitters, which is a good sign. He was not feeling well coming into the start, but gutted it out. He talked about feeling fatigued towards the end of this outing. “I came in today more sick than I was a few days ago,” he said. “I was feeling pretty good at the beginning of the game, but after the first couple of innings I lost all of my power.”
• Nova has now won each of his last 14 decisions. I doubt we’ll hear his name mentioned when the Yanks need to create a spot in the rotation for Andy Pettitte’s return. “I’m not worried about a winning streak,” he said. “I just worry about taking the ball every five days.”
• Girardi has been impressed with Nova’s ability to stay calm and work his way in and out of trouble. “He’s pitched pretty well,” he said. “It was something he had to learn. In his first year, he would get that lead, and we’d get to the fifth inning and it would get out of hand a little bit. But I’ve talked about his ability to control innings. Look at the first inning, he gave up the triple with less than two outs, and he was able to get out of it.”
• Girardi also talked about needing to get some guys in his bullpen more work. Rafael Soriano got into trouble in the seventh, with David Robertson coming into bail him out. “His inning started with a walk and his command wasn’t great,” Girardi said of Soriano. “He hadn’t throw in a while… So we probably have to get him more work.”
• The Yankees will begin a four-game set at home against the Minnesota Twins tomorrow, with RHP Freddy Garcia taking the ball for the first game.
• It’s been a lot of fun spending the weekend in the Bronx, and I wanted to thank everyone for all of the support. I’ll be back on Wednesday and Thursday to cover the final two games of the Twins series… And for the record, I’ve noticed a lot of back-and-forth debate between you all on the Montero-Pineda trade. My take: It’s wayyyyy too early to start drawing any conclusions. To me, an ace pitcher is more difficult to come by than a big bat, but neither has proved to be either of those things at the big league level on a consistent basis yet. We won’t be able to fairly judge this trade for a couple of years. Goodnight everyone!
Associated Press photos