The Yankees begin this offday exactly where they were at the beginning of the Baltimore series: One game ahead of the division, feeling good about a win they badly needed. Despite all expectations, the Orioles aren’t going away, and if the Yankees had lost that four-game series, it would have been a punch to the gut. There was the blown call on Saturday, a little bit of an Orioles comeback on Sunday, and today would have felt like the beginning of the end if the Yankees hadn’t made some sort of statement.
They made that statement with 13 runs and a blowout victory.
“You’ve got to do it more than just one or two games,” Derek Jeter said. “You’ve got to continue it.”
The Yankees scored some of their runs with patient small ball (that four-run fourth inning) and some of them with big home runs (from Jeter and Curtis Granderson). When this lineup is at its best, it’s capable of both. That’s some of what Alex Rodriguez has been talking about for the past week: Worrying about the small things and letting the big things take care of themselves.
“We’re going to have to pitch better down the stretch, there’s no doubt about it,” Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes the hitters have got to pick them up, though, because there have been times we’ve lost games 1-0, 2-1, 3-1. When you don’t score a lot of runs, you hope you shut them down. It’s kind of putting the puzzle together at the right time.”
The puzzle won’t be complete unless Mark Teixeira’s MRI gives him some good news today, but Alex Rodriguez has looked pretty good since coming back from the broken hand. Derek Jeter is still hitting, Russell Martin is beginning to provide some offense, and Ichiro Suzuki got going again in Baltimore. Nick Swisher is in an awful slump, but he was so good so recently that it’s easy to imagine him breaking it out of it any day now. The key might be Granderson, whose second-half struggles left a void in the middle of the order while making it even harder for the Yankees to do anything against left-handers.
“If everything is clicking right, we can (carry the team offensively),” Granderson said. “As baseball is, it’s very hard to go out there and have everybody come up with good at bats and everybody get hits and everybody get on base and kind of do the things that you need to over the course of the game. But if we are able to do those things, this offense definitely has the potential to carry us to victories day in and day out.”
The previous few weeks raised some serious questions about this team, but yesterday was a reminder of why they’re still holding that one-game lead. They’re capable of playing pretty good baseball, and if they can do that with some consistency again, they’ll turn this optimism into real belief.
Associated Press photo