Los Angeles, CA
|The Walking Wounded|
Something bizarre happened. The banged-up Yankees seized first place in the AL East after Boston got bogged down in a mini-losing streak. Even without $100+ million worth of their top-shelf talent, the Yanks have sole possession of first place and are 10 games over .500.
The Yankees (23-13) won both series on the road this week in Colorado (2 out of 3) and Kansas City (3-game sweep). Overall, the Yanks notched 8 series wins and only lost 4. Since losing their first two series to start the season, the Yanks won an impressive 8 out of their last 10 series.
After dropping the opening game in Colorado (when the Yanks bats went silent once again and suffering their third shut out for the season), the Yanks bounced back and won the next two games. The Yanks left the Mile High City with a 20-13 record and snuck into first place.
The Yanks arrived in Kansas City and promptly whooped the Royals on Friday night. More good news for Phil Hughes. He won his second straight start and evened his record to 2-2 after an ugly start to the season (he gave up 5 dingers in his first 14 innings). Andy Pettitte (4-2) struggled in his two previous outings but on Saturday he regained his composure and scattered five hits over seven solid innings. On Sunday, the Yanks completed a sweep in a game against a formidable pitcher in Ervin Santana (3-1 and 2.36 ERA). Hiroki Kuroda gave up an early run, but Cano and Wells hit back-to-back homeruns to put the Yanks ahead 3-1. The Yank won 4-2 for their fifth consecutive victory. Mo Rivera shut the door in the ninth for his 15th save (in 15 attempts), which tied him for tops in all of baseball with Jason Grilli (Pittsburgh).
The key to the surprising success of the beat-up Yanks is their solid pitching. CC, Kuroda, and Pettitte consistently give them quality starts and Phil Hughes is finally coming around. Plus, Mo Rivera has been a beast out of the bullpen (it won't happen, but Mo's on pace for 60+ saves).
Skipper Joe Girardi's biggest headache seems is the boisterous Joba Chamberlin, who got into an unusual pissing match with Mo in front of the press on Saturday. The Yanks bent over backwards to accommodate the troubled Chamberlin and even instituted the controversial "Joba Rules" to curtail his usage and prolong his career. The results have been less than stellar.
|Joba bugging out in the playoffs|
Joba Chamberlin has the skills to be a all-star closer, but he lacks emotionally maturity. I can't help but wonder if this incident is a part of a deeper schism between Joba and the rest of the team. We shall see if Chamberlin's irreverent behavior gives the Yankees brass a reason to dump him at the end of the season. If Chamberlin is the bad seed, then it's wiser to buy a hired gun on the free agent market to replace Mo after he retires.
One of my biggest concerns about the Yankees is the lack of production and the inability to manufacture runs outside of the long ball. The Yanks run differential is very low compared to other division leaders:
RUN DIFFERENTIAL (AMONG DIVISION LEADERS):The Yanks primary problem is lack of run production. In their previous six losses, the Yankees scored fewer than 1 run in five of those six games. They got lucky this week and won three games in which they only scored three runs. The Yanks are flirting with disaster by relying solely on their pitching. They can only win so many 3-2 and 3-1 games before the pack catches up to them. The Yanks are an astonishing 12-0 when they score 5 or more runs, yet only 11-13 when they score 4 or fewer runs.
AL East: Yanks +19
AL Central: Detroit +53
AL West: TIE -- Texas +40 and Cleveland +29
NL East: Atlanta +21
NL Central: St. Louis +42
NL West: San Francisco +19
The Skinny: Even with a sub-par offense, thru 36 games the Yankees are 23-13 and reigning in first place in the AL East with Baltimore (23-15) and Boston (22-16) nipping at their heels. Considering the abundance of injuries to starters, the Yanks are damn lucky to be where they are. Since starting the season 5-5, the Yankees are 18-8. Over the last 16 games, the Yankees are 12-4.
Injury Report: The Yanks added another player to the disabled list -- shortstop Eddie Nunez -- who has a gnarly ribcage injury. Nunez, a utility infielder by trade, was Derek Jeter's back-up last year until he got the starting job this season. Jayson Nix, who was filling in for A-Roid, moved from 3B to SS. In the meantime, Chris Nelson is now playing the hot corner and Alberto Gonzalez (recently acquired in a trade with the Cubbies) was called up from AAA to fill the role as utility infielder.
On Deck: The Yanks give up a day off and fly to Cleveland for a double-header to make up for two consecutive rainouts from last month. Cleveland (20-15) is hot and won 12 out of heir last 14 games. Their torrid streak propelled them into a tied for first with Detroit. It's safe to say the Indians are playing significantly much better than when the Yanks beat them twice earlier in the season. On Tuesday, the Yanks (12-7 at home) return to the Bronx for a six-game homestand against Seattle (18-20) and Toronto (15-24). Seattle is sitting in third place in the AL West, while Toronto (7-12 at home) is rocking the AL East cellar. The Yanks are 6-1 against Toronto this year including a four-game sweep in the Bronx at the end of April.