Injuries have been killer for the 2012 New York Yankees. Incredibly, look at the standings and you see a team with a three-game lead and plenty of chances to bury their closest division competitors as we sit on the brink of September.
Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Mark Teixeira. All have been injured this season, with all but the latter name missing large portions of the season. Yet, look at the standings and you'll see a New York Yankees team with a three-game lead with 32 games remaining.
Due to all of the injuries, several players will have to step up. Curtis Granderson for one. Believe it or not, Granderson has hit a measly .194 in the month of August and is not serving as the power threat that he has shown himself to be for most of the last two seasons.
The Yankees flat-out need Robinson Cano to play like he's one of the five best hitters in the AL for the final 32 games and in the postseason. Cano will certainly be expecting a monster payday following the 2013 season—possibly sooner if the Yankees extend his contract this offseason— and it's time for Cano to elevate his game to new heights.
The Yankees' absolutely brutal loss in Wednesday's matinee at the Stadium was punctuated by a miserable 3-for-17 performance hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP). Talk about a lack of clutch hitting.
Wednesday's debacle brought back memories of similar games this season, particularly a gut-wrenching display on a Saturday night in Detroit earlier this year where the Yankees went 1-for-12 with RISP and coughed away several chances to take the lead and win the game.
To Yankees fans, it sometimes seems like the team has millions of chances to push one or two runs across in given innings. Instead, the Yankees are one of the lower-tier teams in the American League while batting with RISP.
The Yankees failures in big spots is both staggering and baffling. The Bombers are 18th in the majors hitting with RISP, yet ninth overall in average; an overall average ranking that was more like third just two weeks ago.
That said, if the Yankees are so bad, then how come there are four other teams in their division that are no more than three games within reach of them? How come the Yanks are only two games behind the Texas Rangers for the best record in the AL? A team they just thrashed over a four-game set only two weeks ago.
While the standings undeniably look pretty good right now, all things considered, and the schedule appears mostly favorable, there is real concern as we get closer to the playoffs. If the Yankees haven't hit well with men on base all season long, then how can you suddenly expect them to do so in October?
Despite many fears about their starting pitching, the Yankees rotation owns the fourth-best ERA in the American League. Sabathia, Kuroda, Hughes and Pettitte (of course if he's healthy and ready) will be a formidable four in a short series.
There are legitimate concerns about certain pitchers in the Bombers bullpen but it's hard to say there's a lot of anxiety over the eighth and ninth inning roles. David Robertson and Rafael Soriano have had very few missteps, and when they have, they've immediately recovered nicely.
The Yankees have the seventh-best bullpen ERA in the American League.
View it how you please, though it does seem that many of these Yankee players simply aren't conditioned to do the "little things" that end up winning baseball games. It's a quid pro quo. The Yankees are who they are and are where they are because they hit home runs and swing big for extra base hits.
Obviously, it's hard to say that they should change that approach since they win their division almost every single season and have made the playoffs every year but one since the start of the 1995 season. There is no denying, however, that most Yankee hitters simply don't "give themselves up" in certain key situations
Here are some examples: 1) Man on second base with no one out; 2) Man on third base with one out. Some might say that's bad baseball to give yourself up on a sacrifice. Giving up an out seems counter-intuitive, some might say.
But hitting the ball to the outfield, or at least attempting to hit the ball farther into the outfield, even if you know it's not going to be a home run, may be the right play in some instances. Intentionally directing your hit to the opposite side of the infield so it's easier for the runner to score—or just putting the ball in play—is a wise baseball move in certain spots.
In Wednesday's game, the Yankees had runners at 1st and 2nd with nobody out in the bottom of the fourth and Chris Stewart popped up on the first pitch of the at bat. Absolute killer. It's imperative to do something in that spot to get the runners over. That is, and always will be, winning baseball.
Some players really seem to be swinging for the fence too often. That's why you hear that annoying, cliche baseball phrase "trying to do too much" a lot of the time. It isn't easy to just say you're going to put the ball off your bat exactly where you want to every time.
But these are professional hitters and, at the bare minimum, they don't need to swing like they're trying to put it over a 500-foot fence every time. Especially with men on base. If you put more pressure on a team early on, very often it seems that it demoralizes the other team.
The Yankees can really do a lot to absolutely bury Baltimore over the next 10 games and they can also really hammer Tampa as well. It's going to take perseverance of the pitching staff and timely hitting with men on base. The Yankees season is hanging in the balance. Will it be an easier September or a grueling final full month?
Time to step up, Bronx Bombers.