New York Yankees: The Good, Bad and Ugly as Yanks Continue Up and Down Play
Up until last night's game, the New York Yankees had the longest stretch of games (26) without a winning streak of any first place team in MLB history. Truly unbelievable. The tendency in New York is to feel that the sky is falling— though lately, it's hard to blame Yankee fans for being a bit down on their team.
The Yankees inconsistent play has left many wondering if they're going to the postseason or playing themselves out of it. Two straight victories in Boston help to calm some fears, but two runs last night against a pitcher (Felix Doubront) that entered the game with an ERA over 5.00 is hardly reason to rejoice.
The Yankees were saved by an absolutely brilliant pitching performance from Phil Hughes who continues to have a very solid season for the Yankees. Phil Hughes is 14-8 with a 3.46 ERA since May 6th and yet has been maligned by many fans for much of the year.
Yankees fans need to wake up and realize that Phil Hughes is a big reason why this team is still atop the AL East division.
Now, the Yankees enter a weekend series at Yankee Stadium with even more on the line, as they look to fend off the pesky, yet reeling Rays, who were just swept in dramatic fashion in Baltimore. The Rays are not a very good hitting team and the Yankees pitchers need to take advantage and shut them down.
The Bombers send CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova (his first start since August 21st) and Hiroki Kuroda to the bump this weekend in New York. They'll be opposed on the mound by Cy Young award favorite, David Price, then James Shields and Matt Moore.
Pushing a two-game winning streak to three necessitates consistency—at least in the form of finishing baseball games. The Yankees' chances of a series victory this weekend will be boosted by solid run production from the batting order. Though if CC Sabathia can shut down Tampa, maybe one run or even two (like last nigh) will be all the Bombers need.
Baseball is a hard enough sport to predict but lately it's become a fool's errand to try and prognosticate the Bombers' fortunes. They're still not hitting with runners in scoring position but the pitching has improved over the last several days. The Yanks' hitting against left-handed pitching? Not so much.
Here is the best summation of the Bombers, with a bow to Hollywood great Clint Eastwood, as we present the good, the bad and the ugly current state of the 2012 New York Yankees.
Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Russell Martin and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Ichiro, have stepped up of late to provide some punch to the Yankee lineup. The Captain is playing on one good ankle, though the future Hall-of-Famer is still able to get big hits and energize the lineup.
Alex Rodriguez has a base hit in every game, but one, since his return from the disabled list. In fact, A-Rod has been a real welcome addition to the batting order. Russell Martin snapped a seven-game hit streak last night, but has been red-hot of late.
Rafael Soriano remains a polarizing figure, but no one can argue the results that he produces on the field. Soriano has not been as good as the filthy Fernando Rodney—of Tampa Bay—but he's saved 38 games on the season and only blown three games. Soriano is a trusted man at the end of the game for Joe Girardi.
The starting pitching has not been great, there's no denying that, yet it has not been awful. Yankee starters gave up four earned runs in 19 and one-third innings in Boston and there have only been two really poor starts (Phelps on Sept. 6th and Garcia on Sept. 9th) from New York pitchers in the last 10 games.
Andy Pettitte is returning from the disabled list and will make his first start since July this upcoming Tuesday at the Stadium against Toronto. The hope is that Pettitte returns to the form he displayed for much of the months of May, June and July but regardless, getting a veteran like Andy back is a bit shot in the arm for the whole team.
It's been disconcerting to watch a superstar like Robinson Cano not have a breakout month of September. In the aggregate, it's hard to argue with Cano's season. A closer look shows that Cano's two best months came in May and June. For a man of his ability, August and September have been luke-warm production.
The overall lineup struggles, with many players seeming to get cold at the same time, are a big reason why the Yankees lost the 10 game division lead they owned in mid-July. Hitting droughts for players like Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones have been killer.
Swisher and Granderson seemed to show some a spark in the Boston series and those glimpses of life must grow to become much more. The Yankees have faced loads of southpaws lately which has meant plenty of playing time for Andruw Jones. Jones has been absolutely dreadful. He's not even playing at a major-league caliber anymore.
Suddenly, Kuroda is not quite the guy he was for most of summer. In two starts in the month of September, the Japanese veteran has a 5.11 ERA and batters are hitting .320 against him. CC Sabathia hasn't risen to the occasion so far in his return from the DL and Freddy Garcia is unreliable and now out of the rotation.
The Yankees just don't hit with men on base. Bottom line.
It's mind-blowing to think that this ball club may win their division and could even possibly finish with the best record in the American League, all without being able to buy a hit with runners in scoring position (RISP). After all, this is a team with a $200M payroll!
Here is a snippet of the Yankees hitting with RISP for just the Boston series alone:
The Bombers (Baby Bombers?) were 2-34 hitting with RISP against one of the worst teams in baseball over the past three days. They won two of those three games. The Yankees may still get to the postseason, but a flip of the calendar to October likely won't be the remedy for this problem that has burdened them all season long.
There are 19 games left and the Yankees are tied for first place. Anything is possible in what has been a year where we've seen it all.
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