5 Yankees Players You Want Up Most with the Game on the Line
With a veteran lineup like the New York Yankees', it is tough to decide which players you would want to bat with the game on the line.
Hall-of-Fame resumes and mega-million-dollar contracts can help make the job easier, but a heap of injuries and aging talent makes the job slightly more difficult.
We all can agree that Derek Jeter is practically synonymous with the word "clutch" at this point. However, the 38-year-old superstar wouldn't be available if the Yankees needed him in a pressure situation tomorrow.
So with that being said, which players on the Yankees' current active roster would you want batting with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning?
Here's some food for thought.
Leading off for both the Yankees and the sake of this conversation is Brett Gardner.
He may not be the first name that comes to mind when you need a run in the ninth inning; however, sometimes it is important to look beyond the short porch in right field.
Or should I say in front of it.
The reason you might want Gardner up in a do-or-die situation is because he represents one of the toughest outs in all of baseball.
He sees a ton of pitches, and rarely swings at the garbage. While he might not possess the pop to clear the outfield fence at will, Gardner is a contact hitter who is going to put the barrel of his bat on the ball more times than not.
Thus far in 2013, he hasn't gotten off to quite the start some of us may have wished for. However, if the Yankees need to get a runner in from third with two outs in the ninth, there is nobody I'd rather have trying to beat out a ground ball than Gardner.
Unlike Brett Gardner, newcomer Kevin Youkilis has experienced some early success in 2013.
Through the first eight games, Youkilis leads the Yankees in average (.367) and ranks second on the team in RBI (6).
But just because he has produced through one week of the season doesn't mean he is necessarily fit for the big stage.
No, that's where Youkilis' track record comes into play. Because he has been there before.
The 34-year-old infielder knows a thing or two about pressure after capturing two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.
He is a savvy and seasoned veteran who grinds out at-bats and forces the pitcher to make a mistake. And then he makes them pay.
Any Yankees fan of considerable tenure can attest to this fact, because we have seen it firsthand. Youkilis' days in Boston were painful, to say the least, as the bearded villain punished New York for years.
From 2008-10 Youkilis batted well over .300 and was repeatedly in MVP consideration in the American League.
He might be on the back end of his career at 34, but it's tough to say there are many Yankees you would rather have at the plate with the game on the line than Kevin Youkilis.
With all of the veteran options on the Yankees' roster, Francisco Cervelli is another name that could raise eyebrows when talking about offensive prowess.
Not because he is a defensive-oriented catcher (which he is not), but more likely because he is a relative inexperienced big-league player who happens to play a position destined for the bottom of the batting order.
But even without the prerequisites, Cervelli is undoubtedly one of the few batters that manager Joe Girardi wants at the plate in a pressure situation.
Through the first week of the season, the Yankees starting catcher has racked up six hits in just 17 at-bats.
What's more impressive is the fact that, while splitting time with Chris Stewart, Cervelli has managed to tie for second on the team in RBI (6), and has gone a perfect 3-for-3 (4 RBI) with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Still, those numbers don't justify his place on this list.
Since his emergence wit the Yankees in 2009, Cervelli has had an indisputable knack for the big moment. Even as a young, inexperienced bench player, the Venezuelan has done nothing but produce crucial two-out RBIs for New York.
At the end of the year, his average might not eclipse .280. But when runners are on base and the game is on the line, Cervelli is the man you want at the dish.
Lyle Overbay was weeks away from spending his summer on the couch before the Yankees signed him to a three-day minor league deal in late March.
Now, thanks to a heap of injuries, Overbay has found himself getting considerable playing time for a competitive ball club.
At 36, he isn't the same player who drove in 92 runs for Toronto in 2006. In fact, he is hardly an everyday player at this point in his career.
But that doesn't mean he isn't clutch.
The ability to perform at the plate under pressure isn't something that deteriorates with an aging body. It just doesn't disappear over night.
It's something that is embedded in one's DNA and is improved over time through repetition and experience.
And experience is something Lyle Overbay has.
Now in his 13th season in the bigs, Overbay ranks among the league leaders in two-out RBI (4). Along with Francisco Cervelli and others, he helped carry the Yankee offense through the first few games when New York was struggling to produce runs.
At least for now, you can bet that he will be one of the first guys off the bench in a late-game pinch-hitting situation.
Through nine seasons of what figures to be a Hall-of-Fame career, perhaps the only knock on Robinson Cano has been his inability to perform under pressure.
But how could we possibly leave the natural off of this list.
His .222 career postseason average helps detail his lack of success on the big stage; however, we're talking about arguably the best pure hitter in the game today.
Maybe it's mental. It might just be bad luck.
But whatever the case may be, Robinson Cano's numbers in crunch time are a fraction of his capability.
Nonetheless, there are few players in the game whom I would rather bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Because when Cano is going well, you can't keep him off base.
Just take the last two games for example. He is 7-for-10 with six XBH, three HR, and seven RBI.
Cano can carry an entire team when he's seeing the ball well. With a stroke that reaches all fields, he is bound to change his fortune sooner rather than later.
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