I have been meaning to write this type of piece for a few weeks, but after the last two Yankee games, the time is perfect for the storyline.
The Yankees were behind Tuesday 1-0, and 6-5 before they tied the game in the sixth inning on an Alex Rodriguez two-out RBI single. Then they rode Nick Swisher's* two-run homer and an Eric Hinske solo shot for a three-run seventh. The back-to-back homers gave the Yankees a lead they wouldn't again relinquish.
*I wasn't a big fan of the trade which brought Swisher to New York. Not because of Swisher's abilities, but mostly I thought the Yankees could get away with using guys from their own system like Juan Miranda and Shelley Duncan in a platoon at first base.
Swisher was supposed to be the starting first baseman in 2009, as this was a trade done well before the Yankees signed free agent Mark Teixeira. At least the Yankees did not give up Alfredo Aceves in that Swisher deal.
I was incorrect about the Swisher deal as he is a valuable member of this team and helps lengthen the lineup more than the Yankees have had in several seasons.
Hinske's seventh inning blast was especially interesting, as the left fielder for the Orioles, Jeff Fiorentino, tried to catch the ball over the fence but the hoard of Yankee fans in the left field bleachers literally snatched the ball away from his glove.
And on Wednesday night, with Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada both resting the entire game, Swisher hit third (2-4, 2 walks, 2 runs) and played first base, while Hinske played right field.
And even with two of the Yankees' switch-hitting big boppers out of the lineup, they still put up a 10 spot on the Orioles, including a big seven-run ninth inning to ice the game.
Alex Rodriguez had two very big two-run singles. The first in the seventh inning gave the Yankees the lead. The second big hit was during the ninth inning, giving the Yankees a big three-run cushion at 5-2 before they continued to pour it on.
It is a lineup that is relentless, never giving in and always confident that they can get the job done, no matter if it is the first inning or the ninth. Many times I have witnessed the Yankees going quietly the first time through the order, but in the third through the sixth innings, score runs in bunches.
There is not a break in the lineup at any of the nine spots, with even Melky Cabrera having a good year, it makes it tough for an opposing pitching staff to work efficiently. Too many of the hitters (Teixeira, Swisher, Posada) work counts, and while I believe they take too many pitches, including many good to hit first pitch strikes, you can't argue with their overall success.
The key is that while they get runners on base, they also drive them in. Witness last night's game, where the Yankees were 7-15 with runners in scoring position (RISP), and the Yankees league all the major leagues in runs scored with 763.
Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Robinson Cano are also having great seasons, and A-Rod is in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak to lift his average to .275.
There is always two or three guys on this team who are always red-hot at any given time.
And when that lineup is in late, it is very difficult (although they try) to mix and match because the Yankee lefty hitters hit lefty pitchers very well. Click on the names above to see their splits.
And I don't know of another lefty hitter in baseball right now who goes the other way better than Cano.
Many people are talking about how teams don't want to face certain teams in a short series because their starting pitching (mostly the top two guys) could be so dominating.
Those teams include the Red Sox with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester; the Angels with John Lackey and Jered Weaver (now Scott Kazmir); the Cardinals with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (you could also throw in Joel Pineiro); the Tigers with Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson; and the Giants with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.
All playoff teams usually have a really good top two, but very few teams have a really strong one through nine lineup like the Yankees have.
This is a lineup which has beaten Beckett, Halladay, Johan Santana, Verlander, Jackson, Matt Garza, and even nemesis Cliff Lee this season. And when they get beaten down by a top starter, they can counterpunch with their own dominating pitchers.
If I were part of one of those pitching staffs, I wouldn't want to face the Bronx Bombers relentless lineup. It would be a nightmare having to continuously face those nine hitters in a short series.