In only one week, much has changed for the New York Yankees.
The ace of the starting rotation, Chien-Ming Wang, is hurt and out with what manager Joe Girardi calls a sprained foot. Wang sustained the injury while running to home plate and scoring during the finale of Sunday's Interleague Series against the Houston Astros.
A timetable for Wang's return is forthcoming, as he is returning to New York for an MRI.
The victory was a lopsided 13-0 for the Yankees. It was the medicine the team badly needed. Now winners of five out of their last six games, the Yankees seem to be rolling. Everything is working for them right now, aside from the injury to arguably their best starting pitcher.
Alex Rodriguez seems to have really found his zone, displaying brilliance both offensively and defensively over the past week.
Rodriguez has been very solid ever since coming off the disabled list, but recently in each at-bat he has shown really good plate discipline—taking walks and not swinging at bad pitches out of the strike zone.
When the ball does go over the plate, he's usually not missing it. A-Rod is hitting .326 now on the season with 12 home runs—two in the past two games—36 runs scored, and 37 RBI.
His on-base-percentage is .411; any OBP above .400 is exceptional. He's not going to hit 54 home runs this year, but he may be one of the biggest keys to the Yankees lineup.
Another key player in the Yanks' batting order is Johnny Damon, who is on a sick tear right now.
In his last 110 at-bats, Damon has collected 47 hits—that's a .427 average, in case anyone was curious. He's also scored 43 runs now on the season, which leads the team and ties him for 11th in the American League. That's the production you're looking for from your leadoff hitter if you're Joe Girardi.
With white-hot Damon getting on base and captain Derek Jeter's bat starting to warm, three-hole hitter Bobby Abreu should see his fair share of RBI opportunities. Not many hitters have an eye like Abreu's, so should he walk, the guy behind him couldn't be anyone better than the also white-hot Rodriguez.
Jorge Posada rejoining the club has really been the last string needed to pull the team out of the depths of .500 ball. With everyone hitting so well in front of him, there's no pressure on Jorge to do anything aside from what he's capable of at the plate. It must be a fun place to be in right now.
Even Robinson Cano seems to be feeling his way out of his season-long slump. The second baseman had two hits in four trips to the plate on Sunday, and he even walked once. That's the biggest thing for Robbie and the team: If Cano can start to work opposing pitchers as everyone else in the lineup does, he might start to get some pitches to hit.
Having a productive Cano as an eight-hole hitter with this team is going to be something for opposing clubs to fear.
The nine-hole hitter, Melky Cabrera, is having a solid season offensively as well. The Melk-Man has seven homers, 24 runs scored, and 31 RBI.
Not bad numbers in mid-June for your ninth hitter. Murderer's row is officially back—and it's going to be fun to watch the rest of the summer.
The pitching has been very good as well.
Wang, despite getting injured, won his eighth game of the season Sunday. He won't be injured forever, and once he returns the Yankees will have a very good starter on the hill for them everyday. Invariably, the hot pitching prospect Phil Hughes will be healthy again too.
Mike Mussina, now sporting a 10-4 record, is on pace to record his first ever 20 win campaign, something longtime Moose fans are absolutely dying for. No one deserves it more.
We'll stop the predictions right there though, as it is only mid-June.
Andy Pettitte seems to be finding his groove as well, earning three wins in his past five games.
With the pitch count unplugged for Joba Chamberlain, the sky is the limit for the young righthander. Joba has the potential to be one of the nastiest starters in the game.
Look at guys like Johan Santana, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Roy Halladay; on any given day they all have two or three pitches that are downright nasty. If you're lucky, they only have one or two. With Joba learning the grip of Wang's power sinker, he could have five nasty pitches.
He can paint either corner with a blistering 96-99 mph fastball or use a 91-93 mph turbo-sinker to induce groundouts.
He can fool you with either an 86-89 mph slider, or softer pitches like the curveball he learned from Hughes or the change-up he learned from Ian Kennedy.
Hitters have to be walking up to the plate wondering what his agenda is going to be against them—that in itself is the most powerful weapon a pitcher can have.
With Posada putting down the fingers behind the plate, if Chamberlain gets control over those five pitches between now and September, you can pretty much pencil him in for a win every game he goes out there as long as the Yanks can score three or more runs.
Everyone, including myself, has criticized the team taking Joba out of the bullpen. With Wang suddenly out of the rotation, the move could be a big one for the Yankees—possibly even season-saving when we look back come winter.
There are still 92 games left for the Yankees to play this season. With the lineup finally performing to it's capabilities, the rotation pitching well, and Mariano Rivera having one of his finest seasons closing, the Yanks are poised to start winning games in bunches. Stay tuned.
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