Nobody Gonna Hold Us Down…Yanks Keep Rolling Despite an Injury-Plagued Season
Added by Elizabeth DiPietro on July 17, 2012.
Rafael Soriano has been nearly flawless filling in the closer role for the injured Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees opened the second half of the season in the exact opposite way they began the season. They are 3-1 since returning from the All-Star break and find themselves, at 21 games over .500, atop the American League East with a comfortable nine-game lead.
When you factor in all of the injuries the Yankees have sustained this season – Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, etc. – it’s almost incomprehensible that they are the best team in baseball. Their injured players are in various stages of progress; Sabathia returns tonight against the Blue Jays and there are even rumors of Joba and Mo returns later this season, but Gardner experienced a setback that may end his season, and Pettitte isn’t likely to make an appearance until late August.
In the midst of all this adversity, the Yankees have remained consistent for a few reasons:
1. The almighty home run.
I know we’re all sick of hearing that the Yankees can’t win a game if they don’t go yard, that without the short porch they’d be screwed, and that balls in Yankee Stadium are flying out faster than Cancun-bound high school seniors on spring break. But guess what? The short porch giveth, and the short porch taketh away. If the Yankees play 81 games at home, then their opponents during said home games experience the same advantage the Yankees do, and the Yankees are still beating them. Also, the Yankees have hit 64 homers away, a healthy portion of their current total of 144.
That being said, the omnipresent runners-in-scoring-position troubles continue to loom, but are showing signs of fading. The Yanks have scored a total of 25 runs since returning from the break, and 20 of them came courtesy of the home run. However, they have gone 9-for-28 (.321) with RISP in those four games, so here’s hoping the promising pattern continues. Short series in the playoffs can be difficult to win without clutch hits.
2. Unlikely heroes.
Raul Ibanez saved the game Monday night with a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth to break a tie (which, incidentally, upped both their home run total and RISP average in a single swoop). Freddy Garcia has been a more-than-adequate substitute for Pettitte, turning his own season around (0-2, 12.51 in April to his current 4-2, 5.25). Eric Chavez has had numerous hits in crucial situations.
When you think of the New York Yankees, these are admittedly not the players that come to your mind first, but they have done a fantastic job stepping in amidst the absence of higher-profile players who are injured or in need of rest. And the underlying lesson we learned from the magical 1996 and 1998 seasons was that when anyone can be the hero, the team usually succeeds.
3. What a relief.
Besides little-guy heroes, another Yankee tradition is an elite bullpen. But they couldn’t possibly remain elite without Rivera, people said back in May when Mo went down. Right?
Wrong. The Yankee bullpen is 14-7 with a 3.21 ERA and has been the source of more unlikely heroes like Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada. Rapada and Boone Logan are Joe Girardi’s go-to guys for lefties, and Eppley has been supplementing David Robertson in the seventh and eighth innings. Rafael Soriano has nearly flawlessly written the save sequel with 23 (only 1 blown) and a 1.49 ERA, a story for which Yankee fans were desperately hoping for a happy ending.
When you catch glimpses of them in the dugout, it’s evident that the Yankees are having a good time. This is arguably far more important than all the quantitative proof that the Yankees are having a successful season. Morale appears to be at an all-time high. Michael Kay mentioned the other day that the Yankees want Pettitte traveling with them even though he’s injured, simply because they like the influence he has on the younger pitchers.
The fact that even the injured players are finding a way to contribute is very promising. And you can only assume that once they step back on the field, the Yanks will be that much stronger.