Greetings Yankee Fans!
And welcome to the sixth installment of Yankee Yapping.
Away we go!
My thoughts on…
In the last edition of the blog I said the Yankees had the potential to be 6 and ½ games in front of the Red Sox after this past weekend. Little did I know that would be the case and that the Yankees would meet that potential. I thought for sure the Yankees and Red Sox might split the series, simply by looking at the pitching match-ups.
But that wasn’t what happened.
It was a great weekend to be a Yankee fan as the Bronx Bombers were all over the Red Sox, sweeping them right out of Yankee Stadium. It was the first time since 1985 the Yankees swept the Red Sox in four games at home.
If you don’t think the Yankees were playing at their best, consider the numbers: The Yankees outscored the Red Sox 25-8 this past weekend. The Yankees averaged .299 at the plate while the Red Sox batted .174. The Yankees left the yard nine times while Boston only did so three times.
And it wasn’t just the hitting.
New York out-pitched Boston, posting an ERA of 1.71 this past weekend. Boston’s ERA was 5.82. Not only did New York have that stat over Boston, but the Yankee pitching kept the Red Sox off the board for 31 and 1/3 consecutive innings.
The Yanks had not kept Boston’s bats that quiet since 1952, and it was the longest streak of scoreless innings by the Red Sox since 1974.
Derek Jeter said after the game that the pitching for the Yanks has just been unbelievable. “I can’t say enough good about them,” were the words he used when speaking to the media.
If you look at each game individually, you can see just how great the Yankees were playing. They outdid the Red Sox in every facet of the game; hitting with runners in scoring position, pitching, defense–the Yankees had it all going for them this past weekend.
Coming into this series the Yanks were playing well and Boston wasn’t. The Yanks had just swept Toronto while Boston had just been swept by Tampa Bay, so while the Yankees were riding a winning streak into the series, Boston was coming off a few poor games.
It’s safe to say that in New England right now it must be like a funeral while here in New York everyone is all smiles.
Not only did Boston get swept by their most hated rivals, they fell to 6 and ½ games out of first place in the AL East Division and are now tied with the Texas Rangers for the lead in the AL Wild Card.
Overall it was not a great weekend to be a Boston Red Sox fan.
When the Yankees signed A.J. Burnett, most Yankee fans were somewhat skeptical. He has a history of being injured, and he had Tommy John surgery early in his career.
But I was happy when he signed, and not just because he and I share the same initials (well…sure, that was part of it). But the way he pitched against the Yankees in 2008 was the reason why I was thrilled.
We couldn’t beat him, so we joined him.
A free agent at the end of last year, Burnett signed for five years and $82.5 million. So far he’s earning it.
I think the best term that can be used to describe Burnett is clutch. He has been the Yankees best clutch pitcher this year and probably the most consistent. He may not lead the team with wins (he is second with 10 while CC Sabathia has 12) but if you look at performance, he’s been better than anyone else on the staff.
When he out-dueled his former teammate Josh Beckett on Friday night (a game the Yankees won in the 15th inning on a walk-off two-run home run by Alex Rodriguez) that was when I thought “clutch” to myself. He went out there and went head-to-head with Beckett (who currently leads the majors in wins with 13) and matched him pitch-for-pitch.
Burnett went 7 and 2/3 vs. Boston, giving up no runs on just one hit. He walked six and struck out six
Not trying to knock any of the rest of the pitchers on the Yankees’ staff, because all of them have been excellent–they proved that this weekend. But Burnett has been the best of the Yankee pitchers all year.
In his last 10 games, Burnett is 6-2 with two no-decisions. Both no-decisions were games the Yankees won, and he’s racked up 57 of his 123 total strikeouts over those 10 games.
If he continues to pitch the way he has been going down the stretch, the Yankees are in for a good run and most likely in good shape for October.
At press time Burnett boasts a 10-5 record with a 3.67 ERA. His next scheduled start is Wednesday afternoon at home against his former team, the Blue Jays.
Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira
I really didn’t get Joe Girardi’s reasoning for switching Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter in the batting order this year, but now I’m starting to see why it was a good move.
The strategy of Jeter hitting lead-off and Damon batting in front of Mark Teixeira seems to be paying off. Damon and Teixeira compliment each other well in the lineup, and the numbers indicate that statement.
In last night’s thrilling 5-2 win over Boston, Damon and Teixeira hit back-to-back home runs for the sixth time this season. That sets a franchise record for back-to-back home runs, and the terrific tandem beat out a very elite group of Yankee players.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went back-to-back five times in 1927, and Gehrig later did it again with Joe DiMaggio in 1936. Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez also matched the total of five in 2005 while Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris went back-to-back four times in the 1961 season.
Teixeira actually didn’t realize he and Damon had set the record until Damon told him, and both players were excited about what they have been able to do this year.
“Me and Johnny hit strikes,” Teixeira told the press about his round-tripper last night.
“He told me we have the record, and it’s unbelievable.”
While Teixeira is leading the American League in home runs with 29, Damon is tearing the cover off the ball. He has 21 homers with 65 RBIs and is batting .281. Six of those 21 long balls have come against the Red Sox.
Simply looking at his last 10 games, Damon is 15-for-46 with four homers, eight RBIs, and eight runs scored. In the final year of his contract, he is putting together a season that can earn him more time with the Yankees.
I predicted Damon to hit 26 homers this year. He might even hit more than that, the way he’s been playing.
As for Teixeira, he’ll certainly be in the MVP discussion. He is proving he can play in New York and play big time.
Hopefully these two will provide more exciting moments for the Yankee fans, and they have a chance to put their back-to-back home runs record so far out of reach that no other tandem of players will be able to touch it.
The 2009 Season to This Point
I don’t think anyone really expected the Yankees to be in this position right now.
With the Tampa Bay Rays coming off their AL Pennant-winning season and the Red Sox making additions to their club, I think a lot of baseball fans expected the Yanks to flop again this year.
But look at what they’ve done. They struggled early on, playing without Alex Rodriguez and with a pitching staff that had yet to be acclimated to the new Yankee Stadium and the madness of the Bronx. But they just kept on battling and willing themselves all the way up to first place where they are now.
If you look at the last time the Yanks made the playoffs in 2007, it was (for the most part) one player’s responsibility. Rodriguez basically said, “Get on my back, guys. I’ll carry us.” And he did. Without Rodriguez in 2007, the Yankees would have been nowhere.
Rodriguez did it all in ’07–walk-off grand slams, walk-off homers, and ninth inning RBIs that were so unreal no one could believe what they were seeing. He finished the season with 54 home runs, 156 RBIs, and averaged .314.
2007 was pretty much “The Alex Rodriguez Show.” 2009 is proving to be “The New York Yankees Team Show.”
If you look back at how the Yankees handled themselves in 1998, everyone on the team contributed. That was why they won 114 games during the regular season and 125 games overall.
One night it might be Jeter, the next night Paul O’Neill, maybe the game after that Tino Martinez or Bernie Williams, and so on.
We are getting that same formula this year; one night it might be Damon, the next game Teixeira, another night it could be Jeter or Rodriguez, or Melky Cabrera. They are displaying excellent teamwork, like the 1990s Championship teams. They don’t beat themselves and they play every inning.
They’ve also been able to provide game-winning mystique, similar to the old Stadium. Cabrera has been clutch (as noted in the last edition of the blog; three walk-off hits this year) Jorge Posada has had a good year (two walk-offs to this point) and Rodriguez has even provided some walk-off magic (he has two game-winning hits this year)
Girardi described the team as “very resilient,” and they certainly are. They bounce back from things quickly, as demonstrated last night; Victor Martinez hit a two-run shot to give Boston a 2-1 lead in the seventh. In the bottom of the inning, Damon and Teixeira get the lead right back (to back…OK, bad joke)
The point is that if they are able to keep on doing what they are doing and playing the way they’ve been playing, they will go an awfully long way down the stretch and into the post-season.
At press time the Yankees sport the best record in baseball at 69-42. Last year they were 61-50 after 111 games, so as you can see by that statistic, they have greatly improved since 2008.
Yet they have to continue to play hard throughout the rest of the season. They will see division rivals Boston and Baltimore six more times this year, Tampa Bay seven more times, and Toronto nine more times, beginning a three-game set with them tonight.
They’ll also have to face the likes of the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Kansas City Royals along the way.
If any team can do it, it’s the Yankees. In their last 41 games they have gone an absolutely ridiculous 31-10. The Yankees are showing that they are for real.
Well, that does it for this week’s edition of Yankee Yapping. Join me next week for more topics, highlights, and analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!