Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Road to First

             The Yankees took a trip to the homely Midwest of America with most thinking they were going to get swallowed whole, but by the time they returned to New York the Yankees would surprise even more people by claiming first place status in the American League East.

             With Kevin Youkilis doing his part as a veteran player for the Yankees by going on the DL with a bulging disc in his back, and being exposed by Jayson Nix playing 3B on a regular basis, Brian Cashman picked Chris Nelson off of the Colorado scrapheap to fill in a body at third (not that he actually produces or anything). Just when Eduardo Nunez finally started to swing the bat, he suffered a ribcage injury and landed himself on the DL. The Nunez news was good for Jayson Nix; he gets to play shortstop everyday until Nunez returns. For whatever reason -  the baseball gods want Jayson Nix in the lineup for the Yankees.

             Francisco Cervelli was swinging a hot bat for the Yankees, which helped calm fans' anxieties over losing Russell Martin. While catching, Cervelli used improper technique and left his bare right hand out and exposed while behind the plate. The reason catchers are told to kept their exposed hand low and away, or behind their back, is in the case of foul tips. Such as the one which led to a broken finger for Cervelli and placed him on the DL. The troubles Ivan Nova was having at the start of the season became very clear when the Yankees had to shut him with a DL stint of his own with inflammation of the right triceps. To help round it all out, the pudgy physic of Joba Chamberlain came back to haunt him as he needed to go to the DL for an oblique injury. Joba also suffered a mental brain lapse in Kansas City when he got confrontational with Mariano Rivera after Rivera told him to pipe down from being loud during the great closer's media session. According to media reports, Joba got into Rivera's face and took objection to the way Rivera handled it.

            The Yankees PR machine tweeted a photo to let everyone know there's no beef between Mo and Joba, but Joba can consider himself off of Rivera's Christmas list.

            With more names to add to the ever-growing Yankees 2013 DL list, and a long road trip ahead of them, how were the Yankees able to capture 1st Place in the AL East?

             The pitching staff rose to the occasion and has turned it on in desperate times. Hiroki Kuroda has taken the lead, mixed in with better performances by Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and David Phelps, inserted into the starting rotation when Nova went down, has been brilliant. Surprisingly, Andy Pettitte has been the black sheep on the staff with a few consecutive lame outings, but he was much better in his last start against the Royals and earned the win. In the pen, the old David Robertson has returned and is locking down the 8th inning like he's been expected to. The pièce de résistance, Mariano Rivera, is a sweet 16 for 16 so far in save opportunities in this last Major League season campaign for him.

              With the Red Sox falling back to reality from the torrid start they had in April and the Yankees stringing together close-knit wins based on great pitching and barely enough offense, the Yankees were able to sneak in the backdoor and claim the prize of first place.

25-14 (1st Place AL East - 2 games in front of Baltimore Orioles)

- Curtis Granderson is back in the Yankee lineup after rehabbing his broken forearm.
- Robinson Cano has answered his critics about being a No. 1 thumber in the lineup without the usual protection of A-Rod, Teixeira, and friends. Cano is hitting .306 with 10 HR and 25RBI.
- Ichiro Suzuki has been getting it going with his bat and has helped key several Yankee rallies.
- David Phelps has provided quality starts in Nova's absence and gives the Yankees a chance to win each time he's on the mound.
- Mariano Rivera looks like he can pitch another five seasons with a perfect 16 for 16 save marks in 2013.
- David Robertson has gone back to being a shutdown reliever after some early struggles in April.

Foul Tips:
- Austin Romine doesn't look comfortable against Major League pitching, although he's in there for his catching ability.
- Andy Pettitte lost three consecutive starts before finally winning one in a 4-2 win over Kansas City. There was concern that he couldn't find his cutter, which doesn't sound good.
- There might be bad blood in the clubhouse between Rivera and Joba.
- Travis Hafner needed a shoulder MRI that revealed tendinitis. The slugger claims he'll be back in a few days, but Hafner has a bad track record of injuries.

- Without the luxury of an occasional homerun to put up some fast runs, the Yankees have been getting shutout more than they're used to in recent years.
- Ben Francisco is turning into Yankees' fan's most hated player with a putrid .128 BA and 1 RBI generated from a solo homer.
- Chris Nelson hasn't given the Yankees anything at 3B despite the second chance he has been given this season after being cut by the Rockies.

            With Boston slipping, the Blue Jays a bust so far in 2013, and the Orioles and Rays struggling to get any consistence play, the opportunity was there for the Yankees and they snatched it!

            ...Bobby V doesn't manage the Red Sox anymore and he must be happy the Yankees are leading the Sox. 

            This early success doesn't make sense when the infield is made up of Nelson, Nix, Cano, and Overbay, but the grit and determination of these 2013 Yankees looks like they can beat the 2012 or 2011 Yankees easily....