Monday, June 14, 2010

Wrapping Up The Weekend

Good morning, Fackers. Hope your weekend was as relaxing as the Yanks' was. En route to a sweep of the Astros, the Bombers hardly trailed at all in three games - only in the early going and for just one third of an inning yesterday - and that latter gap was promptly erased by an RBI single by Nick Swisher and left behind indefinitely by a grand slam by Jorge Posada on Saturday afternoon.

Jorgie had a eventful weekend as he added another salami yesterday, making him the first Yankee to accomplish that feat in back to back games since Billy Dickey in 1939. He also returned behind the plate yesterday for the first time since May 16th, just before being placed on the DL with a stress fracture in his foot. While he was certainly fine on offense, Posada had to give up catching duties after the eighth inning. While he initially complained of "soreness", he later claimed he was just "fatigued". The former is quite concerning, but the latter is to be expected from a 38 year old who hasn't caught a full game in almost a month. Either way, the Yankees are obviously going to be careful about how often they put him behind the plate and the upcoming day off will certainly help him get past any pain or exhaustion.

Taking a step back, now seems like an appropriate time to reflect on what we earmarked as a significant stretch of games for the Yanks.

Heading into Memorial Day Weekend, the squad was starting down a 16 game stretch against the Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays and Astros and looking up at a 4.5 game deficit in the standings. At that point, we surmised that anything better than 10-6 during the soft stretch of the schedule would have been acceptable.

It turns out that the Yankees passed the test. Even though they dropped two of three to Toronto, they ripped through the last place cupcakes at 11-2, bringing their final tally to 12-4, outscoring their opponents 103-61. It was as good of a stretch as can be reasonably expected in the MLB.

Aside from the 13 run disaster (and more specifically, seven run seventh inning) against Cleveland, the pitching was excellent, holding foes to three runs or fewer 11 times. Phil Hughes picked up four victories over that time while Javy Vazquez won three and Sabathia and Pettitte each picked up two.

Of course, as was on display yesterday, putting up almost six and a half runs per game gives starting pitchers a little more cushion in their quest to pick up victories. The Yanks cranked out just about 10 hits and five walks per game and when you put that many men on base, good things are going to happen.

Good things like multi-run home runs, for instance. Of the 18 round-trippers the Yankees hit during this run, five of them have been grand slams (two by Posada this weekend and one each by Granderson, Cano and A-Rod) and just four of them have been solo shots. To put that in perspective, the Yanks had only hit one GS coming into the Cleveland series and over half of their homers to that point were solo shots.

While the Yankees were tearing through a soft portion of their schedule, the Rays began to fall back to earth. Since April 28th, they've gone 7-8 against the White Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers and Marlins. Certainly their slate of 15 games was much more difficult, having to play Toronto twice and face teams that aren't dragging their asses across last place in the division and all, but this is the schedule evening out in the long run.

The Rays' mediocre stretch also allowed Boston to play some catch up. The Sox are sitting just four games behind the two teams at the top and any talk of how there was no way they could make the playoffs now seems pretty foolish.

With four more series of interleague play in queue for all three teams, a lot could happen in the division over the next two weeks, much of it based on a completely unbalanced schedule. The three division rivals share only one common opponent - the Diamondbacks - over that time.