As the Yankees enter a seven-game road trip, against the Tigers and then the White Sox, they have proven that the two game skid from early last week has not affected them.
They have now won four of their last five games, against the Blue Jays and White Sox, and have proven to be a resilient team because they are winning without Phil Hughes or much contribution from Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner or Nick Swisher.
A positive sign is that the back end of the bullpen has bounced back after a few shaky performances by Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano. Rivera was not like his normal dominant self, giving up blown saves on April 19th against the Blue Jays, as well as April 24th against the Orioles. Luckily, the Yankees were able to come back in extra innings to win against Baltimore but the performance was still slightly alarming. Soriano has had somewhat of a surprising start to his Yankee career considering his utter dominance from last season. This continued when he allowed one run and two runs, respectively, in Yankee losses to the White Sox on the 25th and 26th.
However, these struggles by Rivera and Soriano were never that much of a concern because Soriano and especially Rivera’s track record has been outstanding. Rivera is most likely the best closer of all time and Soriano was an All-Star and led the league in saves last season. Soriano has recently returned to respectability recording consecutive holds during the eighth inning, on Saturday and Sunday, only giving up a hit and a walk combined. In three appearances since the 24th Rivera has gone onto only allow one base hit while converting three saves.
Those two players have broken out of their mini slumps but four players on offense could use some intervention from hitting Coach Kevin Long. Curtis Granderson met with him last August in Texas to revamp his swing and since then he has hit 22 home runs, which is the 3rd highest total in baseball behind Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki.
Gardner seems to be showing signs of a turn-around having five hits in his last eight at bats, with a home run and a stolen base. His .200 average is still not where it should be but all the Yankees can ask for is for him to continue hitting the way he has the last four games. Gardner plays excellent defense and is able to catch many fly balls that other outfielders are not able to. Swisher had a breakout year last season and is only batting .218 so far. He showed signs of last season’s form with on April 28th against his former team, the White Sox, hitting three hits and his first home run of the campaign.
The last two struggling Yankees are Jeter and Posada. It is hard to tell whether it is their advanced age catching up to them, a prolonged slump or a combination of the two. Jeter is 36 while Posada is 39, and that is what might be causing them to produce stats much less than their career average. Jeter is hitting .242 with only six RBI and is hitting ground balls at an alarming rate. Posada is only batting .133 but his six home runs is slightly encouraging. However, a slugging percentage of .387 and 12 RBI so far is not typical production form a Designated Hitter. Hopefully Long can tweak something with their swing to help them getting on base and produce runs like they are accustomed to.
This probably will not happen but it would make sense to bat Jeter seventh or eighth in the lineup. He is only 51 hits away from joining the 3,000 hit club, which will be a major accomplishment, so he will probably continue batting leadoff until then. This will give him as many opportunities as possible but afterwards I would bat him seventh or eighth. Once he moves down in the order it would make sense to leadoff Gardner since he has so much speed. This would be best for the team.
A change that was made which was a very smart decision by Joe Girardi was hitting Granderson second in the lineup. This should continue for the foreseeable future because he is currently not showing any flaws in his swing, while hitting for power and average.
The pitching matchups for the series against the Tigers at Comerica Park sees Bartolo Colon face Justin Verlander, CC Sebathia matches up against Brad Penny, Freddy Garcia takes on Max Scherzer and A.J. Burnett battles Rick Porcello. I could see the Yankees winning three out of four with the loss coming on Wednesday against Scherzer. Even though Garcia has the much lower ERA he showed signs of ineffectiveness and loss of control in his last start.
Tonight the Yankees are facing Verlander, who is one of the best pitchers in the American League, but Colon has pitched like an ace so far, so it seems like the game could be a pitcher’s duel. The Yankees will have the edge if the game gets to a battle of the back end of the bullpen.