The Yankees entered their three game series with the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim California with more than a rally monkey on their back.
The team had been on a tear for the better part of six weeks, rattling off winning streaks of seven and eight games with ease.
Then they lost two out of three to the AL East punching bags, the Baltimore Orioles, and split a pair with the Blue Jays and panic kicked in. Losing three out of five? These Yankees?
Please. The Yankees followed their little lull with a .500 road trip through Seattle and Anaheim, a mark that you and Joe Girardi should happily accept eight days a week. Their lead over the Red Sox in the AL East is back to six games, which has actually been about their average despite the high water mark of nine games two weeks ago.
In fact, despite the incessant Michael Kay putting fear into the hearts of Yankee fans like some kind of KGB propaganda wizard, the Yankees haven’t been on a terrible stretch, especially for a team who’s manager is playing Russian roulette with the bullpen, spinning the barrel in hopes of finding extra bullets for the postseason.
The Yankees are 10 – 6 in their last sixteen games, with a run differential of 80-66. Cherry picking? Okay, their 5-5 in their last ten, which included six on the west coast and a run differential of 51 – 43, which actually plays a bit better than .500.
Sometimes you score the runs at the right time, sometimes you blow people out. This team is still hitting.
I’m going to contradict myself for a moment and give Joe Girardi credit. I’m not the biggest fan of some of his bullpen moves (which really, for a team with this lineup is the only managing he has to manage), but he has approached the last month of this season the right way.
- He basically have ARod two days off by giving him one at-bat and one innings in the field.
- He’s been getting Brett Gardner meaningful at-bats and putting him in position to flex his leg muscles on the field in key situations.
- He’s using all of his bullpen resources to find out who has it right now, rather than just rely on the guys who have pitched well to this point.
That last point is really the key. I’ve beat the drum a ton, but relieving is a volatile industry where most guys fluctuate or flat out collapse from year to year. During a season, you can see guys fluctuate pretty severely from very good to very bad.
Girardi isn’t taking any chances. The expanded roster has given him the opportunity to see more arms and test more stomachs in preparation for his postseason roster. He may find a diamond in the rough that will help the Yankees clamp down the late innings come October.
And somehow, through all this hunting and packing, this team is still very much afloat atop the AL East. It’s been quite a tap dance by Girardi and a testament to the depth of talent in the Yankee system.