The 2013 New York Yankees are about as predictable as the next-arriving Amtrak train. Some nights, they craft the type of spotless wins that function as a manager’s Unisom dosage, and other nights they look so helpless you’re left wondering how they’ve stayed afloat.
But stay afloat is exactly what they’ve done. Since falling off the cruise-liner that was the first month of their season, the Yankees are both no closer to the island that offers salvation and no closer to entirely sinking under. They have tread water at times with ease and at times with desperation, enjoying winning streaks of five games and six of seven, while enduring losing streaks of five games twice.
Since May 1st, they are exactly 22-22 and, like swimming against a riptide, have fought, toiled and labored for nearly two months without advancing anywhere. They have been as high as twelve games above .500, as low as six, and taken up residence in first, second and third place in the A.L. East. They are less inclined to settle comfortably into one post than a hasty Monopoly player.
The Yankees are a fickle team because, right now, they are comprised of fickle players. Travis Hafner might pick up 6 RBI in three games before driving in just one in the next nine. Lyle Overbay might go 4-5 one day, mysteriously trade in his bat for a fly swatter, and then go 2 for his next 13. Even steady Robinson Cano has been prone to erratic play; the second-baseman was 4 for his first 30 this month before jolting awake in Oakland with six hits, four for extra bases.
Yesterday, in the team’s day-night doubleheader against the Dodgers, two entirely different ball-clubs showed up at the Stadium – and that’s not counting L.A.
In the first game, the Yankees got contributions up and down the lineup, staked themselves to an early lead and never looked back, tagging L.A.’s wins-leader Hyun-Jin Ryu with just his third loss of the season. Hiroki Kuroda pitched doggedly for 6 2/3 innings, surrendering just two runs on an afternoon when he didn’t have his best stuff. Preston Claiborne provided the lone stumble in a graceful afternoon, appearing uncharacteristically hittable in the 8th, but when Mariano Rivera struck out phenom Yasiel Puig to end the game, that Jeterian air of professional execution came to mind.
But in the nightcap, this Jeckyll and Hyde team reared its ugly head. It started with pitcher Phil Hughes, whose only area of consistency this season has been ineptitude at home. Hughes gave up ten hits and five runs over six innings, to bring his home record to 1-4 and his home E.R.A. to a bloated 6.69. Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly a pitcher-friendly park, but Hughes’ inability after six years to figure it out, to navigate around its dimensions, is increasingly frustrating for Joe Girardi’s club. At the plate, the Yankees weren’t any better. They managed just three hits off veteran Chris Capuano, advancing past first base just three times all night long.
If mercurial hitting has been the theme of the year so far for the Yanks, Wednesday was a Cliff Notes version of the team’s season. Ichiro, who entered the day with just 11 RBI to his name, drove in three runs in the first game, two on a soft single to left and one on a homerun to right – his first in 35 games. In the nightcap, his time machine zapped off, and he was a quiet 0-3. Brett Gardner, boasting a .435 average over his previous 12 games, saw beach balls turn into Ping-Pong balls and finished 1-9 on the day. And Vernon Wells, who was a combined 0-7, might go 4-5 tonight.
That’s the thing with this Yankees team. On any given night, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. Lately, it seems as if they have neglected to coordinate, resulting in games where everyone hits and games where no one hits. This Jekyll and Hyde nature has grown so crippling because it has grown so pronounced.
What the Yankees need is a dispersal of loud offensive performances. When Gardner tires, they need Cano to wake up. When Overbay loses his grove, they need Hafner to find his. When Nix flounders, they need Ichiro to flourish.
And by God, when the rest of the team comes back from injury, each and every one of them must start propelling this team forward. They can only tread water for so long.