The New York Yankees had a miserable month of June as they went 11-16 and dropped back six games out of first place after being near the top at the beginning of the month. The woeful month was highlighted by a sweep from the Orioles to end the month.
Well, July came rolling in and the Yankees headed to Minnesota to face the Twins which is just what the doctor ordered as the Yankees love to beat up on the Twins. Beat up on them they did as the Yankees went on to complete a four game sweep of the lowly Twins to set up another series versus the O’s.
After being swept by the O’s the weekend before in Baltimore, the Yankees were close to returning the favor as they narrowly missed the sweep of the O’s in New York. The always reliable Mariano Rivera blew only his second save of the season on Sunday afternoon. Before the blown save, the Yankees were riding a six-game winning streak and were two outs away from sweeping the Orioles and extending their streak to seven games.
The driving force of this streak has been the pitching performances from the rotation and the bullpen. The pitching has allowed the Yankees to stay in the race for the American League East crown heading into next week’s All-Star game. It has also allowed the Yankees to ride the season out as they wait for several key players to comeback from injury: Curtis Granderson, Michael Pineda, Alex Rodriguez and the Captain, Derek Jeter.
Coming into the weekend, the Yankees rank near the bottom of most offensive categories as they have been without most of their big bats for the season and even the replacements to the replacements have gone on the DL. They rank 19th in runs scored, 24th in batting average, 23rd in on-base percentage and 25th in slugging percentage, which is a statistic that the Yankees normally find themselves near the top of year after year.
Without the power bats of Granderson, Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Jeter, the Yankees have had a very difficult time trying to find any offense this season. Granderson has missed most of the first half of the season after being hit by a pitch on the wrist in spring training and then came back and was hit once again on the wrist a week into his comeback and went back on the shelf. Rodriguez has been on the DL after having hip surgery in the offseason but has started rehab games in the minors earlier this week. Teixeira hurt his wrist during batting practice for Team USA in preparation of the World Baseball Classic earlier in the year and then came back in June and headed back to the DL after hurting his wrist again. His injury required season-ending surgery. Jeter has been out since breaking his ankle last October in the postseason and fracturing it some more during his brief spring training stint but has joined Rodriguez in the minors for rehab games.
As the Yankees wait for the All-Star DL to come back in the lineup, the pitching will have to continue to be the driving force of this club. The pitching has been carried by Hiroki Kuroda who has a 7-6 record but a 2.77 ERA and has been the most reliable starter to date.
The one thing that is a near certainty, which has been a near certainty for the past 19 years is the end of the bullpen. When Rivera comes to the mound it is a lock, most of the time, that he will get the job done and has been superb so far in his last ride as he has 29 saves, the third most of his career before the All-Star break. He has only blown a save twice this season and his set-up man isn’t far behind as David Robertson has been just as impressive with 21 holds, a WHIP of 0.96 and an ERA of 2.23 in 39 games pitched this season.
Now they have to keep it up so they can stay in the race as the big bats come back and slug their way into the postseason.