The first installment of the 2011 Subway Series is in the books. The Yankees won the series at the Stadium and managed to do it with a bit of (gasp) small ball. Yes, folks these Bombers can win games without those horrible home runs.
On Sunday afternoon, they scored eight in the eighth with nary a hit that left the infield. It all started with a lead off single by Brett Gardner followed by a walk to Chris Dickerson. Then Francisco Cervelli was hit by a pitch (does this guy have a target on him?) and the bases were loaded for the Captain. Derek Jeter came through with a two-run single that bounced through the middle of the infield, barely eluding Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. Before you knew it, the Yankees had put up a snowman with a bunch of bloopers and bleeders, and the game was out of reach for Terry Collins’ roster of mainly triple-A replacements.
Of course, Joe Girardi spent the Sunday post-game press conference having to defend a lineup that has hit a league-leading 71 home runs this season because, you know, home runs are just such a stupid way to score. “It almost seems to me that a home run is not a hit the way we talk about it,” the manager said. “A home run is actually a hit. It’s just a hit that goes a little bit farther than most. Our club is built around a lot of power … that’s what we have in our lineup.”
This team does need to improve its performance with runners in scoring position. The Yankees are hitting .249 in RISP situations and .219 with two outs and runners in scoring position. They need to be able to do the little things in those circumstances as well as go for the big blast.
Girardi did try that approach during the eighth inning of Sunday’s game when he had his hottest hitter, Curtis Granderson, who has slugged 16 home runs, lay down a sacrifice bunt to get two runners into scoring position to break a tie. He got the job done and moved the runners over successfully and after an intentional walk to Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez hit a weak roller that plated the go-ahead run.
The Yankees batters have been struggling of late and some of them more so than others (I’m looking at you, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher). But things appear to be slowly changing. Two players who focus on two very different facets of the game, A-Rod and Gardner, seem to be emerging from their slumps. And on Saturday, the hitters left no runners on base during their 7-3 victory.
To criticize a first-place team for hitting a lot of home runs just seems silly. In the end, a win’s a win whether it’s accomplished with a bunch of singles or a bunch of blasts. Life is easier for any team when it has the complete arsenal of weapons available to it when men are on base. But if the Yankees are going to complete the marathon to number 28 with a lot of long ball, no matter how much the media makes it an issue, I’m pretty sure the fans will take it.