Three days before this years spring training began one of the things I wrote was in order for this 2012 Yankees team to be successful it was going to have to get big hits in big spots ! It was their downfall in 2011 and it was certainly a struggle all of this season to come up with a clutch hit when they needed it.
They started off the season slowly and at the end of April and May they had a record of 27-23. After going 20-7 in June it looked like they were going to start rolling but then the wheels feel off. They played .500 baseball in July going 13-13 and in the process blew the ten game lead they had. August didn't fair well either. They went 15-13 during August and were now in a battle for the American League East. Panic began to set in with most Yankees fans myself included. I was thinking the worst was yet to come. Would they lose the AL East ? Heck the way they were playing at that time I wondered if they would even make they playoffs. It was that ugly !
September began and the Yankees were in dog fight with the Baltimore Orioles. They are clinging to a one game lead in the AL East and the Wild Card race as well. The Wild Card race is truly wild. Quite a few American League teams are either fighting it out to win their division or make it in as a wild card team. The A's, Angels,White Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Orioles, and Yankees are all involved and it would take days for me to give you every scenario so I won't bother. The leads change so often there's no sense in getting into it to because the lead could change by the time I'm done with this paragraph.
In my last blog I ranted about making changes now and for the future. I was sick of all the flashy home runs that sell tickets and was begging for a single or a sacrifice fly to score a run. Well, either the Yankee players read my blogs or the baseball gods were listening. The team began to play better and starting doing the little things it takes to win games. Look I'm not going to say they were bunting all the time but the are now hitting better in big spots, moving runners over and doing some good situational hitting.
One player in particular who not only seemed to be carrying this team in September but has been carrying this team all season is none other then the class act himself, " Mr. Clutch," "Mr. November," "The Captain" Derek Jeter. When it has really mattered Jeter is hitting .316 in the month of September. He also had a 19 game hitting streak during the month. For the season he is hitting .320 with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs. He is not only leading the American League but is leading all of baseball with 208 hits. This is the eighth time in his career with 200 or more hits in a season.
Another player who has turned it up a notch in September is outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro is hitting .397 for the month and was named MLB Player of the Week this past Monday. During a six game span last week he went 15 for 25 (.600) with 2 homer uns, 5 RBIs, 3 doubles, 7 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, and led MLB in batting average, steals and on base percentage (.630). He hit safely in all six games and had 5 multi hit games. In a double header against the Blue Jays Ichiro had 7 hits in two games. The Yankees went 5-1 during that same six game span. Since becoming a Yankees on July 23 Ichiro is hitting .331 with 5 home runs, 12 stolen bases and has an OPS of .837.
We all know that Russell Martin is on this team for his catching skills more than his bat. His batting average has hovered around .200 all season but over the last 30 days he is hitting .254 and he has come up with some big clutch hits so far in September. In a game on September 21st against the A's the Yankees were tied 1-1. Martin hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the tenth to give the Yankees the 2-1 victory.
Speaking of beating the A's in dramatic fashion. The very next day against the A's the Yankees pulled another rabbit out of their hats. In a game where both starting pitchers Yankees Ivan Nova and the A's Travis Blackly were pulled early.The Yankees found themselves trailing when manager Joe Girardi decided to send up Raul Ibanez to pinch hit. Ibanez entered the game 0 for his last 18 and promptly hit a homerun into the second deck in right field to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. The A's would soon tie it up and then later in the top of the 13th inning the A's hit back to back to back homeruns to take a 9-5 lead. In the bottom half the Yankees loaded the bases, scratched across a couple runs to make it 9-7. But wait look who's up to bat. It's that man again ! Ibanez was at it again hitting his second bomb of the game to knot the score at 9. The Yanks would win it in the bottom of the 14th on a bases loaded error by A's first baseman Brandon Moss. Wait a minute. Two dramatic games ending in walk-off wins by the Yankees. Am I sensing a little late inning magic happening here ? Are the ghosts of Ruth and Gehrig waking up ? You know it is getting close to October.
Pitcher CC Sabathia seems to be getting back to his old form. Even though he's only 1-2 with an ERA of 3.50 in his last three starts his velocity is back up to 92-94 mph and he has gone 8 innings in each of his last two starts. In those two starts he struck out 11 A's batters and 10 Twins. That's what we need to see from CC going into October.
Another familiar face for Yankees fans in October baseball is pitcher Andy Pettitte. After breaking his ankle Pettitte has returned from the DL to do what else ? Win ! He's pitched two games. In his first against the Blue Jays he threw five scoreless innings. He gave up 4 hits, 2 walks and struck out 3. In his second start he went six scoreless innings giving up 7 hits, 1 walk with 3 strike outs. He should be able to make one more start before the playoffs begin so the Yankees will work on getting his pitch count up so he's ready for real pressure packed baseball.
Their not running away with the division because the Orioles are playing just as well so right now the Yankees still have a one game lead. Maybe it's better that the Yanks didn't coast into October. The Yankees are playing better, their playing games that actually mean something down the stretch and I see signs of hope that this team can get clutch hits and win tight games. I see little signs of " mystique and aura". I'm ready for some pressure packed games myself !
Last night the Yankees opened up a four game series in Toronto with a loss. Once the weekend is over they will finish up the regular season at home against the Red Sox. The Orioles open up a three game series tonight at home against the Red Sox. After that the O's take on the Rays down in Tampa to finish out the regular season. Wow ! Who would have thought that the Red Sox would play a big role in deciding who wins the AL East. Being the Red Sox hater I am, will the Sox lay down against the O's and then turn it up when they take on the Bombers ? I'm sure Red Sox Nation would love to see them knock the Yankees out of the playoffs. With all this going on and the Red Sox having a say in it, will the Rays sneak in on the last day of the season and have the Yanks on the outside looking in ?
For the first time in a while it looks like this all might be decided on the last day of the season. Once this dog fight is settled come on back for my Yankees ( if they make it ) playoff preview. Let's Go Yankees !!!!