So what if they were facing a team that was only a half-game out of first place in the American League Central standings.
Joe Girardi still figured this was the perfect time to switch things up rather than go with his usual lineup. With the Yankees in the midst of a stretch in which they're playing 23 games in 24 days leading into the All-Star break, Girardi thought it would be prudent to make a pre-emptive strike now.
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So he gave Alex Rodriguez the night off in their series opener against the Indians, inserted Eric Chavez at third base, had Curtis Granderson assume the designated hitter role for a night and gave Dewayne Wise a spot start in centerfield.
The Yankees played their usual Power Ball ticket Monday night, blasting three homers on the way to a 7-1 win in front of 42,290 at the Stadium. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher hit back-to-back solo shots with two outs in the third. Wise belted a two-run homer in the second and tripled home a run in the sixth to propel the Yankees to their third straight win.
"More than anything today, I've got to give my boy D-Wise some serious credit," Swisher said. "What a game. For him to come out and get a big start in a situation like that, to go out and hit the two-run jack and triple, I was so excited for him, man. What a game."
Cano, who also had a two-out, two-run double in the first inning, hit his sixth homer in his last eight games and 17th overall. Cano has homered seven times in his last 12 home contests and is batting .329 (26-for-79) with nine homers and 16 RBIs in June, putting that slow start of his in the rearview mirror.
"I'm not ever thinking about homers," Cano said. "I just go out there like I was trying to get a hit, and if you hit a homer, perfect. We will be laughing in the dugout all day. But it's all about getting on base and getting a big hit . . . You never go to the plate and say, 'I'm going to hit a home run and then you hit it.' Myself, I just go out there and try to make my swing and get good contact."
Girardi said: "It's just Robbie being Robbie in a sense. He's another guy that can carry your club. You can hold him down for a while, but eventually he's going to get hot. That's just who he is. He's just too good a hitter not to. He's just turned it around."
The Yankees' home run stroke certainly seems healthy. They have hit 115 in 72 games, a pace that has them on track to smack 259. The major-league record is 264 by the 1997 Mariners. The only other team in the majors with more than 100 is Toronto (107 in 73 games).
"This team is designed to hit home runs," Swisher said. "That's the one thing we do a pretty good job of. Everybody talks about the runners-in-scoring-position thing, but a solo shot is just as good as an RBI single with a runner on second.
"For us, we feel good. Everything is just real chill right now. Everything is just real mellow. We're having a good time and we just want to keep this roll going."
The Yankees, who have won 23 of their last 30 games, moved three games ahead of Baltimore.
Cano's two-out, two-run double in the first set the tone and Wise, who came in batting .133 with no homers or RBIs, homered to rightfield in the second for a 4-0 lead. The consecutive shots by Cano and Swisher gave the Yankees a 6-0 bulge.
"I was just happy when I walked in today and saw my name in the starting lineup," Wise said. "To be honest, I think the team was more happy than I was. But it turned out to be a good day. Kuroda pitched a great game, we came up with some big hits with runners in scoring position and were able to get the win today."
Regarding his lineup, Girardi said, "I'm just trying to stay proactive. As a manager, you've got to try to keep these guys healthy. They are not 25 anymore, you know. We might want to view them as 25. But the reality is they are not 25 and I'm just trying to stay ahead of it. I'm just trying to make sure I keep some guys healthy."