Enough bats to solve any of Yanks' pitching problems
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'What about the pitching?!" Yankees fans have cried in recent weeks, in the same way Mrs. Lovejoy yelps, "Won't somebody please think of the children?!" on "The Simpsons."
Yet seeing them in action reminded us of a most basic tenet: You're defined by your competition. And whatever slip-ups the Yankees pitchers commit during this next month, they have a pretty good safety net in baseball's best offense.
In fact, the Yankees' offense took a significant step forward in American League Division Series Game 1. With Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira leading the way in the Yankees' come-from-behind, 6-4 victory over the Twins, the AL's wild-card entry showed that it needn't rely on old-guard types like Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez to deliver the big hits.
"Our lineup is so deep, there is never a reason to give up," said Teixeira, whose two-run, seventh-inning homer off' Jesse Crain broke a 4-4 tie. "There are some teams where maybe two or three guys carry the team, and if you're in a big hole, it's just tough to get out of. But with our lineup, we can be down four, five, six runs, and we have a chance to score seven or eight."
They faced just a three-run deficit on this night, as Yankees ace, horse and savior CC Sabathia lacked his best stuff, to be kind. While Francisco Liriano silenced the Yankees through five innings, the Twins capitalized on some sloppy play to jump out to a 3-0 edge. To make their fans think, in their new ballpark, this year would be different than 2003, 2004 or 2009.
And . . . that just didn't last very long. The Yankees already had scored two runs in the sixth when Granderson came up with two outs and teammates on first and second. Joe Girardi, citing Granderson's recent, improved hitting, started him even though hen had gone 4-for-22 with 12 strikeouts against Liriano.
Those questions and that baggage began to dissipate when Granderson got hold of a 2-and-1 Liriano fastball that kept carrying and carrying until it hit the top of the wall in right-centerfield. Granderson wound up at third, with the Yankees up 4-3.
"It seems like all the times before, he did a great job of not giving me too much to hit," Granderson said of Liriano. "Then, when I did, I wasn't able to do much with it. So it was a mixture of all of those things working in the reverse this time, and I was able to go ahead and put the ball a little out of reach of Denard Span and allow us to run around the bases a little bit."
After Sabathia walked Danny Valencia with the bases loaded to tie the score in the bottom of the sixth, however, Teixeira took his turn. He is banged up, with an ailing right thumb and right toe. Yet he yanked a Crain slider that hugged the rightfield foul pole for the lead that lasted.
"You know what, game-winning home runs, there's nothing better," Teixeira said.
In all, the night brought to mind a conversation I had just a few days ago with a coach from an American League Central club, to help me with Newsday's Twins scouting report.
"Besides Liriano," the coach said on the condition of anonymity, "the Twins pitchers are going to have a hard time with the Yankees' lineup."
Sure, you wonder how Game 2 starter Andy Pettitte will do, as he still searches for his groove after his stay on the disabled list. You worry about Phil Hughes making his first career playoff start. And then you ponder how Sabathia, having thrown 111 pitches, will look on three days' rest.
It's all relative, though. The Twins now rely on strike-throwing former Yankee flop Carl Pavano to tie up this series. It's not a great bet.
Don't ask, "What about the pitching?!" Try "What about the run differential?!" instead. The answer will make you happier.