Monday evening the New York Yankees started a stretch of 18-games on their schedule and the lone team with an above .500 record are the Detroit Tigers who visit the Bronx for three this weekend. Throw in the Los Angeles Angels, Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins and the Yankees have their opportunity to win games and reduce a six game deficit from first place in the AL East.
Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, the 26-33 Angels, a team with a struggling pitching staff and lineup, kept that stretch of games successful for the Yankees with a 12-6 loss. Thursday evening they try to avoid a four-game sweep, and for the Yankees getting the wins against the right teams may be their way of finally making a statement.
A statement, and one that could instantly put them back in the thick of things in the division. Not that they are very far behind, but taking advantage against teams that are under .500 is always a good way to make a statement, that this will not be a lost season in the Bronx.
And the Yankees, at least for the past three nights in the Bronx, have not resembled the team that could not get men on base and score runs in the month of April and for a majority of games in the month of May. They are pitching well, though righthander Nathan Eovaldi did not have his best stuff Wednesday night and took the no-decision.
The Angels in the first three innings saw their hitters score four earned runs off Eovaldi, were 7-for-16 and hit two home runs, one hit by Gregorio Petit and another off the bat of Jefry Marte in the third inning.
But the Yankees, in what has become a good sign, were able to capitalize on a pitcher, Jered Weaver (5-5) who also did not have his best stuff However with the Yankees hitting now in a contagious mode it does not matter who is on the mound opposing them. In other words, the Yankees are finally taking advantage of their opportunity and doing it well.
“I think this is a real important month for us and as we move forward to get back into contention, to climb up in the division and make up some ground,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. He described the hitting, contagious and it is happening up and down the lineup and it begins with the table setters at the top with Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.
The two, who could not buy a hit, or live up to expectations as catalyst of the lineup, have revived. Girardi will take that as the rest of the Yankees lineup. Gardner is riding a six game hitting streak, 12-for his last 23, including 3-for5 , a double and 2 RBI Wednesday night.
Ellsbury and Gardner had back-to-back doubles leading off the first inning that produced a run. That was what the Yankees expected from the table setters of their lineup and now they are getting it. Ellsbury has multiple hits in three of his last four starts and reached base in the fourth inning on catcher’s interference, a Major League high sixth time this season.
“We’ve been swinging the bat a lot better of late,” Brian McCann said. “We’re playing better baseball. I like where everybody’s at.” The Yankees catcher went 1-for-5 and drove in two runs as the team recorded their second highest run total of the season and equaled a season high in hits with 17.
And recording a season high in extra base hits with nine, five doubles and four home runs, was done against a team they had to beat during this stretch of games. Girardi reiterated that, “You have to play yourself into contention” and for now his team is responding.
‘I believe in what I am seeing right now, so I believe we can keep doing that,” Carlos Beltran said. The Yankees right-fielder is playing right field everyday and had the RBI go-ahead double in the sixth and a two run homer in the seventh. Beltran is healthy and so is his bat with a home run in his last three games, 16 for the season.
The hot bat of Beltran makes a difference, and there is no telling how many more home runs will come against the other sub .500 teams during this stretch of games for the Yankees.
“We just need to continue to grind , man,” added Beltran. “ We have a lot of baseball left, so we need to try to get the most out of the moment.” And that means beating the teams they have to and continuing this offensive punch that could disappear again because it is such a long season.
“He’s so big for our offense,” said Girardi about Beltran. “He’s healthy and swinging the bat real well.”
Keep in mind, there is a lot more baseball to play and the Yankees are aware of how much this is a game of streaks. But right now, everything is going right and they may have found a viable bat to replace the injured Mark Teixeira.
Chris Parmelee, called up a few day ago from Scranton got his first start. He homered twice and scored three runs, including a game tying solo home run in the sixth inning and a long two-run drive to right right in the seventh. Girardi would not commit that Parmelee would be the regular at first.
But with an offense that is working right now on all cylinders, there is every reason to understand seeing Parmelee get the start Thursday night in the Bronx as the Yankees go for the four-game sweep.
And when the Yankees don’t have to go to their “Three-headed monster” backend of the bullpen of Betances, Miller and Chapman, rest assured they are swinging the bats and scoring runs.
A week or so ago it did not seem possible. But as Beltran and the Yankees are aware it is a long season and right now that schedule is in their favor to getting where they belong.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso