If the Yankees are to make a playoff run of old, it will mostly depend on whether Mark Teixeira can be the Teix of old.
Since 2009, his first year in pinstripes, in many ways, the Yankees have gone as their first baseman has gone.
This season, Teixeira has been hampered by one injury after another, and has only played in 64 of the Yankees’ 94 games.
“This has been brutal,” said Teixeira before the Yankees 6-0 win over the Orioles. “I’ve been terrible and the only thing I can try to do the last two months is just try to be healthy and get hot. I live off my hot streaks, so hopefully I can stay on the field, that’s the first thing and help this team win some games.”
Teixeira was back in the lineup for the Yankees on Wednesday night after missing three games due to fouling a ball off his left foot in Saturday’s game.
“Freak things happen, I mean, 14 years, twice I’ve missed time with foul balls off my leg, last year and this year,” Teixeira said. “It doesn’t happen that often, it’s just unfortunate.”
The Yankees are showing confidence in their longtime first baseman by continuing to place him in the middle of the lineup. He was in the fifth spot on Wednesday night against Baltimore.
“It’s really important to our lineup,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game. “You see where he’s hitting in our lineup, it’s really important that he’s productive and does the things that we know he’s capable of doing.”
“I know what I’m capable of when I’m healthy and hopefully I can do that,” Teixeira said about the Yankees keeping him in the middle of the order. “I appreciate (Girardi) keeping me in there and giving me at-bats.”
Teixeira rewarded the manager’s faith when he blasted a home run to deep right field in the fourth inning to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
In the sixth, he came up with the bases loaded and nobody out and worked out a four-pitch walk, giving him another RBI and making it 3-0 Yankees. That was his second free pass of the night.
“It was a good game,” Teixeira said after the 5-0 Yankees win. “The walks are good, too. just seeing the ball well. Obviously, home runs are always fun, but the win’s the most important thing.”
Though he is hitting just .189 with eight home runs and 22 RBI, he is confident he can still be a key contributor down the stretch, and it doesn’t take much for him to start a hot streak.
“Usually, it’s one or two games, you feel good, and then you have two really good weeks. I’m not sure if I’ve played two weeks straight, you know, it’s been that kind of year. Hopefully, I can stay healthy these last few months and help the team win.”
Teixeira has been hampered by a knee injury that sidelined him in June, and the effects of it mean that he can’t play every night.
“Three or four days, it means you have to book him because it seems, at this point, and maybe it will get longer as we move on, I don’t know, that it starts to get a little sore and stiff,” Girardi said.
“Not playing, it’s great,” Teixeira said of his knee. “I mean, really, when I stay off it, it feels fine. When I get a few games in a row, it starts barking a bit. Hopefully, that won’t happen too much.”
One thing the Yankees don’t have to worry about is that he still has one of the best gloves in the league at first base. On Wednesday night, he proved that when he scooped up a low throw from third baseman Ronald Torreyes out of the dirt on a grounder from Baltimore’s Joey Rickard to lead off the game.
On Wednesday afternoon, Teixeira talked about the upcoming trade deadlie and how much the Yankees are focusing on it.
“Really, we don’t think about (the trade deadline) as much as you guys (in the media) do because we have a job to do every day,” Teixeira said. “I’ve been on some really bad teams early in my career and I’d show up to the ballpark and someone’s locker would be empty. I’d go, ‘Oh, I get he just got traded.’ Then I went out and played that day. That’s just kind of the way it is. You have to go out there and just play every day.”
Teixeira is also aware of chatter from Yankees fans who want the team to give up on this season and rebuild for the future.
“Well, if that’s the case, if they start booing us when we do well, then you know you’re really in trouble,” Teixeira said with a laugh. “I don’t mind getting booed when I play poorly because I want to play well, but you’re in real trouble if you hit a home run and start getting booed. I hope that doesn’t happen!”
He is paying close attention to the trade rumors involving the Yankees and other teams around the league.
“(The) MLB Trade Rumors (app) has changed the game a little bit,” Teixeira said. “That’s a great site. I think it’s a cool site because I don’t go searching the internet for a hundred different articles. You get it all in one place.”
In that regard, the players are like the fans, as they are not told anything by management regarding moves before the August 1 trade deadline.
“Honestly, we don’t get told anything,” he said. “Someone could be on the DL or get traded and two days later I’m like, ‘Hey, what happened to that guy?’ You know? ‘Oh, he got sent down.’ We need to find out somehow.”
The Yankees are playing their way back into the pennant race, as Wednesday’s win pulled them within 5 1/2 games of the first-place Orioles.
“We know we can play with the best,” Teixeira said after their third straight win over Baltimore. “These guys have been at the top of our division most of the year, and we know if we have to play our ‘A’ game, we can beat most teams, and we’re going to have to if we want to stay in this thing. We have a lot of games against the east opponents, guys that are above us. We have to win these games.”
If the Yankees keep on winning, Teixeira will certainly be a reason why.