After my multi-part series on my imagined All-Time All-Star Game...
We now return you to your regularly scheduled baseball season, already in progress.
Last night, the Yankees resumed, beginning a home series against the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim. Until the 7th inning, Hiroki Kuroda was getting the job done, and the Yankees had given him a 2-1 lead. But he fell apart, and when the inning was over, the Angels led 4-2. They made it 5-2 in the 8th. The Yankee runs had scored on a home run by Mark Teixeira, his 17th.
Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the 8th with a double. Curtis Granderson drew a walk. And then came another Teix message to tie the game.
Up next was Alex Rodriguez, but, fitting the stereotype, he didn't help, grounding to 3rd. Robinson Cano didn't help, either, lining to right. But Nick Swisher drew a walk, replaced by pinch-runner Dewayne Wise, who stole 2nd. With 1st base open, the Angels intentionally walked Raul Ibanez to set up a force play. After all, the next batter was Russell Martin, who was batting .171.
Martin singled Wise home with the winning run. Rafael Soriano slammed the door in the 9th.
Yankees 6, Angels 5. WP: Chad Qualls (2-1). SV: Soriano (21). LP: Scott Downs (1-1), in relief of C.J. Wilson, noted Yankee-killer while with the Texas Rangers the last 2 years.
Today, I tempted fate, by going to my old summer home, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, home of Martell's Sea Breeze, the Boardwalk joint where the Yanks were something like 0-25 when I watched on the Martell TV screens before I finally saw them win there last summer.
Freddy Garcia started for the Yankees, and while he wasn't exactly stellar, he got the job done. The Angels took a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning, but the Yanks tied it shortly thereafter, thanks to Cano's 21st homer. Curtis Granderson hit his 24th in the 3rd, to give the Yanks a 4-2 lead, and that was pretty much it.
Yankees 5, Angels 3. WP: Garcia (4-2). SV: Soriano (22). LP: Jerome Williams (6-6). Curse of Martell's: Appears to be not only dead, but buried.
Counting games played this afternoon, but not games in progress as I type this, the Yankees are leading the American League Eastern Division by 8 1/2 games, with the Baltimore Orioles 8 games behind in the loss column. The Tampa Bay Rays are 9 back,the Boston Red Sox 10 back, and the Toronto Blue Jays 10 1/2 back (11 in the loss column).
The Yanks' Magic Numbers to eliminate the other AL East teams are: Sox and Jays 65, Rays 66, and O's 68.
There's a dozen reasons why the Yankees shouldn't be doing this well with 75 regular-season games to go.
Am I exaggerating? Or are there really 12 reasons?
1. Mariano Rivera has been out most of the season.
2. The man who was supposed to take his place, David Robertson, was injured -- and now that he's back, has been restored to his previous position as 8th inning pitcher, while Rafael Soriano has stayed as the 9th inning man.
3. Michael Pineda, counted on to be one of the better starters, is out for the season, and then some: Until next May, at least.
4. Joba Chamberlain was supposed to be out for the season -- although he may be back in August.
5. Andy Pettitte came out of retirement, but he's hurt, too -- although he has begun working his way back, and may be back in August.
6. Brett Gardner has been injured for most of the season.
7. Freddy Garcia has looked finished -- although he's been better lately.
8. Mark Teixeira got off to a terrible start, typical for Yankee 1st baseman going as far back as early Don Mattingly -- although he's definitely shaken that off.
9. Alex Rodriguez hasn't been the A-Rod of old, although he's hardly been terrible.
10. In spite of last night's winning hit, Russell Martin is still batting only .181.
11. Cory Wade has pitched abysmally, doing to me this season what Boone Logan did the year before, what Robertson did the year before that, what Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Proctor, Jeff Weaver, Ted Lilly, Greg Cadaret, Bob Shirley and George Frazier have all made me want to do while wearing Yankee uniforms: Beat them to death with my bare hands.
12. Joe Girardi continues to use "the book" (or, as some say, his binder) to manage, instead of his eyes and common sense.
So, yes, a dozen reasons.
So why have the Yankees produced the best record in baseball at this point in the season?
It can't be the Yankee Mystique. Assuming it even really exists, it doesn't really help much in the regular season.
It can't be Yankee Stadium. The new Stadium hasn't had the same effect the old Stadium did.
It can't be simply that putting on the Yankee uniform makes you better. See young Wade above.
It could be that the other teams simply aren't good enough... but I don't think so. Of the 14 teams in the AL, all but 3 are 1 game under .500 or better. And even the team with the League's worst record, the Seattle Mariners, has a better record than 4 teams in the National League: The Chicago Cubs, the Colorado Rockies, the San Diego Padres and the Houston Astros.
Or maybe... the answer is as simple as "We are the Yankees. This is what we do."
Whoever said baseball was logical?