LADY AT THE BAT: Yankees Complementary Players Doing Their Part

Friday, May 10, 2013

Yankees Complementary Players Doing Their Part

A glance at the Yankees stat leader boards shows that some of the usual suspects are carrying their weight. Robinson Cano is leading the league in batting average, homeruns, RBIs and hits, CC Sabathia is leading in wins and strikeouts and Hiroki Kuroda in ERA. Look a few levels lower, however, and it is clear that the complementary players brought in at the end of spring training, are doing their part as well. Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner are second and third in batting average and homeruns and Vidal Nuno and Preston Claiborne have come up from the minor leagues throwing strikes out of the bullpen.

The Yankees, after a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rockies, are in first place in the A.L. East and some unconventional names are a large part of the reason. It's early May so it's unrealistic to expect the likes of Francisco Cervelli, when he does eventually return, to slug .500 or for Wells to continue a stolen base trend that has him on pace for close to 20 or for Claiborne to never give up a run. On the flip side, however, Eduardo Nunez can't hit .200 for a full season and Ivan Nova can't pitch to a 6+ ERA either, or so the Yankees must hope. Baseball is a game of peaks and valleys and, as long as the Yankees players don't all slump at once, they just may continue surprising everyone. On any given night, the Yankees just need someone, anyone, to contribute.

On Thursday afternoon, that contribution came from the bullpen. The Yankees got a solid four innings out of CC Sabathia but then lost their ace after a lengthy rain delay and had to piece together the remaining five innings. Adam Warren stepped in to earn his first win, Claiborne pitched an effective if messy inning and Robinson Cano got his 1,500 (and 1,501) career hits to lead the Yankees to a 3-1 victory against the Colorado Rockies. As they have done for the bulk of this season, an unexpected but increasingly reliable mix of proven talent and rookie contributors led the Yankees to a win. And, here in the early going, they have led the Yankees to the top of the A.L. East

Yes, it's early May, yes they are mere percentage points ahead of both Boston and Baltimore and yes their offense barely mustered enough runs in Coors Field, one of the most offense friendly ballparks in the major leagues, to win an interleague matchup against the Colorado Rockies. But so what?

Through a combination of solid pitching (fifth in the American League in team ERA) and some unexpected pop (third in the AL in homeruns), this Yankees team has continued to defy expectations. In fact the standings are thus far the inverse of expectations with the hot pick Toronto Blue Jays and always trendy Tampa Bay Rays battling it out for the final two spots while New York and Boston, mere after thoughts before the season, fight it out for the top spot with Baltimore somewhere in the middle.

With 10 games remaining this month within the division, there is no time for complacency or even a pat on the back. Tomorrow there will be just another game to win and another player who will need to step up. Right now, though, the Yankees are in first place and they have earned it.

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