In their 12-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox yesterday, the Yankees cracked 11 hits. Given that they put up double digit runs three times on the just-completed 10-game road trip, it wasn’t entirely surprising, but it was very nice to note where the runs originated.
Of the 11 hits, 7 of them came from the bottom three hitters in the lineup. Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius had 2 hits apiece, and Stephen Drew had 3 hits and 4 RBIs. All three have had their best months of the season in July. The three have hit .397, .370 and .314 since the All Star Break and Drew has his season average all the way up to .199 which, considering his horrendous season, feels somewhat miraculous. Even Brendan Ryan, his strike-out in Friday’s game against position player Adam LaRoche notwithstanding, has contributed with a .308 BA and 5 XBH.
Having those previously struggling / injured players making noise at the bottom of the line-up just makes a starting pitcher's job more difficult, and takes some of the strain off the likes of Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and even Brian McCann, who is having a nice season despite recent struggles. Pitchers will be more reluctant to pitch around the heart of the line-up if the six through nine hitters can make them pay for those choices.
Also, with Jacoby Ellsbury still searching for the swing that led to his torrid start to the season (he is batting just .190 with just 6 XBH and 0 SBs since the ASB), there’s still a good chance that someone will be on base when the heavy hitters come up after the first time through the lineup. Like most HR hitting teams (the Yankees are first in MLB in HRs, OBP, SLB and OPS since the ASB), the Yankees are somewhat prone to slumps, but when they are clicking on all cylinders they can match up favorably even against another team's ace.
Considering the way the Toronto Blue Jays have retooled their team, and how the Tampa Bay Rays have always had strong starting pitching as their cornerstone, the Yankees lengthened lineup is a huge benefit for as long as it lasts.
They’ll need to get Ellsbury and Brett Gardner (.204 BA, 2 XBH’s and 0 SBs since the ASB) back to being the dynamic duo they were before Ellsbury was hurt, but it’s nice to see Gregorius, Drew and back-ups like Ryan and John Ryan Murphy (.429 BA in 6 games since the ASB) contribute to the success of the team with their bats as well as their gloves.
It’s still too soon to start selling playoff tickets, but if the Yankees offense can continue to be as powerful as it has been lately, the Yankees can know that they are giving it their best shot.