By Ernie Palladino
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The pop guns turned into rifles for just one day, but maybe that was enough to spark some optimism about this Yankees offense.
After struggling through June and barely getting CC Sabathia a victory Wednesday, the Yanks set off some real fireworks on Independence Day in Minnesota.
Ichiro Suzuki missed hitting for the cycle by a homer. Vernon Wells drove in three runs. And the Yanks beat the Twins 9-5 to complete their first series sweep since Cleveland from June 3-5.
Now, set your imagination to fast-forward, and think about the possibilities once Curtis Granderson, and Derek Jeter get back. We won’t talk about Alex Rodriguez, but hey, Eduardo Nunez is showing enough signs of life in his own rehab that he was promoted to Double-A Trenton.
A-Rod — OK, we do have to talk about him a little — is still floating around in Single-A, and who knows what’s going to become of him legally.
Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira? Well, we know about them. Youkilis won’t be around until August or September, if at all. And all Tex can do is wait for 2014.
But despite all that, if the Yanks do get some of their ammo back, it’s entirely possible that the problems of the last few weeks will go by the wayside. They gave some indications of that in their fourth straight win which, by the way, got them almost all the way back from the five-game losing streak that preceded the Minnesota series.
During that four-game span, they outscored the Twins 29-14, piling up 10 runs in the opener and nine to close it out. Even Travis Hafner, wallowing down there are .229, went 3-for-4 in the 13-hit attack. True, there wasn’t a homer in the bunch, but they did bang out five extra-base hits, including a pair of doubles by Hafner.
“It was good,” Hafner said after the offense got winner David Phelps a quick lead with a three-run first. “The offense picked it up a lot, which was great to see. Overall, we played well. Hopefully now offensively we can keep it going.”
They’re back to seven games over .500, in third place and 6 ½ games behind AL East leader Boston. Even more important is that 1 ½ game gap between Joe Girardi’s club and the second wildcard spot.
Even though 77 games remain on the schedule — another way of saying a whole slew of bad things can happen to a team already deluged by the black clouds between now and the end of September, the arrow is once again pointing up. They come home for three against the Orioles, four against the Royals, and three against the Twins leading into the All-Star break. And the four-game sweep should give them some momentum as they face Baltimore, the architect of the three-game sweep that preceded the Minnesota series.
“After some disappointing games in Baltimore, we won all different kinds of games here,” Girardi said. “It’s encouraging. We swung the bats well here, and that’s encouraging.”
Getting some bodies back from the DL would certainly help. The Yanks could still use the power Granderson’s bat affords, since one can only ask so much of Robbie Cano. He gave the Yanks their only three homers of the series, and those came in the first two games. Nunez would be an upgrade at shortstop while the wait for Jeter’s ankle to cooperate continues.
But for one day, a joyous one at that, the Yanks’ put some rifles among the pop guns.
Perhaps the artillery Girardi really needs, the cannons, will come alive soon enough.
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