By Steve Silverman
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There’s something going on in the Bronx that has nothing to do with Alex Rodriguez.
Well, it has a little to do with A-Rod, but it’s more about his teammates, his manager and the length of the 162-game season. Baseball gives teams a chance to show their full colors, all their abilities and their talent for overcoming adversity.
Don’t look now, but the Yankees just may be putting themselves in a position to make a run at the playoffs.
No, we are not talking about the A.L. East title. There’s a 6 1/2 game gap that the Yankees would have to make up on the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s significant but not impossible and the Yankees have a history of charging from behind as far as the Red Sox are concerned.
The Red Sox may be there for the taking. They have been a nice story this year as they have rebounded under John Farrell after a disastrous year under Bobby Valentine. They have played very well for the majority of the season, but in the last two weeks, they have lacked consistency at the plate and they have lost eight of their last 12.
The Rays are the big concern that will keep the Yankees from winning the division. The Rays have the best manager in baseball in Joe Maddon and they back that up with the best pitching in the division. Throw in excellent clutch hitting and you have a team that is capable of putting winning streaks together and avoiding slumps.
But the Yankees are moving in the right direction. A doubleheader sweep of the Blue Jays after their Sunday night Dempster-gate win over the Red Sox is an indication that the Yankees can hit the ball, something that was absent for about a half season.
Yesterday, while A-Rod was striking out five times, Robinson Cano went 4-for-4 in the first game and 2-for-4 in the second game. Instead of looking at the rest of the lineup and wondering where his support was going to come from, Cano knows he is not in this battle alone.
Much of his support is coming from Alfonso Soriano, who looks reborn in his second tour of duty with the Yankees. He has given them the right-handed power bat that has been missing all season.
Ichiro Suzuki is contributing and the return of Curtis Granderson gives the Yankees another left-handed threat. Granderson has not hit his stride yet, but he is a threat to hit the ball over the wall every time he comes to the plate.
It’s not going to be easy, but the Red Sox, Orioles and Indians are not better teams than the Yankees. The Orioles don’t have a serious pitching rotation and are unlikely to survive September. The Indians are a nice comeback story, but they have not shown the ability to win clutch games.
The Yankees know that the A-Rod circus is not going to disappear as long as he remains with the team. Joe Girardi is navigating the team well through these choppy waters and he is doing his best job of managing since he came to the Yankees in 2008.
He should get a bonus when Derek Jeter returns and starts contributing shortly.
The starting pitching is better than that of Boston, Baltimore and Cleveland and so is the bullpen. The hitting has returned. The Yankees have adequate time to make a charge and get back to the playoffs once again.
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