The anatomy of a winning streakBy
Photo Credit: Associated Press
What’s sweeter than picking up an eighth straight win? Picking up another game on Boston. Yeah, I know that I shouldn’t be thinking about the standings right now; winning is the name of the game, and as long as the Yanks keep doing that, they don’t have to worry about much else. But it’s still nice to see that GB number dwindle. Eight and a half is still a big number, but remember, it was 14.5 just two weeks ago.
Things look to be getting better, too — if that’s possible. We’ve inserted Clemens into the rotation, which helps solidify one of the weak points that was exploited during the season’s first two months. Sure, he’s not going to win the Cy Young or anything, but he doesn’t need to. They Yanks just need someone on whom they can rely.
More good things: Mike Mussina looks to be joining the ranks of the reliable, too. He’s been outstanding his last two starts, looking like the Moose of old — or at least the Moose of the past couple of years. Sure, he’s still going to have a couple more Mussina Meltdowns, but for the most part I doubt he’ll be pitching like he did in May. He’s better than that.
(You know, being on a winning streak is like being drunk. You have nothing but great things to say about nearly everyone. But if you start losing [sobering up], you start to get cranky and irritable, flinging mud at anyone who even minutely screws up.)
I’m going to pull a quote from Pete Abraham’s blog, because I think it poses an interesting question about the team’s recent fortunes:
The Yankees have that â€œtoday we winâ€ vibe going for the first time all season. Everybody is loose, the bullpen is rested, the starters are working well and the lineup is wearing out opposing starters with patience and power.
It’s great that the vibe is going around the locker room. You always want your guys “loose” and feeling good about themselves and the team. However, this is not the reason, per se, for the winning streak.
The clubhouse did not all the sudden become “loose” overnight. It’s not like Damon, Matsui, A-Rod, and everyone else who contributed to the 10-5 win over the Blue Jays on May 30 all woke up on the right side of the bed that morning, and because of that began hitting.
We all know that this team is supremely talented — perhaps more talented than any other team in the majors. However, they hit a slide. And when you have such talented players slumping, it amplifies the tension. Guys are pressing. They’re thinking too much at the plate, rather than being “loose.”
Joe Torre canceling batting practice on the 30th definitely helped ease some of that tension. It sent the message that they didn’t need to be pressing so hard. Why didn’t they need to be pressing? Because they’re so damn talented. They’re too good to slump like that all season. Eventually, things were going to work out. But pressing and fretting wasn’t accelerating that schedule.
So there was some tension relieved, and they hit that day. Then they headed up to Boston, where you’d think that the tension would be higher (and it likely was), and took two out of three, including the infamous Sunday night game. Some tension eased. And they started rolling.
Now, here’s the “chicken or the egg” question: did the Yanks start to hit to their potential because of relieved tension, or was tension relieved because they started hitting well — and pitching well? I’m a believer in the latter. But watching this team, you could probably make a case for the former.
As far as the game goes, it really doesn’t need a whole ton of recapping. Moose was great, allowing two forgivable runs: an “A-B-C” run (double, sac, sac fly) and a homer on a “get me over” curve that hung up there a bit. Seven strikeouts in 7.2 innings is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a guy who was only hitting the mid-80s earlier this season. He walked none and threw 73 percent strikes, which makes him a hero in my book.
Posada, Alex, and Matsui provided the offensive punch. Whoever said that it’s bad strategy to “wait for the three run home run” never really watched this Yankee team. When they’re on, they’re on. The put guys on base, forcing pitchers to throw more pitches in the zone. And when that happens, the Yanks go deep.
But it’s not just the home runs that are hot. They’re swiping bags, successfully hit-and-running (even though I despise the play) — basically, everything is working with the offense. And that’s the nature of the Yankees. If they’re slumping, forget about it. You can try to manufacture and create runs any way you want, but it’s probably not going to work.
(Which, incidentally, is part of the reason they’ve been knocked out of the playoffs so early the past two seasons.)
They try to make it nine today, as Andy Pettitte faces Doug Davis. I’ll be in the stands for the matinee.
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