The anatomy of a winning streak

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Mr. Irrelevant signs

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 “today we win” 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.

Last 7 Days — now sorted by OPB
Jeter: .350/.519/.450
Abreu: .440/.517/.720
Alex: .316/.481/.947
Matsui: .350/.481/.700
Posada: .308/.474/.538
Melky: .263/.364/.263
Nieves: .222/.300/.222
Cano: .296/.296/.481
Damon: .185/.241/.185
Cairo: .217/.208/.304

USAToday: Giambi may face suspension if...
Mr. Irrelevant signs
  • Jersey

    Joseph – What did the radar gun have to say about Moose last night? Was he hitting 90?

  • Joseph P.

    Nah. It looked like he was topping out at 88 (on the YES gun). Which is fine for Moose.

  • Julie

    A-Rod’s homer looked like it was going to fly out of the park. What a great (though cold) night at the Stadium.

  • Ben

    The Stadium gun had Moose hitting 87-89 on the fastball. But he had great location and the ump was calling what seemed to be a low zone. Moose took full advantage of that as a smart pitcher will.

  • Mike from CT (formerly of DC)

    Watched the game on YES. The Umps zone seemed to be all over the place, you could tell some of the players (on both sides) were getting frustrated.

  • dan

    yay for differently sorted “7 days” lists! are those really cairo’s numbers the last 7 days? the way the YES guys talk about him you’d think he was challenging arod for the team lead in RBI or something. I never thought to actually check his numbers over the last few days. Also, I keep hearing how damon loves the DH spot so much… he hasn’t been hitting since they moved him (cant find actual numbers anywhere, but last 7 days are a decent indicator), i dont know where theyre getting that from.

  • John L.

    Re: Cairo and Damon

    I’m pretty sure this is what winning does to a team: suddenly people think everyone’s playing well and that all recent changes (Damon to DH, Cairo to 1B) are the reason for that.

  • Mike K

    I really like Cairo out there, seems to at the very least give you a good at-bat most of the time and he is smart as, when he gets to two strikes he always looks to go the other way. Solid defense too. Not that I think he is Jeter by any means but I think a guy like Cairo who gives you good at bats is more valuable than say, Josh Phelps, who will give you the occasional burst of power, but more often than not, a bad at-bat.