We’ve all seen this before: Yankees offense scores 900 runs in the regular season, goes to sleep in the playoffs. The difference this year is that some guys are still hitting. That, and the superb pitching allowed even a porous offense to come out ahead in the first five postseason contests. But, as we saw yesterday, the holes in the lineup can be killers. The Yanks could have scored eight, 10 runs yesterday if they hit with runners in scoring position. Instead, they relied on the solo homer. That won’t always work.
That the bottom of the order isn’t hitting is one thing. That Mark Teixeira isn’t hitting is another. He’s had a pretty bad playoffs overall, notching just two hits in the ALDS. Of course, those two hits were as big as they get: a single prior to a game-tying homer, and a walk-off shot in the same game. Since then, in four games, Teixeira has just one hit. He is 1 for 13 in the ALDS with a lone single, walking three times to five strikeouts. It hurts so much more because he’s batting in the three hole.
It’s April all over again for Tex. It appears the long breaks have disrupted his rhythm. That’s anecdotal, of course, but it matches with what we’ve heard about Teixeira from day one. He starts slow every year because he needs to get into a rhythm from both sides of the plate. Joe Morgan (of all people) explained it on a Sunday Night Baseball broadcast, noting that while most hitters transfer their weight from their back foot to their front, Teixeira stays on his back foot for his whole swing. I wonder how much Tex would benefit from having a non-roster pitcher, like Brian Bruney, throw him live BP, at game speeds.
Robinson Cano came to the plate twice yesterday with runners on first and second with none out, and twice bounced into a fielder’s choice. In fact, he doesn’t have a hit with runners in scoring position all series. His only RBI came on a triple with a man on first. He’s just 3 for 13 in the series with a GIDP. The Yankees certainly need the guy who hit .320 this season.
Batting after Cano is Nick Swisher, who has been equally as bad if not worse. After going 1 for 12 in the ALDS, Swisher is 2 for 10 in the ALCS with five strikeouts. A few of those have been costly, coming with a runner on third and less than two outs. Swisher’s woes at the plate are amplified when A.J. Burnett starts. Because Jose Molina bats ninth and Jorge Posada is out of the lineup, Swisher hits sixth. Unless he does something tonight, putting him in that spot isn’t the best idea.
Rounding out the order is Melky Cabrera who, after a good Game 1, has slowed down considerably. He went 1 for 2 with two walks in the opening match, but since has gone 2 for 11 with no walks and four strikeouts. He’s the No. 9 hitter, so it’s tough to expect the world from him. Still, Melky has stumbled in the playoffs. He’s just 5 for 25 this postseason, which is bad even for the last hitter in the lineup.
So far the Yankees have gotten by with timely (i.e., late) hitting and solid pitching. But the home runs won’t come against everyone. The Yankees have to start taking advantage of their opportunities earlier in the game, and that means Teixeira, Cano, Swisher, and Melky have to produce. After yesterday’s loss, the Yankees could use it tonight more than ever.