The Year of the Grand SlamBy
You may or may not have noticed, but the Yankees are hitting an awful lot of homeruns with the bases loaded this season. The team has seven grand slams in just 69 games, putting them on pace to hit a staggering 16 over the full season. The all-time record is 14, shared by the 2006 Indians and the 2000 A’s.
The Yanks hit just three salamis last year and seven the year before, so we’re already in some rarefied air here. In 106 plate appearances with the bags full in 2010, they’re hitting a combined .420/.481/.693 (.498 wOBA) with seven homers and 103 runs driven in. The last individual batter to have a wOBA that high in a single season was Barry Bonds in 2004, when he hit 45 homers and reached base 367 times in 147 games. That’s how stupefyingly good they’ve been when the pitcher has no margin for error.
Let’s take a second to recap all seven…
May 14th: A-Rod vs. Matt Guerrier (video)
Coming off four losses in their last five games, the Yankees had been beaten down by Scott Baker for the first six innings and trailed by one going into the 7th. Frankie Cervelli and Derek Jeter started the inning off with a single and a double, respectively, putting men on second and third with no outs. Not even a slumping Yankee offense could screw this up, but they sure tried.
Lefty reliever Brian Duensing got Brett Gardner to hit a lazy fly ball to left not deep enough to score the run, and the Twinkies decided to take advantage of a slumping A-Rod (had hit .230/.296/.328 in his previous 71 plate appearances) by walking the even slumpier Mark Teixeira (.198/.327/.382 on the season to that point) to load the bases and set up both the double play and the force at any base. You know what happened next.
Matt Guerrier was summoned from the bullpen to face A-Rod even though he was 4-for-6 with three homers off him to that point, and it took all of two pitches for Alex to lift the ball deep into the Bronx sky and into the leftfield stands. Hit Tracker measured the true distance of the shot at 367 ft., so it wasn’t A-Rod’s best. They all count the same, and the Yanks went on to win 8-4.
May 28th: Robbie Cano vs. Tony Sipp (video)
Batting cleanup for the first time this year, the molten hot Cano came to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded following a Jeter single, a Curtis Granderson double, and a Teixeira walk. As he tends to do, Cano wasted no time and jumped all over Sipps’ first pitch, launching it deep into the rightfield second deck for a good old four run homer and an 8-2 lead. The ball traveled 386 ft., and I’m sure Sipps’ confidence fell just as far.
May 31st: A-Rod vs. Chris Perez (video)
People just never learn. Barely two weeks after the Twins fell victim to old “walk Teixeira to load the bases for A-Rod because he’s so unclutch” trick, the Indians did exactly the same thing. The Yanks had been nursing a one run lead since the 4th when Perez entered with one out in the 7th and the bases juiced after Rafael Perez got singled to death, and he promptly ran the count to 3-1 on the A-Rod. It was a winnable game for Cleveland, so walking in a run would have been pretty awful. Perez grooved a 3-1 heater and Alex did what he was supposed to do, he sent it right back up the middle, except airborne. The ball landed in Monument Park, the Yanks lead went from one to five, and the game eventually ended 11-2 in favor of the good guys. Hit Tracker measured this one at 421 ft.
June 8th: Granderson vs. Kevin Millwood (video)
The Yankees were in the middle of beating Baltimore for the eighth time in a row when Granderson stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the 3rd. Grandy was hitting a nice and clean .300/.333/.500 since returning from the disabled list a week earlier, but he still wasn’t putting together consistent at-bats. Millwood made it easy by starting him out 2-1 before Granderson fouled off a pitch to even the count at 2-2, but it was Millwood’s fifth pitch that he wishes he could have back. The Yanks’ centerfield pulled the ball 382 ft. down the rightfield line, over the scoreboard and into the barbecue pits lining Eutaw St. to give his team a six-zip advantage.
June 12th: Jorge Posada vs. Wandy Rodriguez (video)
A stretch of games against last place teams had helped correct the Yanks’ month long slump, but Posada wasn’t out of the woods yet. He was hitting just .133/.297/.133 in 37 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list, and Wandy already made him look foolish in this game by striking him out on a big loopy curveball. Posada obviously put that curve in his memory bank, because the Astros’ hurler went right back to it when the Yanks had the bases loaded and no outs in the 3rd.
A walk, single, walk, and single had already brought one run in, but Jorge plated the rest when he poked that same curveball the opposite way and over the right-centerfield wall. The Astros went from tied at two to down by four in the matter of that one pitch, and they went on to drop the game 9-3. Hit Tracker measures this one at 388 ft.
June 13th: Posada vs. Casey Daigle (video)
Apparently the Astros hadn’t had enough the day before, so the went ahead and loaded the bases for Posada the next day as well. Already down by two, the forgettable duo of Brian Moehler and Gustavo Chacin walked the bases loaded, and Daigle came off the scrap heap out of the bullpen and immediately went 2-0 on Jorge. What resulted was the worst pitch in the history of Major League Baseball. An 87 mph thigh high fastball right out over the middle. Posada put his best swing on it, and 390 ft. later the Yankees had a 7-1 lead. He became just the third player in franchise history to hit grand slams on back-to-back days, joining Babe Ruth and Bill Dickey, who played a long, long time again.
June 20th: Teixeira vs. Johan Santana (video)
With everyone worrying about the April slump that just won’t end, Teixeira started to ease some of those concerns by hitting a game tying two run shot off Mike Pelfrey the day before he victimized Johan. The Yanks’ loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of clean singles by Gardner and Jeter and a somewhat comical bunt single by Nick Swisher, and the Mets’ ace quickly threw a first pitch ball to Tex. The next pitch caught the corner for a 1-1 count, but Johan left a changeup right out over the plate for the money shot, a 386 ft. blast into the left-centerfield stands to give the Yanks the only runs they would score in a 4-0 victory.
The Yankees hit three grand slams as a team on this most recent road trip, reminiscent of the home stretch last May that featured three straight walk-off wins against the Twins, basically announcing to the baseball world that walk-off wins were going to be the team’s trademark. They only have one glorious walk-off win this year, but it seems they entire team has changed their agenda. 2010 is a the year of the grand slam, folks. I assume A.J. Burnett will adjust his pie-throwing scheduled accordingly.