It was an ugly sight. The Yankees were in Toronto playing the Blue Jays in early June (the 5th, to be exact), and first baseman Mark Teixeira was still mired in one hell of an April slump. He entered the game with a .221/.336/.380 season batting line (.212/.316/.288 in his previous 17 games), and then finally hit rock bottom. After a harmless fly ball to left in the first inning, Teixeira struck out swinging in his next five plate appearances.
Starter Ricky Romero got him three times, closer Kevin Gregg nailed him once, and reliever Casey Janssen was kind enough finished off the platinum sombrero in extra innings. Tex was visibly frustrated, but not as much as the fans were. We wanted him dropped in the batting order, we wanted him to make big changes to combat changeups, we wanted him on the bench for a day or three, we wanted improvement. Plain and simple. Something, anything that might help him get back to being the Mark Teixeira we all grew to love last season. Thankfully, the hideous Saturday afternoon in Toronto truly represented rock bottom.
Tex went out the next day and even though he didn’t pick up a hit, he reached base on an intentional walk. Considering the events of the previous day, it was a small victory for the Yankees. Tex finally found his way into the hit column the next game, and did so with authority. He went three-for-four with a homer and a pair of walks against the Orioles, raising his OPS by 31 points in the process. Quite simply, Tex hasn’t stopped hitting since.
The Yanks’ first baseman has picked up a base hit in 30 of 37 games since that five strikeout performance, and more importantly he’s reached base safely in all 37 of those games. It’s the second longest such streak of his career, eclipsing a 36 game effort back in his days as a Texas Ranger. Only Joey Votto of the Reds has had longer streak of reaching base in consecutive games this season, though Tex is nowhere close to matching him. Votto’s streak was a mammoth 58 gamer that started in late-April and ended two weeks ago.
Overall, Teixeira has hit .321/.425/.629 with more walks (23) than strikeouts (17) during these last 37 games, boosting that sorry season batting line I mentioned earlier to a much more respectable .256/.366/.471. He still has a long way to go to get back to his career batting line of .287/.377/.539, but he’s well on his way. The reason for his improvement isn’t anything out of this world, he’s just started hitting more line drives (about 4%) and cut down on the infield pop-ups (by close to 6%). Unsurprisingly, that has improved his batting average on balls in play (.235 before the streak, .310 during). There’s still some more regression on the way to get him back to his career BABIP of .305, which puts a smile on my face.
As Tex has gone so have the Yankees. The team has won 25 games during his 37 game streak, going from two games back to two-and-a-half up in the division. Of course many others contributed to those 25 wins, but getting their MVP-caliber first baseman back on track certainly didn’t hurt. Mark Teixeira has turned back into the Mark Teixeira he’s supposed to be, just like we all knew he would at some point. It just took a little longer than expected this season.