Stretching the Field: Yankees living by the long ball
Sports enthusiasts enjoy the power drive off the tee, a windmill dunk on a fast break, the dangling of the puck during a penalty shot or an elegant pirouette on the gridiron.
But, most importantly, chicks dig the long ball.
Not that they would need any more support from the ladies, the New York Yankees have made going deep their livelihood this season. The Yankees' lineup of today has drawn comparisons to the 1920s moniker "Murderers' Row" with sluggers Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez.
It's certainly not the 1927 Yankees, who had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig among others in that vaunted lineup, but there's something to be said when a team is leading the major leagues with 93 home runs before the All-Star break.
The Yankees have clubbed their way to the top of the American League East by sending baseballs over the wall at a rapid rate. With 15 home runs in the Yankees' previous eight games, opposing pitchers are beginning to notice if they haven't already. When asked if he was excited to face the team better known as the Bronx Bombers, Atlanta Braves starter Randall Delgado was honest.
"Yeah, they're the New York Yankees. We respect that team. They have a lot of tradition. We were trying to get the win tonight, but we couldn't," Delgado said following Monday's 3-0 loss at Turner Field.
Delgado allowed three runs in five innings and, of course, a home run.
In the midst of playing 15 straight games against National League East inhabitants, the Yankees are bound to face some stellar pitchers. But then again, they already have this season and it hasn't stopped them from turning a regular stadium into a bandbox. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez even noticed how well Yankees fans travel on the road.
"They're not wearing the pinstripes right now, but they carry a lot of history and those 27 world championships, and they bring a lot of fans with them," said Gonzalez, who was signed by the Yankees after being their 16th pick in the 1982 amateur draft. "Not that I was born then, but it's probably like traveling with the Beatles."
Gonzalez is right. People want to see what the buzz is all about.
Take a glance at these numbers:
The Yankees are 35-13 when hitting at least one home run this season.
They have compiled a 26-5 mark when connecting for two or more homers.
New York is 0-12 when failing to leave the yard.
Impressive statistics, indeed.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees are the only ballclub that has not won a game in which it did not connect for a home run. That could spell doom when it counts come playoff time or if the Yankees are jockeying for a division title or wild card berth. It's comparable to a basketball team relying on making 3-pointers or a defense holding opposing ground attacks under the 100-yard mark; it could eventually bite in the rear end.
Granderson doesn't appear to be a home run hitter at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds. But never judge a book by its cover. With the build of an MMA fighter or a player on the ATP Tour, Granderson jacked a career-best 41 homers a year ago and leads the Yankees with 18 this season. His 59 homers since the start of 2011 rank second in the major leagues. Granderson also has belted 10 home runs in his last 25 games in the Bronx (12 total).
Cano is 20 pounds heavier than Granderson and it shows the way he swings the bat. Cano has left the ballpark 11 times this season and has three homers over his previous six games. The reigning Home Run Derby champion will be the AL captain for the July 9 event at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City -- one day before the 83rd All-Star Game.
Cano has hit only three homers in KC in 30 career games -- 115 at-bats. Managers could care less how their players fare in these events and certainly Yankees skipper Joe Girardi doesn't want to see the second baseman mess up his smooth swing. Girardi's lineup has flowed as smoothly as iambic pentameter, but losing Cano's consistency at the plate would ruin the rhythm (see Bobby Abreu, 2005).
Teixeira will most likely join Cano for the All-Star Game in July and is tied with Cano for second on the team with 11 home runs. The switch-hitting slugger put the Yankees ahead for good in Saturday's 4-2 win over the New York Mets with a two-run homer in the sixth inning and Granderson went deep leading off the eighth for good measure.
Russell Martin's solo homer to open the ninth inning won Sunday's finale with the Mets, 5-4. Martin homered twice in the game and has parked balls four times in his last seven games. He became the first Yankees catcher to hit a walkoff homer since Jorge Posada back in 2006.
Raul Ibanez then continued the fury by going deep during Monday's win and has 10 in his first season with the Yanks, who are 8-2 in June and have out- homered opponents by a 17-6 count this month.
Rodriguez hasn't touched all the bags since June 3 and owns nine home runs this season. A-Rod has clubbed 638 homers in his career and will eventually pass Willie Mays (660 home runs) for fourth on the all-time list. He needs one more grand slam to tie Gehrig (23).
After the Yankees close out their set in Atlanta, they will most likely draw a big crowd against the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C. They will then host the Braves before traveling to nearby Citi Field for a three-game series with the Mets. Expect fans to come out in droves for the continuation of the "Subway Series" from June 22-24, with a chance to witness some balls deposited over the fence.
For a Yankees team that sports its own fragrance, the smell of victory hasn't come at much of a cost, just a friendly stroll around the base paths.