(Ballsy play. Courtesy of Getty Images)
(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)
I guess things were going to balance back out eventually, huh? After breathing life into their dying season with a 2-week stretch that saw them go 11-3, the Yankees have lost 3 of their last 4 games and looked pretty bad doing it. The rejuvenated offense that slugged its way to 8 or more runs in 5 of 7 games has now scored 3 or less in 4 straight, 5 or less in 7 straight, and times are starting to get desperate. The Yankees are damn near must-win territory for the rest of their 31 remaining games and it's starting to show in how Joe manages the offense during this offensively lean stretch of games. Suddenly the Yankees have become one of the biggest base stealing teams in baseball.
They stole 2 bags last night, 1 each by Alfonso Soriano and Curtis Granderson, who have been among the most aggressive Yankees on the basepaths lately with 10 combined stolen bases in the last month. As a team, the Yankees have 28 SB in the last month, good for 4th best in MLB in that timespan. In just the last week they've stolen 8 bases, 2nd most in MLB behind only the Royals, so it hasn't just been Soriano and C-Grand but a whole team effort. 5 other players have swiped at last 2 bags in the last month, including 38-year-old Alex Rodriguez and his surgically-repaired hips. Not exactly your traditional Yankee baseball.
Not that it's an entirely new offensive trend for the Yankees this year. Their 98 SB on the season is tied for 5th in MLB, and the one thing the lineup hasn't been short on this season is speed. Anytime you've got the likes of Brett Gardner and Ichiro spending a lot of time at the top of the order, you know the stolen base is always in play. But to see A-Rod out there looking to swipe bags and to see a 37-year-old Soriano get the green light to go for 3rd in extra innings with a powerful C-Grand at the plate are strong indications that this is more than just fast guys doing what they do. The message has been sent from Joe: "We need runs, you guys have got to create more scoring chances. If you think you can get a base, go get it."
It hasn't translated to much in the last 4 days, but it shows the Yankees are doing everything they can to try and stick around in this playoff race. They aren't just sitting back and waiting to draw walks and hit home runs. They're trying to make things happen, they're trying to create more scoring opportunities, and that aggressiveness on the basepaths has helped them win games. While it's hard to call a team with a $230 million payroll scrappy, it's certainly been a scrappier brand of Yankee baseball than we're used to seeing out there. If it starts generating some more Ws this week, that'd be just dandy.