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May 22, 2007: Warming Up

Who knew that winning two games in a row would feel so darn good? Maybe it’s like hot and cold. They say if you put one hand in cold water and one hand in hot water, and then put them both in the same bowl of lukewarm water, the cold hand will think it’s hot and the hot hand will think it’s cold. Maybe this is just another one of nature’s ways to point out that it’s all in your point of view.

For example, Alex Rodriguez. he was undeniably baseball’s hottest hitter in April. A historic tear. Maris-in-1961 pace. Then he came back to earth a bit, especially as concerned the home runs, which he hit as many in April as any major leaguer ever did before (15), and then dropped off to the proverbial nuthin’. Immediately, he became a bum, in many people’s eyes.

But then he hit two homers in two days. As he came to the plate last night, ESPN noted the helpful stat that he’d had 2 homers in his last 8 at bats, but had only one in the 82 at bats before that. I call that some slump, said the bartender who was pouring me a healthy serving of club soda. Wait-a-second, I said to him and the other folks sitting with me at the bar* where I took in the Sox/Yanks contest. But he’s still hitting .311 and…

Before I finished my sentence, he hit a ball all the way to the left field bleachers, of a hanging knuckleball right at the top of the strike zone. It is amusing to note that the homer he hit the night before, in the game against the Mets, he hit off a pitch at the very bottom of the strike zone. Dave Campbell on ESPN Radio pointed out at the time that “A-rod seems to be handling those low pitches, but he’s looking terrible at those ones up in the zone.” Well, apparently when they are only going 65 miles per hour, he can handle them just fine.

Alex is just the emblem, though, of the entire Yankees’ team. The offense carried them in the early part of the year, when the pitching was awful. Then the pitching started to stabilize, but the bats went cold. Alex had a slump. Giambi has a bone spur. Matsui hasn’t gotten going just yet. Cano and Abreau have both been mired in slumps. Jeter and Posada have been hitting great–they are numbers one and two in the batting leaders’ list in the American League–but Posada has been doing a lot of it with luck. He’s hit more dunkers and bleeders that have made it through the infield than I’ve ever seen. But hey, luck is just as good as skill in the final outcome.

Luck is one thing the Yankees are still lacking. After Jeff Karstens faced only two batters against the Red Sox a few weeks ago, and then left the game with a broken leg, young Darrell Rasner just suffered a near identical fate, only this time it was two batters and then a broken finger. Philip Hughes was pitching a no-hitter when he popped his hamstring. It’s almost enough to make one say the word “jinx.” Tyler Clippard had an excellent outing against the Mets two nights ago, notching his first major league win, his first major league hit, and maybe he will even start shaving next week. But I worry that his next start it’ll be two batters and then a broken toe… if the previous rookie sensations are any indicator.

But still, two wins in a row, once against the Mets to avoid the sweep, and one against the Red Sox to whittle down their lead to a mere nine-and-a-half games. It feels like the Yankees are heating up, but what I cannot tell is it merely because of how darn cold they’ve been?

I don’t care. I’ll take it. The weather is beautiful for a change and they are going to win tonight. I hope.

*The Forest Cafe on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, Mass. Best baseball talk and Mexican food in the Boston area, bar none.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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