Yanks Feeling, Looking Dominant as Fall Rolls Around



The Yankees, though a few games behind last year’s pace, sit atop the division with a bigger cushion in 2012. (Diane Weiss/Detroit Free Press/MCT)


The Yankees, though a few games behind last year’s pace, sit atop the division with a bigger cushion in 2012. (Diane Weiss/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

With year after year of playoff berths, division titles and legitimate shots at yet another World Series, it becomes somewhat easy to overlook the Yankees position in the American League (AL) race. This year’s Yankees team, however, is as loaded as ever when healthy, and overlooking them fast approaches dangerous.

The Yankees are first in the AL and third in the Major League in win percentage. They sit atop the division, five and a half games ahead of second-place Tampa Bay. Most importantly, they dominated the next best team in the AL, winning the mid-August series with the Texas Rangers in decisive fashion. The first win came by way of walloping offense, with the Yanks outscoring the Rangers, 8-2. The second showed off the team’s pitching prowess, with Hiroki Kuroda pitching a 3-0, two-hit shutout.

The right-handed Kuroda has done much to silence critics as the summer has rolled on. While many questioned the decision to sign the 37-year-old longtime National Leaguer to a $10 million dollar deal, Kuroda has been arguably the most consistent pitcher the Yankees have had, especially when it has counted. After taking a little while to settle in, Kuroda has had a fantastic few months, posting a 7-2 record since the start of June. His 11 wins and 3.08 ERA are good for ninth and eighth respectively in the AL.

Thanks (in no small part) to contributions from players like Kuroda, this Yankee team has been able to weather storms that would have sent shudders down the spines of die-hard fans had anyone forecast them. While third baseman and power-hitter Alex Rodriguez was out nursing a broken hand, replacements at the position have combined for a stellar .388 batting average. Perhaps unthinkably, even the loss of an all-time great closing pitcher in Mariano Rivera has been well-survived, with relief pitcher Rafael Soriano thriving in the role of closer. Soriano has converted 28 of his 30 save opportunities on the season.

With all the success that the backups and newcomers have had, it seems like the Yankees have received the classic blessing in disguise so often seen in sports, for both their short- and long-term plans. Speaking just for the remainder of the season, the Yankees now know their depth and can play to their situational strengths, even giving players rest if they feel it makes sense. Going forward, they finally know that life after Rivera won’t be the unimaginable disaster that many fans (and perhaps even management) have feared.

But now, Yankees fans aren’t interested in that much foresight. Who could blame them? With the way the season is going, there’s really only one thing to focus on… bringing home World Series number 28.