Coming out of their series with the Tampa Bay Rays this past weekend, the New York Yankees (83-63) looked like a team that wasn't fortunate, but rather deserved, to have a one-game lead in the AL East.
Since falling to the Boston Red Sox 4-3 last Tuesday at Fenway Park, they've established some momentum, winning four of five to stay in front of the Baltimore Orioles (83-64), who trail them by a half-game.
"It's not anything different going on right now," Curtis Granderson, speaking with Yahoo! Contributor Network, said after New York defeated Tampa Bay 6-4 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. "I think guys happened to be just doing the things that they're normally capable of."
The starting pitching during the aforementioned stretch had a lot to do with the turnaround, beginning with David Phelps (5.2 IP, 5H, 1R) and Phil Hughes (7.1 IP, 5H, 0R) stepping up in consecutive wins over Boston. Then, after CC Sabathia's letdown in a 6-4 loss last Friday to Tampa Bay, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda pitched well the next two games (both wins), combining to hold the Rays to six runs in 12 innings.
Also in that span, reliever David Robertson recorded four holds in as many appearances, holding opponents to a .100 batting average (1-for-10) over three shutout innings, while closer Rafael Soriano picked up four saves, allowing one run on three hits in 4 1/3 frames.
"The guys that happened to take the ball on the mound just wanna go out there, be out there and give a good, solid start," said Granderson, who, since Sept. 9, is hitting .320 (8-for-25) with five home runs and 11 RBIs. "The guys in the bullpen come in, do their job, whether it be for one pitch, one batter, one inning.
"And then offensively, just trying to get enough runs to be on top, to make the pitcher's job that much easier," he added.
Alex Rodriguez, who knocked in two runs in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay, has been making life easier for Yankees pitchers, hitting .300 (15-for-50) with three homers and 11 RBIs over 13 games since returning from a broken left hand. During the Yankees' 4-1 run, he went 7-for-20 (.350) with one homer, five RBIs, one walk and four runs scored.
Rodriguez is one of the key Yankees returning from injury this month. Left fielder Brett Gardner (out since injuring his right elbow in April) said prior to Saturday's Yankees-Rays game that he could be available to pinch run or play defense this week, and left-hander Andy Pettitte--coming back from a fractured left ankle he suffered in late June--will start Tuesday night's series opener vs. the Toronto Blue Jays.
Mark Teixeira (strained left calf) may still be days away from making his return, but overall the Yankees are getting healthy and playing with a spring in their step. Those are obviously good signs for them, but momentum can disappear quicker than it is gained.
So how Pettitte holds up, and especially how the Yankees fare vs. Toronto in this series, will tell us whether they're truly distancing themselves from the rough patch that erased what was once a 10-game divisional lead.
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