Amid the anxiety, danger, and general inconvenience caused by Hurricane Irene — and here's hoping you and your loved ones emerged safe and sound — the Yankees have had a frustrating three days in Baltimore. From the squabbling over the schedule to the most predictable A.J. Burnett unraveling ever, to the most predictable washed-out doubleheader ever, to the failure to score against Zach Britton on Sunday afternoon after absolutely pummeling him four weeks ago, to the injuries that sidelined Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, it had all the makings of a Lost Weekend. When the Yankees went down 2-0 in the first two innings of Sunday's nightcap, the team appeared well on its way to losing its fifth game out of six between the A's and O's.
As he has done so often this season, Curtis Granderson got the Yanks right back in the game with a big blast, his 37th homer of the season, a three-run shot off Brian Matusz. It was the 13th time this year that a Granderson homer put the team's first runs of the game on the board, the seventh time since the All-Star break, and the fifth time this month (I have no idea where that stands but it sure sounds like a ton). Granderson would add another homer before it was all done, a seventh-inning solo shot that iced the game and enabled him to reclaim the major league lead from the dastardly Jose Bautista. Between his timing and his diplomacy, Granderson could win election for mayor of New York City right now; at the very least, his Spanish certainly couldn't be any worse than Mike Bloomberg's.
The Yankees needed more than Granderson to get past the O's, and several othersrose to the occasion. Ivan Nova had gotten off to a shaky start by allowing runs in each of the first two innings, and he would allow another in the bottom of the third, enabling Baltimore to tie the game; so much for shutdown innings. Fortunately, after reviewing video of himself in the clubhouse, Nova adjusted his arm angle and recovered to retire 12 out of the final 14 Oriole hitters, thus providing the Yankees with a seven-inning, three-run, seven-K performance. With so much rotation disarray behind CC Sabathia, it was a reassuring effort, and a sign of maturity that the "rookie," who now has 29 starts and over 170 big league innings under his belt, was able to adjust in-game. This followed Bartolo Colon's similarly reassuring effort — 7.2 innings, zero runs, zero walks, four strikeouts — in a losing cause earlier in the day, his longest outing since July 24, his first homereless outing since July 30 (also against Baltimore) and his first sub-five run effort since August 11. Despite a 1.88 ERA against sub-.500 teams this year, Colon had given up 10 runs to the Royals and A's while lasting just 11.1 innings in his previous two turns.
Meanwhile, after seeing his 17-game hitting streak come to an end with an 0-for-3 performance in the opener, Robinson Cano broke the 3-3 tie with a two-run homer in the sixth inning of the nightcap. It was Cano's seventh homer of the month; he's hitting .333/.364/.637 in August, for his highest monthly marks in all three categories this year. Nick Swisher immediately followed with a solo shot, his sixth homer of the month — a number that's only tied for fourth on the team, behind Granderson (10, on .313/.436/.719 hitting), Cano and Russell Martin (seven), and even with Mark Teixeira (six).
The Yankees didn't quite cruise to victory from there; it took another terrific escape from David Robertson. Nova surrendered a single and a walk to start the eighth, and Robertson loaded the bases by allowing a single to Adam Jones. As nerve-wracking as that might have been, the High-Socked Houdini recovered to strike out Vlad Guerrero, Mark Reynolds and Ryan Adams, bang-bang-bang, just like in the script. Robertson has now faced 16 batters with the bases loaded this year and whiffed 13 of them while allowing just one hit and not walking anybody, which is about as money as it gets.
For all of the complaints about the Yankees' recent struggles against this soft underbelly schedule — which themselves don't amount to much, as they took series in Kansas City and Minnesota before dropping two out of three apiece to Oakland and Baltimore, with a chance to salvage a split in the latter series tonight — the offense is rolling. En route to a 15-10 record this month, the team has scored 6.36 runs per game on .297/.372/.520 hitting and 47 homers, 1.88 per game. Even without Thursday's three-grand affair, they're averaging 5.71 runs per game. For whatever the recent complaints about the rotation, the 4.60 runs per game the team is allowing this month (4.33 without the aforementioned slugfest) is still a differential of 1.76 runs per game. As unsettling as the 5.44 ERA the starting
five six has put up this month, that's mostly Burnett; without him, the number falls to 4.27, with everyone else below 5.00. The small samples pretty much cancel each other out.
Of bigger concern are the injuries to Rodriguez and Jeter. The former is still dealing with a sprained left thumb, though he did break his 96-at-bat homerless drought on Friday night; he has now missed three games since returning from the disabled list. The latter fouled a ball off his right kneecap in the opener, and while he remained in the game, the swelling caused enough concern to send him for an X-ray, which came back negative. Joe Girardi didn't sound optimistic he'd have either player on Monday night, describing Jeter as "gimping around," which doesn't sound good. It would be a shame if this were the nail that flattens his tire amid a red-hot August (.398/.449/.490), but such is the nature of streaks; the stars of health and luck only align so often, particularly in a 37-year-old. Expect to see a fair bit of Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez in the coming days, and just hope they can live up to the standards of their previous patchwork.
Update: Rodriguez returned to New York and underwent an MRI. It sounds as though he may miss the series against the Red Sox; Girardi termed him "really questionable." Fortunately, the September 1 roster expansion date means that there's no question of whether or not to put him on the disabled list. As for Jeter, he is "walking around fine" and could be back as soon as Tuesday.