The New York Yankees week in review: the good and the bad of week three

A frightening start to the week has quickly turned positive as the New York Yankees are on the verge of a sweep of division foes. I keep insisting that it is not time for fans and the Yankees to press the panic button, and the way this week has ended, it is the right course of action. Is it ugly right now? You bet, but it’s also April.

1. Can’t blame the starters this week.

As The Pooch said earlier in the week:

You get quality starts out of Pineda, Eovaldi and Severino… and get swept.

It’s true. Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino came out against the first place Oakland As and threw 18 innings of quality baseball, allowing just six runs over that span. Equally impressive is that the three pitchers combined to walk just two batters.

The problem was the bullpen. Last week’s player of the week Johnny Barbato seems to be seeing some adjustment struggles. He allowed the As to rise to victory in the week opening 11-inning loss. He then allowed two more runs in his next outing two days later locking up victory for the As. Chasen Shreve came into a tied ball game and allowed back-to-back home runs to his first two batters.

Aroldis Chapman or not, if the Yankees can’t get to him with a lead, he is pretty much rendered useless.

2. They still can’t hit with runners is scoring position

Bullpen issues aside, the Yankees went 4-for-22 in the sweep by the Oakland As with runner in scoring position. Much like last week, a team simply can not win ball games stranding that many runners. That’s an average of seven runners a game that Yankees batters are given an opportunity to bring home and they are coming through 18-percent of the time.

3. Aaron Hicks makes stellar plays and then gets hurt.

Hicks has certainly struggled since coming to the Yankees offensively, but his defensive wizardry was on display Wednesday night. The 26-year old with the right-handed cannon broke the internet when he threw out Danny Valencia at the plate by rifling a throw that was registered at 105.5 miles per hour, the fastest known time ever.

The next night he did this:

and this:

Two nights later, Hicks laid out in centerfield for a ball and landed awkwardly. His left arm was extended and shoulder soreness ensued, leading to a cortisone shot and being shut down for four to five days. A DL trip may be in the cards depending on how he feels after being re-evaluated. The Yankees can’t catch a break, or in this case, perhaps they catch too many.

4. Finally… the Yankees walk-off.

Perhaps Brett Gardner provided the much needed spark this offense needs. Gardner launched a walk-off ninth inning home run in yesterday’s 3-2 victory, giving the Yankees two wins in a row and guaranteed their first series victory since taking down the Astros two games to one the first week of the season. Now, they just need their first sweep.

Gardner seems to have found his stroke, as he has been swinging a hot bat since the Mariners series last week, which has to continue especially if outfield platoon mate Hicks is going to miss a lot of time.

Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann are doing fine in the middle of the lineup, so Gardner must set the tempo from the top. Of course, he could use help from…

5. Jacoby Ellsbury is 7-for-15 over his last four games.

Everyone wants to jump on Ellsbury as being the biggest bust of a signing in Yankees history. That’s pretty harsh, considering I remember people like Danny Tartabull.

Calling Ellsbury a bust reminds me of how Yankees fans and media alike harshly criticized Brian McCann after his first season. The thing was McCann met all of his career norms that season… and the next season… and likely this season. The media hyped up this idea that McCann’s left-handed power bat would become a 40-home run sensation at Yankees Stadium, and when he didn’t do that and simply hit the same amount of home runs he hit EVERY year of his career, Yankees fans were angry. That’s because they believed the hype, and to believe that a 30-year old who caught in over 125 games every year of his career was going to go to the next level was foolish.

The same can be said of Ellsbury. Everyone hoped for the second coming of the previous Red sox turncoat, Johnny Damon. Ellsbury however was never Johnny Damon.

Ellsbury became a “superstar” (I use that word loosely) because of two really good seasons. That’s it, look at his stats. He played in consecutive full seasons just once in his seven years in Boston, and when this injury-plagued speedster signed a mega-deal with the Yankees — like McCann, at the age of 30 — everyone thought they struck gold.

Ellsbury was never known for high on-base percentages in Boston, which should be an ideal stat for one of the games “premier” leadoff hitters. Ellsbury stole a lot of bases, but that’s because he made the most of his opportunites. Oh, and his 32 home runs in 2011 are nearly half of his career total. To expect more than 10 home runs out of Ellsbury a season is simply unfair expectations.

Now, Ellsbury is doing what the Yankees need him to be doing.

When he does that kind of stuff, the Yankees win, plain and simple. Gardner and Ellsbury are vital in the Yankees success. They both need their hot streaks to continue.

6. The Andrew Miller conundrum.

It’s hard to keep in mind that Miller is simply the temporary closer for the Yankees right now. He is lights out, once again and has been the best closer in the American League since last April. It’s a luxury to have the three arms that Girardi has at his disposal in the back of his bullpen, but one would be hard pressed to strip Miller of his closer’s role right now.

It will be interesting to see how Girardi’s legendary handling of the bullpen comes into play May 9th.

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