In March, there would have been no way of predicting it. There was no way of knowing in mid-August the Yankees would take over the best record in the American League thanks to David Phelps and Derek Lowe. Or that the team’s hottest hitter, Eric Chavez, would homer again.
As recently as last month, even the most confident Yankees’ fan wouldn’t be able to be convinced the team would continue its torrid streak of clutch-hitting (4-5 with runners in scoring position on Monday, 27-67 or .403 with runners in scoring position and two outs in August as a team.)
Someone notable once said “You can’t predict Baseball.”
Phelps, who has taken over CC Sabathia‘s spot in the rotation, pitched admirably on a pitch count, filling five innings and grabbing the win with two run ball on six hits in 78 pitches. Lowe came in to make his Yankees’ debut and pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen, throwing the final four innings and giving up just two hits to completely shut down the Texas Rangers’ potent offense in an 8-2 victory.
Though Chavez did indeed homer again, the more encouraging swing came from Nick Swisher, who blasted a Grand Slam with the Bronx Bombers down 2-0 to put New York in front permanently. For both hitters, it was a continued step in the right direction delivering timely hitting and consistent power.
Chavez is hitting .464 in the month of August and has gone deep four times; Swisher is hitting .292 with a .370 OBP in that same time frame and had just one RBI on the month until his swing sent a Ryan Dempster pitch into the middle deck in right field.
The biggest testament to the 2012 Yankees was exemplified by this victory. New York was playing Texas, the two teams with easily the best records in the league, and the Yankees won by six runs thanks to Phelps, Lowe and Chavez, three after thoughts when the season started.
Lowe was starting games in Cleveland and costed the Yankees nothing when they signed him after his release, Phelps was battling for a mop-up duty in the bullpen and Chavez was going to spell Alex Rodriguez during days when he was going to DH or sit. None of them were expected to have roles on a team fighting for best record, a division title, a playoff spot and a run deep into October.
Lowe filled a vacant spot on the 40-man roster but was called to the 25-man roster when this year’s “Ramiro Pena“, (the guy sent up and down all season long) Ryota Igarashi was sent back down to the minors. Igarashi has been sent down a couple of times already this year and will likely be called back up when rosters expand in September.
At least for today, it was the mop-up role pitcher with upside in Lowe and not the big Texas deadline acquistion in Dempster capturing the spotlight. Dempster was better than his box score indicated, but still surrendered eight earned runs in six innings pitched and was tagged with his second start of eight runs in three attempts since joining the Rangers.
Two World Series contenders, the Los Angeles Angels and the Yankees, both destroyed Dempster while his only successful outing so far has been six innings of three unearned runs against the Red Sox since joining the American League.
Texas will need the prized righty to step up if it wants to have any confidence in a playoff rotation as the Rangers look to defend the American League crown for the third consecutive season. The two teams still have three more games left in the Bronx in what could be a future playoff match-up.