TORONTO - The New York Yankees have been beat up, and not just in dealing with the reality of finding themselves behind the Tampa Bay Rays and -- horror of horrors -- the ceaselessly insipid Baltimore Orioles in the American League East.
They went into their series finale in Baltimore on Tuesday with four wins in the past five games and a disabled list that, barely one month into the season, has been visited by 11 players. So, they have shown admirable survival skills. But instead of the NY logo, this is a team that needs to paint a red cross on top of its dugout. The bling of choice for these guys should be a MedicAlert bracelet.
For instance the most remarkable thing about Rafael Soriano Monday night wasn't that he got his second save; it was that he made it to the post-game meal without the aid of a stretcher-bearer. No word on whether he choked on a chicken bone but ... well, you've got to wonder.
The Yankees come to Toronto with more nicks, bumps, missing parts and flat tires than a ten-year-old Ford weather beater.
Infielder Eric Chavez has only recently come off the disabled list after suffering a concussion. Soriano is the closer in place of David Robinson, who was put on the DL Tuesday with a sore left rib cage. Robinson was subbing for Mariano Rivera, lost to a season-ending right knee injury. Monday's starter Ivan Nova hurt himself twice and was forced to leave with a sprain and bruise of his right ankle. X-rays were negative but chances of him making his next start may also be, well, negative.
Reliever Clay Rapada is fighting a viral infection and Raul Ibanez had to leave Monday's game after being drilled on the right elbow by a pitch.
Through it all the Yankees have kept pace in the dog-fight that is the AL East.
On the upside, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes, who start in the series in Toronto, had encouraging outings in their last starts as the club tries to stabilize a pitching staff. Kuroda went seven strong innings in a win against the Mariners and in his last three starts he has a 2.45 ERA. Hughes picked up his second win in as many starts with his best outing of the season.
But it has been a hurting game, particularly for first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is going through his usual early season inertia.
Offensively, even without Teixeira, this is a potent lineup. Its 55 homers are the third-most in franchise history through 35 games, which is saying something for a club with fabled sluggers from Ruth and Gehrig, to Mantle and Mattingly.
But forget ERAs, OPS, RBI or MVPs. So far, the Yankees aren't leading the league in much, except maybe MRIs.
WEDNESDAY 7:07 p.m. RHP Hiroki Kurodu vs. RHP Kyle Drabek
THURSDAY 7:07 p.m. RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Drew Hutchison
The Yankees bullpen has been a bit of a high-wire act. Injuries have dictated a closer-of-the-week situation with Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Boone Logan all chipping in with saves. Despite that, they are 14-2 when leading after six innings and this is still a high-octane offence.
Toronto may have trouble with Hiroki Kuroda, and Kyle Drabek has had his usual control issues. The Jays have been scuffling offensively while the Yankees appea to be playing more cohesively. Thursday is Music Night -- and, in this series, the Jays may have to face it. Yanks (Teardrops On My Pillow) sweep!
- Nick Swisher has been one of the league's top clutch hitters, with a 5-for-15 stretch with runners in scoring position and two out.
- Derek Jeter moved past Robin Yount on baseball's career hits list with 3,143, and is hitting .367 out of leadoff spot.
- Infielder Robinson Cano went into play Tuesday batting .469 (15-for-32) in the previous eight games.
- Outfielder Curtis Granderson is tied for second in the AL with 12 homers.
- C Russell Martin had a streak of 22 at-bats with just two hits and in the last home stand was 2-for-15 (.133).
- Infielder Jayson Nix was 0-for-20 before snapping the streak with a hit during the weekend.
- Mark Teixiera had a 5-for-22 home stand. He is a notoriously slow starter with a career slugging percentage of .423 in April. But from May through July it rises to the .530s.