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Keidel: Yankees Have Turned Adversity Into Opportunity

Bronx Bombers Winning Despite Injuries

Jason Keidel
May 06, 2019 - 1:32 pm
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Despite their surreal stack of injured players - and big-ticket names, at that - the Yankees are figuring out a way to climb back up the rungs of the AL East.

While their crosstown rivals, the Mets, panic over possible nerve damage to Steven Matz and Jason Vargas leaving his last start early over hamstring tightness, the Yankees stay on point and on target. While Boomer & Gio morbidly dissect the nosedive that seems to plague the Mets every season, the Yankees seem to have a plug for every hole in their roster.

The Mets don't have the bats to make up for poor pitching. When healthy, the Bombers do. But despite their loaded lineup, the Yankees know they will go as far as their pitching will take them. Big bats are summer-sexy, but strong arms open the door to October.

When Luis Severino hits the IL, Domingo German pitches past the back of his baseball card. His latest gem came on Sunday against the Minnesota Twins - who entered the series with the best record in baseball - leaving German tied for the most wins (6) in the majors.

But now the Yankees have lost the services of their second-best starter this young season. James Paxton has been placed on the ten-day IL with a tender left knee. An MRI didn't show torn tendons or ligaments, but it's still bad enough to sideline the southpaw for a bit. In his place will be Jonathan Loaisiga, who has a 2.70 ERA in ten innings pitched. Even with their injuries to Severino and Dellin Betances, few hurlers have failed horribly. Chad Greene (16.43 ERA) has been a bullpen eyesore, and since booted back to the minors. Out of their starters, only J.A. Happ has bombed, going 1-3 with a 4.93 ERA in seven starts.

In fact, the Yanks have nine pitchers with an ERA under 4.00. Leading the pack is Tommy Kahnle. The stellar setup man was part of the big win over the Twins last night. Kahnle also set a Yankees record by making 11 straight appearances without giving up a run or a hit. In fact, he's not allowed a run or a hit in 14 of his 15 games pitched, with his lone bad outing nudging his otherwise pristine stat sheet up to a 1.38 ERA.

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If we're objective, the Bombers have been largely buoyed by pitching. Even the '90s dynasty was bubbling over with bionic arms. Half the Core Four - Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera - was pitching. The rotation was loaded with David Cone, David Wells, El Duque, Pettitte, etc. Their bullpen was stacked with strong arms, from Stanton to Nelson to Mendoza to Mo. Of course, the Yankees earned their Bostonian moniker - the Evil Empire - when they outbid the sport for pitcher Jose Contreras.

For every winter splurge that landed Giambi or Matsui or A-Rod, their World Series clubs were anchored by pitching. The 2009 club - the last to win a World Series - was sealed by the signings of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett as much, if not more, than bagging Mark Teixeira.

This not only speaks to the paradigm shift ordered by Brian Cashman, but also is the invaluable benefit of having a deep club. The Yankees lose Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge and actually get better for a spell. They have inched up to 19-14, two games behind the Rays, sans Stanton, Judge, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar, and an IL that is now pregnant with 13 players. (Andujar just returned to the team this weekend.)

Before the 2019 season, most would have had the Bronx Bombers at 25-8 after 33 games. Perhaps their current mark is even more impressive considering they've morphed into a MASH unit. It's easy to win when everything goes your way. The Yankees have turned adversity into opportunity. Maybe it's hard to see the Yanks winning a World Series with 40% of their rotation on the shelf, but they can hold the line until their starting staff gains full health.

Eventually, the Yankees will get back to full strength, or close enough to make them a rolling ball of bats and arms that could steamroll the unusually anemic AL East. This is also the last chance for the Yankees to win a Fall Classic in this calendar decade. The 1980s are the only decade over the last century that didn't yield a world title. Frankly, those teams (other than the 1981 squad that lost to the Dodgers) didn't have the horses to reach the finish line.

If these Yankees get their full squad on the field, it will be hard to bet against them in the division, or the playoffs.

Twitter: @JasonKeidel