Commentary

Yankee machine keeps rollin' in Motown

Bombers aren't crushing their competiton -- far from it -- but they find ways to win

Updated: May 3, 2011, 10:56 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

DETROIT -- It's a machine.

That's the best way to describe this 2011 New York Yankees team.

And not because it is simply steamrolling over everyone in sight and can't be stopped. On most nights, in fact, that's hardly the case.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioDerek Jeter's Yankees went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position Monday, but they tripped up the Tigers to improve to 17-9.

It's just that the Yankees find a way to win. It doesn't seem to matter against whom or how bad they have looked throughout the game.

Somehow, some way, they get it done.

That's what you have to take away from their latest victory, an ugly 5-3 win over the sliding Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Monday night.

Nick Swisher, batting a robust .231, saved the Yankees' bacon with a clutch, one-out single, breaking a 3-all tie in the ninth inning. Before that hit, the Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They ended the evening just 2-for-14 in pressure-packed at-bats.

Those don't exactly sound like stats from a winning team, a team 17-9 and on a three-game win streak. "It's not a one-guy team,'' center fielder Curtis Granderson said. "We have had so many guys contribute so far.

"You can't shut down one or two guys and beat us. All 25 here are capable of stepping in and helping us win.''

It tells you about the strength and depth of this team that came into the season overlooked, the second banana, if you will. Don't act like you don't remember all the buzz about the Boston Red Sox coming into the season. It was all BoSox, all the time.

After all, the Red Sox had a tremendous offseason. They got Adrian Gonzalez in a trade and Carl Crawford in free agency.

And the Yankees? Zip. Zilch. Nada. Unless you count Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia signing minor league deals. Neither contract moved the excitement meter. Privately, MLB executives laughed at the Yankees' stockpiling has-beens.

But here we are in May, and the Yankees are in first place and the Red Sox are near the bottom in the American League East.

If you think Boston's numbers don't add up with that starting pitching and all those hitters playing in that bandbox, the Yankees' numbers really don't make sense.

Phil Hughes, their No. 2 starter, is on the disabled list. It would be a devastating blow to most rotations.

Offensively, no one is really having a career season thus far. Granderson is making a case for one with eight homers and 18 RBIs in just 26 games.

In Monday night's game, the Yankees had six hitters batting less than .270. In fact, Jorge Posada is batting .150 after going 2-for-5 with two RBIs against the Tigers. Derek Jeter, who also had two hits, is batting just .250. Swisher has just one home run. Brett Gardner is hitting .211.

And the Yankees certainly looked like a team struggling to get big hits after jumping out to a 3-0 lead.

The Yankees -- who played without All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano -- blew the lead. They had Detroit ace Justin Verlander on the ropes but couldn't blow the game open. They gave the slumping Tigers -- now losers of seven straight -- hope of stealing this game by missing out on so many scoring opportunities, leaving 11 men on base. Swisher, though, came through against loser Jose Valverde. "I was just fortunate to be the guy in that spot,'' said Swisher, who had two hits in the game.

The bottom line is always about winning. But easily, the Yankees could have lost that game. Manager Joe Girardi knows that. "It [Swisher's clutch hit] erases a lot because you get the win,'' he said. "You can put it behind you.''

In the process, they almost wasted another fine outing by Colon. He gave up just three runs on seven hits in seven innings of work.

Some might argue that the Yankees can't be bad because of their $200 million payroll. Wrong. The Red Sox have a ton of big-money players on their roster, too.

Baseball is a tough game. Missing pieces because of injury and prolonged slumps are usually the kiss of death. That can rock a team and put it off track, often for good.

Somehow, with the bumps and missteps, the Yankees continue to win and move along. It's not always impressive.

Still, it's scary. You just wonder what this winning machine will do when all the pieces are in place and players are playing up to their potential.

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE