The New York Yankees lineup has been restored for a pennant run, thanks to the efforts of Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.
By Bryan Pol
Masahiro Tanaka offered the New York Yankees their best chance at taking any of the three games in this weekend’s series against the rival New York Mets.
Alas, the Bombers could not take advantage of Tanaka’s quality start, in which the ace hurled six innings, yielding only two runs off five hits, as the Yankees lost 5-1 on Friday.
On Saturday, in a tough matchup that saw struggling right-hander Michael Pineda squaring off against phenom Noah Syndergaard, the Yankees won in a rout 5-0, shutting out the Mets thanks to Pineda’s strong effort across 5 1/3 scoreless innings, albeit, with manager Joe Girardi puzzlingly having to use six pitchers, including Dellin Betances, whom the Yankees have utilized for 76 1/3 innings already, despite October looming.
In spite of Girardi going to the bullpen early and often, the Yankees won largely off the bats of Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, both of whom homered and forced Syndergaard out of the game in the sixth despite his eight strikeouts.
Both players, signed in the 2013 offseason, have put a charge in the Yankee lineup not seen at the right field or catcher positions for the club in some time.
Thanks to a leg fracture that will sideline a revived bat in Mark Teixeira for the remainder of the season and his slugging mate Alex Rodriguez not starting the entire weekend in light of playing in a National League park, the Yankees, on Friday, featured a lineup of light-hitting Brendan Ryan at second, John Ryan Murphy at catcher in place of McCann, and Chris Young in left in lieu of Brett Gardner, who played in center with Jacoby Ellsbury not getting the start.
That could explain a power outage that only amounted to a single run.
However, with Beltran and McCann back in the lineup on Saturday, the power surged early, with Beltran delivering a three-run homer in the first inning, and McCann answering with a two-run shot of his own in the sixth.
Fortunately for New York, Beltran’s dreadful 2014 campaign is but a distant memory, thanks to his 2015 output.
The right fielder and postseason Babe Ruth, formerly of the Mets, showcases a slash line of .279/.337/.468 that is more in line with his St. Louis numbers (which inspired his three year deal with New York) and his career averages. Beltran has rebounded from a sluggish start to the first half of the season, with a slash line of .303/.371/.519 in the season’s second half, with 9 of his 16 homers coming after the All-Star Break. Thanks to an ungodly 1.067 OPS in the month of August, Beltran stroked five homers altogether, some of them absolutely crucial (his pinch-hit, three-run blast on August 14 against the Jays on the road comes to mind), including Saturday’s de facto game winner. With 31 doubles to his credit, Beltran leads the Yankees in the category and is heading into the pennant race hot as can be.
Contrarily, the heart and soul of the club, and, in many ways, its leader, catcher Brian McCann has lead the Yankees in RBI practically all season, plating 89 in all, thanks largely to his 26 homers, a career high, third most on the team. In Yankee wins, McCann boasts a .278/.373/.564 slash line, with 18 of his 26 homers coming in those victories.
Additionally, McCann is flat-out lethal with runners in scoring position, hitting .322 with an OPS of 1.051 on the season. Without question, McCann has delivered for the Yankees when they have needed him most, posting a 3.2 wins above replacement (WAR) figure (fourth best on the club, and third of all position players), better than even Alex Rodriguez and Masahiro Tanaka, who has emerged lately as a true ace in pinstripes.
While the Yankees remain in the hunt for the American League East with three pivotal games in Toronto in their next series (they maintain a slim 1.5 game lead for the AL’s first wild card slot), the Bombers will need Beltran and McCann to continue delivering as they have all season, with their collective sights on returning to the playoffs for the first time in three years.