The New York Yankees have scored 29 runs in the past four games thanks in large part to their 1-2 punch doing exactly what they’re paid to do.
By Christian Kouroupakis
Before sitting down to enjoy a nice home cooked meal, you must set the dinner table. In baseball, before enjoying a surplus of runs you still must set the table which is exactly what Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are doing for the New York Yankees at this moment.
After a successful four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels that saw Ellsbury go six-for-twelve (.500) with five runs scored and boosted his batting average from .278 to .292 in a matter of four days.
His partner in crime owns a seven-game hit streak in which he is 15-for-27 (.556) and following Thursday night’s win in which he went 3-for-4 in, his average has skyrocketed by 50 points since the start of his burst.
This is nothing innovative for the Bombers, though, as the devastating table setters have shown the world that this is their potential.
Up until May 19 of 2015, the two lived up to the title of “Dynamic Duo.” Going into play that day against the Washington Nationals, Ellsbury had the highest batting average in the American League (.324) and only one other player had more steals than Gardner (10).
However, that night became the start of a dismal campaign for the 1-2 punch, after Ellsbury suffered a sprained right knee, putting him on the shelf until July. Upon his return, the center fielder slashed .220/.266/.326 for the remainder of the season. He was so bad that manager Joe Girardi benched Ellsbury during the Yankees’ Wild Card loss to the Houston Astros.
Their extensive fall-off in production was debatably one of the primary reasons why the team ranked 23rd in average wich ranked them behind porous teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, and the Milwaukee Brewers during last year’s second half.
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Additionally, the moment their numbers started to fall off was when New York began their division collapse. You know, when they blew a 7.5 game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East. If Ellsbury and Gardner didn’t suffer from massive slumps in last year’s second half, it’s almost guaranteed that the Bombers would be defending division champs at this moment.
That poor production, unfortunately, carried over into 2016 for the duo as Gardner hit .254 in April then provided the Bombers with a disturbing .184/.324/.322 slash line in May.
Ellsbury opened up his 2016 campaign batting .235 and some time off with injury, so it was justified for those to not only deem his contract a total mistake but to deem this 1-2 punch a colossal failure.
Now? Ellsbury entered Thursday night’s win with a .340/.410/.534 slash line in his past 30 games while Gardner is just as, if not, hotter than his counterpart.
Many would say that Carlos Beltran has been igniting the team with his 10 RBI over the last four games but it all starts with the top two guys in the lineup.
In the past week, the Yankees rank third in the AL in terms of on-base percentage (.352) which includes a .429 OBP from Ellsbury and a .600 OBP from Gardner. That, along with the fact that Beltran is hitting the snot out of the ball has been the main reason New York has averaged 6.8 runs in the last week.
Want one more reason on how important these guys are if the Yankees desire to contend? The Yankees are 11-1 on the year when their first two batters score at least one run in a game.
The more this duo can get on base and even put pressure on by using their speed means this team will experience a surplus of at-bats with runners in scoring position which inevitably creates long-term prosperity for the offense.
The bottom line is that Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have returned to administering extreme damage from the top of the lineup, and when that occurs, the figures reveal that the ballgame will typically end in a Yankees win.
Toss in the dominant bullpen and raw power we have seen from the middle of the lineup (12 homers in last seven games) and you got yourself the main components of a championship-caliber team.