The Yankees were ecstatic with Alex Rodriguez's bottom of the seventh grand slam to put them permanently ahead of the Twins on Friday night. They loved seeing their back-up catcher come through once again, as Francisco Cervelli's eighth inning triple was his 10th hit in 13 at bats with RISP this season. And when they looked at the out-of-town scoreboard and saw a Tampa Bay Ray's loss, the team was undoubtedly happy to find itself only one game back in the AL East standings.
But the real thrill for the Yankees, despite their 8-4 victory on Friday, likely came when manager Joe Girardi turned in a lineup card before Saturday's game that included Nick Swisher and Andy Pettitte. Swisher left Friday's game with pain in his bicep and was taken directly to the hospital for an MRI. With names like Greg Golson and Juan Miranda already in the lineup, the Yanks can ill afford to add Swisher's name to their lengthy casualty list.
Going into Friday's matchup against Minnesota, New York felt the "pain" of injuries in their bullpen with Alfredo Aceves (who just had an epidural to treat his sore back) and Chan Ho Park (who returns on Sunday) on the DL and Mariano Rivera taking an extended period off with shoulder issues. They felt the hurt in their lineup with both Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson also on the DL and looking at missing a month or more. And although he was never placed on the DL, Andy Pettitte's start on Saturday was his first in 10 days, skipping an outing due to elbow inflammation.
Entering Saturday's game, Swisher carried a .378 average, leading the Yankees in both home runs (7) and RBIs (26). Pettitte has been a huge factor in New York's early season success as well, himself sporting a 4-0 record and a 2.08 ERA, second only to Phil Hughes in both categories on the Yankees' staff. Considering New York's lengthy injury list and the phenomenal starts by both Swisher and Pettitte, one can understand Girardi's relief in being able to pencil in both on Saturday.
Pettitte was the efficient machine he has been all season on Saturday, allowing only two hits over 6 1/3 shutout innings to get the win. And while Swisher contributed only one hit in the 7-1 bludgeoning (batting exclusively right handed due to the bicep injury), he made several outstanding plays in the field and scored a run on Mark Teixeira's two run shot in the seventh. Even Jorge Posada, DHing because of his own knee contusion issue, swung the bat like he is healthy, putting up a 3-for-4 day with a two-run homer of his own.
The Yankees are still dealing with severe injury issues, especially with Nick Johnson facing surgery, Curtis Granderson not expected back until June, and key bullpen piece Alfredo Aceves without a solid timetable for return. But with Pettitte seemingly unaffected by his elbow issues, Swisher playing through his bicep strain, Posada remaining a factor at the plate despite not being behind it, and Chan Ho Park set to return Sunday, the Yankees seem to have weathered the worst of the injury storm.
The battered, patchwork version of the 2010 team has maintained its second place standing in the AL East, entering the series against the AL Central leading-Twins with identical records thanks in large part to solid contributions from players like Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli, and Marcus Thames.
But with their second win in the Twins series on Saturday — dropping Minnesota to 0-12 at the new Yankee Stadium and 3-25 overall against the Yankees under Gardenhire — the Bombers are rolling along with the Tampa bay Rays set directly in their sites, despite their shocking loss in the series finale' on Sunday.
The Yankees' record to this point is a testament to their depth and structure. Their success going forth will be a demonstration of the totality of the looming greatness built into this new potential dynasty.