The Yankees have been on an unfortunate tear of late. They've got 11 wins in their last 14 games, burning up through the AL East standings like Sherman on his way to Atlanta (with the same sense of inevitability, if you ask the fans here). They've got one more to play tonight with the surprising AL leaders, the Texas Rangers, but after that will move on to a weekend series with the floundering Cleveland Indians. The Sox are going to have their hands full, that is, trying to defend their first place position.
At the season's beginning, ITM predicted that the Yankees upside would depend in large part on the ability of two players to bounce back. It was and has been our theory here that A-Rod and Texeira will produce, and Jeter and Damon will be workmanlike, and that those four alone will ensure that the Yankees have a competitive team. ITM's prediction was that the fate of the club would depend in large part on the success or failure of Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada. They are, the thinking goes, the real variable for the Yankees. And the club's success at any given moment can be loosely predicted based on a look at the trajectory of these two cogs.
If our general theory still holds, then things are not looking very good for the Sox on the month ahead. We didn't want to do it, but we began today with a periodic check-in with these two question marks. If you're looking for an optimistic note after a morning of sweating over Jon Lester's left arm, don't read on.
Cano is, so far, looking like his old potential-star self. He's hitting .317 on the season, driving in 27 and scoring 31 himself. He's had his troubles in the field, but all in all has been fairly solid and looks like he's covering a greater range than he did last year. The Yankees have him batting fifth, and the better he is, the more pitches A-Rod will have a chance to smack. He has not let them down. Increased patience, increased production, great balance for the lineup. All in all, he's looking scary.
Jorge Posada had a nice April himself, then pulled a groin the series against the Red Sox. But he caught a simulated game last night and is expected back with the club some time next week. With Molina also on the DL, the Yankees are down in their depth chart. Before he left, Posada was hitting .312 and slugging .584. Plop that back into the lineup in place of Kevin Cash and Francisco Cervelli, and it's unclear how pitchers are going to make their way 1-9.
Other factors will even out over the year: Mark Texeira will eventually hit a ball that stays in the park, Nick Swisher will come back to earth, Johnny Damon will stop hitting bloop homers, CC will pick things up a bit, and Matsui will start to give them something. But will Posada and Cano continue this hot streak? We'll check back at the end of June to see where they stand. But for now, ITM is predicting a tough fight at the top of the AL East in June.