Sunday, May 25, 2014

Can the New York Yankees build on character win?

It was one of those games that showed the character of this New York Yankees squad.

Just one day after the New York Yankees lost in a punch-in-the-gut walk-off fashion, they staged an impressive and much needed rally in the ninth inning to tie a game they had no business winning up to that point. They eventually scored the go-ahead run on a Jacoby Ellsbury solo homer in the 10th inning and David Robertson rinsed the bad taste from his mouth after blowing the save in Friday’s matchup.

The Yankees have been the model of inconsistency in recent weeks. They have been unable to get on a roll and have had a tough time putting a full game together; one with solid starting pitching, a clicking offense and stability from the relief corps. And when they do, the next day makes one forget very quickly.

So, will Saturday’s comeback be the win that gets this team back into a groove? This is not a squad that has been lackadaisical. The Yankees have hit rough patches and suffered some injuries which have forced a look much deeper into their system than they hoped for when the calendar changed to April.

The players who played a part in yesterday’s rally each had something hanging over them. Ellsbury, who sparked the ninth inning rally with a single, saw his average shrink to .254 before the at-bat. He’d been sitting at .346 as of May 3. The homer was his first since May 1.

Alfonso Soriano, who had just six extra-base hits in May before his turn at the plate, stroked a two-out RBI-double. Yangervis Solarte continued to show his season is not a mirage and tied Mark Teixeira for the team lead in RBIs (25) with a single. Brian McCann, who many thought (me included) would destroy baseballs this season, capped off the rally with the bloop single.

And finally, Robertson erased his first blown save from the memory banks with a kick-it-up-a-notch save effort. Robertson had said all the right things after allowing Adam Dunn’s walk-off homer in Friday’s loss, and backed it up the very next day.

Sometimes it takes a team meeting as a friend and former colleague mentioned to me during the game. The message being to stop pressing and trying to do everything on their own. It is a reminder that this is a team sport. Some players might be held to a higher standard and have more expectations, but winning is a result of the collective roster.

Maybe the Yankees had a meeting, maybe they didn’t. But if they sat back together and looked at what they accomplished Saturday they may have received some answers and assurance that this can be a quality baseball team. They have as good a shot at reaching the postseason and going on a run as any other team in an American League where each club has its issues.

Saturday’s victory was a collective one; a character builder. Could it be the first brick in the foundation of a lengthy run? Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound Sunday and I can’t think of a better person to lay the second brick. But he'll need the offense and relief corps by his side with the mortar to keep the building stable.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.