Off the bat you knew it would clear the wall. The dimensions of Yankee Stadium were not going to hold the line drive off the bat of Brian McCann in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Chicago White Sox. The only question was if the drive would stay fair or not, and when that question was answered, the emotion pouring from the personnel in both the stands and on the field was a beautiful sight. The camera watched as McCann rounded the bases, pumped his fists while screaming words that we probably can’t share at the top of his lungs in pure jubilation. His teammates stormed home plate to greet the day’s hero and at the very front of the pack was Francisco Cervelli (whom McCann had pinch hit for) and Martin Prado. Both were screaming and jumping up and down as the final runner crossed the plate. They reminded you of th0se teammates you had back in high school who always knew how to hype the team up and get the blood pumping. McCann’s pinch-hit, walk-off, completed the Yankees’ sweep of the White Sox, bringing their winning streak to four and cutting the Orioles’ American League East lead to six. It was a beautiful win for so many reasons.
Prado and Cervelli’s show of enthusiasm and excitement at the plate displayed an element that is new and refreshing to the Yankees’ team. The two players were having fun while gracing home plate with raw energy. Their faces weren’t stern or stoic and their cheers weren’t limited to the clapping of hands. Prado, the gritty and hard-nosed utility man has earned a reputation for being a great team player over the course of his career. His recent string of great overall play has secured him a niche in the heart of Yankees’ fans everywhere. Cervelli’s presence behind
the plate is enough to cause a player as mild mannered as Ichiro or Derek Jeter (Were they not currently his teammates) to swell with anger. His fist pumping and yelling with each out recorded is a funny sight to fans and an uplifting feat for his teammates. McCann’s track record for grit and intensity is well known (Just ask Carlos Gomez and Jose Fernandez) and his grand gesture while circling the pillows was the ultimate example of that. On Sunday afternoon McCann provided the thunder and the rest of the club, led by Cervelli and Prado, brought the lightening.
For most of the season the Yankees were lifeless. No pop from their lumber and no electricity in the clubhouse lead to a all around flat Yankees offense. If they were down by more than two runs it seemed the game was a wash. But that has not been the case in recent days. On Friday, the Bombers were down by three and stormed back to win in walk-off fashion. On Saturday the team was down again, but came back to win again on the back of Prado (two-run double) and Carlos Beltran (solo home run).
Of course Sunday’s game was the most uplifting. Chris Sale pushed the Yankees against the wall and seemed to render them ineffective once again. But, they finally capitalized on opportunities and took the lead and even after David Robertson blew only his third save, the team marched right back to reclaim the win. Their pitching has been electric with Brandon McCarthy, Shane Greene (not the biggest personality I must say), Hiroki Kuroda, Chris Capuano and the ironclad bullpen fueling the four-game winning streak. The offense is waking up to give the hurlers backup on the mound, and the boys look a little more alive with guys like Prado and Cervelli leading the team’s cheering section. They look like they’re having fun out there and it’s definitely been a more entertaining team to watch.
The team’s recent “hitter’s only meeting” seems to have been effective. They’re packing a bigger punch in each game, and not letting big opportunities slip away too easily anymore. With just over 30 games left in the season, the Yankees have time to make up their deficit in the AL East or in the AL Wild Card. They’ll have to keep up their recent string of great play, and keep that energy and team chemistry flowing in the clubhouse.