A-Rod and Nunez Key Turnaround
Once Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez went on the DL the Yankees were rolling out lineups that would not have looked in split- squad spring training games. The Yankees had to pencil in the likes of Steve Pearce, Jayson Nix and Andruw Jones consistently against lefties, which combined with the struggles of Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano against lefties killed the team. When Alex Rodriguez and Eduardo Nunez returned to the lineup they sparked the Yankees to their first winning stretch in awhile.
Rodriguez returned on September 3rd, which was about the low point of the season for the Yankees. The Yankees had lost eight of their last twelve games and only had a one game lead over Baltimore. Since his return the Yankees are only 7-6, but have won five out of their last seven games, including pivotal division games against Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
It is no coincidence that since A-Rod returned the Yankees have started winning again, and it’s also no coincidence that they struggled without him. You can say what you want about him, but he is still one of the most important players on the team.
A-Rod just adds a presence to the Yankees lineup that numbers cannot measure. It didn’t matter how well Chavez was doing the Yankees still seemed to be missing something without him. Pitchers still fear him and he has taken on a much greater leadership role then he has in the past.
In his thirteen games back, A-Rod is hitting .300, with 3 HR’s, 11 RBI and an .871 OPS. This is great because it was assumed that with his hand injury that he would need to time to adjust. His bat speed and power do not look diminished at all due to the injury. A-Rod has seemed to hit a lot of balls up the middle since his return, which has always been an indication that his swing is right.
The key over these next 16 games in 15 days is to keep A-Rod healthy. The good news is that other than the hand injury, which was a freak injury that could have happened to anybody, he has been relatively healthy this year. A-Rod has been the DH in six of his thirteen games since coming back, but Derek Jeter might need to keep that spot with his injury, so it might be tougher to get A-Rod his DH at-bats.
The other spark to the Yankees’ recent turnaround has been Nunez. Why on earth the Yankees waited this long to bring Nunez up I will never know. I never agreed with sending him down in the first place, although I could at least understand their reasoning behind it. Nunez has provided the energetic spark that the Yankees so desperately needed.
Nunez’ line since his return is .294/.333/.529/.863. He started off the Yankees’ big third inning on Sunday with a walk and a stolen base off Matt Moore. His three stolen bases on Sunday game gave him ten for the season, which is good for second best on the team in limited opportunities. Nunez can help create runs in a way that nobody else in the lineup really can. He really helped rattle Matt Moore in a way the Yankees haven’t been able to rattle pitchers this season.
Nunez’ defense has always been brought into question, but he only has one major error in his return to the field. He has also shown noticeable arm strength and range on some plays that are better than Jeter. Nunez has the tools defensively, he just needs to settle down and make the routine plays. Once Jeter returns to the field, Nunez should be the DH vs. lefties at least for the remainder of the season.
The jolt that Nunez and A-Rod have given the Yankees, combined with a weak schedule, should help the Yankees once again reach the postseason. Hopefully before that time Mark Teixeira returns to give the Yankees another jolt. He would add another power bat to give the Yankees the middle of their order back. They then can finally have a full lineup to go to battle with to try to bring home their 28th championship.