- Last Updated: 11:42 AM, June 25, 2012
- Posted: 1:58 AM, June 25, 2012
Joe Girardi recently likened his homer-dependent offense to basketball teams that rely on 3-pointers and “when they don’t make their 3s, they don’t win.”
The analogy is imprecise. Three-pointers require finesse. The Yankees offense has as much finesse as a chain gang.
This Yankees lineup is much more a knockout-reliant heavyweight. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira as Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Mike Tyson. If an opponent lets down its guard, then the Yankees are a few well-timed haymakers away from winning even fights in which they are way behind on scorecards.
But what happens when they can’t land the haymaker? What happens when the opponent has a sturdy jaw? When the opponent channels Muhummad Ali or Evander Holyfield? The Yankees have experienced this in the playoffs. Last year, there seemed to be 10 occasions when a well-timed single would have enabled the Yankees to eliminate the Tigers.
And this year’s team is possibly their most long-ball addicted yet. They have 112 homers, tying the 2002 team for the most in franchise history after 71 games. Remember what that means: These are the Bronx Bombers and they have their most homers to this point ever.
The 112th homer was by Cano, a mammoth shot to center off of Miguel Batista that broke an eighth-inning tie last night and provided the Yankees a 6-5 triumph over the Mets.
In many ways Cano is the face of this Yankees dichotomy: He has 16 homers, many of them vital. Yet one of the game’s great hitters is batting .141 with runners in scoring position — the second-worst mark in the majors (minimum 75 plate appearances in such scenarios).
The Yankees produced four of their six runs via the long ball, as Nick Swisher clocked a three-run shot off R.A. Dickey. But this is nothing new. The Yankees have generated 52.5 percent of their runs from homers (Baltimore is a distant second at 45.1) and are challenging the all-time record of 53.1 percent by the 2010 Blue Jays.
The Yankees simply live and die with the homer. They are 42-15 when they go deep, 1-13 when they don’t.
They have been lousy generating runs any other way. Their speed left with Brett Gardner (DL) and Eduardo Nunez (Triple-A DL). But mostly they have not delivered in the clutch. Their .219 average with runners in scoring position is by far the AL’s worst.
History says results in this category even out over time, and the Yankees keep claiming they will get better, that Cano, A-Rod (.209 with runners in scoring position) and Teixeira (.221) have too much pedigree as run producers not to improve. The Yankees did go 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position last night and Teixeira had two productive outs — a sacrifice fly and an RBI grounder.
For now, though, the Yankees are making us wonder if you can get to the Canyon of Heroes 400 feet at a time — and with limited clutch hitting.
“When you think about our club, they’re in scoring position when they walk to the plate,” Girardi said. “That’s the kind of club we have. They hit the ball out of the ballpark and we win games.”
The Mets can offer confirmation after losing five of six Subway games. The Yankees scored 32 runs against the Mets, 24 from homers. They had at least two homers in each of the six games and 15 in all. The Mets could have at least split the season series, but blew 3-0 leads after six innings June 10 in The Bronx and Saturday night at Citi — both in a hail of long balls.
Before this series, Mets manager Terry Collins said about the switch from Yankee Stadium’s short porch to Citi Field’s Pepsi Porch: “[The Yankees] can hit them out of here, too. It’s just not quite as easy as it is over there.”
Well, the Yankees had five homers in the first two games in the big Citi — the most hit in consecutive games by the same opponent there since Atlanta hit five Aug. 18-19 of Citi’s 2009 opening season. Then the Yankees hit two more last night for an MLB-high 54 on the road. This is not about a short porch.
“They hit balls out of the park like there is nothing to it,” Collins said. “That is their lineup. They are up there to hit a homer.”
They are George Foreman. Limited punches, but trying to deliver a knockout with each. Damn the single jab. Can they haymaker their way to the Canyon of Heroes?Follow @NYPostsports