Yankees down Twins to feed win streak
Offense batters Minnesota pitching, backs up Ponson's effort
NEW YORK -- The Yankees are shorthanded, but not shortsighted. They know precisely what they need to do to eclipse the Red Sox and Rays in the American League East -- win, win and win some more -- and they also know that injuries won't make that task any easier.
Then again, injuries happen and losses happen. At least they can prevent the latter.
Or, as manager Joe Giardi said, "I think we need wins no matter what."
So the Yankees earned one Monday, piecing together an awfully convincing victory under awfully daunting circumstances. Without catcher Jorge Posada and without left fielder Hideki Matsui, the Yankees beat the Twins, 12-4, stretching their winning streak to four games.
"It's definitely great when we can go out and score some runs," Johnny Damon said.
The offense was boundless. Which was good, considering this team doesn't have any guarantee regarding its offense for the rest of this season.
The Yankees announced Monday that they had placed Posada on the disabled list, and conceded that there's a significant chance he could opt for season-ending surgery. Then there's the matter of Matsui and his aching left knee -- no guarantees on that front, either. So the Yankees will likely be without two of their most productive pieces for a good chunk of time, and will need to generate the missing offense from somewhere else.
Or, in this case, everywhere else.
Every Yankees starter other than Jason Giambi recorded at least one hit Monday, and those in the heart of the lineup -- Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez -- all recorded two. Posada's backup, Jose Molina, chipped in with three singles, and Matsui's replacement, Brett Gardner, singled and scored.
History shows that neither player is likely to keep up such a pace, but that's not the point. What matters more is that they can provide adequate plugs while the rest of the Yankees worry about driving in runs. Even if Matsui and Posada can both return to help the team this year, the Yankees need to play as if they can't, because neither player will be back right away. And this week's slate of games -- three against the Red Sox and three against the Twins -- is just as important as any.
"We're missing two very important guys," Rodriguez said. "But on our roster, we have enough talent here that we can make up for it."
Rodriguez, of course, is a key to all of that. He gave the Yankees their first lead with a two-run homer in the first inning, then drove in a run in the second inning and scored yet another in the sixth. Abreu singled and scored in the first before repeating that feat in the sixth, and Jeter drove in two runs -- one on a single, and one on a solo home run.
Robinson Cano, only recently removed from a season-long slump, also homered and collected two hits. Damon, fresh off the disabled list, doubled and scored. And all of those players produced as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
"It's an offense that's used to having success," Girardi said. "We've probably had our [normal] lineup five times the whole year, at the most. But there's still a lot of capable people."
On a normal day, without all the discouraging news, the Yankees would have been worried simply over the prospect of Sidney Ponson pitching on 12 days' rest. Not that Ponson has given the team much reason to worry -- the Yankees had won each of his first three starts -- but anyone might falter given such a long break.
And Ponson did, though only through his own eyes. He allowed nine hits and two walks, leaving with two runners on base and two outs in the sixth. Yet even with all the baserunners, Ponson only allowed three runs. He was "a little bit off," according to Molina, but he limited damage. And with the type of run support the Yankees have given him -- 41 runs over his first four starts -- his effort was more than enough.
So the Yankee faithful escorted Ponson off the field with a standing ovation that he didn't believe he deserved.
"I was getting behind guys, and that's unacceptable," Ponson said. "I'm not happy about it. I wanted to go deeper into the game. The deeper I go, the better for the bullpen. August and September are going to be two long months."
July had potential to be a long month too, but the Yankees have now rattled off two separate four-game win streaks -- the last of which has not yet ended. Without Posada and Matsui, perhaps it will end earlier than it otherwise would have. But the Yankees can't afford to think like that. And Monday proved that they don't have to.
"It's hard losing guys that have been so successful and such workhorses for you," Girardi said. "But you've got to find a way."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.