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April 29, 2013

What You Need to Know

The Bronx Band of Misfit Toys

by Daniel Rathman


The Weekend Takeaway
The list of players and positions below was the Yankees’ starting lineup from game one of four against the Blue Jays, which took place in the Bronx on Thursday night.

Ben Francisco batting second and serving as the designated hitter? Yep. Vernon Wells batting cleanup? Yep. Francisco Cervelli batting fifth? Yep. And this team won the game? Indeed—and not only that game, but the three that followed, too.

The Yankees’ four-game sweep over the Jays was their first in nearly 18 years, when the lineup constructed by manager Buck Showalter was just a bit more formidable on paper than the crew Joe Girardi has been sending onto the field since Opening Day. The 2013 edition of the Yankees was built with 2014—specifically the $189 million luxury-tax cap—in mind, and though Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported last week that the team no longer intends to stay within that budget, general manager Brian Cashman spent most of the winter pinching his pennies, before a rash of injuries forced him to scramble. If the early-season returns are any indication of what’s to come, then Cashman’s 11th-hour patchwork won’t soon be forgotten.

After former Yankees catcher Russell Martin inked a two-year, $17 million deal with the Pirates in late November, Cashman chose not to pursue other free agents, such as A.J. Pierzynski, and instead opted to hand the catcher reins to Cervelli and Chris Stewart. The 27-year-old Cervelli might not be anyone’s idea of an ideal number-five hitter, but through 17 games, he owns a .269/.377/.500 triple-slash line. And it was Cervelli’s fourth-inning home run that provided some extra cushion for Hiroki Kuroda and the bullpen in Thursday’s series opener, which the Yankees eventually won, 5-3. (Cervelli joined the crowded Yankees’ disabled list later in the weekend with a broken hand and was replaced by Austin Romine, who did not make an appearance.)

Lyle Overbay, who signed a minor-league pact with the Yankees on March 26 after getting cut by the Red Sox, drew the start at first base on Friday as part of the motley crew that Girardi has used in place of Mark Teixeira. In the fourth inning, Overbay chipped in an RBI triple and scored on a wild pitch, giving the home team a 4-2 lead that, with some late-inning insurance, it would not relinquish. The three-bagger was Overbay’s first since June 4, 2011, and his share of the weekend heroics wasn’t only just beginning.

In the meantime, two other bargain-bin pickups combined to shoot down the new-look Blue Jays on Saturday, helping CC Sabathia to outduel J.A. Happ. Facing a 3-0 deficit in the bottom of the fourth inning, Travis Hafner—who joined the Yankees on an incentivized, $2 million contract on February 1—cranked a three-run shot, his sixth of the season, to tie the game. Later, in the seventh inning, with the Yankees down, 4-3, Cano kicked off a rally with a one-out double and scored on a single by Wells, who came over in a salary-dump trade by the Angels and now “looks like a new guy.” Wells ultimately came home with the game-winning run on a triple by Hafner—his first since July 24, 2012, and third since 2007—giving the Yankees a 5-4 win.

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