The New York Yankees narrowly avoided a disastrous end to a 10-game road trip, hanging on to beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-5 on Sunday afternoon. The victory ended a five-game losing streak and gave the Yankees a respectable 4-6 record on the West Coast swing.
At the forefront of the Yankees victory today was Jayson Nix, the versatile infielder who has played a much bigger role than the Yankees brass anticipated when the season began. Nix, playing third base, went 3-for-4 on the afternoon, including an RBI single off Angels starter Jered Weaver. On the 10-game road trip, Nix hit .305, drove in five runs, and raised his batting average by 11 points.
Nix wasn’t supposed to play such a prominent role in the Yankees every day lineup, but injuries have forced him into being a regular starter. The Yankees knew that Derek Jeter would be out for an extended period of time to start the season, but had planned on using young shortstop Eduardo Nunez as the stop gap until he returned. However, injuries have forced Nunez to the DL as well and given Nix an opportunity to start almost daily.
It’s not only Nunez’s injury that has led to more playing time. Third baseman Kevin Youkilis has spent a large portion of the season sidelined, and the Yankees have scrambled to replace him at third. In fact, Youkilis went back on the DL again today, so Yankees fans can expect to see more of Nix at third and Reid Brignac at shortstop like they saw today.
Last season, Nix played the backup role like he was brought to New York to do. He had 177 at-bats and filled in all over the field. Thanks to his unexpected increased role, he’s surpassed that total number of at-bats already this season. In addition, he’s been a threat on the base paths, stealing 10 bases without being caught.
It’s not an ideal situation for a Yankees team that is accustomed to playing perennial All-Stars in their high-priced infield, but all things considered, he’s been more than adequate.
At some point, the Yankees will get healthy. Jeter is due back in a month or so, Youkilis will get his back healthy eventually and Mark Teixeira will probably rest his wrist and return at some point soon. Whenever that is, Nix will probably be used in the position he was brought to New York to fulfill … as a backup.
If the Yankees are anywhere near the top of the AL East standings at that point, Nix will deserve a lot of the credit.
B.L. is a sports writer for Rant Sports and can be followed on Twitter @coachlip.