The New York Yankees hit five home runs on Saturday to defeat the Boston Red Sox, 7-4; every run they scored came via the long ball. Carlos Beltran began the onslaught with a two-run homer in the first inning. Alfonso Soriano and Kelly Johnson each added a solo shot, and Brian McCann took John Lackey deep twice.
While it was incredibly satisfying to see the middle of the order put on a power display, the Yankees cannot rely on the long ball as the only means to score runs. They already tried this approach in 2012, and it flat out didn’t work. That year, Joe Girardi openly admitted that the Yankees were a “home run hitting team,” and if they failed to drive the ball out of the park, they were probably going to lose – and lose they did come October.
They barely beat the Baltimore Orioles in the Divisional Series due in great part to a pair of clutch home runs from Raul Ibanez. They batted .211 as a team during those five games. In the Championship Series, the high-powered pitching staff of the Detroit Tigers shut the Yankees down, holding them to a .157 team batting average in a series sweep.
It’s always good to have a lineup featuring nine hitters who all can drive the ball out of the park, but the team’s offensive approach should not be home run or bust. That strategy might work against mediocre pitching staffs, but as demonstrated by 2012, fails against teams with quality arms (a.k.a. playoff teams).
The long ball prevailed today, but they aren’t always going to have the friendly right field confines of Yankee Stadium with the wind blowing out. Futhermore, not every pitcher is going to leave fastballs over the middle of the plate like Lackey did today.
It’s great that the Yankees’ power bats finally woke up, but they cannot become a one dimensional ball club. Teams that are truly great can win in a variety of ways (i.e. speed, strong starting pitching and a bullpen that can hold a lead), which is something the Yankees have to do if they want to send Captain Clutch out on top.