Kevin Millwood just got his cleat caught on the rubber while delivering a pitch to Mark Teixeria with two on and none out in the first inning on Thursday, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that he stumbled because he thought better of throwing a pitch to a member of the Yankee lineup.
His balk gave the Yankees their first run of the afternoon and they'd pile up five more on Millwood before the day was through, yet another sign that the Yankee lineup is awfully close to being the full strength monster we thought it would be this season. The returns of Curtis Granderson and Jorge Posada gives pitchers little margin for error and nowhere to hide their mistakes, something that wasn't the case when Kevin Russo and Randy Winn were running around out there on a daily basis.
Those strengths are magnified by the fact that they've played the Indians and Orioles over the last seven games, but they are hardly caused by the opposition. This Yankee lineup, when at full strength, is going to pound every level of opposition. Besides, as we've pointed out before, the Yankees are going to be seeing a lot more of the underbelly than the tenderloin between now and the end of July so we might as well get used to the impressive performances.
Posada has been the designated hitter in the two games since his return from the disabled list, a spot that makes the most sense for him in the absence of Nick Johnson. This isn't because he's a bad catcher, there's always been a bit too much made of Posada's defensive shortcomings, but it seems like he winds up hurt every time he's behind the plate this season and the Yankees simply can't afford to lose his bat from the lineup for any stretch of time this season.
Nor could they afford to keep getting the mediocre starts that CC Sabathia turned in for most of May. He was better yesterday, three runs and seven strikeouts over seven innings, and battled through a couple of rough patches without inflicting much damage on himself. He couldn't avoid those patches in his last few starts, so we'll assume that he has recovered from whatever was ailing him as well.
That's five straight good starts for Yankee pitchers and five straight wins for a team that finally looks a lot like the one that rolled through April. Good news for them, not so good for the rest of the American League.