First Place Is Nothing to be Complacent About

The Yankees have navigated their way well through the first two months.

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Jun 1, 2011  |  Updated 9:45 AM EDT
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First Place Is Nothing to be Complacent About

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How long can you count on Freddy?

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Freddy Garcia did not seem to pitch particularly well on Tuesday night.

He gave up nine hits and two walks to an A's lineup that is allergic to offense and probably would have surrendered a lot more than three runs to a team with more competent batsmen. It was still an easy night's work for Garcia, though, because the Yankee bats were on fire in a 10-3 victory.

The victory meant May ended with a 15-14 record which, admittedly, doesn't look all that great on the surface. Numbers can be superficial, though, and a closer examination makes things look quite a bit better for the Yankees.

They spent most of May dealing with a limp lineup that featured more black holes than supernovas. Things have gotten better on that front, but until Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Jorge Posada start producing there will still be a lot of dead wood on Joe Girardi's lineup card.

Almost as impressive as avoiding those landmines for the first two months is making it to this point in the season as a winning team with Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova in the starting rotation. The three of them are 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA to this point in the season, well beyond what even the rosiest projections for their service would be back in April.

We've already discussed Colon and the chances that he'll be able to keep up his impressive start to the season which is good because things are much cloudier for the other two guys.

As we saw on Tuesday, Garcia often looks like a disaster waiting to happen but he has avoided a horrible fate on all but a couple of occasions. That is often called knowing how to win or the guile of a veteran, but it still feels an awful lot like waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For now, though, Garcia is less of a concern than Nova. The youngest member of the trio was considered the most likely bet for success back in Tampa but he has turned out to be the most hittable pitcher in the major leagues.

There are in-house options to replace Nova -- Hector Noesi, Carlos Silva, some guy named Phil Hughes -- but the question will quickly become whether the Yankees can keep trying to steal time with duct tape and spackle in the back end of the rotation. Things aren't nearly as urgent with Colon or Garcia, but the Yankees have to be prepared for things to go south in a hurry with both men.

As they say: You hope for the best but expect the worst as you plan for the future. 

The Yankees have had plenty go wrong in the first two months, but they still find themselves exactly where they want to be in the standings. Complacency about that spot would be a mistake if they want to keep it for the next four months.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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