It Wasn't Always Pretty, but Yankees Got First Month They Needed

Sunday's win fits right in with narrative of the season

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Embrace the happiness, people.

    Sunday afternoon's contest was a pretty typical game for the 2011 Yankees.

    They watched a starting pitcher struggle to get outs from time to time, they saw scoring opportunities get wiped away by double plays and their manager botched another chance to put up runs. And there was one more thing: They won the game.

    Okay, we admit kinda burying the lead there, but that's the way the season has been going for the Yankees. There has been plenty of criticism leveled at the team for a variety of different reasons and the sheer weight of them often gets in the way of realizing that the first month of the season ended with the Yankees standing on top of the AL East.

    They don't have the best record in the entire league, that belongs to the surprising Indians, but they do have a five-game lead on the Red Sox. That puts the issue of having problems into perspective as there isn't a Yankee fan alive that would have said no to that lead and a .640 winning percentage when the season got underway.

    That's what makes nitpicking Sunday's 5-2 win against the Blue Jays feel like an exercise in forced pessimism. Ivan Nova might not have dominated Toronto or even come close, but his six-plus innings were full of the kind of battling effort that successful pitchers need to show now and then.

    Nova's start works as a microcosm of the entire rotation right now. They haven't done anything to make you think you're watching the greatest group in the history of the game but they haven't lived down to the worst fears of the offseason either.

    That doesn't mean the team should stand pat, but they've made it through a month with their ramshackle group without missing a beat in the standings. That's pretty significant given the doom and gloom expectations and the donut hole that has been Phil Hughes.

    The offensive problems, especially those of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, have been equally scrutinized but there's even less reason to feel concerned about those issues.

    The Yankees hit into two more double plays on Sunday and played their way out of an inning that could have brought more runs thanks to Joe Girardi's decision to bunt in the third inning of a one-run game, but still scored enough runs to make for an easy last few innings. They did that because they hit two home runs and because they have a mighty collection of bats even without Jeter and Posada adding much of anything to the attack.

    Curtis Granderson is having the season everyone wanted him to have in 2010, Robinson Cano is off to another splendid start and the Mark Teixeira/Alex Rodriguez tandem has done just fine in the middle of the order. Assuming Jeter and Posada have any life left in their bones and that Nick Swisher starts hitting, scoring runs is going to become even less of a problem as the season progresses.

    And, as the first month has shown, there's not going to be an enormous problem if none of those things happen.

    There were no bullpen bobbles on Sunday and Rafael Soriano worked two scoreless innings over the weekend. The relief corps has had a few high-profile meltdowns, but there's been much more good than bad for a unit that doesn't get nearly enough credit for its successes.

    Through the first month of the year, that's just as true of the entire team.

    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.