All year long the Yankees have been telling us their chances would improve when it came to their ability to hit with runners on base.
No one knew it would happen all at once in the seventh inning of Sunday's game against the Mets. After going 0-for-12 in those spots over the first six innings, the Yankees suddenly sprang to life to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 9-3 lead.
Brett Gardner singled to start things off and the team then rattled off five hits with runners on against four Mets pitchers to break the game wide open. They sent 13 men to the plate and it would have been even worse if the umpires hadn't given the Mets a pair of outs on butchered calls behind the plate and at first base.
Derek Jeter, Gardner and Chris Dickerson each had two-run hits during the inning and the last two came with two outs in the inning off of lightly used Pat Misch. We get the idea of going lefty-lefty against Gardner and Dickerson, but Terry Collins might want to pitch Misch more than once every eight days if he wants productive outcomes.
It was a long-awaited explosion from the Yankee bats, and one that should provide a brief respite from the Chicken Littles agonizing over the team's reliance on home runs.
The Mets picked up 11 hits against Ivan Nova but they managed just three runs, because 10 of those hits were singles. No one is going to complain about having runners on base, but it doesn't do you much good to get them on base if no one can make pitchers pay for their mistakes.
Even the Yankee rally works against the theory that the team is somehow doing something wrong by peppering the bleachers with long balls. The whole game turned on a series of plays that could have easily wound up with different results.
With runners on first and second, Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli attempted a bunt but got hit in the left shoulder by Mike Pelfrey. Had Cervelli gotten the bunt down, the Yankees would have given up an out and taken some of the pressure of the struggling Mets starter.
They did give up an out later in the inning when Curtis Granderson bunted. The intentional walk took the bat out of the hands of Mark Teixeira as well, which means Joe Girardi tried everything he could to lessen the damage.
He got bailed out when A-Rod slammed a sinker about 30 feet in front of home plate for an infield single to plate the fourth run. Dickerson's hit was a bloop that found an unoccupied patch of grass and the Mets threw in an error for good measure in an inning that was simply fated to go the Yankees way.
Runs are helpful, no matter how they come. Getting them to come consistently is the important part.
On Sunday, the Yankees got timely hits and good luck. Sometimes that works just as well as a three-run homer, but winning teams will take either one.