Chavez speaking loudly and backing it up

08/09/2012 10:29 AM ET
By Jon Lane

The Yankees have counted on Chavez (right) to step up in the absence of Alex Rodriguez.(AP)
The Yankees were spinning out of control, having dropped 12 of their last 18 games and seeing their comfy AL East lead dissolve from 10 to 4.5 games. Sure, the Yankees have been in first place for 58 days, but a 7-12 record over the last three weeks has grinded at their collective insides worse than a Brillo Pad. Particularly disturbing were eight of those 12 defeats were decided by one run, with two others by two.

The normally soft-spoken Eric Chavez was concerned (read: annoyed) and refused to put up with losing any longer. He stood before the media after Tuesday’s tough 6-5 loss which ended with Curtis Granderson’s pop up that stranded the tying run on third base – the Yankees rallied for two runs off Tigers closer Jose Valverde before coming up short – and said, “I think there should be a high level of concern.”

The message was clear: There’s a lot of season left and it’s literally not over until it’s over. For his part, Chavez has backed up his talk with performance. Helping to fill the void left by Alex Rodriguez’s broken hand, Chavez went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the Yankees’ sorely-needed 12-8 win on Wednesday. He’s batting .583 during the Yankees’ stay in the Motor City and .462 (12-for-26) with three homers and eight RBIs in his last eight games.

Not that Chavez was satisfied. The Orioles have been on the Yankees’ heels and aren’t going away, at least not yet, but for the Yankees it’s put up or hush.

“We’ve been losing,” Chavez said after Wednesday’s game. “So if anybody’s comfortable with that — I know I wasn’t. We had a nine-game lead two weeks ago, and that’s gone. I just want to win. I just want to get back to the postseason, and I’d like to have the biggest lead we possibly can have to do it.”

Thanks to Chavez and Joe Girardi’s lineup shakeup that saw Granderson being dropped from leadoff to the sixth position and Nick Swisher elevated to No. 2, the Yankees enter Thursday afternoon (weather permiting) with a chance to escape Detroit and fly to Toronto with a split. Hiroki Kuroda, 10-8 with a 3.19 ERA and 3-0 with a 2.94 ERA in his last five road starts, is scheduled to take the ball. Granderson will be back in the batter’s box with renewed confidence. Once 2-for-20 as the leadoff hitter and hitless in 11 at-bats, Granderson went 3-for-5 with four RBIs, including his 30th home run that made him the third Yankees center fielder with consecutive 30-homer seasons (Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio).

“We’re still right where we need to be,” Granderson said. “You’re going to have streaks throughout the course of the season where they’re not necessarily the most favorable. If they were, the records would be crazy. But things even themselves out when it’s all done, and there’s a lot of baseball left to play.”

A concerned Chavez reminded the Yankees exactly what’s in store. If the Yankees are to advance to yet another postseason party, they have to earn their invitation.

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