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Power outage? Looks like same old Yanks

4/20/2013

TORONTO -- About three hours before Friday night's game with the Toronto Blue Jays, I asked Mariano Rivera if the team still felt like the New York Yankees without Derek Jeter in the clubhouse.

"When you don’t have your captain with you, with the team, you always miss that," Rivera said. "At the same time, we can’t sit and wait for Derek or the others to come back. We still have to do a job that we need to do."

After the game was over and the Yankees had trounced the Blue Jays, 9-4, that now seemed like a phenomenally stupid pregame question.

After all, they hit three home runs in the game, pounded out 13 hits, made mincemeat of a pretty good starting pitcher in Brandon Morrow and got nearly eight brilliant innings out of Andy Pettitte, a throwback Yankee if there ever was one.

So much for the new-look offense, the one that would have to rely on pitching, speed, defense and the scratching out of runs any way possible. So much for all the new faces trying desperately to tread water until the old reliables return. So much for the rebuilt Blue Jays running off with the AL East.

All three Yankees home runs were hit by players who were not Yankees before this season. Two of the sluggers -- Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay -- weren't even Yankees until the last week of spring training. (By contrast, Travis Hafner, who hit the other homer, his fifth of the young season, now feels as if he has been around as long as Pettitte).

So while you still might be struggling to match the names and faces to the numbers, the club that put up nine runs Friday night -- and has scored at least seven runs in four of its nine victories -- certainly looked a lot like the New York Yankees, Jeter or no Jeter.

"It’s an interesting mix," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You have a lot of guys that came from different places that are here and playing huge contributions. You’ve got young kids trying to prove they’re everyday players. These guys are having fun. They’re enjoying each other, the personalities have meshed really well in that clubhouse, which I think is important. All the guys that came over are easy-going guys that have played at an extremely high level and expect to do well. They’re easy to be around.”

Especially when they are hitting the way just about every one of them did Friday night. Of the nine starters, only Kevin Youkilis and Eduardo Nunez failed to get a hit. Robinson Cano had three hits, and Hafner, Wells, Francisco Cervelli and even the slumping Ichiro Suzuki had two hits each, and both of Ichiro's were doubles. But the big blows were struck by Hafner in the third, Overbay in the sixth and Wells in the seventh. The last two were especially galling to what started out as a big enthusiastic crowd at the Rogers Centre, since both Overbay and Wells were longtime Blue Jays.

And for a team that was roundly, and sometimes rightly, criticized last season for coming to rely too much on the long ball, Friday's power eruption was a welcome sight.

Said Girardi: “I’m not complaining and I don’t hear anyone else complaining."

Least of all Pettitte, who was staked to a 5-1 lead after three innings and was able to slip into cruise control for the next 4-1/3 innings in his first start in 10 days after suffering back spasms last week.

"This is what I expected," said Pettitte, who is now 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA. "I'll just tell you, I expected us to be successful. I expected us to pitch well, and the hitters have gotten off to a great start, some of the new guys here, and that's huge. Everyone we brought in here is a veteran guy, and I just think that they all feel very comfortable here in this clubhouse. It's just a good fit."

It certainly feels like it. Through 15 games, the Yankees are playing .600 ball even with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and, most importantly, Derek Jeter nowhere to be seen.

The guys who have replaced them may be unfamiliar, but for the foreseeable future, they are the New York Yankees.

And right now, they're playing like it.