Reporting Steve Silverman
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By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) After a lost weekend in Kansas City, the White Sox rebounded as they have done all season.
It may seem surprising that they came through with a 9-6 win over the powerful New York Yankees thanks to four home runs, but the White Sox have not been intimidated by the best teams in the American League all season.
They have more than held their own against the Yankees (3-2), Angels (3-2), Rangers (6-3) and Rays (3-0), and that indicates that they are should not fade down the stretch and will have a chance in the postseason.
The Yankees are surely in the driver’s seat in the American League. While there are starting pitching issues once you get past CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, the overall depth has kept them on top in the A.L. East virtually all season.
Normally the story is the high-priced talent that gives the Yankees an edge over nearly every other team in baseball, but this year the role players have told much of the story.
The best of these role players is probably Ichiro Suzuki, who changed coasts and joined the Yankees after a stellar career in Seattle.
Since the start of the 2011 season, it seemed Ichiro was beginning to pull a grand fade out to his career. He was hitting .261 at the time when the Yankees acquired him in late July after hitting .272 during the 2011 season.
But Ichiro has shown that he is not finished since joining the Yankees. He has played left, center and right field for the Yankees and upgraded the outfield defense. He is hitting .315 with threes homers and 13 RBI while slugging .489. The latter figure is more than 150 points higher than his slugging percentage had been in Seattle.
Ichiro is not the only Yankee role player making a big contribution. Eric Chavez (.295, 13 HR, 32 RBI) has gotten the job done at third base along with Jayson Nix and retread Casey McGehee. Alex Rodriguez has been out with a hand injury since July 24, but the Yankees keep on plugging along. Chavez has given them pop at third base along with a solid glove and Joe Girardi has made sure that he has not overused Chavez by plugging Nix and McGehee into the lineup.
Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones also have enjoyed a rejuvenation while playing in the Bronx. Ibanez has 15 home runs and has slugged .451 while the seemingly ancient Jones has 13 homers, has slugged .455 despite his .212 average.
These bench players have complemented Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter and have made the Yankees the team to beat in the American League.
That’s probably the biggest edge they have over most of the legitimate American League contenders, including the White Sox. Chicago is certainly bashing the ball all over the lot and hitting home runs – second in the league to the Yankees – but they are not going to bring much of their power off the bench.
They are getting the kind of power numbers from Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rios that Kenny Williams and Robin Ventura wanted, but they don’t have the Yankees’ pop off the bench.
Maybe they won’t need it. They didn’t last night against the Yankees, but championship teams always have something in reserve for the late innings.
The Yankees certainly do and it will make them the toughest kind of postseason matchup for the White Sox.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.