The New York Yankees are slumping again. Two months into a six-month season, fans and media types are expressing concern that the Yanks (29-25) might do the unthinkable: Miss the postseason. Panic much? That’s how it goes in Pinstripe Nation. It’s only natural to wonder if Louisville native Marcus Thames, the team’s hitting coach, is feeling any heat. After all, the New York Mets fired hitting coach Chili Davis in early May, 23 games into their season. Here’s what Thames said (to northjersey.com) in late April, when the Yankees were also scuffling: “I’m in every at-bat with those guys. I’m in every at-bat, every pitch, every swing. I’ve got to stay the same. I’ve got to keep my body language the same because they’re watching and I just have to make sure that I stay positive, let them know that you’re going to come out of this.” They did. They won 16 of their first 21 games in May. But the last seven saw the hitters go cold again. They went 4-for-33 with runners in scoring position while losing six of the seven. They managed just 13 runs over that span. They’re in third place in the American League East, with the two teams ahead of them (Tampa Bay and Boston) in town this week. It could be a pivotal stretch. Thames is in his fourth season as the head hitting coach, and while the team has made the postseason each of the first three years, it has fallen short of the World Series. That’s the standard in the Bronx.
Fear the Fighting Camels? Beware the ’Noles? If power is the key to winning these days, then the teams to watch in the Starkville and Oxford Regionals, respectively, are Campbell and Florida State. Campbell (35-16) has more total home runs (65) and the best homers-per-game average (1.27) of the four teams bound for Starkville. Matthew Christian leads the Camels with 16. Campbell pitchers also have done a good job of limiting homers, having yielded just 33. Samford (35-22), which plays Mississippi State in the first round, punched its ticket to the NCAAs with two huge homers in the ninth inning of the Southern Conference title game: a game-tying shot by Towns King and a walk-off bomb by Max Pinto. Sonny DiChiara has 16 of Samford’s 64. On the flip side, Samford pitchers have given up 70 homers. Logan Tanner (team-best 16 round-trippers) and the other State sluggers may be salivating over that stat. State (40-15) sits at 60 as a team, eight more than its pitchers have allowed. Another masher of note in that regional is Virginia Commonwealth’s Tyler Locklear, who has 16 bombs. The Rams (37-14) have allowed only 37 homers. … In Oxford, where the red cup crowd really digs the long ball, Florida State (30-22) comes in with 74 homers (1.42 per game, 18th in the nation). The Seminoles’ Mat Nelson is tied for the national lead with 22. FSU opens regional play against Southern Miss (37-19), which has belted 67 bombs, led by Reed Trimble with 14. Ole Miss (41-19) has slugged 75 homers (1.25 per game), led by Kevin Graham’s 14. Tim Elko, perhaps UM’s best power source, has 13 despite missing a big chunk of time with an injury. Rebels pitchers have allowed 65 homers, a relatively high number. Notably, UM’s opening opponent, Southeast Missouri State (30-20), is a relatively power-starved team with just 37 homers. Wade Strauss hit 14 of those.