Matt chance: Holliday key to Yanks' success

Slugger's hot streaks, funks track closely with team's performance

Matt chance: Holliday key to Yanks' success

NEW YORK -- Designated hitter Matt Holliday has been an important piece in the middle of the Yankees' lineup this season. And over his last 32 games, as Holliday has gone, so too have the Yankees.

"He's capable of putting the team on his back and carrying it for a bit," said Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner.

Despite his go-ahead two-run home run against the Athletics Saturday, Holliday has struggled at the plate recently.

In the 16 games between May 9 and the start of Sunday's series finale vs. Oakland, the 37-year-old had a .241/.308/.431 slash line in 58 at-bats, while striking out in 40 percent of his 65 plate appearances. The Yankees finished with a 7-9 record during his 16-game funk.

In his previous 16-game stretch from April 18-May 8, Holliday carried a .320/.397/.620 slash line in 50 at-bats. His strikeout rate dropped to 29 percent over 58 plate appearances, and the Yankees went 11-5 in those games.

Holliday's solo shot to center

Of course, Holliday's scuffles aren't the only cause for the Yankees' recent cooling. The team has been without their closer, Aroldis Chapman, since May 14, and Chase Headley has endured a deeper slump (6-for-57) than Holliday in his most recent 16 games.

"We started off so good offensively, and I think we've kind of slowed down here in the last week or so," Gardner said. "It's just a matter of getting guys like him, and me -- and guys that maybe for the last few days, or last week or so, haven't been doing as well as we were -- back going again and we'll be in good shape."

Perhaps nobody is taking the missed chances more personally than Holliday. Manager Joe Girardi compared him to Yankee great Paul O'Neill in the way he grinds out every at-bat.

"Every at-bat is like his last at-bat. And I love that attitude," Girardi said. "That was the attitude that Paul O'Neill brought. He might not be as demonstrative when he makes an out, but you know when he makes an out, and I love that."

Sabathia, Holliday on 3-2 win

Girardi said Holliday never wavers as a resource for young hitters, even when he struggles.

"He's played on championship teams. He's played in markets where there's high expectations," Girardi said. "He really understands what it means to be prepared and ready to go every day. I think he's been great in the clubhouse."

But in spite of how great he is in the clubhouse, his real difference for the Yankees is in the heart of their order. It's hard to find a substitute for a hitter like Holliday, which is why it's so important for him to break out.

"Guys [like Holliday] in the middle of the lineup, when they walk up to the plate, they're in scoring position," Gardner said. "They're capable of driving themselves in with one swing of the bat at any point in time on any pitch.

"He's proven throughout his career that he can just flat out hit."

Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.