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杉浦大介「NY摩天楼通信」 : 第251回 ヤンキース、“ミラクルラン”は実現するか
投稿日時: 2013-09-06 23:00:00

「それにしてもヤンキースはよくこの位置にいるなぁ……」
 2013年も9月を迎える頃、そんな声がメディアの間からよく聞かれるようになった。9月5日からの大事なレッドソックスとの4連戦を迎えた時点で、ワイルドカード圏内まで2.5ゲーム差。ここまでの波瀾万丈の道のりを思い返してみれば、現時点でプレーオフ進出が不可能ではない位置にいることは、確かに軽いミラクルにも思えてくる。
(写真:最近は左投手相手の際はスタメンを外れることも多いイチローだが、出場時には地道に貢献の術を見つけている Photo By Gemini Keez)

 デレク・ジーター、アレックス・ロドリゲス、カーティス・グランダーソンといった多くの主力選手がケガに悩まされてきた。マーク・テシェイラ、フランシスコ・サーベリに至っては、故障回復のメドが立たずにすでに今季終了。8月にはロドリゲスに過去の薬物使用で211試合の出場停止処分が告げられ、チームの周辺が大揺れに揺れた時期もあった。

 これほど誤算続きでは、安定して勝ち星をあげるのが難しいのは当然。オールスター以降の18戦で12敗を喫し、勝率5割寸前にまで落ち込んだ際には、今季の終戦ムードも漂ったのも仕方ないところだったろう。

 しかし……これが伝統チームの底力なのか。8月11日以降の25試合で17勝8敗とペースを上げたヤンキースは、前述通り、シーズンもあと1ヶ月を切った時点でプレーオフの可能性を残した位置に止まっている。

「チーム全体が健康を取り戻しているのが大きい。何人かの選手たちが戻ってきたしね。ジーター、アレックスが帰ってきて、(アルフォンソ・)ソリアーノも加わった。体調回復とともに気分良くプレーできるようになっているよ」
 エースのCCサバシアがそう語るように、シーズンが進むにつれてチームは徐々に形を整えてきている。

 ジーターは数字以上の存在感を発揮し、7月26日にカブスからトレードされたソリアーノは8月だけで11本塁打、31打点。ロドリゲスの周囲に絶えずつきまとう喧噪も悪影響になっていないのは、さすがは百戦錬磨のベテラン集団といったところだろうか。
(写真:一挙一動が騒がれるロドリゲスだが、チームにマイナスを及ぼしている様子はない Photo By Gemini Keez)

 ロビンソン・カノ、ソリアーノ、ロドリゲス、グランダーソンが中軸を組み、ジーター、イチロー、ブレット・ガードナー、ライル・オーバーベイといった曲者が脇を固める打線の迫力は、3Aレベルの選手が名を連ねていたシーズン中盤までとは比べるべくもない。ヤンキースらしい粘り強さも戻りつつあり、特にそれが顕著だったのが9月3日のホワイトソックス戦だった。

 終盤まで1−4とリードされ、敗色濃厚だったこのゲーム。8回裏にジーター、カノ、ソリアーノ、ロドリゲス、グランダーソン、エドゥアルド・ヌネスの長短打で一挙に5点を奪い、大逆転で貴重な勝利を挙げた。

「今まででしたらこのままズルズル負けていたような流れでしたけど、こうやってチームが勝ってくれると自分のピッチングも報われる。今までにない流れ(の勝ち方)なんで、これで流れが変われば良いかなと思っています」
 先発した黒田博樹が試合後にそう目を細めた通り、“今季のベスト・ウィン”と呼んでも大げさには思えない鮮やかな勝ち方だった。

 終盤に勢いを得るチームというのは、劇的な勝ち星を生み出すもの。この日のどんでん返しを観て、逆襲への期待を改めて抱いたヤンキースファンは少なくなかったのではないか。

 もっともチーム全体を見れば、上り調子だからといって楽観視すべきだと言いたいわけではない。
 打線は復活を感じさせる一方で、投手陣は順風満帆とは言い難い。ここまで4勝13敗、防御率4.86と苦しむフィル・ヒューズがブルペン降格を言い渡され、大黒柱のはずのCCサバシアも自己最悪の防御率4.86と不調。エースとしてチームを支えてきた黒田も、8月17日以降の4試合で0勝3敗、防御率7.43と疲れ気味なのが気になる。
(写真:最も安定している先発投手だった黒田の復調は追い上げに必須だ Photo By Gemini Keez)

 肝心の投手力ではやはりワイルドカードを争うレイズが上に思えるだけに、追いつき、追い越していくのは容易な作業ではないだろう。
「スコアボードは目の前にあるのだから自然と目に入る。おかげで他のチームがどうしているかは常に認識できているものだ。もちろん目の前のゲームへの集中力が削がれるわけではないけど、見ないでいるのは難しいよ」

 ジラルディ監督もそう認めている通り、現時点ではプレーオフ圏外だからなおさら他チームの経過、結果も気にしなければならない。すぐ背後につけるオリオールズ、ロイヤルズもまだ侮れず、今後も息の抜けない日々が続くだろう。

 ただ、ヤンキースにとって幸いなのは、残り22戦中、11戦がジャイアンツ、アストロズ、ブルージェイズ、ホワイトソックスといった最下位チームとの対戦なこと。9月15日まで続くレッドソックス、オリオールズ、レッドソックスとの11連戦が、とりあえずは正念場である。この3カードを終えた時点で依然としてプレーオフに射程圏内の位置にいられれば、ベテラン軍団の経験が生きてくるようにも思えるが……。
(写真:川崎(背番号66)も属するブルージェイズなど、下位チーム相手の取りこぼしは許されない Photo By Gemini Keez)

 本当にさまざまなことがあったシーズンだった。物議を醸し続けるロドリゲス、ケガとの戦いが続くジーター、出戻りのソリアーノ、今季限りで引退を表明しているリベラらを中心としたチームが、もしも大逆転でプレーオフに進むようなことがあれば、長いヤンキースの歴史上でも稀に見る一大ドラマとなる。

 8月22日に日米通算4000本安打に到達したばかりのイチロー、今後の復調が望まれる黒田もその奇跡に貢献できれば、日本のファンにとっても今秋は特別な季節となるに違いない。
 横紙を破ってのミラクルランは実現するのかどうか。難しいが、ここまで来れば、もう不可能とは言い切れない。ピンストライプの行方に、今後もうしばらく目を離すべきではないことだけは確かだろう。


杉浦大介(すぎうら だいすけ)プロフィール
東京都出身。高校球児からアマボクサーを経て、フリーランスのスポーツライターに転身。現在はニューヨーク在住で、MLB、NBA、NFL、ボクシングを中心に精力的に取材活動を行う。『スラッガー』『ダンクシュート』『アメリカンフットボールマガジン』『ボクシングマガジン』『日本経済新聞』など多数の媒体に記事、コラムを寄稿している。

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