Monday, September 12, 2022

2 Outta 3 Ain't Bad...


Gleyber Torres / Photo Credit: Noah K Murray, AP

Yankees finally push Rays back in AL East Race…

The Pesky Rays had refused to go away…until they did. After Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees’ lead in the division had fallen to just 3 ½ games and more importantly, just two games in the loss column. If the Yankees were not sweating, I certainly was. Although the Yankees would have remained the division leaders if they had been swept, being tied in the loss column…obviously…would not have been good. Then, much to my delight, the Yankees brought out the lumber for Saturday and Sunday. 

Featuring a new look lineup in a season of constant lineup changes by Manager Aaron Boone, Aaron Judge and Stanton were perched atop the batting order on Saturday and Sunday. Love it or hate it, you cannot argue with the results. Despite no Judge home runs, the Yankees powered their way to twenty runs in the two games, taking the weekend contests, 10-3 and 10-4. On Sunday, after Gleyber Torres had hit his second home run in the second inning, I saw a tweet that said Gleyber was on pace for nine home runs in the game. Too funny. It would prove to be his last home run of the game, but like Saturday, the Yankees had plenty of other runs (and homers) to decisively win both games. 

The biggest takeaway for me was the return of Giancarlo Stanton’s bat. Missing since he had returned from the Injured List, there is no question Stanton, when healthy and hitting, offers tremendous protection for Aaron Judge.  With many of the lineups over the last month, it was Judge on an island. Fortunately, as guys are getting healthy, the Yankees have a chance to build some momentum after enduring such an awful August. 

Owaldo Cabrera (what can’t he do?) smacked his first Major League home run yesterday, a shot to right center off Rays starter and loser Luis PatiƱo.

Scoring runs in the first inning was huge in both weekend games. Six on Saturday and three on Sunday helped the Yankees to big leads that they used to coast to victory. Lately, it had seemed like the Yankees were always down 0-2 or 0-3 before fans had even gotten to their seats. Much better when the Yankees break out first. 

The Yankees lead in the AL East has been extended to 5 ½ games with 21 games left to play. The Rays, four behind in the loss column, have 24 games remaining and a more difficult schedule. The Toronto Blue Jays are six games back, five in the loss column. The Rays and Jays still have time, but fortunately, the clock is ticking in the Yankees’ favor. 

Despite the tightening atop the division, the Boston Red Sox have a stranglehold on the AL East cellar. Even with their huge win over the Baltimore Orioles yesterday, they are four-and-a-half games behind the O’s and 16 full games behind the Yankees. The Yankees have six games remaining against the Red Sox, including two in Boston tomorrow and Wednesday. I expect the Red Sox to play hard (I would not want anything else), but it is fun to see them when they are down. The only downside is the Yankees do not get to beat the Red Sox to advance in the playoffs since Boston is out of it.

Are the Yankees finally starting to get healthy? Four rehabbing Yankees made appearances in yesterday’s game between the Somerset Patriots, Anthony Volpe’s old team, and the Hartford Yard Goats. The Yard Goats won the game, 8-7, but Harrison Bader made his Yankees organization debut by getting a hit in three at-bats, a run-scoring single. Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Miguel Castro each pitched an inning of hitless/scoreless relief. Chappy walked a batter and struck out three, while Britton struck out two.

After the disastrous game by Aaron Hicks on Friday night and his subsequent benching for the weekend games, Bader is sorely needed. Stanton showed that simply be activated off the IL is not enough, it takes time to get the timing back. So, the sooner the guys can get back, the better since October is right around the corner and the guys need reps to get playoff ready. 

Harrison Bader / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

There is also good news with DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo. LeMahieu could be back in ten days when the next homestand starts on September 22nd. The toe inflammation has finally improved so hopefully he can be the Hit Machine of old when he returns. Rizzo was a welcome sight in the Yankees dugout for the weekend games. Marwin Gonzalez has become the starting first baseman by default, and as in the words of former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, “it’s not what you want.” Rizzo will begin ramping up his baseball activities so he could return when LeMahieu does if not a few days earlier. Both men will be welcome additions to the lineup, helping reform the early season Yankees who found a way to win nearly every night. 

Luis Severino is scheduled to make a rehab start on Thursday and possibly rejoin the Yankees next week. Frankie Montas was supposed to be the second starter behind Gerrit Cole but with his struggles since joining the Yankees, a healthy Severino slots in nicely if he can get stretched out in time. 

Derek Jeter’s triumphant return to Yankee Stadium. Although the Yankees were unable to win Friday night, it was a winning performance during the pre-game Hall of Fame ceremony for Yankees Legend Derek Sanderson Jeter. Derek’s wife and daughters, and his parents were in attendance, along with former Yankees Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, CC Sabathia and Joe Torre. 

Derek Jeter / Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, AP

It was tough the years Jeter was away in Miami with the Marlins, and I was glad to see him embrace his Yankees legacy during his speech. Not sure what his comment about looking forward to seeing a lot more Yankee fans here in the near future means, but I like the thought of Jeter hanging out at Yankee Stadium more often. It would be even better if the Steinbrenner family brought him into a role with the organization. As someone who thinks it may be time to shutter the Brian Cashman era if the Yankees do not win this year (the boos at the mention of his name on Friday night show I am not alone with that thought), I am intrigued with the idea of Derek Jeter as the team’s general manager. Who knows if he would be willing to settle for GM after holding the Presidency with the Marlins. He might have loftier aspirations. Retire Randy Levine and make Jeter the President of the Yankees? Works for me. Then, dump Aaron Boone (again, if the Yankees fail to win this year), and replace him with Jorge Posada. 

I do not know what the future holds with Jeter and the Yankees but suffice it to say I am happy when they are together.

Never forget September 11th. Although you can say who could ever forget, there are Yankee fans in their early twenties with no firsthand recollection of that very difficult and tragic day. Wearing FDNY hats on Sunday, the Yankees gave tribute to the first responders, the many people who died that day, and the friends and families who suffered great losses. The sacrifices they gave will always be remembered and hopefully never forgotten by future generations after we are long gone.

As always, Go Yankees!