If you recall, a month ago they were calling for a complete overhaul of the roster. The Yankees were standing 10-games behind the front-running Boston Red Sox and prior to the trade deadline a GM and manager were public enemy number one with the fan base.
I got a report from a reliable source that owner Hal Steinbrenner was exploring options about selling because this was becoming a headache and he was losing interest.
The deadline came and went. Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo came to the Bronx and provided more left handed presence in the lineup. Andrew Velazquez, a local kid from nearby Morris Park in the Bronx, has made a difference in the field and in the lineup.
So no more talk about Brian Cashman or Aaron Boone losing their jobs. And my source has not heard more talk about a potential Steinbrenner sale. The fan base has halted their attacks on sports talk radio and of course winning will do that.
Winning will change everything. The Yankees, as of Thursday, are playing like the best team in baseball, winning 18 of 23 games, a season high 17 games over .500, while passing Boston and Oakland for the first American League Wild Card.
Yes, a month ago this was a delusion of grandeur. But the Yankees now have their sights on the red hot Tampa Bay Rays and overtaking them in the division, so much better than playing in a win or go home, one game elimination.
Overtaking the Rays is realistic because the Yankees are playing .700 baseball. With the schedule in their favor, and the injured players on a comeback, things are falling the Yankees way. Next week, six games at Atlanta and Oakland are significant. 13 games remain with division and wild card implications that include the Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays.
In contrast, the Yankees are the exciting baseball team in New York. They hit, pitch, the bullpen is coming around. Their asset of home run production has returned and have you noticed they play a different game by taking the extra base?
Through all of the trials and tribulations, Aaron Boone and his team had more than one of those gut wrenching losses, yet they never threw in the towel as their season was going by the board.
I have said many times, momentum and “Mojo” are key components that are a mentality and significant at this juncture of a baseball season. Three games, and a sweep of the Red Sox in the Bronx this week, continued that momentum.
“We had some tough games against them,” Boone said about the Red Sox. “Really competitive games in a lot of cases. At times, we weren’t playing our best baseball. I feel like we’re a better and different team now. Now it’s on to the next one.”
Though, four games in the Bronx with the Minnesota Twins await and won’t be easy. The Twins got their fourth straight series win over the Indians, so, despite past history, this four game series will be tough to navigate.
But this is reality. The Yankees, unless they have a late season collapse, are destined to see more in October and that is what all in baseball expected.
“It’s going to be a tough road ahead still, but the group is a confident group, and I think they know what they’re capable of,” Boone said after the Yankees pulled a day-night doubleheader sweep over the Red Sox Tuesday.
The reality is, the Red Sox are not playing like they were in late July. The Red Sox are 6-14 in their last 30 games. Manager Alex Cora has been impressed with the Yankees surge and at the same time, he’s looking at his team getting swept as just another three games.
“It’s not deflating,” Cora said. I mean, we lost, whatever. That’s a different team than early in the season. They’re more agile, more versatile, more athletic and one thing they’ve done throughout the season is they can pitch.”
Luis Gil, the Yankees number six prospect has been more than a reinforcement and has now tossed 15⅔ scoreless innings in three starts to begin his Major League career, and that is the most by a Yankees starter in the expansion era.
Gil, the 23-year old Right-hander, was a part of the 11th shutout of the season Tuesday night. Yankees’ starters have a 2.94 ERA and 217 strikeouts in their last 39 starts, allowing three runs or fewer in 33 of those.
The turnaround is also attributed to Boone and a coaching staff that made adjustments with the Yankees analytical approach and the game plan that has worked to their advantage. They have made the proper moves and the results are showing on the field.
Wednesday night, Left-hander Andrew Heaney threw another home run ball in the first inning to Xander Bogaerts, but he regrouped and followed with seven innings of one-hit ball. The bullpen took over and Andrew Velazquez continued to live his dream in a Yankees 5-2 win.
Except for closer Aroldis Chapman, still having issues with control, this was more of that momentum and pointing towards an eventful and deep October in the Bronx.
Oh, about Velazquez. He’s more than a find. He impressed in spring training after sporadic up and down times with three teams including 40 games with the Orioles during the truncated 2020 season.
Wednesday night, Velazquez, the All-City star down the road at Fordham Prep. hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the first inning and an RBI single in the eighth. In the ninth, Velazquez went deep in the hole at short to make a spectacular play and game-ending throw that Rizzo handled at first.
Rizzo hit a two-run single in the second inning, his 8th RBI in 10 games with the Yankees. Giancarlo Stanton extended his season high on base streak to 16 straight games. The Yankees don’t score a lot of runs but getting the contributions of timely hits and plays on the field that make a difference.
“It was a great play all around,” Rizzo said about the dramatic ending of a play that was reviewed and stood.
With Velazquez, there has also been a difference that was brought into play with the injury to Gleyber Torres. It’s been a dream for this kid from the Bronx who always was pictured as a kid with Yankees pinstripes. It’s all a part of this Yankees revival and something that seemed improbable a month ago.
“You come here and want to be a part of something,” he said. “Not only doing good on the field, but earning the respect of the guys in the locker room.”
No doubt, there is something special going on here.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso