Six runs in the first inning Saturday afternoon in the Bronx and Aaron Judge set the tone leading off. He would single again in the same inning and the Yankees had a six run bonanza. They never looked back and tacked on more.
This Yankees 10-3 win, at least for the moment, shut down the surging Tampa Bay Rays who had won 20 of their last 25. But the Yankees had that invincible 15-½ game lead in the division and the Rays made this a race.
So, the Yankees have won the season series with the finale Sunday afternoon, and as I always say, there is a baseball team in the Bronx of the “Haves and Have Nots,” or they can be labeled a team with bi- polar tendencies.
Saturday, we got a taste again. The Yankees hit and scored runs. Josh Donaldson returned to the lineup after a brief paternity leave and hit a home run. Giancarlo Stanton, conspicuous in this lineup, hit his first home run since the All-Star break.
And if Stanton can remain in the lineup, Judge returns to his normal three hole. If Stanton follows, or they are back-to-back in the lineup that’s a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Judge has been walked numerous times to avoid that home run threat.
Yes, Saturday the Rays had a bad day, but they will not go away because they have a balanced lineup and overall can pitch. Are we saying here that the Yankees, based on the past two months, will lose this division and be one of three AL Wild card teams?
Difficult to say this division race is over. It’s more difficult to determine what this win Saturday will do for the Yankees as they one-by-one get back to health and attempt to resemble a team that dominated baseball for three months.
Friday night, it was another Yankees stinker as the Captain Derek Jeter returned to Yankee Stadium with his 2020 Hall of Fame Cooperstown plaque on display on the field. He got more of the cheers along with his former Yankees teammates.
And it was the only reason for Yankees’ fans to cheer because again their miserable offensive struggles continued as the second place Rays inched closer.
Aaron Hicks was benched with his botched plays in left field. All for the better because he was hurting the Yankees in the lineup, swinging at bad pitches and killing potential run scoring opportunities.
Saturday, though, it was without Hicks. It was different against a Rays team that was determined to sweep three games, now looking to take two-of-three Sunday afternoon, because they have been the better team and are slowly getting back to health with missing pieces back in the lineup.
Do the math because the Rays are within 4-½ games of first place, three in the loss column with 25 games remaining, so by all means this is a race.
But manager Aaron Boone said the win, with 11 men coming to bat in that first inning, was all good. It was a change of pace, as Boone said, “Moving the line, a collection of really good at bats and two-strike at bats.”
“Certainly, it put us in a great spot,” he said. Even a better spot because his team got a momentum builder. Boone and the Yankees can only hope this continues because the past three weeks his team had a few good wins, and it appeared they would become the dominant team again but fell back into their losing ways.
Judge is locked in and it’s not only the home run ball. The Yankees, though, seem to win when Judge hits another one out of the yard and get the lead. He is the first Yankee to reach base at least three times in seven straight games since Mickey Mantle in 1957.
The Rays’ roster is almost back to full strength, which is another reason the Yankees are attentive to the fact they are not going away anytime soon in these remaining weeks of the season.
No matter the outcome of Sunday, the Yankees avoided a sweep that would have tied them in the loss column, so the Rays have to battle without having any head-to-head meetings scheduled the rest of the season because a tie at the end of the season goes to the Yankees based on this win.
Again, though, the Rays are not going away. The Yankees need to win and move forward down this stretch, with consistency. Sunday will be important as they all are in September.
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