Now that was one entertaining week of baseball for the sport’s most famous team, capped by a game-ending triple play, their third three-ball (to use Aaron Boone’s vernacular) of the season and second in four days. Crazy!
Good on the Yankees for responding to their lost weekend in Philadelphia, the manager and his players collectively stepping up after Boone declared, “We’re going to find out what kind of character we’re made of” June 13 at Citizens Bank Park. Sunday’s 2-1 squeaker over the A’s at Yankee Stadium, a Father’s Day thriller, marked their fifth win in six tries since then, each time the Yankees digging out from deficits with late rallies.
It surely represents a lift for the Yankees (38-33) and their demanding fan base. It almost certainly can’t be sustained in this fashion. Hence these last six games, first a sweep of the dangerous Blue Jays in Buffalo and then taking two out of three from Oakland here, will serve either as a springboard to more consistent excellence or the most painful tease to date.
“We’re playing good baseball. That was a really good team to take the series from them,” Jordan Montgomery said of the A’s (44-29). “We’ve just got to keep doing little things right.”
Like defense, of course, the Yankees reacting flawlessly when, after Aroldis Chapman walked the first two batters to start the ninth, Sean Murphy stroked a bouncer to Gio Urshela for the 5-4-3 triple-killing. Like baserunning, as when Aaron Judge motored home from first base on Gary Sanchez’s game-winning, sixth-inning, two-run double. Sanchez, explaining afterward that he was trying to allow Judge to score by drawing attention his way (eh), kept going to third, where he seemed a dead duck, catcher Aramis Garcia relaying the ball to third baseman Matt Chapman, until Sanchez somehow avoided the on-his-keister Chapman’s tag.
“Too soon,” Boone said, smiling, when asked by a smarmy reporter (OK, it was me) whether he had worked with Sanchez on his elusiveness there.
Like stellar relief pitching, Arbitrage All-Star Lucas Luetge working around Chapman’s one-out, eighth-inning triple as the Yankees deemed Zack Britton unavailable due to “soreness” and then Chapman, battling a broken nail on his throwing hand, overcoming his rough start to record his fourth save of the week in four tries.
That Sanchez stayed at third following his mad sixth-inning dash, Giancarlo Stanton (strikeout) and Gleyber Torres (grounder to third) failing to cash in an insurance run, served as a reminder that the Yankees aren’t a steamroller quite yet. While these were “really quality wins,” Boone said accurately, it would behoove them to mix in a few easier, more boring ones. To receive more consistent starting pitching under the sticky-substance crackdown and hit better with runners in scoring position (they were 1-for-5 on Sunday) so that they don’t require every bounce and umpire’s call to go their way.
Monday’s off day provides the Yankees an opportunity to feel good about themselves, no one more so than Sanchez, whose two doubles lifted his OPS to .820 and who amazingly has won back this crowd that understandably had written him off altogether. Then they must build off the goodwill that they have created. First come the lousy Royals for three games and then the Yankees will head north for their first 2021 visit to Fenway Park, a chance to avenge the Red Sox’s three-game sweep in The Bronx earlier this month.
In just one week, the Yankees changed their vibe, quieted down the calls for the entire organization to be imploded. However, already this season they showed how quickly good times can sour. Can they put that roller-coaster ride behind them now and become more ferris-wheel steady? If it isn’t absolutely now or never, it would be very risky to not leverage this springboard, one built by passing their latest character test, into higher ground.
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