On May 5th, only two weeks ago, the New York Yankees were 17-16 after a 5-4 loss to the league-leading Tampa Bay Rays and barely peeking their head over .500, in last in the AL East, and their injury outlook was among the worst in the league. The next day, things looked just as bleak, with the Bronx Bombers trailing 2-0 through seven innings and appearing destined for another loss at the Trop. Since then, the Yankees are 9-4 and look like one of the best teams in MLB, raising the question, are the Yankees back? Let’s take a look at the complete 180 New York has taken since that day to get back to looking like one of the best in the league.
How the Yankees got back to one of the best in MLB
As the eighth inning started, the guys Aaron Boone once referred to as “savages in that box” knew they had to step up. Anthony Rizzo started it off with a single before Gleyber Torres followed with one of his own, bringing the Yankees a glimmer of hope. DJ LeMahieu followed with a double down the right field line, scoring Rizzo and giving the Yanks hope that they could steal this game. With two outs, fresh-off-the-IL Harrison Bader singled to right field, giving the Yankees a massive 3-2 lead that they would hold on to and showing guts that the team hadn’t shown all year.
While they lost on a walk-off the next day, that May 6th win in Tampa jumpstarted this team, as they proceeded to sweep the Oakland Athletics, winning every game by at least five runs. Oh yeah, and a little-known outfielder by the name of Aaron Judge made his return from injury, giving the Yanks their captain and best hitter back.
The Bronx Battles
Another tough series followed against Tampa, but this time the Yankees didn’t roll over and let the Rays have their way. After a rough loss in game one, the Yankees again were pushed to the brink in the Friday nightcap, conceding a 4-2 lead and letting the Rays take a 5-4 advantage through seven and a half innings. After a Torres groundout, the Yankees captain took the plate. The crowd rose to its feet, anticipating another Aaron Judge blast to add to the record-setting 62 home runs he hit in 2022.
Judge, though, was not distracted by all the hype. He worked the count to full, as he does so often, and drew a walk, giving the Yankees much-needed momentum at a time they needed it most. They only needed one more pitch to capitalize. Anthony Rizzo swung at the first pitch and sent it into the right field seats, giving the Yanks a 6-5 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The next day, through four and a half innings, the Rays found themselves up 6-0 and back in the driver’s seat of this series. The Yankees didn’t care. Four runs in the fifth inning courtesy of Kyle Higashioka and Judge’s two-run shots started the comeback, then the Yankees took the lead for good in the sixth on another home run by number 99. Oswaldo Cabrera tacked on with a two-run single, and in a game that was a snoozer through four and a half, the Yankees had built themselves some breathing room. They needed all of it, as they fended off a late Tampa comeback to win 9-8.
On Sunday, through six and a half innings, the Rays led 8-4, but the Yankees battled back again. Rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe hit a two-run home run to close the gap to one, and Judge came within 10-15 feet of walking it off in the ninth, putting yet another scare into the Rays, who held on to win 8-7. Despite the Sunday loss, the main takeaway from the series was that New York did not play their best baseball or even good baseball, but they found ways to come back and battle against good opposition and split a series that they probably deserved to get swept in, which bodes well for when they put it all together in the future.
The Business Trip
With their most recent series against the Toronto Blue Jays, we’re seeing it all start to come together. New York has been great in this four-game series on the road despite distractions from all over the place threatening to unravel their good play. In game one, Judge was accused of cheating by the Toronto broadcasters after cameras showed him looking over at the Yankee dugout before his second home run to make it 7-0 to the visitors.
In game two, Domingo Germán was ejected and later suspended for ten games for using a foreign substance, and as chatter and vitriol from the Blue Jays dugout ensued, the game was deadlocked at three entering the eighth inning. Then, Aaron Judge unleashed a monster go-ahead home run to center field, hitting it over the batter’s eye and chipping a maple leaf structure that no architect thought would ever be touched by a baseball. He proceeded to cover his eyes as he crossed home plate, presumably mocking Toronto for accusing him of stealing signs, as he delivered a huge 6-3 win to the Bronx Bombers.
Gerrit Cole pitched a beauty in game three of the series, throwing six shutout innings, but the Yanks couldn’t steal another one as Danny Jansen walked it off in the tenth inning to give the Jays their first win of the series.
Yesterday, in the series finale, tempers flared again as there were dust-ups between the two dugouts, but New York, led by their captain, stayed calm, cool, and collected. Judge set the tone with another two-run homer in the first, silencing the Rogers Centre crowd and breaking the all-time Yankee record for home runs against the Blue Jays. Pitching held it down for New York the rest of the way, with embattled outfielder Aaron Hicks and the rookie Volpe delivering clutch hits down the stretch in a 4-2 win.
That moves New York’s record to 26-20, and this team looks like a lot more of a threat than they did two weeks ago, down 2-0 in the 8th inning at the Trop. This is the Yankees team fans expected to see this year, and when stars like Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Rodon come back, New York could make some noise as we get closer to October.
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