It took them 21 games, but the Yankees finally put together a three-game winning streak.
That the third victory came against the Minnesota Twins, who can be relied upon to play the foil for the Yankees on an annual basis, mattered little. The big takeaway from a 14-1 victory at Yankee Stadium was that, for the first time this season, the Yankees looked like the older, more-experienced version of the 2017 team that had been expected this year.
By this point last season, the Yankees had already put together an eight-game win streak and were tied with the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East, at 14-7.
The 2018 Yankees (12-9) were supposed to be an unequivocal improvement, having added the National League’s most valuable player, Giancarlo Stanton, to their already potent lineup and bolstered their young infield with several reliable veterans.
But for the first two weeks of the season, the new parts hadn’t quite meshed and the Yankees seemed stuck in neutral, hovering around .500.
They seem to have found a new gear in the last three games. Monday’s win nudged the Yankees to within five games of the first-place Boston Red Sox, who have lost two straight games and were victims of a no-hitter on Saturday night.
“Tonight was a great night, up and down the lineup,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said.
It is still early, of course, with about 87 percent of the season still to be played, but the win streak is the first indication that this rebuilt, retooled and significantly younger Yankees team might be equipped to challenge, or exceed, the unexpected success of the 2017 version, which came within one win of going to the World Series.
Masahiro Tanaka bounced back from a pair of poor outings to work into the seventh inning against the Twins, allowing one run on three hits, and the rookie infielder Miguel Andujar homered in the second inning and doubled in the sixth, and now has 12 extra-base hits out of his 18 hits this season.
They also got a significant contribution from Stanton, who was on base five times, with a walk and four hits — including a towering solo home run in the fifth and a run-scoring single in the seventh. Gary Sanchez and Tyler Austin each doubled in two runs as well.
“As a hitter you love to have those nights,” Boone said of Stanton. “Especially if you’ve gotten off to a tough start.”
But the exclamation point on a resounding victory was provided by Didi Gregorius, the team leader in home runs, with seven, who blasted a grand slam over the right-field wall in the eighth inning.
Even Gleyber Torres, the Yankees’ long-awaited infield prospect who went hitless and stranded seven runners in his major league debut on Sunday, joined the fun. He singled in the eighth inning for his first major-league hit, and later scored the first run of his big-league career on Gregorius’ home run.
It was unquestionably the Yankees’ most impressive all-around performance of the young season, even if it came at the expense of the Twins, a team they have beaten in 11 of their last 15 meetings, including last year’s wild-card playoff game.
It got so one-sided that Twins Manager Paul Molitor raised the white flag during the Yankees’ six-run eighth inning, waving in center fielder Ryan LaMarre to pitch in an effort to conserve his bullpen.
LaMarre succeeded in getting two outs, but not before Austin jumped on an offering clocked at 72 miles per hour and sent it deep into the left-field bleachers for a two-run home run that completed the Yankees’ scoring.
The hitting was to be expected of a lineup boasting Stanton, Sanchez, Gregorius and Aaron Judge, but the pitching, especially the starting pitching, has been a question mark. Tanaka provided some encouragement as his was the third consecutive game in which a Yankee starter has gone at least six innings.
Tanaka had allowed six earned runs in each of his two previous starts, and perhaps more worrisome, had surrendered at least one home run in each of his first five starts this season after allowing 35 home runs, third most in the American League, in 2017. But showing sharp downward movement on his outpitch, the split-fingered fastball, Tanaka kept the Twins in the ballpark, allowing his only run on a Brian Dozier single in the fifth.
The Yankees acquired right-hander A.J. Cole from the Washington Nationals in exchange for cash considerations.
Published at Tue, 24 Apr 2018 04:32:10 +0000