For the past couple weeks, the tides were changing with regard to the Yankees as a franchise. The team sold at the deadline for the first time in ages, Mark Teixeira announced his impending retirement, and Alex Rodriguez was given his release papers. Today's game was just one game, played in the middle of August, but it still felt like it might have been the true inflection point.
Just hours after A-Rod scooped up some dirt from third base as the Yankees were processing his release, and minutes after calling back to the past with a ceremony honoring the 1996 World Series Champions, the Yankees' youth movement seemed to go into overdrive. Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and Aaron Judge, all prospects of some regard, batted sixth, seventh, and eighth in the Yankee order. It was Austin and Judge's big league debuts.
And what electric debuts they were. Austin and Judge memorably delivered back to back home runs in their first major league at-bats, and the Yankees defeated the Rays 8-4 to win their fourth straight game. They're 60-56. Now, to those home runs.
Austin's was a bit of Yankee Stadium home run, a well struck opposite field shot just over the right field fence:
Seconds later, Judge showed off his immense raw power in sending a tremendous home run straight out to dead center:
Judge's shot was particularly impressive, travelling an estimated 446 feet. Per the YES Network, this was the first time a pair of teammates hit home runs in their major league debuts on the same day. That they went back to back in doing so is simply unbelievable.
The Rays didn't go down easily, however. Masahiro Tanaka started out in complete control, retiring the first 10 batters of the game. But the Rays used a bunt single, a base hit, and three run home run from Brad Miller to shock Tanaka and grab a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning.
It was a short-lived lead, as Starlin Castro knotted things up with New York's third solo homer of the game. Castro has had a trying season, but he does have an OPS over 1.000 during his past eight games.
Then the Yankees surged right back into the lead in the fifth. Judge notched his second hit with a single, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, and Aaron Hicks crushed a three run homer into the second deck in right to make it 6-3. It was the second straight game with a home run for Hicks, who has shown signs of life recently after appearing to be mostly dead for large swaths of the season.
Miller continued to try to make things interesting, smashing a solo homer in the sixth to make it 6-4, but Didi Gregoius extended the lead to 8-4 with a two run homer in the seventh, the Yankees fifth of the game. In the end, the day belonged to the Yankees and their young players. Two prospects drilling back to back homers in their first at-bats was historic, unprecedented, and undeniably fun.
A successful debut game far from guarantees a productive career for a prospect. There is still a real chance none of the young prospects that played in today's game amount to much. But the glimpse of what could possibly be was nonetheless tantalizing. The Yankees have a bright future, and that future leaked into the present on one hot afternoon in the Bronx. Hopefully, the rest of the season will be similarly exciting as the Yankees start to get an idea of what they have in their legion of prospects.