On the first game after a wild trade deadline, the Yankees beat the Mets 6-5 and I wrote in the recap that there was...something different about this new team. On paper they were worse, sure, but you couldn’t tell from that one game. A weight had been lifted off the roster’s shoulders, a brighter future had been created, and, well, the Yankees were fun again.
At the time, this was nothing more than a stray, and relatively meaningless, observation. Going from a dreary, old, and uninspiring team to an entertaining, energized, and young club is certainly an improvement, but the Yankees were just one game over .500 and had essentially thrown in the towel on 2016. Then, New York became much more than just a fun team...they became a good team.
Since that Mets win, the Yankees have gone 24-13. In that (extremely optimistic) August 1st recap, I wrote “[the Yankees] probably aren’t going to play .600 ball the rest of the way and make the playoffs.” Since then, the Baby Bombers have played .650 baseball and could very well make the playoffs. What this team has done in the past two months in unfathomable, and you could see the results of an incredible evolution on Saturday night.
After starting at 4:30 because of a small rain shower, Masahiro Tanaka toed the rubber and pitched like the ace he is. By the time he left the mound with one out in the top of the eighth inning, Tanaka had struck out 10, ceding just one run on five hits (and no walks). The Yankees’ suddenly watertight relief corps got the job done, with Adam Warren, Richard Bleier, and Tyler Clippard all pitching in for a scoreless 1.2 innings to end the game.
But while the final score of 5-1 may indicate a game the Yankees dominated, it was a bonafide pitchers duel until the sixth inning. Through the first five, the offense mustered just one hit against Chris Archer and baserunners were hard to come by. Then, the Yankees broke it open.
First blood was drawn by a Jacoby Ellsbury two-run home run (his second in six games), quickly followed up by a dinger from Gary Sanchez. Sanchez has quickly rediscovered the home run stroke that earned him two consecutive AL Player of the Week honors, as that was his second home run in two games after a ten-game drought. The Kraken wasn’t done, though, producing one of the most entertaining runs the Yankees have scored all year in the eighth inning.
With no outs and runners on second and third, the Rays attempted to intentionally walk Gary Sanchez. Unexpectedly, the first pitch crept back into the strike zone where it was pummeled by Sanchez to deep centerfield. Although it wasn’t a home run, as it died on the warning track, the sacrifice fly did score Brett Gardner. Later than inning, Jacoby Ellsbury also scored from a sac fly by way of Didi Gregorius to make it 5-1, the final score of the game.
By the end of Saturday, the Yankees will somehow be just three games back in the AL East and one game back in the Wild Card. Not only is the on-field product about as fun as it gets, but New York has been unstoppable as well. After seven straight wins, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen next.