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The Yankees’ lineup is finally fully optimized

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Almost all year, the Yankees have been able to point to their injury-ravaged lineup as an excuse. Not anymore.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

For a team with as many great offensive weapons as the 2018 Yankees, it sure has been difficult at times to watch the lineups that Aaron Boone had to put out day after day. There were key stretches in August where Triple-A fill-ins Shane Robinson and Kyle Higashioka were getting regular lineup time and career infielder Neil Walker was a regular starter in right field. Not surprisingly, August may have been the Yankees’ worst month of the season.

While it should be noted that it is exceedingly uncommon for a team to field a fully healthy lineup at any given time, the Yankees almost never had that ability this year. There was one game, on Memorial Day, when the Yankees ran out a full lineup. Here’s what it looked like then:

Brett Gardner, Miguel Andujar, and Neil Walker aside, everybody on that list missed at least some time with injuries this year. Again, this is normal in professional sports. However, good teams have cohesive lineups that can gel for stretches at a time. Many Yankees fans can recite the full lineup, one-through-nine, of their favorite Yankees championship team (2009 Robinson Cano has to be the best regular #7 hitter in history). This was a luxury that the Bombers did not have this year as injuries tried their best to ruin the Yankees’ season.

Now though, with the playoffs a mere two weeks away, the Yankees are in an extraordinary position. Not only do they have a fully healthy lineup, but they’ve also upgraded that lineup during the season. Check out Aaron Boone’s lineup from Wednesday night’s game against the Red Sox:

As great a Yankee as Brett Gardner has been, he has slumped badly this year and Andrew McCutchen is a massive improvement atop the lineup. Luke Voit has also provided new life after Greg Bird limped his way through 2018 at the plate. Gardner and Bird are at least decent bats off the bench, as is Walker. The Yankees, on paper, appear to be loaded!

Meanwhile, back when the Yankees were trying to get by with various injuries, the Red Sox seemed to have nothing go wrong. However, the Yankees are now in the more fortunate position. Chris Sale has thrown nine innings since July 27, Mookie Betts has a side injury, Andrew Benintendi is banged up, and Dustin Pedroia is out for the year. The Red Sox are still winning, albeit at a lesser pace than before. They are still superior to the Yankees at this point in time, but they are looking a little more beatable on paper than they did a few weeks ago.

The onus now falls on the big names to actually live up to expectations. Judge has to come back at full strength, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks need to pick it up, and Gary Sanchez has to be the player he’s capable of being. They will be picked up by those around them at times, but a team’s biggest stars have to shine the brightest in October. Right now, the Yankees are in the position of running out a lineup almost entirely made of stars. There are no more excuses.

While the Yankees’ offense has been frustrating at times this year, it’s important to remember that the Yankees weren’t playing at full capacity for almost the whole season. Now, they are there. The Yankees are running out of time to start winning some more ballgames, and with this lineup at Aaron Boone’s disposal, the victories should come. It is imperative that the Yankees enter the postseason with some confidence, and nothing does the trick like a few wins over the Red Sox. The pieces that Brian Cashman assembled over the course of the last 10 months are finally all together. Now, it’s time to get to work.