Yankees Thoughts: Statement Series Win

Yankees take two of three from A's in biggest series win of season

The Yankees followed up their series sweep of the Blue Jays by blowing a late one-run lead to the A’s. Instead of putting together another losing streak, they put together two come-from-behind wins in the second and third games of the series.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. That was easily the biggest series win of the season for the Yankees. Coming off a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays and following Friday night’s disappointing loss, it would have been very 2021 Yankees for them to lose again on Saturday and then on Sunday as well. But rather than let Aaron Boone’s mismanagement of a 3-2 lead in an eventual 5-3 loss ruin their weekend, the Yankees battled back with comeback wins on both Saturday and Sunday. If the team has truly turned their season around, we will look back at the week they swept the Blue Jays and took two of three from the then-best team in the American League as the exact point of when they did.

2. The Friday pitching matchup between Jameson Taillon and James Kaprielian couldn’t be a better way to sum up Brian Cashman’s inability to trade for and away starting pitching in his tenure as general manager. The Yankees picked Kaprielian in the first round of the 2015 draft and traded him to Oakland in 2017 to acquire Sonny Gray. The Yankees traded Kaprielian, Dustin Fowler and Jorge Mateo for Gray. They ended up trading Gray after 2018 to the Reds for Shed Long. They then traded Long to the Mariners for Josh Stowers. Stowers was traded to the Rangers for Odor. The Yankees used Kaprielian (2.84 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 38 innings for first the A’s) to acquire Gray (3.14 ERA and 1.148 WHIP in 52 starts for the Reds) and all they have to show for it is the .194/.263/.388-hitting Odor who the Rangers are paying $27 million to not play for them.

3. Kaprielian was good in the series opener (5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 2 HR), earning the win, while Taillon failed to get through five innings once again (4.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR). Both pitchers have injury histories and are always one pitch away from being out for an extended period of time again (like any pitcher, really), but there’s no doubt as to which pitcher the Yankees would be better off with.

4. Yes, that was Gary Sanchez batting third on Saturday for the A’s. It feels like it’s been a decade since Sanchez last batted that high in the order for the Yankees, but if you remember, he the team’s 3- and 4-hitter when they came within a game of the World Series in 2017. (Joe Girardi was smart enough to bat Aaron Hicks in the bottom third of the lineup.) Sanchez continued his career resurgence by going 3-for-7 with two doubles, a home run and a walk against the A’s, while batting third on both Saturday and Sunday.

5. Sanchez’s on-base percentage sits at .340, a number he hasn’t seen since 2017 (.345), and his OPS is back over .800 at .820. He’s on a 34-home run pace over 162 games and is three doubles away from matching his 2019 total (12), which he did in double the amount of games played. Sanchez is back (hitting .344/.408/.719 since May 27) and if he’s back for good, I just got a lot more optimistic about this Yankees season.

6. We will find out on Tuesday night how serious Boone is about putting the best team on the field to win. If Kyle Higashioka is starting because Gerrit Cole is starting, we will have our answer. Tuesday is a night game, Wednesday is a night games and Thursday is a day game. If Sanchez doesn’t catch on Tuesday, that means he’s only going to catch and possibly play in one of three games in a series (since Giancarlo Stanton can’t play the field still)? That can’t happen. But I expect it to.

7. The best possible Yankees lineup right now:

DJ LeMahieu, 2B
Aaron Judge, CF
Gary Sanchez, C
Giancarlo Stanton, RF
Luke Voit, 1B
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Gio Urshela, 3B
Miguel Andujar, DH
Clint Frazier, LF

Unfortunately, that’s not even close to happening.

8. Every year I think “All-Star Game voting, already?” The Yankees have played 71 games and the season is 44 percent complete. Sanchez seems like he’s now headed for the All-Star Game, and if he keeps up his current production, he could even start. He will likely join Cole and Aaron Judge, and I would think Aroldis Chapman as well. Pretty poor showing from the Yankees in voting to this point, but it’s to be expected with how bad they have been this season.

9. The game-ending triple play on Sunday had me thinking maybe this season is going to be special. While the Yankees have won five of six, the Rays have lost six straight, and now the Yankees trail Boston by four games in the loss column and the Rays by three. The insurmountable division deficit has become very surmountable thanks to a rare Rays losing streak coupled with the loss of their staff ace in Tyler Glasnow. Three of the Rays’ losses in this six-game losing streak have come by one run and four of them have come in extra innings, all walk-off losses. The Yankees needed the Rays to falter at some point to have a chance at getting back in the division, and it has happened. Not only that, but it happened as soon as the Rays took their biggest lead over the Yankees. As for the currently-in-first-place Red Sox, yeah, I’m not worried about them.

10. I’m worried about the next three days. The Yankees play the Royals, while the Rays and Red Sox play each other. One of the two teams above the Yankees is going to win over the next three days, and it’s the Yankees job to make sure they don’t lose. The Royals aren’t good and the Yankees have Cole going in the first game of the series. This is an enormously important three days and three games and it’s followed by a weekend series against the Red Sox.

For the first time in a while, I feel good about the Yankees. This week will determine how long that feeling lasts.

Subscribe to the Keefe To The City Podcast. New episode after every game during the season.

My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!