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Game 106: Gil dominates O’s in MLB debut

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Well, that’s more like it. A day after being outclassed by a cat that escaped onto the field, the Yankees stormed back with a nice and easy 13-1 victory which is how it should be against the Orioles. Luis Gil had an incredible MLB debut and the bats showed up to back the rookie. Onto the takeaways:

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Game 104: Yanks mount comeback to sweep Marlins

They finally did it! After being 4-10 in potential sweep clinching games and 13-25 in day games, the Yankees pulled off the comeback win fueled by some poor defense by the Marlins to win this one for the sweep. That is their first series sweep since June against the Blue Jays. They are now a season-high 8 games over .500 at 56-48 and just 1 game back in the loss column for a playoff spot. And, they play their next 10 against the lowly Orioles, Mariners, and Royals. To the takeaways:

Thoughts Before the Biggest Stretch of the Season

Well, this is going just as we expected: the Yankees have won 9 of their last 12 games, even after a COVID-19 outbreak sidelined some of the most important players on the roster. The Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailBirds Yankees have really stepped up – and very well may have saved the season. That was just the bare minimum, though. The Yankees now face their toughest and most important stretch of the season.

Suffice to say, I have some thoughts. Let’s get to ’em.

1. Setting the Stakes: So, yeah. The Yanks are now on the road, where they’ll play four in Boston and three in Tampa Bay. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say it will make or break their season – or at least their chances at a division title. If they go on a tear, they’re right back in it. If they get demolished, their chances are all but gone. And if they tread water, well, they still have a chance, but they made it a whole hell of a lot more difficult.

The Yankees currently sit 7 games behind Boston (6 in the loss column) for first place of the division. They’re 6 games behind Tampa (5 in the loss column) for second place. This stretch will be crucial. (They’ll still have a chance in the Wild Card, where they’re the team just outside the dance, 3.5 games behind Oakland, though it’s just 2 in the loss column.) Their playoff odds, per FanGraphs, stand at 43.4% going into the big stretch.

That will change a lot over the next week.Unfortunately, the Yankees will at least start the weekend still playing shorthanded. Aaron Judge won’t be back until at least Sunday, nor will Gio Urshela or Kyle Higashioka. (It’s theoretically possible that they’ll return sooner, at least the vaccinated among them – but we’ve heard nothing to that effect so far.) There is some good news, though: the Yanks could get both Jonathan Loaisiga and Nestor Cortes Jr. back this weekend.

Loaisiga rejoined the team on Tuesday, threw on flat ground, tossed a bullpen, and is expected to be activated for the weekend. Boone also hinted, earlier this week, that Cortes could also return against Boston. It doesn’t solve the roster crunch – I’d prefer the Yankees attack be at full strength right now – but it’s better than nothing.

Finally, the Yanks’ rotation is well-positioned going into this stretch. There won’t be any former Oriole reclamation projects, bullpen games, or fliers, barring injury. The starters line up as such:

  • Thursday, July 22 (@ BOS): Jordan Montgomery
  • Friday, July 23 (@ BOS): Gerrit Cole
  • Saturday, July 24 (@ BOS): Jameson Taillon
  • Sunday, July 25 (@ BOS): Domingo Germán
  • Tuesday, July 27 (@ TB): Jordan Montgomery
  • Wednesday, July 28 (@ TB): Gerrit Cole
  • Thursday, July 29 (@ TB): Jameson Taillon

That is good news. Cole, Taillon, and Montgomery are clearly the Yanks’ best, most-reliable starters right now. (If that’s a good thing is a different question.) They’ll be taking the mound in 6 of the 7 biggest games of the season. Can’t ask for much more than that. Now they need to go out and perform. Wouldn’t hurt to get a 2006 or 2009 mid-summer sweep of Boston going. Is that too much to ask?

Game 92: Taillon, small ball, and long ball

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Just when you thought the Yankees were dead, they win two of three from the first place Red Sox by taking tonight’s rubber game, 9-1. I gotta say: I was preparing myself for a sweep after they fell behind 1-0 yesterday and looked pretty lifeless. So much for that.

With tonight’s win, the Yankees are now 7.5 games out of first place (six in the loss column). That’s still a big hill to climb, though these two sides meet again this weekend at Fenway Park. There’s also Toronto and Tampa Bay in between, of course. Meanwhile, the Bombers are 3.5 games (two in the loss column) out of a Wild Card spot. The season is far from over, as unpleasant as it’s been.

Tonight’s victory featured a little bit of everything. Jameson Taillon looked sharp, the bullpen did its thing, and the offense contributed a mix of small ball and long ball. Let’s break it down right after the jump.

The Yankees are still waiting for Gleyber Torres to find his power

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There were a number of reasons to write off Gleyber Torres’ down 2020 campaign. Mainly: the pandemic-shortened season and all the oddities that came with it. That, along with a strong September and postseason, made it seem pretty likely that the 2018-2019 Gleyber would return during a more normal 2021 campaign. Except, of course, his form hasn’t. Torres now has a .248/.328/.326 (87 wRC+) in 260 plate appearances this season. Most alarming is his absent power, with just three homers and a .078 isolated power.

Torres blasted 62 home runs in 1,088 plate appearances to start his career. There were some pretty lofty projections about his home run output thereafter. You surely remember that ZiPS forecast, right? You know, the one that projected Gleyber to swat 85 homers from 2020 to 2021 (this projection came before COVID-19 and assumed two 162 game seasons). Instead, Torres has just six homers in 420 plate appearances since 2020. Six! 85 may have seemed high, but I’d have expected Torres’s results to be much closer to that than six. Frankly, it’s hard to fathom Gleyber’s power outage. And yet, it also feels like the new normal.

Even when Torres was hitting well this season, his power wasn’t there. As good as he was when he returned from COVID-19 in late May (.356/.415/.479, 150 wRC+ across 83 PA), he only hit two bombs and posted a .123 ISO. And since then: Torres is 2-for-33 with a double, three walks, and 14 strikeouts. That includes last night’s golden sombrero.

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