Down 2-1 in the fourth inning at Boston on Saturday, Sept. 29, rookie sensation Gleyber Torres sent a towering fly ball over the right field wall for the Yankees 265th home run of the season, surpassing the previous record of 264 set by the 1997 Mariners.
Gleyber’s home run simultaneously made the Yankees the first team in baseball history to hit 20 home runs from every spot in the batting order (1-9). Co-rookie Miguel Andújar added some records of his own, smacking his 45th two-bagger of the season. he surpassed the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, who had 44 in 1936, while also becoming only the third Yankee rookie ever to hit 27 home runs joining Aaron Judge (52 in 2017) and DiMaggio (29 in 1936).
For the New York Yankees, 2018 has been a year of records, rookies and rectification.
These youngsters, along with others like Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and even newly found first baseman Luke Voit have transformed this franchise from an aging, inconsistent team into, yet again, a perennial powerhouse. Done are the days of ruminating on the great Yankee players, teams and championships of the past. We have a new and exciting generation of October baseball ahead of us.
As I mentioned in our last issue, it’s usually the teams who finish the strongest that are the most successful in the postseason. During their last four series’ of the season against Boston (twice), Baltimore and Tampa Bay, the Bombers came out victorious in all. They won nine of those last 14 games to get to the 100 win total, all while sealing home-field in the American League Wild Card game.
However, no matter how you slice it, the postseason is going to be tough facing nothing but the cream of the crop.
As we saw last season when Joe Girardi opted not to challenge the “hit by pitch” in Cleveland, managing plays a critical role in the postseason.
This year, new manager Aaron Boone has certainly had his ups and downs. My biggest issue with him was benching the hot bat of Tyler Austin for the prospective star Greg Bird. Austin finished the season in Minnesota where he amassed 17 home runs, 47 RBI’s and a .230 average over 69 games. Bird rode the bench much of the season and tallied 11 home runs, 38 RBI’s and .199 average over 82 games.
In just over a month, Voit has emerged as the Yankees clear choice to be the starting first baseman in the postseason. In 39 games with the Yanks, Voit hit .333 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI’s.
Postseason experience aside, Bird is simply not the answer at first. In fact, with super-utility Neil Walker on the bench, it’s not a guarantee that Bird will even make the postseason roster.
Last season showed us that the emotion and energy of the playoffs can transform a player. Masahiro Tanaka went 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA in the 2017 regular season, before going 2-1 with a 0.90 in the postseason. This makes Boone’s decision at first base that much harder.
In the case of a victory Wednesday night the Yankees will need to prepare a three-man rotation for the ALDS against the best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. We know it will consist of Cy Young candidate Severino and the aforementioned Tanaka, however, the third starter is up in the air. With the loads of experience and success veteran CC Sabathia has had in the postseason, he is certainly an option. However, Boone may also decide to go with newly acquired JA Happ who had an impressive 7-0 record and 2.69 ERA in 11 starts as a Yank.
Either way, the Yankees will have plenty of bullpen help with long relievers like Lance Lynn and Sonny Gray supplementing this historically great bullpen.
The real question for this team heading into the postseason is the consistency of their bats. This is a team that has gone through stretches where they have scored over 30 runs in four game periods while having also been no-hit deep into games.
When this team was at it’s best in the first half of the season, they had all their pieces working: a complete and healthy bench, solid rotation, unhittable pen’ and a consistent lineup. This season looks as if it’s coming full circle for the Bombers. They are back to beating Boston, scoring runs and most importantly, winning ball games. Are they getting hot at the right time? I can’t wait to find out.
Let the chase for 28 begin. Until next week, Yankees fans.