Yankees Continue to Beat “Bad” Teams…

Aaron Hicks / Photo Credit: UPI

Red Sox Hardly Resemble Last October’s Champions…

Maybe Jared Carrabis is right and the Yankees can only beat bad teams. Case in point, the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the punchless Boston Red Sox. Seriously, I continue to be amazed by a team missing its top stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar. If you removed a half-dozen of their very best players, I am not sure the Minnesota Twins or the Houston Astros, the league leaders with 38 wins, would be where they are today. The Yankees sit one game back in wins at 37, and the second best overall record (winning percentage) behind the Twins.

Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP

I can’t say enough great things about DJ LeMahieu. As much as I wanted Manny Machado last winter, I never complained about the Yankees’ signing of LeMahieu. Living in Denver, I was able to see, day in and day out, how great LeMahieu is. He’s not a vocal guy and simply lets his play do his talking for him. Game after game in Denver, you’d hear DJ’s teammates with the Rockies talk about how much he meant to the them. When Colorado’s best players, such as Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, talked about how special LeMahieu was, you knew what you saw with your own eyes was the truth. The guy can play baseball. I am not saying LeMahieu is as good as or better than Machado, but LeMahieu is exactly what this team needs.  I had really felt bad for LeMahieu in the off-season when so many Yankee fans were trashing him and most felt he was a product of Coors Field. Sorry, altitude does not improve the ability to hit. It may help balls carry but that’s never been DJ’s game. I am sure that sliders don’t slide or cutters don’t cut like they would at sea level but it still comes down to hand/eye coordination. In 51 games and 221 plate appearances for everybody’s favorite team, I believe LeMahieu has proven he can hit outside of the Mile High City. He is batting .317/.368/.462 with .355 wOBA and 121 wRC+. He has hit 6 home runs (a figure he has only exceeded twice in his career with 11 in 2016, the year he won the NL batting title, and 15 last year). Last night against the Red Sox, LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double in the bottom of the third and a home run, a solo shot in the fifth, both off Red Sox starter Chris Sale, for two RBIs. He was dazzling with the leather too.

DJ LeMahieu / Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes was among the very first, if not the first, to suggest last Winter that LeMahieu to the Yanks made sense. I was unable to find the post or I would link it here. I am sure that Yankees special consultant Jim Hendry, the man responsible for originally drafting LeMahieu when he was the Chicago Cubs GM, already had his eyes on his former pupil. But Daniel had great vision for a fan, with no professional affiliation to the team, to see how nicely LeMahieu would fit into the Yankees’ lineup.

LeMahieu certainly has my vote for Yankees MVP at this point in the season. I am not trying to minimize the contributions Domingo German and Giovanny Urshela have made, or the resurrection of The Kraken in the Bronx. LeMahieu has helped solve last year’s problem with runners in scoring position. He has helped those guys who would have been stranded last year step on home plate on their way back to the dugout this season.

After the game last night, Manager Aaron Boone said “He’s out there to rip your heart out” after prefacing it by saying not to be fooled by DJ’s quiet demeanor. When asked about Boone’s comment, DJ just smiled and said “I don’t know about that”. I mentioned it to a friend, a die-hard Rockies fan, and she said “That’s DJ…quiet and mighty. He is pretty humble guy”. Humble or not, I’d hate to think where this team would be without LeMahieu.

With Didi Gregorius set to rejoin the Yankees soon, DJ’s role will change since Gleyber Torres will slide from shortstop to second base, but there’s no way the Yankees can remove DJ’s name from the lineup card. I think he’ll see most of his time at third base, but his versatility allows the Yankees to put him at first and drop Louis Linwood Voit III in at DH. Based on this, Kendrys Morales would be the guy I’d cut to make room for Didi. Use the DH as a revolving door for starters to keep a spot open for LeMahieu. I am sure Didi will see a fair share amount of time at DH as he works his way back although it’s incredible to think how great the Yankees will be defensively on the left side with Didi at short and either Gio Urshela or LeMahieu at third. Not trying to take anything away from the brilliant job Torres has done at short, but Didi is my shortstop…until he’s not. I really hope the Yankees move to sign him to an extension now that he’s healthy. The potential for a lack of motivation by the Yankees exists given how well Torres and LeMahieu performed as the keystone combo. I am not complaining about how well they played but I really do not want to lose Didi after this season.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre “Red Barons” Shortstop 5-31-19 / Photo Credit: Jason Farmer, The Citizen’s Voice

With the calendar page turning to June, the talk about Dallas Keuchel should intensify. Well, it’s been intensifying for weeks but now that the MLB Draft is upon us in a couple of days and the drop of the qualifying offer/draft pick compensation attached to Keuchel, Keuchel’s market should finally form since the only cost will be money. If you believe Keuchel’s agent, Scott Boras, Keuchel is nearly in plug-and-play condition and would not require much time to get ready. Boras would never lead us astray, would he? Honestly, I’ve never been too excited about Keuchel and feel he is regressed from that pitcher that used to absolutely dominate the Yankees.  But, there’s no denying he is still a good pitcher and could help. If the Yankees don’t sign him, I could easily see the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox make the move. I’d rather have Keuchel pitch for us than against us.  If you told me that I could have either Madison Bumgarner, for prospects, or Keuchel, for money, I’d take the latter. The Yankees need rotation help as there are still too many questions with the current rotation. I’d take Max Scherzer, with the high cost in prospects, above all, but that’s a topic for next month’s trade deadline.

Everyone has been talking about how the Yankees blew it by not signing Patrick Corbin last winter. I recognize that he started off very well in Washington, but last night’s line was very ugly.  65 pitches in 2 2/3rd innings which led to 11 hits for the Cincinnati Reds and 8 runs (6 earned). Corbin still has a decent overall ERA at 3.46 but it’s not as nice as it was entering the game. I know, there’s no pitcher immune from a bad game but it’s reinforcement about how fickle pitching can be. We saw it yesterday in pushing perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale’s record to 1-7 despite Sale’s 10 strikeouts. @Eric_M888 had the best tweet after the game: “Can’t spell saLLLLLLLe without 7 L’s”.

Sandy Leon and Chris SaLLLLLLLe / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP

This is not a game recap but I’d be remiss for not calling out the great throw by Gary Sanchez with two outs and two on to nail former Yank Eduardo Nunez off second base for the final out in the top of the fifth. The Red Sox could have done some damage with the bat in the hands of Andrew Benintendi, who likes Yankee Stadium dingers, but it was not to be. It was simply a fantastic play by Sanchez, showing off his brilliant arm, but give equal credit to Gleyber Torres for the across the bag swipe of Nunez a split second before his hand reached the bag. The reaction by Torres was priceless and I am sure it will be a highlight replayed again and again as the season progresses. I felt that was the true turning point of the game.

Gary Sanchez / Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Thanks to the win and a Rays loss (5-3 to the Minnesota Twins), the Yankees (37-19) moved up to a game and a half lead over the Rays in the AL East. The Red Sox are 8 1/2 games back. The Yankees’ record in May (20-7) was the best since their magical 1998 season. A successful June can start today with a win.  Domingo German (9-1, 3.43 ERA) goes for his tenth win after failing last week against the Kansas City Royals. He’ll be opposed by Rick Porcello (4-4, 4.41 ERA). I’d really like to see German nail down that tenth win but as long as the Yankees emerge victorious, I will be happy.

As always, Go Yankees!

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