The Yankees have won six games in a row, outscoring their opponents 25-9.
That very small sample size is one way to look at the club’s recent success on the field. Thing is, though, the Yankees have been playing very good baseball for quite a while, so you could also point out that they’ve won 12 of their past 15 games, that they’re 16-5 in May or you could note that they’re 19-6 in their past 25 contests.
If you wanted to back up to their lowest point of the season, when a five-game losing skid — to division foes Toronto and Tampa Bay — left them five games under .500 at 5-10, you could say they’re 23-9 since then, starting with a win on April 20. That’s the best record in baseball in that stretch. The 19-6 record is the best stretch in that particular time, their May record is tied with the Rays for best in the bigs and the 12-3 mark is a half-game behind the Dodgers and Padres, both of whom are 12-2.
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Regardless how you choose to break it down, here’s the bottom line: The Yankees were once alone in last place in the AL East, five games behind the Red Sox. Now, they’re only a half-game out of first place, a spot shared by the Red Sox and Rays.
This is, of course, right where most expected the Yankees to reside, at or near the top of the AL standings. The Red Sox, Rays and Yankees have the best three records in the AL. Let’s take a look at five resurgent players most responsible for the Bronx resurgence.
And because we’re only looking at players who have turned up their impact after slow starts, there will be no further mentions of ace Gerrit Cole or closer Aroldis Champan. Both have been stellar from the very start of the 2021 campaign.
The mighty slugger was chugging along with a frustrating .158 average and .238 slugging percentage, with the occasional laser home run, but mostly strikeouts and other plate appearances that ended in frustration. But then, he caught fire, as he tends to do. For a 12-game stretch starting with a two-homer game in Cleveland on April 23, Stanton hit .500 with five homers, four doubles, 10 RBIs and 10 runs scored. The Yankees went 8-3 in that stretch, pulling from five games under .500 (at 6-11) all the way back to .500 (14-14). He’s currently on the IL with a left quad strain but should be back soon.
Look, the Yankees knew there would be a bit of rust as the two-time Cy Young winner tried to reestablish his career at 35 years old after injuries basically wiped out his 2019-20 seasons. And through his first four starts, Kluber had a 5.40 ERA and failed to make it out of the fifth inning even once. Since then, though? In five starts, he has a 1.78 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. And you know all about the gem of that batch, the no-hitter he threw against the Rangers, his former team.
Here’s another factor that can’t be overlooked: The Yankees have only lost back-to-back games twice since bottoming out at five games under .500, and the games that stopped those mini-skids from turning into losing streaks were both started by Kluber. He threw a combined 12 1/3 innings in games against the Orioles and Nationals, allowing three runs and striking out 11.
In his first 16 games this season, Torres batted just .186 with zero homers and only one RBI. Needless to say, it was a disappointing start for a two-time All-Star entering his Age 24 season. He’d just started to heat up when he had to miss seven games while on the COVID IL. Small sample size, sure, but here are his numbers in the five games since he returned to the field: .611 average, .833 slugging, 1.465 OPS, eight RBI, one home run. The Yankees have won all five of those games.
It’s been a season of ups and downs for Judge. For example, he went 5-for-9 with a double, two homers and eight RBIs in back-to-back games April 30 and May 1 (both Yankees wins), then followed that with a seven-game stretch during which he batted .083 with 14 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits. He followed that with his current hot streak; he’s batting .457 with five homers, 21 hits and only eight Ks in 13 games, and the Yankees are 10-3 in that stretch. He had seven walks in those 13 games, none bigger than his walk-off walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning against the White Sox on Sunday.
The Yankees lost the first two games German started this year. And, sure, a big reason they lost those two contests was offensive struggles — they scored a total of one run — but German didn’t exactly help, allowing three runs in three innings in his first start and four in four innings in his second one. In those seven innings, he allowed 12 hits, including four home runs. Not exactly “keep your team in the game” stuff. And in his third start, against Cleveland on April 22, he allowed three runs in the opening inning.
Since then, though, he’s been brilliant. The righthander shut out Cleveland over the next five innings of that game, then pitched seven shutout innings against Baltimore in his next start. In the 36 1/3 innings since that first frame in Cleveland, German’s ERA is 1.49, and the Yankees have won all six of his starts.