Yankees Hold Off Complacency, and Blue Jays, to Secure Sweep Express News
For almost any other team on any other day, a 5-0 deficit in the second inning would have been an excuse to auto-pilot the rest of the afternoon. No one would have blamed the Yankees for looking ahead to their trans-Atlantic trip to London, where they will play a two-game series against the Boston Red Sox this weekend.
If anyone had earned the right to coast, it was the powerhouse Yankees, who had clinched consecutive series wins against Tampa Bay, Houston and Toronto, all with frightening efficiency.
But not even the five runs James Paxton surrendered in one and one-third innings dented the Yankees’ will. To the contrary: They stormed back not once but twice on Wednesday, finally clinching an 8-7 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays on Gleyber Torres’s game-ending single in the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees jumped the dugout railing to mob Torres on the field, throwing a miniature party not just for the hot-hitting infielder’s heroics but for the whole team’s last two weeks: the Yankees finished off a brilliant 9-1 homestand that raised their record against American League East opponents to 25-7 and opened up a commanding six-and-a-half-game lead over the second-place Rays.
So confident are the Yankees of their growing dominance that, when asked to gauge the mood in the dugout after Paxton’s disastrous start, Manager Aaron Boone matter-of-factly said, “Our game.”
It was a telling endorsement of a lineup that has hit home runs in a major league-record 29 straight games, with no end in sight (especially considering the cozy outfield dimensions at London Stadium).
With the return of several stars from the injured list, Boone now has almost too many options on a nightly basis, although he will be without one prime choice, Giancarlo Stanton, for the time being. The lone sour note of the day was the news that Stanton — who had raised his average to .290 after coming off the injured list during the homestand — had sustained a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Tuesday and would not accompany the Yankees to London.
Stanton returned to the I.L. and will be re-evaluated in 10 days – although Boone already believes Stanton will be sidelined longer than that with what is his third significant injury of the season.
“I feel frustrated for him,” Boone said.
The Yankees summoned Mike Tauchman from Class AAA to take Stanton’s place. Clint Frazier, who was demoted when Stanton was activated last week, seemed to be the logical call-up; but he is batting just .136 for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and privately annoyed Yankees officials by taking three full days, as was his contractual right, to report to the minor league club after leaving the Bronx.
The roster’s other area of concern is Paxton, who saw his E.R.A. climb to 4.34 after allowing six runs in four and one-third innings, including three home runs. His departure in the fifth was met with booing by the Yankee Stadium crowd, which had already unloaded on the left-hander after he surrendered a three-run home run to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the first inning, followed by Danny Jansen’s two-run blast in the second.
Boone did his best to prop up Paxton despite his wobbly performances to date — “I do feel he’s going to take off; he’s capable of dominating any lineup” — although Paxton seemed less certain.
“My stuff wasn’t there, I’m working to fix it,” he said quietly. “I’m trying to find myself.”
The consolation is that the Yankees’ offense has done more than enough to make up for any pitching deficiencies lately. D.J. LeMahieu’s two-run home run in the fourth erased Toronto’s lead, and even though Gurriel’s second home run off Paxton gave the Jays another lead, that, too, vanished — Aaron Hicks’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth tied the game at 6-6. Luke Voit’s run-scoring single gave the Yankees a 7-6 lead and, despite Zack Britton’s blown save in the ninth, the assembly line of run-producers was simply too much for the Blue Jays’ bullpen to contain.
By the time Torres stepped to the plate against Nick Kingham, the sense of inevitability drenched the ballpark. Didi Gregorius, the winning run, was on second. The fans were on their feet, the Yankees were perched on the top step while Torres patiently waited, he said, “for a good pitch to hit.”
He got one, punching a sharp single to right, easily scoring Gregorius and igniting the crowd. Randal Grichuk’s throw from the outfield was accurate but futile: Catcher Luke Maile barely flicked his glove at the ball as Gregorius slid across the plate.
No wonder the Yankees were in such a boisterous mood: They dressed, packed and headed for the charter flight to London, equipped with tips about staying hydrated during the seven-hour flight and the knowledge that the first 24 hours after landing would be theirs for sightseeing. When Aaron Judge said, “we’re in a good place right now” he meant it in every sense of the word.