Like so many people strive to do, the Yankees used their Sunday afternoon to get back on track.
The Bombers’ 10-2 rout of the Cleveland Guardians completed their sweep of the series at the Stadium. But they didn’t quite look like the Yankees yet, as the team skittered through extended stretches of dormancy at the plate — scoring in the first, second, third, sixth and eighth innings.
“It’s nice,” Aaron Boone said of managing a laugher. “But I’m sitting over there going, ‘Who do we have to get up?’ Every out is another level of exhale. But it is nice to have one of those, for sure.”
More importantly, at least as it pertains to the team’s long-term outlook, was the return of Gerrit Cole’s right arm. Cole had a slow start to the season, logging just 11.1 innings over his first three starts with an uncharacteristically high number of walks.
While any pragmatist could acknowledge that his ERA would not remain above 6.00 all season, Cole still had to eventually start pitching well enough to actually make that happen. Sunday’s 6.2 shutout innings with just four hits and nine strikeouts came at a perfect time for the Yankees. Now, rather than wondering when Cole will start looking like himself again, the question becomes whether he can keep up the good work.
“I had better self talk out there,” Cole said. “Just a little more aware of the situations. There’s a balance between overdoing it and not doing it enough. We put a game plan forward. The last (start) was out of sight, out of mind.”
Another person who desperately needed to do something good: the horrendously slumping Joey Gallo, who got his long-awaited first RBI and extra base hit of the season on one swing, a third inning double that helped break the game open. After sending the sharp line drive into right field, Gallo sprinted into second base like a 500-pound silverback gorilla had been lifted off his back.
The left-handed hitter also struck out three times, but an RBI double mixed in with three strikeouts is basically par for the course for Gallo. So long as his glove remains golden in the outfield, the Yankees will take that kind of game from him in the batter’s box. Like Cole, the lingering question is if he can parlay Sunday’s success into something more meaningful.
Cleveland starting pitcher Aaron Civale handed the Yankees a broom very early in the game, and the Bombers wasted no time getting the sweep going. The Yankees had a six-run lead after just three turns at bat. Anthony Rizzo, who has been one of the league’s best hitters of the first three weeks, got things going with a two-run porch shot in the first inning. DJ LeMahieu followed that with an RBI double in the second, extending his hitting streak to 11 games, and a fielder’s choice and sacrifice fly around Gallo’s slump-busting double made it 6-0 in the third.
Coming on the heels of Saturday’s action-packed win, in which Gleyber Torres’ walk-off hit caused a hurricane of garbage to hit the field, a game that allowed the Yankees to down shift and coast into victory was a welcome sight. Cole found his fastball again, maxing out at 99 miles per hour and getting either a called strike or a whiff on 20 of the 47 heaters (43%) he threw. Gallo got off the schneid, at least temporarily, and they opened up a comfortable enough margin to let some of the bench guys loose.
For their final trick of the night, the Yankees subbed out LeMahieu and Aaron Judge in favor of Marwin Gonzalez and Tim Locastro. Gonzalez served a single into right field for his first Yankee hit, and Locastro one upped him by slapping his first home run of 2022.
On a sunny, breezy day in the Bronx, the fans’ good behavior was rewarded with the Yankees’ first ten-run game of the season. With a ten-run gulf between them and the Guardians, the Yankees were even able to use human victory cigar Ron Marinaccio for the ninth inning. Marinaccio struck out Jose Ramirez to begin his outing, and after ruining the goose egg by allowing two runs, ended it with a can of corn to left field.
The Yankees have ten wins in their first 16 games, and the next obstacles in front of them are the very movable Orioles and Royals. By this time next week, the major question around this team may no longer be when will they get back to being themselves.
“I think the confidence that we gained from coming back like that (on Saturday) carried over,” LeMahieu said. “We were due for a breakout.”
It could be who will possibly slow them down.
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