SAN DIEGO – Damn, they’re savages. More this year, way more, than when manager Aaron Boone called him last year.
So they spent much of the summer wrapped in ice packs and underperforming. Big whoop. Aaron Judge nailed him here on Sunday as the pinstriped, newly fortified New York Yankees braced for what turned out to be a 9-3 over the seeded Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of an American League Division series Monday night.
“For me, the regular season is a lot like spring training,” Judge said in an interview with Zoom. “The real season is the playoffs. “
Watch out, the Yankees are going to be a handful this month.
Boone hoped that a new ace Gerrit Cole would set the tone.
Working his first playoffs for the Yankees and facing the team that smoked them to win the AL East, Cole rose up and shot with a one point lead, two strikeouts and bases loaded down the bottom of the inning five… and Bay’s Tampa Manuel Margot never had a chance at the 100.1 mph radiator passing him to complete the round.
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No Gerrit Cole 💯 MPH. Gas 💨 (via @MLB) https://t.co/vuYV5DfYMX
Cole’s throaty scream of ecstasy as he left the mound echoed deep into the night through fanless Petco Park.
How pumped was Cole? The score of 100.1 mph was his highest speed Strike-Three of 2020 and the second-fastest withdrawal field by a Yankees starter in the playoffs since the field follow era began in 2008.
He’s a savage, and – the ink barely dried on that nine-year, $ 324 million deal – Cole is in the right place at the right time this fall.
The Yankees are healthy, wealthy, and swaying.
Yankees fans were hoping the fragile bopper Giancarlo Stanton would be more real than the Great Pumpkin one of these October.
Jae C. Hong / Associated Press
Stanton has tamed both the famous marine layer–heavy clouds that move off the coast at night and knock down flying balls–and Tampa Bay reliever John Curtiss with a ninth inning grand slam that turned a two-run game into a rout. And this after crushing two home runs and collecting three RBIs in last week’s two-game sweep in Cleveland.
“When he has quality bats, there’s no one like him,” Boone said.
Of course, the Yankees could turn around and lose Tuesday night when they send rookie Deivi Garcia to the mound.–at age 21, the kid will become the youngest playoff starter in franchise history–but it’s a team that has too much to bring together to lose a lot this month.
DJ LeMahieu, Judge, Aaron Hicks, Luke Voit, Stanton, Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres were the roster’s first seven hitters for this Tampa Bay ambush, and do you know how many times these men played for the Yankees on the same day in the past two years? Count them: three, as Athletic’s Jayson Stark pointed out this week.
It’s absolutely unbelievable… and, if they stay on the pitch for the next three weeks, it could be fatal for everyone. These Yankees have now crossed the plateau 31 times in their first three playoff games. And Cleveland and Tampa Bay finished second and third for Team ERA during the regular season.
It’s not just frequency, it’s muscle too: The Yankees have hit 11 home runs in their first three playoff games, the most in three games in playoff history, according to ESPN Statistics and Information.
In the meantime, take a good idea: The Yankees’ No.8 and 9 hitters produced 18 home runs in the regular season, plus in the American League. Clint Frazier (third inning) and Kyle Higashioka (fifth) added two more to the total against Rays starter Blake Snell.
“The quality of the attitude throughout the training,” said Boone when asked what stood out. “It’s something these guys are capable of when they’re whole, healthy, and locked up the way they are.
“Snell is tough, man. It is difficult to hit. But he felt the weight of everything, the grind-it-out at-bats. Finally, we were able to really break through. “
Stanton has always hit well here, including winning the Derby Home Run at the 2016 All-Star Game. After his big moment on Tuesday, he simply said, “This is Southern California.”
He grew up in the Los Angeles area. He is comfortable here. He knows both the geography and the weather… that’s why, he said, he watched that grand slam for another second or so before leaving on his trip around the bases.
While everyone in the park knew it was out, Stanton knew something else.
“I knew this marine layer,” he says. “That’s why I was looking at him. I knew it was either a sacrificial fly [or a homer], but somehow, I had to make sure. ”
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STANTON GRAND SLAM 😤 https://t.co/KN4TBX1n5r
As much time as he’s spent on the ice… and on the gym table… and in rehab… and being glued… to a man, the Yankees are thrilled to see Stanton do what he can do .
“I think it was the first time I was screaming for someone else,” Frazier said. “I’m not an emotion big guy, but… I was excited for him. He’s had a really great time in each of the last games, and that’s been really essential for us because we know what he can do from now on. sure. “
What’s on top is when Higashioka comes by and hits another single. Because everyone knows Gary Sanchez is the Yankees’ choice for the attack from behind the plate. But since the receiving part of the game has long been an afterthought for him, Cole has lobbied this year not to be on the pitch with him.–at least not by wearing a catcher’s mitten.
Higashioka became Cole’s personal wide receiver in September and posted a 1.32 wide wide receiver ERA in five starts (including Game 1 against Cleveland) as part of the battery with Cole. In those five starts, Cole poked 47 of 127 batters. Higashioka’s wide receiver ERA with Cole was the best of any backstop working with a single pitcher in the majors this season.
And Cole raved about it again on Monday: With Margot at home in that key fifth inning at bat, Higashioka called up a fastball at one point, and Cole crossed it with a curve. Cole said that if Higashioka hadn’t caught him it would have been “a whole different ball game.”
“I called the ball fast,” Higashioka said. “I noticed that a curve came halfway to the plate. It was just a reaction. “
Now is the time for Tampa Bay to react. The Rays’ Game 2 starter is Tyler Glasnow, who should have the advantage over the kid the Yankees start. But they’re different Yankees, bigger and meaner than the group that lost eight of 10 to Tampa Bay in the regular season.
Jae C. Hong / Associated Press
“It’s a game,” Boone warns. “We have to win three. We know they’re a great team and a great opponent. We know we have to play our best to beat them. “
Which just happens to be where the Yankees are right now. So bring in game 2, then bring in game 3, and we’ll see how the week goes.
Savage is what it could be.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as the National Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk about baseball.