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Yankees are striking fear into their opponents again

Gleyber Torres of the Yankees celebrates his fourth-inning

Gleyber Torres of the Yankees celebrates his fourth-inning home run against the Blue Jays with teammate Gio Urshela at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

BOSTON — It was late on the night of Sept. 8 when the 2020 Yankees bottomed out.

Their 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays in Buffalo was their fifth straight and 15th in 20 games, which dropped them to 21-21 and into the eighth and final American League playoff spot. And they had allowed 10 runs in the sixth inning the night before.

All of it elicited one of the most memorable postgame comments of the season.

"I almost feel like it’s embarrassing for us right now," Luke Voit said. "I feel teams aren’t scared of us right now, and that’s a sad thing. We’re the New York Yankees . . . We have 18 games left. We need to figure this out."

Teams are plenty scared now. With all of their big bats back, the Yankees, suddenly on a record-setting home run tear, haven’t lost since.

Since falling three games behind Toronto with that Sept. 8 loss, they have gone 9-0 to the Blue Jays' 2-7 to move four games ahead of them. They also have moved into the fourth spot in the American League, percentage points ahead of the Twins, their annual punching bag for nearly two decades now.

"I feel we have the best team out there," Aaron Judge said Thursday. "We had a lot of key guys miss some time. We are getting back to full strength at the right time. This is the best time to be hot.’’

"Hot’’ doesn’t even begin to describe the Yankees of late.

They arrived at Fenway for their 6-5, 12-inning victory over the Red Sox after a three-game annihilation of the Blue Jays, a series in which the Yankees set an MLB record for most homers hit in a three-game set (19).

The previous record was 16, which was accomplished by the 2019 Yankees, the 2019 Nationals and the 1977 Red Sox.

The Yankees became the first team in MLB history to hit at least six homers in each of three consecutive games.

"That’s an impressive series right there," Aaron Boone said after watching his team score 43 runs in the three games.

In Thursday night’s 10-7 victory, the Yankees set a franchise record — and tied a major-league mark — by hitting five home runs in an inning (the fourth).

Brett Gardner, DJ LeMahieu and Voit went back-to-back-to- back, homering on three consecutive pitches. Later in the inning, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres added back-to-back homers. Each of the first four did it on the first pitch of his at-bat.

"It was awesome," said Stanton, who, like Judge, returned from the injured list this week. "If you went down [into the clubhouse], you missed two home runs . . . In general, it was amazing to see everybody contribute like that."

It does not take much detective work to figure out the origin of the turnaround.

The Yankees are, to borrow a Brian Cashman line from a couple of winters ago, "a fully operational Death Star."

When he said that, Cashman was referring to team spending when it came to free agents and/or acquiring a big-ticket item via trade.

In this case, it relates to the club’s health.

While the cliché that "injuries are never an excuse" gets almost daily play in the sports world, the reality is that a Yankees lineupfeaturing LeMahieu, Judge, Stanton, Torres and Gio Urshela — each of whom had missed time with an injury — generally is going to perform better than a lineup without that quintet.

The Yankees are whole now and playing the way they did in the early part of the season, when they got off to an 8-1 start that they extended to 16-6. There’s no telling how many homers they might hit this weekend against an awful Boston pitching staff.

Regardless of opponent, though, Boone said Friday, it’s "blinders on, throttle down."

"I think this team clearly knows what we’re driving for," he said. "We want to put ourselves in a position to go and win a championship. Starting to feel it in the weather, it’s that time of year, and I feel our focus is really good right now. We just want to continue with that."

New York Sports