The Yankees’ starting rotation is getting better, and general manager Brian Cashman hasn’t even started to wheel and deal yet.
Domingo German on Friday night made his second start since returning from a nearly month-long stint on the injured list, and for the second straight time, he looked like the pitcher who was the Yankees’ best for the first two months of the season. The righthander threw six innings of remarkably efficient scoreless ball as the Yankees opened the second half of the season with a 4-0 win over Toronto before a sellout crowd of 47,162. It was the largest crowd of the season at the Stadium.
Edwin Encarnacion, who entered the game with a .123/.208/.338 slash line in 16 games for the Yankees, had a three-run double and contributed two of their 10 hits. Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner, who hustled his way to a triple and a double, also had two hits each.
The victory — the result of great pitching, an attack that included six extra-base hits and splendid defense — looked like many of the ones the Yankees put up nightly as they won 16 of 20 before the All-Star break en route to the American League’s best record. Friday’s win over Toronto and the Dodgers’ loss to the Red Sox gave the Yankees MLB’s best record at 58-31.
“It’s nice to start it off on a good note,” Gardner said. “We were playing well leading up to the break and, [while] it’s nice to get that time off, when you’re playing well, you want to keep on rolling. It’s nice to see us pick up where we left off.”
German (11-2, 3.40) retired 15 straight batters, striking out seven of them, after allowing a single by Eric Sogard to begin the game. Tommy Kahnle pitched a scoreless inning and Chad Green tossed a pair. They allowed six hits and no walks, striking out 10.
German allowed three hits and needed only 78 pitches to get through six innings. He dispatched the Blue Jays with 13 or fewer pitches in five of those innings.
“The breaking ball was really good tonight,” Aaron Boone said. “Really the first couple times through, you could tell it was giving them a problem: A lot of good hitters took some funky swings at it . . . He did a great job of being efficient, working fast and setting the tone for us.”
“I had the command of my fastball, my curveball, my changeup,” German said through his translator. “When you have that going, you are able to attack hitters and get ahead. So that was the key tonight.”
One question that hangs over German is whether he will be permitted to keep pitching as a starter for the remainder of the season. The 26-year-old has pitched 90 innings this season after throwing 94 1/3 total last year and 123 2/3 in 2017.
German was 10-1 with a 2.60 ERA near the end of May but tried — unsuccessfully — to pitch with a hip flexor strain that eventually put him on the injured list. However, just because he is back in good form and the Yankees don’t need to use relievers to pitch an entire game every fifth day, don’t think Cashman is about to stop scouring the trade market for a high-level arm.
“Our interest is in improving our starting pitching because that’s where the majority of our innings will come from,” he said Friday in a radio interview. He added that if he can’t find a trade that makes sense, he will “continue to reinforce the bullpen.”
Some possible targets include the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman and the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. Cashman said that while teams will ask about top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia — who started the All-Star Futures game and recently was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre — “are we going to give up Deivi Garcia for a rental somewhere? Clearly not.”
Cashman also described Garcia as possibly “pushing his way into the mix” to pitch for the Yankees this season. He added that Garcia won’t be dealt for anyone who isn’t signed for next season.
Encarnacion had the key drive in the four-run fifth inning, a three-run double that made the score 4-0 against the team he played on for eight seasons.
Gardner opened the fifth with a triple, a ground ball over first base that got under the glove of Justin Smoak and rolled into the corner. He scored on DJ LeMahieu’s groundout to second base. Aaron Judge singled, Hicks doubled and Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch, setting the table for Encarnacion. He drove Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez’s pitch off the wall alongside the Blue Jays’ bullpen in leftfield. Gary Sanchez was really hustling on contact and was able to score standing up ahead of the throw.
“He’s missed some pitches he’s probably been on. He hasn’t swung as great as he’s going to,” Boone said of Encarnacion. “But he’s so dangerous and you can sense that when they go through him and obviously tonight smoked a couple balls.”
“It was just all about timing,” Encarnacion said. “I get my timing right and I am going to be all right. I know what I can do and I’ll wait for it.”
The Yankees appeared to push the lead to 5-0 in the sixth when, with Gardner on third and two outs, Judge struck out and the ball got past catcher Danny Jansen. Gardner crossed the plate as Judge raced toward first and Jansen collected the ball and made the throw to Smoak. First-base umpire Andy Fletcher initially ruled Judge had beaten the throw, but after a replay challenge, it was reversed, and the run was taken off the board.