TORONTO — DJ LeMahieu all but has team MVP honors locked up for the 2019 Yankees. But Gio Urshela is making a heck of a push.
He recorded his second two-homer game in as many nights on Thursday, leading the Yankees to their ninth straight victory, 12-6 over the Blue Jays in front of 34,108 at Rogers Centre.
The Yankees (76-39), who hit 16 homers in their three-game sweep in Baltimore, slugged three more to become the first team in MLB history to hit 19 in a four-game span. They lead the second-place Rays by 10 1⁄2 games, are a season-high 37 games over .500 and own the best record in MLB, three percentage points ahead of the Dodgers.
“Those guys come to win every day and they come with that expectation,’’ Aaron Boone said. “And when you’ve been able to win a lot of different ways and with a lot of different guys contributing, when you walk out on the field, there’s a lot to be said when you walk out because not only are you confident in yourself, you’re confident in the guy next to you, too.”
Urshela and Mike Tauchman each had four RBIs for the Yankees, who have produced 44 runs and 53 hits in the last four games. Tauchman hit a two-run homer to cap a six-run third, giving him four in his last four games and 11 overall, and added a two-run single in the ninth.
Does Tauchman, now in a 20-for-51 stretch, feel as if he’s in a zone? “I think as an offense we’re kind of in a zone right now,’’ he said. “Look at the production we’ve been putting up lately. I think that definitely makes it tougher for opposing pitchers to navigate our lineup and that allows us to play with a lot of confidence.”
Domingo German, spotted an 8-0 lead after three innings, tied Justin Verlander for the major- league lead in wins, improving to 15-2 after allowing four runs (three earned) and eight hits in five innings. All of the runs and five of the hits came in the fifth.
“Tonight the sharpness of my pitches wasn’t where I wanted it,” German said through his translator. “Still, I was able to battle through those [early] innings, and then I got to that fifth inning and they were able to take advantage of some of those pitches.”
Urshela hit a two-run homer on an 0-and-2 pitch from lefthander Thomas Pannone in the first, extending his hitting streak to 13 games, and a two-run shot in the third to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. At that point, of Urshela’s previous 27 hits, 19 had gone for extra bases. And at that point, he was 6-for-10 with five homers, a double and 10 RBIs in his last three games.
Urshela became only the second Yankees third baseman with back-to-back multi-homer games. The other was Graig Nettles in 1974. “Trying to swing the bat in the zone, trying to drive the ball more, try to hit it with the barrel and keep my hands inside the ball,” he said.
It was just over a year ago (Aug. 4, 2018) when the Blue Jays sold Urshela to the Yankees for cash considerations. The deal received almost no attention at the time. Now Urshela — who hit .225 with eight homers and 39 RBIs in his first three big-league seasons — is hitting .323 with 16 homers and 59 RBIs.
“He’s incredible,” Tauchman said. “I actually played with him in Venezuela like three years ago [in winter ball] and he was an incredible player then. He was a doubles machine then and now he’s driving the ball out of the ballpark. And that’s not even touching on his defense, which is incredible too.”
LeMahieu went 3-for-5 in raising his average to an AL-best .338. One of those hits was a two-run single in the sixth, improving him to 41-for-97 (.422) with runners in scoring position. Cameron Maybin, who is 7-for-10 in the last two games, also had an RBI single.
Derek Fisher hit a solo homer, Bo Bichette added a two-run shot and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. contributed an RBI single off German in the fifth. LeMahieu’s two-run single gave the Yankees a 10-4 lead in the sixth, but Bichette had an RBI double off Chad Green in the bottom of the inning and Reese McGuire homered off Luis Cessa in the eighth to make it 10-6.