The Yankees have, in many ways, been unrecognizable this season.
A batting order filled with proven sluggers ranks among baseball’s worst teams at scoring runs. They've been inventing new ways to make outs on the basepaths. And their offseason plans to improve the rotation — Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon — are, respectively, injured and ineffective.
As the Yankees won five of six last week, however, some things have been familiar. Their penchant for never being out of a game — something in their DNA — has shown through as all five of those wins were comeback victories.
If the Yankees are in fact finally finding themselves, the next two series — at home against the sub-.500 Royals and on the road against the AL East-leading Red Sox — will give them a chance to rise in the standings. The Tuesday return of first baseman Luke Voit from an oblique strain that landed him on the injured list can only help.
Aaron Judge said this past week that there have been team meetings in which players and field staff have spoken out about how the team has largely been underperforming. He described the theme as "enough is enough" and said everyone needs to look inward to be great.
"You're not going to play well over 162," Gerrit Cole said. "At some point you're going to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Man, I’ve got to make an adjustment' or 'I’ve got to pick this up.’ We've been in that position a few times this year and we've responded quickly and decisively a few times but have not been able to carry it on consistently."
During this six-game stretch the Yankees have been more fundamentally sound — remember Brett Gardner’s bunt to set up DJ LeMahieu’s two-run single in Saturday’s win over Oakland. And they’ve rediscovered some power with 10 home runs.
"Over the greater picture we can play good for two or three games, but the season is 162. So in that respect, things have been trending well since we looked in the mirror most recently," Cole said. "But we are looking for something that's consistent and deliberate and methodical over the course of the season so that we can continually say that we got better . . . and not take one step forward and two steps back."
Some concerns are still hovering over the club, none more than setup man Zack Britton and the "soreness," as manager Aaron Boone described it, that made him unavailable in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Oakland at the Stadium. Britton came off the IL on June 12, has appeared in three games and hadn’t pitched since Thursday.
"He's still kind of going through that buildup that goes through spring ball getting some of that soreness out of there," Boone said.
The Yankees have seemed to pick up the beat at other times this season. They won seven of eight at the end of April and the beginning of May. And there was a six-game winning streak in mid-May. They sustained neither, following up a 22-8 streak with a 5-13 stretch.
"It's too early for me to tell you if it's worked," Cole said. "We've been playing better baseball of late. I'm really encouraged by a lot of the comeback wins. That shows a lot of characteristics beyond just talent.
"So without totally saying ‘Hey, we're on the right track,’ [we feel] we’re on the right track a little bit, but let's keep going . . . and see how long and how far we can take this."
Notes & quotes: Reliever Darren O’Day, on the IL with a rotator cuff strain, will begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Tuesday . . . First baseman Chris Gittens was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to clear a roster spot for Voit’s return.