Yankees’ Juan Soto gestures as he runs home on his...

Yankees’ Juan Soto gestures as he runs home on his solo home run against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning of an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Hours before the Yankees took on the Mariners Wednesday night, owner Hal Steinbrenner said two things that may seem at odds with each other.

One, that he very much likes what Juan Soto has done here in the Bronx (not breaking news) and he wouldn’t mind seeing much, much more of him in years to come. And two, that the Yankees current payroll of $312 million is “simply not sustainable for us financially.”

For what it’s worth, Steinbrenner noted the Yankees have a substantial amount of money coming off the books at the end of this year. But just in case, Soto did everything in his power later that evening to continue making the case for one of those priorities to supersede the other.

In yet another superstar display, Soto hit an opposite field homer not once, but twice en route to the Yankees’ 7-3 win over the Mariners at Yankee Stadium. It was his second multi-homer game of the season, the 19th of the 25-year-old’s career, and his 12th and 13th homers of the year. The win snapped a two-game losing streak, which, for a team that’s now an AL-best 34-17, is a certifiable swoon.

And before striking out with the bases loaded in the seventh, Soto even garnered “MVP” chants from the crowd — a pretty big honor considering that Judge, the 2022 MVP, was looming in the on-deck circle.

“It gives me chills,” Judge said of the Soto chants. “It’s fun to watch and the fans are definitely loving the show that he’s putting on.”

Soto, for his part, chuckled and said he still “thinks it’s way too early” for that. “But it’s fun . . . It’s unbelievable. I’ve just got to turn around and they go crazy. I know it’s a lot of Dominicans [like himself] and they all want me to say hi and I try to say hi to everybody, but I have got to be focused on the game.”

After undergoing the gentlest of slumps (Soto was 3-for-29 at one point last week), he’s now 9 for his last 21, and leads the Yankees in hits, runs, RBIs and on-base percentage. He’s also reached safely in 44 of the Yankees’ 51 games, and is hitting .313 with 40 RBIs.

Aaron Judge and Alex Verdugo also homered, and Anthony Volpe went 2-for-3 with two runs and a walk.

Judge, who came into the day hitting .414 in his last 17 games, immediately continued his torrid streak, hitting an opposite field, two-run homer for his team-leading 14th of the year and a 2-0 lead in the first. Ten of Judge’s last 12 hits over the last eight games have been for extra bases and the homer also extended his on-base streak to a season-high 19 games.

“I think just getting a chance to see some pitches” with Soto batting in front of him has helped, Judge said. “There are no easy, non-pressure situations when he’s in the box . . . Anyone who’s facing Juan, they’re coming with their best, so I get a chance to see what they’re trying to do.”

Soto hit his first homer in the third, when he hammered Bryce Miller’s hanging sinker 414-feet to the visitor’s bullpen in left, scoring Volpe to make it 4-0. And Nestor Cortes, despite at times struggling with his location, made it stand up — allowing no runs and three hits over five innings, with three walks and six strikeouts. He ceded the mound to Tommy Kahnle — making his season debut after being activated off the injured list Wednesday — who pitched a perfect sixth in his return from a shoulder injury that dated back to September.

Soto tacked on his second homer of the night to lead off the sixth, tagging another of Miller’s elevated sinkers 369 feet to left to give the Yankees the 5-0 lead. The breathing room made things less dire in the eighth, when Michael Tonkin walked two batters and was replaced by Luke Weaver, who served up a three-run homer to Cal Raleigh to draw the Mariners to within two. Verdugo, though, erased that with a two-run shot of his own in the bottom of the inning.

“The two balls [Soto] hit out tonight — there aren’t really any lefties that hit balls like that,” Aaron Boone said. “That kind of signature one that he puts off the back of our bullpen? That’s a long way for a lefty to just stand on it.”

Boone, like Judge, was very much on board for the MVP chants.

“It’s great,” he said. “I love when the Bronx gets behind our guys and showing their appreciation for him.”

They’ve certainly done plenty of that, and they certainly hope they can keep doing it for a long, long time.

With David Lennon

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