Yankees' Josh Donaldson (28) celebrates his home run in the...

Yankees' Josh Donaldson (28) celebrates his home run in the dugout during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Monday, May 16, 2022, in Baltimore. Credit: AP/Nick Wass

BALTIMORE — Just about every manager, at least in public, praises the “closeness” of the players in his clubhouse.

Some years it is truer than others and, occasionally, it isn’t true at all.

Aaron Boone, while recognizing talking about exceptional clubhouse chemistry can quickly enter the realm of cliche, believes his 2022 group is “next level” when it comes to that element.

“Their level of commitment to one another, in both a supportive way and holding each other to account and getting after one another and competing with one another, investing time with one another, you’ve seen that stuff happen early and often this year,” said Boone, who has said several times this year he noticed that dynamic from “Day 1” of spring training.

The Yankees are an MLB-best 27-9, having won 22 of their last 26 games. They are on a pace to win 121 games (the MLB record is 116). The Yankees record was set by the 1998 team that went 114-48 en route to a World Series title.

“There’s still a long, long way to go, so we’ve got a ton to prove,” Boone said. “I think to this point, we’ve proven to whoever and to ourselves that we can win games in a lot of different ways. I think this group knows that there’s not just one or two ways we can beat you on a given day, and I think they’ve gained a lot of confidence from that and understanding that.”

Closing time

A straw poll of six opposing team scouts had five of them pick the same name when asked who they would close games with if Aroldis Chapman isn’t available (or loses the job at some point).

“Right now, as of mid-May? Clay Holmes,” one evaluator said. “[Chad) Green could do it and I still like [Jonathan Loaisiga], even though he’s not at the level he was last year, and [Michael] King is throwing the [expletive] out of the ball. But no one is throwing the ball like Holmes. They [hitters] have no chance right now against that bowling ball sinker.”

Holmes, who has gone 2-for-2 in save chances this year, had a 0.49 ERA in a team-high 18 games.

King, who has a 1.40 ERA in 12 games – including 1-for-2 in save opportunities – received the other vote from the scouts polled.

Day off for Hicks

Outfielder Aaron Hicks, in a 2-for-29 slide and hitting .213 with one homer and a .613 OPS in 31 games, was given the night off, though he played centerfield in the ninth inning.  

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