It was about the only thing that could overshadow an impressive doubleheader sweep of the Red Sox. There were two more significant injuries for the Yankees, whose organizational depth will be tested again, as it has been since spring training.
Edwin Encarnacion was put on the injured list after the Yankees’ 9-2 victory in Saturday’s first game. Encarnacion, who became the 25th Yankee to hit the IL, suffered a right wrist fracture when he was hit by a pitch.
In the second game, a 6-4 win, centerfielder Aaron Hicks suffered a right elbow injury while throwing the ball back into the infield after recording an out in the sixth inning. Hicks, who said he experienced “a painful feeling” in the elbow on the throw, will have an MRI. No one sounded especially positive about what the outcome might be.
“Anything with the elbow always makes you nervous,” Hicks said. “But I’m going to stay positive right now until we get the final decision.”
Said Aaron Boone, “We’ll wait on the results. It looks like an injury, but I don’t want to speculate before tomorrow afternoon.''
He added, "Any time your guys go down, it’s frustrating, it’s tough, you feel for them. But we’ve dealt with this all season long and the next man up has served us really well. Hopefully in both cases they’re back sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, it’s another opportunity for someone else to impact our club.”
Encarnacion said of his injury: “I’ve gotten hit there before, but the pain I had when I got hit today was worse. It’s frustrating, especially when I started feeling better at the plate and seeing the ball better. It’s tough for me.”
Aside from the injuries, it was a very good day for the AL East-leading Yankees (71-39), who opened an eight-game lead over the Rays and a 13 ½-game lead over the Red Sox (59-54). Boston has lost seven straight after taking the first three games against the Yankees last weekend at Fenway Park. The Yankees have won five of their last six.
DJ LeMahieu homered twice, singled and drove in four runs in the first four innings in Game 1, all against Chris Sale. Gleyber Torres, who hit a grand slam on Friday night, homered twice, doubled and scored three runs in Game 2. Mike Tauchman’s two-run single in the seventh broke a 4-4 tie and Cameron Maybin had a two-run double.
Andrew Benintendi, who hit a 436-foot shot into the bleachers above the Yankees’ bullpen, and Jackie Bradley Jr. hit solo homers off Domingo German (14-2) in Game 1. Rafael Devers hit a two-run homer and Mookie Betts had a two-run single for the Red Sox in Game 2.
Gary Sanchez doesn’t recall the exact date in early April when he tagged LeMahieu with a nickname that stuck: “The Machine.’’
“I started calling him that when he was hitting against the shift,” Sanchez recalled recently through his translator. “They went left, he’d hit right; they’d go right and he’d hit left. I mean, it’s impressive to do that. That’s when the nickname came up. He’s a hitting machine.”
One still running at maximum efficiency.
In Game 1, LeMahieu homered into the Yankees’ bullpen on Sale’s fifth pitch of the game and added a two-out, three-run homer to rightfield in a seven-run fourth inning that gave the Yankees an 8-1 lead. He has 17 home runs and 75 RBIs, both career highs, in two-thirds of a season.
LeMahieu’s previous high was 15 home runs in 533 at-bats last season. He has 405 at-bats this season. “I like hitting homers. It’s fun,” he said. “And I like that rightfield wall [at the Stadium] for sure.”
LeMahieu, who leads the major leagues in batting average (.336), finished 3-for-5 in Game 1 and heard “MVP! MVP!” chants from the sellout crowd of 46,625 in the later innings.
“I try to block it out and focus and just try to put together a good at-bat,” he said. “Obviously, it’s cool and it’s a good feeling that the fans appreciate you. But for me, it’s just going up there, not changing anything and having competitive at-bats.”
The Yankees totaled 14 hits in Game 1, with Encarnacion and Brett Gardner contributing three hits and two RBIs each. They had 13 hits in Game 2.
German held the Red Sox to two runs, five hits and no walks in seven innings, striking out seven. Sale (5-11, 4.68) allowed eight runs and nine hits in 3 2⁄3 innings. He is 0-4 with a 9.90 ERA against the Yankees this season.
“I felt as an offensive unit, I felt like we battled him, made him throw a lot of pitches and made him throw pitches over the plate,” LeMahieu said. “I thought we did a really good job.”
German followed his solid start against the Red Sox last Sunday night at Fenway Park with an even better performance. He tied Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander and Lance Lynn for the MLB lead in victories.
“It was huge,” Boone said of the length German provided, given the toll a doubleheader often takes on a pitching staff. “The one mistake to Benintendi there, but otherwise I thought he threw the ball really well. We have a lot of confidence in him, no question. And certainly he’s pitching with a lot of confidence. And when you have his repertoire and ability to fill up the zone like he can, there’s a good reason to walk out there with confidence.”
Which is the case, and has been all season, with LeMahieu when he walks to the plate. He had missed four games because of groin soreness before returning to the lineup Friday and recording two hits.
“I guess it’s not surprising,” Boone said. “Expected? I don’t know. It’s a hard game. Even for the great ones, it can be hard. [But] he’s a great player, prepares really well and not surprised that he’s come right back in and hit the ground running.”
In Game 2, Torres had his fifth two-homer game of the season — and first against a team other than Baltimore — giving him 23 home runs, one fewer than his 2018 total.
The list of Yankees age 22 or younger with five multi-homer games in a season? Torres and Joe DiMaggio in 1937.
The Yankees improved to 9-0 this season when employing Chad Green as an opener. Zack Britton struck out Devers with the bases loaded to get out of the eighth. Aroldis Chapman struck out two in the ninth in earning his 29th save.