Just before the All-Star break, Aaron Judge gave as good a summary of any regarding the 2019 Yankees. “We always feel we’re going to win every single ballgame,” he said of his biggest takeaway. “It doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup, who’s not in the lineup, who’s pitching, who we’re facing. We feel like we can beat everybody. When you have that type of mindset and everyone’s on board, good things happen.”
Even with the season-long plague of injuries, it was overwhelmingly good for the Yankees before the break, and that has continued pretty much unabated since then.
They got top-to-bottom contributions Friday night in an 8-2 beatdown of the Rockies in front of 44,316 on a sweltering night at the Stadium.
Helped by a grand slam by a suddenly hot Edwin Encarnacion, a two-run shot by Judge and a standout all-around effort by leftfielder Mike Tauchman, the AL East-leading Yankees (63-33) won for the 22nd time in 28 games to move 30 games over .500 for the first time. They are nine games ahead of the Rays and 11 games ahead of the Red Sox.
“There’s something special going on in that room for sure,’’ said acting manager Josh Bard, who filled in for Aaron Boone during his one-game suspension.
J.A. Happ, Adam Ottavino and Stephen Tarpley struck out 17. Happ again didn’t have his best stuff but grinded through five innings, allowing two runs and eight hits. The lefthander walked two, struck out eight and stranded seven. Ottavino and Tarpley combined to allow one hit in four innings, striking out nine.
Tauchman, DJ LeMahieu and Ottavino faced their former team for the first time. Tauchman had three hits, scored two runs and threw out a runner at the plate. LeMahieu had two hits and two RBIs and Ottavino struck out the side in the sixth. Said Tauchman, “While it was kind of a cool thing to play against those guys, I had an expectation of getting the job done tonight and going out there and performing as if it was any other game.”
Ryan McMahon homered and
Garrett Hampson added an RBI double to give the Rockies a 2-0 lead in the second, but Tauchman caught Charlie Blackmon's fly ball and threw out Hampson at the plate, with Gary Sanchez making a superb tag, to keep it that way.
LeMahieu started the Yankees’ four-run third with a one-out single and Judge and Sanchez drew walks to load the bases for Encarnacion. He fell behind 1-and-2 and appeared to be fooled on a changeup, but he reached down and golfed one on a line to leftfield for his 29th home run of the season, his 12th career grand slam and a 4-2 lead.
It gave him 15 hits as a Yankee, eight of them home runs. He has four homers and eight RBIs in his last five games.
“I’ve been telling the guys when he gets hot, it’s like not too many I’ve seen,’’ said Happ, a former teammate of Encarnacion’s in Toronto. “So it’s good to see the parrot kind of showing up and, man, it’s fun. That was huge. That sort of re-energized me, too, that big hit he had. That was awesome.”
Tauchman blooped a hit to leftfield with two outs in the fourth and, running hard out of the box, slid into second with a hustle double. Up stepped LeMahieu, who ripped an RBI single to left to improve to 37-for-83 (.446) with 53 RBIs with runners in scoring position this season.
The Yankees blew it open in the sixth against righthander Yency Almonte. Tauchman singled with one out, stole second and took third when Chris Iannetta’s throw went into center. Tauchman beat Nolan Arenado’s throw home on LeMahieu’s grounder to third, giving LeMahieu a career-high 67 RBIs, and Judge blasted a 2-and-1 slider off the wall in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center to make it 8-2.
With a runner on third and less than two outs this season, LeMahieu has delivered the run 11 of 12 times.
“Like I’ve said before, 1 to 9 can do damage,’’ Judge said. “There’s no real letdown with this offense.”