With Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list and Jacoby Ellsbury down with a sore hip, Joe Girardi probably checked his lineup card two or three times yesterday before deciding on his starting nine against $217 million Red Sox lefthander David Price.
Girardi had his pick — of guys he could bat ninth, from Aaron Hicks (.114) to Dustin Ackley (.125) to Chase Headley (.151). Those three were in the top seven, with Didi Gregorius and Austin Romine the final two.
“That’s a tough lineup,” Price said. With a straight face.
But with this being baseball — and with the Yankees probably deserving a break or two from the baseball gods — of course they knocked out Price in the fifth en route to a 8-2 victory.
And of course it was Romine (third-inning RBI double) and Gregorius (fourth-inning three-run double) who provided the Yankees with a 4-1 lead.
Carlos Beltran, one of the few bonafide run-producers in the order, added a two-run double in the fifth to make it 6-2 and knock out Price, who also gave up six runs to the Yankees in an 8-7 Red Sox victory last Sunday.
“We haven’t had a lot of offensive explosions,” Girardi said. “To get eight runs was really nice and everyone contributed, which was even better. You get some more people contributing, and all of a sudden you can put up crooked numbers.”
Since last weekend’s three-game sweep in Boston, the Yankees have lost A-Rod and CC Sabathia to injuries and are without Ellsbury after he strained his hip on Friday. General manager Brian Cashman has adopted an attitude of “we have to play better” rather than “I have to blow this thing up because we stink” even as the team sunk to 9-17 on Thursday.
The one change Cashman hinted at was more at-bats for Hicks, who the Yankees’ internal numbers said had been hitting the ball harder than his results (scoff if you want, but it’s a thing front offices believe).
Still, it took A-Rod and Ellsbury’s injuries for Hicks to get more time. He hit the eventual game-winning homer on Friday and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly yesterday. Romine (3-for-4) drove in the Yankees’ eighth run with another RBI double and even Headley had two hits. Go figure.
Another change Cashman could have made yesterday was to call up top prospect Aaron Judge, who has been on a tear for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 6-7, 275-pound behemoth had hit .333 (10-for-30) with three doubles and three homers in his last eight games.
Saturday could have been a good time to give Judge a look in rightfield so the Yankees would have another righthanded hitter against Price instead of the lefty-swinging Ackley.
Great idea, right?
“No,” Cashman said when I asked him if he considered calling up Judge. “We did not.”
Cashman did say Judge is “working hard” and doing better in his second exposure to Triple-A pitching after a rough time at that level in 2015. Judge, who overall was batting .286 with five HRs, 17 RBIs and an .837 OPS going into last night, also looked overmatched in major-league spring training, when he went 1-for-19 with 10 strikeouts.
At least the one hit was a home run. That’s what Judge will bring to the pinstriped party whenever he eventually takes over rightfield from Beltran. That plus a boatload of strikeouts: 30 in 105 Triple-A at-bats, the same number of hits he has.
There was a time last week when it looked as if the possible midseason arrival of Judge would be all Yankees fans had to look forward to in 2016. After two wins in a day and half against the Red Sox, what Cashman referred to as calling the “code red” on the season can wait. At least for a few more days.