If you were worried about the Yankees’ offense after they were shut out on Monday for the first time since June 30, 2018, then Tuesday’s sixth and seventh-inning barrage against the Rangers must have quieted those fears.
In the sixth, a three-run homer by Didi Gregorius. A solo shot by Gary Sanchez, his second homer of the game. And a two-run shot by Brett Gardner.
In the seventh, a two-run homer by Edwin Encarnacion in his first game off the injured list. It all led to a 10-1 victory at Yankee Stadium.
Now, if you’ve been worried about the Yankees’ starting pitching with a month to go before the playoffs, that’s legit.
But guess what? The Yankees rotation is rounding into form, with James Paxton leading the way on Tuesday by allowing one hit in seven shutout innings against the Rangers.
Paxton walked the third batter of the game and allowed a solid single to right to Isiah Kiner-Falefa with two outs in the fifth. He struck out 12.
Paxton threw a no-hitter for the Mariners last season. It’s hard to imagine him having better stuff on that night than he did on Tuesday.
“He kind of had that unhittable look to him, you know?” manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, he’s been throwing the ball really well of late. But I thought tonight was about as good as he’s looked.”
Paxton, who has won seven straight starts, has the highest-end arsenal of any Yankee starter. Masahiro Tanaka has rediscovered his splitter and has a proud postseason pedigree. Domingo German is an unflappable 17-game winner. Even J.A. Happ has looked better of late.
A month ago, when the Yankees starters were going through a dreadful stretch, the idea of Boone opening just about every playoff game with Chad Green didn’t seem all that far-fetched. General manager Brian Cashman’s failure to acquire a starter at the trade deadline looked like as if it might help doom the Yankees to a second straight first-round playoff exit.
Things can turn again, but for the moment it’s easy to envision a playoff Big Three of Tanaka-Paxton-German with the rehabbing Luis Severino as a tantalizing wild card.
(Apologies to Happ, who after a victory on Sunday was asked how he felt about the possibility of not being part of the Yankees’ playoff plan. “I came here to be a part of the postseason — a big part of it,” Happ said coldly. “That’s my plan. That’s how I feel about that.”)
Severino’s comeback attempt from a lost season because of unrelated shoulder and lat injuries took an interesting twist on Tuesday, courtesy of the Yankees’ Triple-A team in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The RailRiders were playing for an International League playoff spot against the Mets’ Triple-A team from Syracuse. Scranton scored five in the seventh and eight in the eighth to pull out a 14-13 victory.
Why does that matter? Because the Scranton season would have been over if the RailRiders had lost. Since they made the playoffs, Severino will have a place to make his second minor-league rehab start on Friday. He threw just 33 pitches in his first outing on Sunday.
Boone has called that appearance akin to Severino’s first spring training start. Usually, starters take five to six weeks to get ready for the season, and none of it is rushed in the Florida sunshine.
Severino will try to do in four weeks what he hasn’t been able to do since last October. It’s no sure thing that he’ll make it, and if he does it’s no sure thing he’ll be the old Luis Severino.
Are we getting ahead of ourselves? Yes, Boone said.
You could almost imagine the manager holding up both hands and making a stop sign when he said: “We’re looking out there too far and trying to predict.”
What else are we supposed to do? Worry about the race for the AL’s best record with the Astros? Try to figure out which team will be the Yankees’ first-round opponent?
Nah, it’s OK for the mind to wander to October. Now, about the starting lineup for Game 1 . . .