After the COVID-19 and injury-depleted Yankees were shut out by the Red Sox on three hits on Friday night, manager Aaron Boone was asked if his four healthy regulars — DJ LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres — should be counted on to carry the offense.
"They’re obviously critical for us," Boone said. "But it falls on everyone, as well. We have people in that lineup capable of doing things up and down and we’ve really got to just focus on having really good at-bats and not one individual saying, ‘I’ve got to carry this, I’ve got to do that.’"
Why can’t they say that? Why can’t the Yankees expect that? Aren’t the best, most-talented and highest-paid players in any sport supposed to carry their teams through the tough times?
In the rain in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday night, Sanchez, who had two hits in his previous 34 at-bats, broke a 1-1 tie with a first-row homer to right.
Torres followed with another home run, his first since June 5.
LeMahieu also drove in a run as the Yankees beat the Red Sox for the first time in eight tries this season with a rain-shortened, six-inning, 3-1 victory.
After the Yankees took the lead, the game was halted before the top of the seventh. With no sign of the downpour ending, the Yankees were awarded the much-needed victory.
These are desperate times in the Bronx. The Yankees are without Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela (COVID-19 IL) and Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar (injuries). They are eight games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. The trade deadline is July 30.
There aren’t too many stars left in the current lineup. But it’s time for them to step up. And it’s time for Boone to expect it.
The same way he expects it from Gerrit Cole.
Cole again on Saturday lived up to his ace status and his $324 million contract. Last Saturday, he threw a 129-pitch shutout in Houston.
This Saturday, he allowed one run in six innings, much of it pitched in the rain. And after the Yankees took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, Cole unexpectedly walked out to open the seventh in a driving rainstorm.
Cole had already thrown 96 pitches. The last one left his fingers about 40 minutes before the top of the seventh would have started had the umpires not (finally, belatedly, thankfully) called for the grounds crew to cover the infield.
The bottom of the sixth took forever because of a delay when a fan threw a ball and hit Red Sox leftfielder Alex Verdugo in the back. Verdugo was understandably livid and manager Alex Cora briefly pulled his players off the field.
There were also two delays as the grounds crew worked on the mound. Also, the Red Sox made a pitching change and there were two replay reviews during the seven-batter half-inning.
So why was Cole ready to pitch the seventh under those circumstances? Guts. Resolve. Accountability.
"I was ready to go," Cole said, as if there was no debate in his mind.
Those are qualities the Yankees need to see from their remaining stars, not just Cole. And a sprinkling of offense from the COVID call-ups would be nice, too.
Greg Allen, who singled as a pinch hitter in his first Yankees at-bat on Friday, got the home team’s first hit on Saturday, a two-out, fifth-inning double against Nathan Eovaldi with the Yankees trailing 1-0. LeMahieu followed with a single to left to tie the game at 1.
In the bottom of the sixth, as the rain began to really pelt the players, Sanchez untied it with a one-out homer to right off reliever Hirokazu Sawamura that was caught by a fan in the first row. Torres then made it 3-1 with his fourth of the season.
Of the big four, only Stanton didn’t contribute. He went 0-for-3 and, after popping out to second in the fifth, angrily fired his bat into the ground.
The Yankees need Stanton to channel that fury against the baseball. Soon.