Luke Voit was the Yankees’ leadoff man in a top-heavy lineup against the Twins on Thursday night. The top five: Voit, Anthony Rizzo, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton.
"It’s the goal-line package," Voit told YES Network before the game. "That’s what we’re calling it with all the big boys up top. It’ll be pretty fun . . . You know what? A lot of power up there."
And because baseball is baseball, the big hits in the Yankees’ 7-5 victory didn’t come from the big boys. They came from the bottom of the lineup.
Kyle Higashioka had a two-run homer and an RBI double. Bronx-born shortstop sensation Andrew Velazquez had a triple to start the Yankees’ four-run third inning and a single to start a two-run fourth as the Yankees took a 6-0 lead and held on for their seventh consecutive victory.
"For all of us, especially us at the bottom of the order, we just want to contribute to wins," Higashioka said. "I know if we're putting pressure on the pitchers, we're going turn the lineup over and Judge, Rizzo, Voit, all those guys are going to come up with runners on base and have a chance to do some real damage."
Voit lashed a two-run double to left to make it 3-0 in the third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rizzo, the man who has taken his first-base job.
Voit said the other night he still deserves to be the Yankees’ leading man at first. Manager Aaron Boone heard Voit’s impassioned plea . . . and still had him on the bench on Wednesday and in the DH spot on Thursday.
There’s no question who runs the Yankees. It’s not the players.
That doesn’t mean Boone isn’t interested in keeping Voit’s powerful bat in the lineup when possible. Obviously, Stanton coming out of outfield mothballs and being allowed to roam the green grass a few times a week gives Boone options he didn’t have when the oft-injured slugger was limited to DH duty.
Stanton lined a 106-mph, 345-foot solo homer to right in the eighth for an important insurance run.
With the Twins starting a lefthander on Friday, Boone likely will play Voit at first to provide a breather for Rizzo, who just returned from a bout with COVID-19 on Wednesday.
After the trades for Rizzo and Gallo and the return to health of Voit and Gary Sanchez, you can forgive Yankees fans for daydreaming about a pretty imposing lineup down the stretch and for a potential AL wild-card game, which as of today would have the Yankees hosting the A’s.
Let’s put DJ LeMahieu in his familiar leadoff spot and slot in Sanchez behind the plate. Both were rested on Thursday.
If Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres come back from their injuries — Urshela is much closer to returning than Torres is — then 1-9 would look like this:
LeMahieu, Rizzo, Judge, Gallo, Stanton, Voit, Sanchez, Torres, Urshela.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Thursday’s bottom three were Velazquez, Higashioka and Tyler Wade. Or, as Yankees fans know them, the kid from the Bronx who is living his dream, the backup catcher, and someone who inhabits the body of Tyler Wade but all of a sudden hits like Wade Boggs or Rod Carew.
The Yankees would not be in playoff position without the contributions of Velazquez and Wade. Nobody woulda thunk that when the Yankees were 10½ games behind the Red Sox after the games of July 5.
Velazquez has brought speed and spunk and terrific defense. So, too, has Wade, who is batting .429 (12-for-28) in his last nine games with at least one at-bat. Wade went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run on Thursday.
"It's big," Voit said. "We’ve got a bunch of humongous guys on this team. To have little feisty guys that can pick it and play multiple positions and, obviously, be table-setters for the rest of us [is big]."