BALTIMORE — At first glance, the Yankees’ lineup card for Thursday’s series finale at Camden Yards appeared to be a misprint. Maybe somebody got the date incorrect. Sent the wrong file.
No Gleyber Torres? No Gary Sanchez?
How was that possible?
Against the Orioles, so far this season, Torres had 10 home runs in 11 games. Sanchez went deep nine times in 10. Combine the two, and the Yankees’ duo accounted for 18.1 percent of the MLB-high 105 homers allowed by the O’s all year.
Maybe one could spend the day relaxing on the bench. Both felt excessive.
But to Aaron Boone, a day was a day, and it also didn’t hurt keeping Torres away from the frustrated Orioles, who surely planned to pitch him more, let’s say, aggressively, this time around. The Yankees already had 14 players on the injured list, and we all know accidents happen, even for a staff simply trying to pitch inside, so why not just bubble-wrap Torres before leaving town.
And in typical Yankees’ fashion, the plan worked out, just like it tends to do this season. Boone deployed both as pinch hitters in the ninth inning, with the score tied at 5, and both did what they’ve been doing. Torres drew a six-pitch walk, Sanchez poked a single, and with the bases loaded, Aaron Hicks drew another walk off O’s closer Mychal Givens that sealed the 6-5 victory and the Yankees’ sweep.
“We’re a team that’s going to score runs, from top to bottom,” Hicks said. “That’s the great thing about our team. Guys are going to take rest days and we’ll still win ballgames.”
When a team is as shorthanded as the Yankees supposedly are — at least on paper — those rest days usually are few and far between. It becomes an all-hands-on-deck mentality. A stressed-out manager looks to ride his horses through the tough spots.
What Boone did Thursday, however, was emblematic of his Joe Cool attitude, displaying a relaxed grip on the reins. He’s got faith in Thairo Estrada and Austin Romine, so there’s no need to push a pair of scorching-hot All-Stars.
In the manager’s mind, they’ll figure it out. Lo and behold, in the seventh inning, Estrada drew a one-out walk, stole second and then scored on Romine’s opposite-field single to put the Yankees ahead 4-1. This kind of stuff happens so frequently that it’s like the Yankees are just messing with us now.
Through the first four innings, the Yankees did practically zip against O’s starter Dylan Bundy, scraping together a pair of singles against a guy they had raked for a 6.36 ERA in 11 career appearances (nine starts) — and they trailed 1-0. It was shaping up to be a second-guessing kind of afternoon at Camden Yards, but Boone insisted he never did.
“No, not at all,” Boone said afterward. “These guys have to play to stay fresh. When I give guys off days, I’m confident the other guys are going to do the job.”
And they keep doing it well. Clint Frazier, up to patch the outfield holes left by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, crushed his third homer of the series (ninth overall) in the fifth inning. Gio Urshela, the clutch sub for Miguel Andujar, broke the early 1-1 tie with a two-strike, two-out, two-run single that upped his RISP average to .406 (13-for-32) with 15 RBIs.
Luke Voit, who has graduated to Yankees’ core member, smacked his 12th home run to extend the Yankees' lead to 5-1 in the eighth. Voit’s shot seemed gratuitous at the time, as it was the Yankees’ 36th homer against the Orioles this season, making up a whopping 45 percent of their overall total (80). They also have 27 at Camden Yards, the most over a seven-game span in one ballpark in team history, according to STATS LLC.
And somehow, the Yankees did it without Torres or Sanchez leaving the yard.
“I think Aaron was letting us hit some home runs today,” Voit said, smiling, “instead of Gleyber.”
Later, Torres said he understood Boone’s logic for sitting him. Still, he was the one who started the two-out rally, even as it looked like Givens may have had him struck out on a 2-and-2 pitch that touched the zone’s border on Statcast. Instead, Torres got the walk, which was nice, but . . .
“For sure I wanted to hit a home run,” Torres said.
At this cozy place, against this lowly team, it’s an upset when he doesn’t. But the Yankees don’t always need that. As Voit mentioned, plenty of other guys were happy to get a turn.