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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Tough to argue with Yankees' home run happy strategy

The Yankees' Luke Voit is congratulated by teammates

The Yankees' Luke Voit is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run off Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez during a game Thursday. Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

The Yankees first reached the 245-homer plateau in 2012, and it was then Brian Cashman first told me his offensive philosophy, taken from what he described as the Gene Michael playbook.

“Big hairy monsters.”

Yes, that’s a direct quote, and no, you won’t find that terminology listed among the categories on FanGraphs. Best of all, you don’t need an advanced degree in mathematics to figure it out, either.

Cashman digs the long ball. Always has, and as a disciple of the late Stick, the GM’s philosophy still rules the Bronx, where the Yankees bashed their way through that 245 ceiling Thursday night with two more home runs in establishing the new franchise record.

The Yankees have the “big” in Giancarlo Stanton, whose fourth-inning grand slam off Sox reliever Heath Hembree put them ahead 6-4 and earned himself a curtain call. The “hairy” is covered by Luke Voit, and it was the hirsute-chested slugger (with the open collar) that supplied the record-breaker with a two-run blast onto the netting above Monument Park in the second. 

As for the “monsters,” this roster has boasted strength in numbers, now featuring 12 players who have reached double-digits in home runs. Voit's 10th homer — in a span of 23 games — gave the Yankees the even dozen, also establishing the new MLB record.

“Who doesn’t like home runs?” Voit said after going deep twice in Wednesday night's 10-1 romp over Boston. “That’s why guys come to the park.”

The Yankees live for them. So much so that any power outage, at the wrong time, tends to prove fatal. It’s the strategy that hatched the “too many home runs” narrative that tends to pop up around this team occasionally, typically during those cold snaps. But it’s tough to argue with a blueprint that aims to produce multiple runs with one swing, and the more guys that can do it, the better insulated the Yankees should be against any efforts to stop them.

For only the fourth time in club history, the Yankees have four players totaling at least 25 home runs (Stanton 35, Judge 26, Didi Gregorius 26, Miguel Andujar 25) with Aaron Hicks (24) and Gleyber Torres (23) on the verge of joining them. If they do, the Yankees would tie the MLB mark set by the Red Sox in 2003.

Voit’s pair of home runs Wednesday also gave the Yankees 23 individual multi-homer games, the third-most all-time, and one behind the co-leaders: the ’61 Yankees and ’66 Braves. And if that isn’t dangerous enough, the Yankees entered Thursday with a 29-11 record when their six 20-HR hitters are together in the lineup, as they were again for the series finale with the Red Sox.

Why is that notable? Before the Sox got to the Bronx this week, those Slugging Six hadn’t shared the same lineup card in more than 10 weeks, dating to July 2 against the Braves. The primary reasons for that were lengthy injuries, in chronological order, to Torres, Judge and Gregorius. During that splintered stretch, with those big bats missing, the Yankees were only seven games over .500 (37-30).

With the Monsters back, however, the impact has been immediate. In Tuesday’s series opener, the Yankees were being shut down by Nathan Eovaldi, managing only two hits over six innings and trailing 1-0 before Neil Walker drilled a three-run homer into the rightfield upper deck. With that type of thunder readily available, from every spot in the order, the Yankees are tough to shut down for 27 outs. That’s the plan anyway.

“I think that’s what we’re built around,” Aaron Boone said Thursday afternoon. “That’s when we’re at our best, and when we’re healthy, I think that’s what makes it difficult on an opposing pitcher. You can execute against guy after guy for a while. But when you’re facing accomplished hitters that do damage against you, then you’re grinding the whole game. And when you do make a mistake, most of our guys make you pay, and that’s what potentially makes us special.”

Before Wednesday’s game, Red Sox manager Alex Cora echoed the same mantra expressed by every Yankees’ opponent. Got to keep them in the ballpark. Price then went out and gave up three home runs in 5 1/3 innings, sabotaging any chance of a Boston clinch that night. Something to keep in mind going forward: the Yankees have out-homered the Sox, 245-189, this season.

With the Monsters back, it could be a scary October in New England.

New York Sports