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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

'Only' one HR for Yankees, but they still provided a powerful performance against lowly Orioles

Gleyber Torres #25 of the Yankees connects on

Gleyber Torres #25 of the Yankees connects on a third-inning single against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Before the Orioles threw a pitch Tuesday night, the Yankees already had demolished their staff for a record 59 home runs, the most ever hit against one team in a single season.

Then John Means opened with a 92-mph fastball to DJ LeMahieu.

Take a wild guess what happened next.

The only mystery these days is where the baseball finally touches down. In this instance, LeMahieu launched it over the visitors bullpen in leftfield, a 446-foot blast.

If you’re still counting by now, that was No. 60 for the Yankees. A day earlier, Gio Urshela hammered a 461-foot shot, punching its ticket to a place that only sluggers like Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton (remember him?) tend to visit.

Somehow, LeMahieu was the only Yankee to clear the fences in Tuesday night’s 8-3 victory, their 15th straight over the Orioles. This was their version of small ball, ripping five doubles, with Judge and Cameron Maybin leading the way with two RBIs each.

The Yankees grinding it out, so to speak, for Tuesday’s win was kind of a refreshing change after watching Gleyber Torres go deep three times during Monday’s doubleheader sweep, giving him 13 homers in 16 games against the Orioles.

Gleyber’s relentless assault cooled Tuesday, as he worked a five-pitch walk in the first inning, then went 1-for-4 with a single. 

That leaves Wednesday’s series finale as Torres’ last chance to to catch Lou Gehrig, who hit 14 home runs against the Indians in 1936. He’s already matched Roger Maris (13 vs. the White Sox in ’61). 

We could go on and on about all the fun Torres has enjoyed at the Orioles’ expense this season: the five multi-homer games (a record vs. one team) and being the youngest in AL history (22 years, 242 days) to have eight of them already.

Torres also is the third youngest Yankee to reach 50 home runs, trailing only Mickey Mantle (21 years, 279 days) and Joe DiMaggio (22 years, 226 days).

That’s pinstriped royalty. And Torres is proving himself to be an incredibly talented player, as well as an unusually powerful infielder.

But here’s the issue. We’re not exactly sure how to process what he’s done. For a sport that treats its statistical records with almost religious fervor, what are we to make of this season’s unprecedented fireworks display?

This is not to take anything away from Torres. He’s hitting the same baseball everyone else is, and nobody has done it better against one team in 82 years.

Just watching Torres & Co. keep whacking away at the non-competitive Orioles all year left us feeling a little exhausted with dinger-fatigue. This is a league-wide epidemic, of course, and hardly isolated to watching the Yankees pound on Baltimore like a stack of Old Bay-dusted blue crabs.

Remember the Yankees taking over the single-season homer mark with 267 a year ago, surpassing the ’97 Mariners? As of Tuesday night, the Twins were on pace for 313, with the Yankees cruising toward 293 and the Astros a potential 273. The Dodgers also are in the neighborhood, projected to finish at 266.

Even more striking? Last year, 47 players hit 25 or more home runs. This season, on Aug. 13, there already were 39 players who had reached that plateau, and another 55 players below them with 18 or more homers, suggesting that twice as many could get to No. 25 or greater.

“I think it’s that more and more guys are really capable of doing it,” Aaron Boone said before Tuesday’s game. “Obviously this year, the talk has been about the ball, and I think there’s real reasons for that.

“But I think it’s important also to credit the number of hitters that understand the true mechanics of the swing a little bit better and more and more guys are capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, and to all fields.”

Boone’s right. There is now an increased emphasis on launch angle, and with this year’s juicier baseball, players have realized they can clear the fences by putting the ball in the air to the opposite field as well.

Heading into Tuesday, MLB was averaging 1.40 home runs per game, a huge jump fron the existing record of 1.26, set in 2017. At this rate, MLB will have produced 6,795 homers by season’s end, blowing away the ’17 mark of 6,105.

It only feels like the Yankees have hit them all against the Orioles. And we still have one more game to go in this season series, which mercifully ends with Wednesday’s matinee in the Bronx.  

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