Triple-A call-ups take charge of Yankees amidst veterans’ struggle against Seattle

Jake Bauers, Billy McKinney, and Jhony Brito of the New York Yankees up against Seattle on June 21, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

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The Yankees veterans again failed against the Mariners. However, their Triple-A call-ups took charge of the game and steered the Yankees to a 4-2 win with an excellent display of offensive powerplay.

Jake Bauers and Billy McKinney are consistently providing quality at-bats as veteran players, such as Josh Donaldson, DJ LeMahieu, and Giancarlo Stanton have been struggling.

Jhony Brito, another fresh arrival from the AAA RailRiders, put up a strong start with a run-less 5 2/3 innings. Bauers, McKinney, and Anthony Volpe rallied behind his dominant start to make sure the Yankees win their first series without Aaron Judge.

After enduring a dreadful weekend where they suffered a three-game sweep at home against the Red Sox, the Yankees managed to bounce back by securing two wins against the Mariners, who have been struggling even more offensively than the Yankees themselves, thanks to these young guns.

Brito started well inspiring the team

Jhony Brito is seen during his MLB debut as the Yankees starter on April 2, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

Jhony Brito’s last seven starts didn’t inspire much confidence. He took the mound on Wednesday with an ERA of 8.28. Even in his four starts in Triple-A, he posted a 7.08 ERA. His opponent was Luis Castillo, who had previously dominated the Yankees, both before and after a trade deadline when the team attempted to acquire him but failed. In three starts against Castillo in 2022, the Yankees struggled, managing only a .139 batting average with one home run in 82 plate appearances, while Castillo maintained an impressive 1.66 ERA.

During this season, Castillo showcased his pitching prowess with the second-highest strikeout percentage (33.7%) among qualified starters, and he boasted an impressive 1.76 ERA in his last five starts. To add to the challenge, he was up against a Yankees offense that had been struggling, particularly without Aaron Judge. In their previous 10 games, the Yankees had only drawn 15 walks, including none in Tuesday’s game against Seattle. Remarkably, they managed to reach a three-ball count only three times throughout the entire game.

But Brito made a dominant start that changed the narrative in Game 2. The Yankees rookie starter freshly arriving from Triple-A displayed efficiency on the mound while Castillo encountered difficulties in putting hitters away. Brito shared that he had been diligently refining his breaking ball and focusing on keeping his pitches low in the zone during his challenging period with the RailRider. His dedication paid off as he appeared composed and skillful, showcasing his full repertoire by delivering 5 ²/₃ scoreless innings on Wednesday. Impressively, he only required 44 pitches to throw immaculate four innings.

Manager Aaron Boone expressed his satisfaction, stating that one couldn’t have expected much more than what Brito delivered on the mound to the delight of the crowd at Yankee Stadium.

Triple-A call-ups took charge of the Yankees’ offense

On the other hand, the Yankees exhibited a patient approach at the plate against Castillo, resulting in lengthy at-bats. Castillo, who threw a total of 103 pitches in five innings, faced resistance from the Yankees’ hitters. However, this didn’t come from the Yankees veterans but from non-roster players.

In the third inning, Anthony Volpe showcased his determination by working a walk after being down in the count 1-2. Jake Bauers capitalized on the opportunity, crushing a full-count fastball for his sixth home run of the season, granting the Yankees a 2-0 advantage. Bauers has demonstrated his power, accumulating 15 extra-base hits in just 109 at-bats.

In the subsequent inning, Billy McKinney delivered a significant impact by hitting a two-run home run off George Kirby. It proved to be the pivotal moment in the game against Seattle on Tuesday. McKinney has maintained an impressive streak of reaching base safely in all 12 games he has played with the Yankees, recording hits in 11 of those games and collecting extra-base hits in seven of them.

Boone praised McKinney’s consistent performance at the plate, acknowledging his ability to deliver quality at-bats consistently. Regarding Bauers, the manager expressed his satisfaction with the impact he has made on the team, highlighting his ability to make solid contact with the ball. Boone also commended Bauers’ competitiveness and presence, particularly in the leadoff spot, noting that he has shown a strong presence during his at-bats.

The Yankees had initially acquired McKinney, Bauers, and Calhoun as versatile left-handed hitters during spring training, primarily to strengthen their Triple-A roster and provide depth from that side of the plate. However, all three players found themselves in the starting lineup on Wednesday, with Boone opting to rest LeMahieu and Stanton while giving Donaldson another chance, despite his struggles resulting in an uninspiring 0-for-4 performance. Unfortunately, Calhoun suffered a quad injury during the game, and it appears likely that he will be placed on the injured list.

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The injury to Calhoun will open up more opportunities for McKinney and Bauers, who were initially given playing time out of urgency and the team’s needs. However, their recent performances have sparked curiosity. Are they simply providing temporary assistance during a crucial period, or is there potential for something greater? Can one or both of them perform well enough to prevent the Yankees from pursuing a trade for a left fielder? These questions linger as their contributions are closely observed.

Bauers acknowledged that in past seasons, he tended to overanalyze his swing, which hindered his performance. However, he has now adopted a different approach by trusting his preparation and allowing things to unfold naturally. McKinney, a former first-round pick in 2013, expressed unwavering confidence in himself and never lost belief in his abilities, regardless of any challenges he faced along the way.

Both McKinney and Bauers will continue to receive playing time, especially considering the current absence of Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes due to injuries. In a team with one of the highest payrolls in the league, the Yankees will rely on these minor accomplishments and contributions to meet their ongoing needs.

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