The Yankees beat the least but can challenge the best

Yankees fans are watching their team against the Athletics at Yankee Stadium on May 10, 2023.

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It’s hard to get too worked up about the Yankees’ 11-3 thrashing of the A’s on Wednesday, the final game in a three-game sweep, when you consider that the A’s are the weakest team in the major leagues. Was the Yankees’ performance in a terrific series against a terrible team truly a telling indicator of their health heading into a four-game series with the AL East-leading Rays?

Who knows, we’ll start finding out when Tampa Bay comes to town on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. They may be hoping to use the sweep as momentum against the Rays, but the Yankees looked confident and strong on a beautiful afternoon in the Bronx. A smart move for a team with a winning record but which has been hit hard by injuries and began the day in last place in the American League East.

“I like where we’re at, like we’re coming in with an edge,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I felt that this morning like there was an energy, a quick turnaround game [from a Tuesday night game] and it’s like, We gotta go. We gotta keep going. And I feel like we’ve done a good job of that over the last 10 days, really.”

The Yankees vs. Rays battle

With a 21-17 record, the Yankees would be tied for first in the NL Central and would easily win the AL Central. That was good for dead last in the American League East.

The Rays, who are now in first place, have performed like a first-rate club. They’re 17-2 in games versus the Sickening Six (A’s, Royals, Rockies, Nats, Reds, and White Sox). In case you forgot, the Yankees dropped their series against the Rays last weekend in St. Petersburg, losing two of three games. While all three games were tight, the result was determined by Tampa Bay’s plus-1 run difference for the series. The Rays scored 15 runs in the series and the Yankees scored 14. One run was the difference in every game.

The regular fire that characterizes this rivalry, combined with the Rays’ record (29-8 as of the start of play on Wednesday, best in baseball), should be in a riveting baseball. After Rays star Randy Arozarena was hit twice by the Yankees pitchers, Tampa manager Kevin Cash was dismissed from the game for arguing with the umpires. It’s not the first time that hit-by-pitches have sparked tensions between the two teams, however, last week’s game was played without incident. Cheating allegations make this more bitter.

The Yankees (3) vs. Rays (2) at Tropicana Field on May 6, 2023.
Chris O’Meara – staff, AP

“They got a good ballclub, you know? Those competitive juices really get going when you’re playing another good team. They’ve got great pitchers. ”Aaron Judge responded when asked to define the competition. “They got a great lineup, not only putting the ball in play but doing some damage and hitting a lot of home runs. So, over the years, it’s been fun going toe-to-toe with those guys. We’ve even seen them in the postseason. Battles here at home, battles at the Trop, so we’re looking forward to another great series.”

The Yankees’ offense is firing

The A’s were defeated by home runs from Harrison Bader, DJ LeMahieu, and Anthony Volpe on Wednesday, The Yankee offense has been on fire lately, scoring seven or more runs in three of the past four games, so spirits were high as the club prepared to depart the stadium for their traditional Welcome Home Dinner.

Volpe’s first career grand slam was a 419-foot blast to dead center that left his bat at 107.4 miles per hour, stunning his teammates. He hit a grand slam at 22 years and 12 days old, making him the fifth youngest Yankee to do so.

According to Bader, Volpe got some juice. He added that Volpe got some serious skills! Bader also mentioned that Volpe’s swing is pretty awesome – it’s short, quick, and intentional.

Anthony Volpe, Anthony Rizzo, and Aaron Judge are signing national anthem prior to the Yankees vs. Athletics game at Yankee Stadium on May 9, 2023.

“Very few people can take it out to dead center like that and he kind of knew it off the bat,” added Aaron Judge, who was 3-for-4 and reached base four times in his second game back from the Injured List. “So it was impressive, man. He’s been hitting the ball hard all season. I think the average (Volpe is batting .205) you see up there isn’t right. He’s swinging the bat well. He has a great approach.”

In his second game after returning from injury, the Yankees captain went 3-for-4 with four hits and four base hits. Bader’s hot streak continued. Since his comeback, he has hit .429 and has hit eight home runs in his last seventeen games. Judge said that having the center fielder in the Yankees lineup brings a lot of energy that is needed over 162. He also mentioned that a player like him can ignite the game with a big three-run homer which is special.

Hopes are high

Let’s see whether the Yankees can muster anything remarkable against what could be an extraordinary team. On Wednesday, the Rays ranked first in the majors in OPS (.864), home runs (75), and earned run average (2.97). They’re scoring 6.22 per contest, good for second in the league behind Texas.

Bader admits that the opposing team is talented in all aspects. But he feels that it’s fun to play against such a competitor, which makes them play as underdogs and more confidently. Boone is pleased with the team’s mindset and preparation and thinks that getting some players back has been significant for their lineup.

The Yankees are celebrating after a home run against the Athletics on May 8, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
Twitter/NYY

The Yankees manager told:

“It’s just nose down. We’ve got, obviously, a very difficult opponent coming in as part of this homestand next and we just gotta keep on moving forward. Keep on moving.”

Against Oakland, the Yankees pounded out 29 hits, including 16 home runs. By the time the fifth inning of the decisive game ended, every single Yankee on the field had reached safely. With a three-run homer, Harrison Bader maintained his impressive comeback. Against left-handed pitchers into the fifth inning, Aaron Judge already has two hits, including a double.

Jhony Brito‘s start was typical. He had little trouble getting to two strikes (11 of 21 batters) but lacked the necessary arsenal to routinely finish them off. Seven times he went 0-2 in counts, including when he gave up back-to-back home runs in the second inning to Carlos Perez and Jace Peterson. After falling to 0-2, Brito has allowed a Major League Baseball-high four home runs.

Remember that MLB has returned to a more even schedule. The number of games played by teams within a certain division has been reduced from 19 to 13. This means, for instance, that the AL East will not have as many opportunities to gain ground and/or beat each other up.

“You have to take care of business when you need to,” Kyle Higashioka said. “Yeah, that’s definitely something that’s important, especially when you consider our division.”

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