Yankees must decisively stop Rays, winning Twins far from assuring title

gerrit cole of yankees

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NEW YORK — The Yankees swept the twins in Wednesday’s doubleheader giving fans a feel of what the team is capable to do. But they are not the kings of AL East yet, even not safe to become champs. All that they need is a decisive series win against the Rays, who have been able to cut a lead of 15 ½ games to a mere five. The Yankees’ 5-4 and 7-1 victories against the Twins put them ahead in the race for the title. It healed wounds of ignonimity and assuages the anger of fans, who demand the team must return to the winning ways. New York is happy to see the team restoring the AL East lead over the Rays to five games. But no one is assured if their August-September nightmare is over. Another slump may upend things and throws a lifeline to the relentless Rays to chase the title. This weekend’s mega-series can tell if the Yankees’ have the stamina to fend off a determined push by the Rays.

Twins are not Rays

On Wednesday, at Yankee Stadium, the Bombers are almost without any fault, but not for the reasons they think. Yes, Aaron Judge hit another – his 55th of the season – home run. Gerrit Cole shows what is capable of. Isiah Kiner-Falefa scored a ninth-inning grand slam that put the Yankees on the winning spree again. In fact, the Yankees ticked all boxes and it was difficult to see if they missed anyone. Though Game 1 saw a startles team leading the charge, anchored by Aaron Judge, the Bombers should be thankful for a visit from a mediocre Central Division team that shrivels at the famed home of the Yankees. The Twins are like pigeons that are unable to stand before the sucking power of a 767 engine. Minnesota is not a real test for New York’s championship mettle. It will be tested when Tampa Bay arrives on Saturday for a three-game series. Even the standings have nothing to do with the fight. The Yankees should keep going because Tampa Bay’s schedule is set to become much tougher in the last month. The litmus test will see if the nagging doubts that have been growing since the All-Star break can be addressed. Those doubts have gone away a little bit this week, but that’s only because the Twins have been beaten by a better team.

Questions remain for Yankees

The Yankees continue to face questions. How are they going to score runs with many stars on the injured list? DJ LeMahieu is out with a toe injury. Giancarlo Stanton struggles to recover from a left-foot problem. A nagging backache is keeping Anthony Rizzo off. Matt Carpenter is yet to return from a fractured foot. Can Aaron Judge shoulder the Yankees with his homers if he sees fewer strikes? He is in form but the team can face problems if he loses his pace. Will Cole keep his season-high 14 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings on Wednesday? The pitcher wasn’t consistent in July and August. How can the Yankees maintain their lead if the Rays make a determined push for the AL East? Can the backup boys stand up to the challenge in the absence of stars? The worst fear continues – will the Yankees fall even after becoming division champs? Manage Boone has 25 games to decide. He’s not as worried as he was in August when the Yankees lost 18 of 28 games and the manager pounded tables for YES cameras. The manager was happier than he had been in weeks on Wednesday. And for good reason, quite a few of them are happy too.

Judge flies with after-burners

The Big Man is hitting a home run every game and is now on track to hit at least 65 by the end of the season. Not bad, considering that most power hitters stop hitting by this time of the season. But not Judge. Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies is his closest competitor, but he is about 20 home runs behind. Judge’s is super patient and his strategy looks clear and focused. That means he is not chasing outside pitches when opposing pitchers are losing steam. It’s easier to avoid Judge than risk a 400-foot shot. Judge was made to walk five times during the doubleheader, but he never broke his vow to chase strikes. Even though Judge had a six-run lead, he continued to hold on to his nerves. When Austin Davis threw a curveball in the eighth inning, the in-form slugger didn’t go after it despite it being pitched an inch off the corner. Any other player could have tried to exploit the error. But a stubborn Judge is focused on his strategy. It wouldn’t have been hard to hit home run 56 from right field’s short porch. But Judge’s code was to never yield. He let the pitch go, walked, and told reporters he was happy to pass the baton.

Cole turns back the clock

The Yankees and their fans still remember how Cole made 10-strikeout games in 2020. If you multiply that by 10, you’ll get an idea of how bad the Twins’ odds were on Wednesday. Cole’s 49 fastballs and sliders, averaging 100.9 mph, generated 20 swings and misses. Cole’s spin rates were higher than his 2022 average. It indicates either cooler weather kept him stronger and the pitcher is preparing himself for the postseason games. It was the Twins’ turn to hit the ball. Since the All-Star break, they have scored the 11th most runs in the American League. Not quite like the Yankees of 1927. But Cole did exactly what the Yankees wanted their number starter to do. The kids passed the audition Josh Donaldson was on paternity leave, and Rizzo, Stanton, and LeMahieu were all hurt. So, Boone had to make up a batting order for the kids on the bench and without his stars. There was criticism of the manager’s selection. But Oswald Peraza justified his callup with three hits. Isiah Kiner-Falefa finished with a grand slam. Estevan Florial’s 2-for-3 added to the Yankees’ victory. Kiner-Falefa has been getting a lot of hate on social media from Yankees fans lately. The game on Wednesday could end it.
“We have a number of players who want to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them,” Boone proudly announced.
But fans and analysts are unsure if the “B” team can do the same against the Rays. But Boone likes the energy of a team that has talents and can get better with more opportunities. Can the Yankees overcome a determined fight by the Rays? As a Yankee fan, what do you think?

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