BALTIMORE -- There may be a day -- not long from now for some, 20 years from now for others -- when parents tell their children about the stretch Mike Tauchman is on right now for the Yankees.
While the bat has been apparent for a while, it was his glove that came to life in Tuesday night’s 9-4 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards, the seventh straight victory for the Yankees. On what seemed like a no-doubt homer from Orioles catcher Pedro Severino in the fourth inning with the Yankees leading 5-2, Tauchman leaped at the low-standing left-center-field wall, stuck his glove hand out and came down with a ball 363 feet away from home plate.
“I knew it was going to be around the wall,” Tauchman said. “So I just wanted to get to the wall fast and give me some time to time my jump rather than trying to drift and make up time at the end.”
Whatever he did, it worked, and Severino could only laugh on his way back to the home dugout.
“About as good a home run robbery as you’ll see,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
“I’m glad he was over there and not me,” said center fielder Brett Gardner.
There was one question postgame that stumped Tauchman: Does he prefer to steal a homer or hit one? It was a timely question, since he had also launched his third homer in the past two games on Tuesday.
“I mean,” he paused, “hitting homers is pretty cool. That’s probably one of the first robs like that I had where I really had to go up and get it.”
“They're equally fun,” he said, stifling a laugh.
Tauchman’s leadoff homer an inning before his robbery kicked off a string of three solo homers in the frame -- starting a back-to-back effort with DJ LeMahieu before Didi Gregorius went deep later -- to give New York a 3-0 lead at the time.
Known lovingly as the “Sock Man,” the 28-year-old outfielder the Yankees acquired from the Rockies in a March trade had two home runs in Monday’s 9-6 win over the Orioles. Since the All-Star break, Tauchman is batting .433/.477/.867 with six doubles, six homers and 19 RBIs in 18 games. His batting average heading into Tuesday led the Majors in that span, while his OBP and OPS ranked second.
In the world of the next-man-up Yankees, Tauchman is leading the pack.
“Mike Tauchman is continuing to play his butt off on both sides of the ball,” Gardner said. “It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Tauchman would add an RBI double for insurance in the eighth that scored Austin Romine, who had a night at the plate himself. The catcher was 3-for-5 with a pair of two-baggers and his second homer in as many days -- his second time homering in back-to-back starts in the last eight days. Over his last 10 games, Romine has four homers and 12 RBIs after just two and 16 the 37 games prior.
For good measure, Cameron Maybin and Gardner went back to back in the ninth, giving the Yankees six homers on the night and 47 against the Orioles this season. With five games left against Baltimore, one more will tie the single-season record against one team, set by the 1956 Yankees against the Kansas City A’s.
“They hit a lot of homers,” deadpanned opener Jonathan Holder.
“What’d we hit? I think five, six?” Tauchman asked. “Whatever it was, six?”
It was six indeed.
“It’s not even their big boys either, which is pretty scary,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “They have a ton of power that’s not even in their lineup, and they’ve hit 11 homers in two nights, without [Giancarlo] Stanton, Edwin [Encarnacion], Gleyber [Torres].”
Unlikely characters, too, appeared on the mound, starting with Holder himself. While his final statline was not the most auspicious, Boone praised the efficiency -- just 20 pitches through the first two innings -- that allowed Holder to pitch into the third in his first trial as an opener this year.
His start came after a rain delay that lasted an hour and 12 minutes. The Yankees rode Holder, Stephen Tarpley -- who was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game -- and Nestor Cortes Jr. for seven innings before Adam Ottavino closed it out, pushing New York to 11-0 in games it has utilized the opener.
Cortes, who appeared in four games with the Orioles last season as a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Yankees, led the charge with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He saved a taxed Yankees ’pen, doing so as one of three pitchers in the game who would have most likely been stored in the Minors all season had it not been for the injury bug.
“Ever since the first or second day of the season it’s kind of been a broken record, unfortunately,” Gardner said of the injury shake-ups. “But we found a way to just prevail, if you will, and weather the storm. We have a resilient group of guys and it doesn’t matter who's playing where or who's hitting where in the lineup. Our expectations never change, and everybody in this room realizes that.”