There are other teams that have hit more home runs so far than the Yankees, who will hit them in London this weekend, just how they’ve hit them everywhere else.
Last year, the Yankees set an MLB record with 267 big flies, and the 134 they have this year puts them behind the Twins (149), Mariners (145), Brewers (139) and Dodgers (137), at least for now. But here’s the amazing thing in what has been such an amazing season for the Yankees on so many levels: They’ve hit that many home runs in a season when Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have combined to hit seven. Two years ago, when Stanton was the National League Most Valuable Player Award winner with the Marlins and Judge was the American League Rookie of the Year Award winner, they combined for 111.
Stanton is now back on the injured list, likely until August, because of a sprained right knee. Judge just came off the IL. Already this season, the Yankees have put more than 20 players on the IL -- not just Stanton and Judge, but also Luis Severino, who was supposed to be their ace starter, and Dellin Betances, a four-time All-Star from their bullpen. Neither has pitched an inning this season. But that hasn’t stopped the Yanks from being tied with the Twins for the best record in the AL -- and tied for the second best record in MLB, behind only the Dodgers.
The Yankees are in London to play two games against the Red Sox this weekend, having won 11 of their past 12 games. They go to London on a rip where they have homered in 29 straight games, an all-time record for MLB. The Yanks have the best record in baseball history, and their 27 World Series are 16 more than the Cardinals, the team in second place. But because of all the injuries, there has never been a more a more compelling first half in Yankees history.
I asked my friend, Michael Kay, about all this the other day. He is the television voice of the Yankees on YES network, and he was one of their radio voices before that. He's also a New York City kid who grew up to cover the team for both the New York Post and New York Daily News.
“This is my 28th year [covering the team],” Kay said. “I have seen a team play better, which means the 1998 team. But nothing like this, when there is seemingly a daily significant injury and it doesn’t even register. They just plow on, plug in a different player, and keep winning. Nothing deters them. Nothing gets them down. Really have a ‘next up’ philosophy.”
Gio Urshela, a journeyman infielder for both the Indians and Blue Jays, helped carry the offense early in the season, and he is still hitting .303. Brian Cashman signed DJ LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million free-agent contract, and now LeMahieu is deservedly starting the All-Star Game for the AL. Cashman picked up Cameron Maybin after he was released by the Giants, and Maybin was hitting .314 before he ended up on the IL, of course. Next up, indeed.
Here are five of the Yankees’ regular position players from last season -- a team that won 100 games: Judge, Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andújar. So far this season they have played 94 games between them. Andujar played 12 before being lost for the season to labrum surgery on his right shoulder. Stanton has played nine. Gregorius, now healthy again after offseason Tommy John surgery, has played 15. Judge has played 25, and Hicks has played 33.
Again: No Severino and no Betances. James Paxton, who was supposed to be the Yankees’ big offseason play for a starting pitcher, has had knee issues, and he has put together a modest 5-3 record with a 4.34 ERA. In his last start against the Blue Jays, Paxton gave up eight hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings. It was 5-0 in favor of the Blue Jays after the top of the second, but the Yankees came back. They always seem to come back this season. They ended up winning 8-7 on a Gleyber Torres single in the bottom of the ninth.
Everything seemed to go right for the Red Sox last season. So much is going that way for the Yankees, even in a season when so much has gone wrong because of injuries to one key player after another. Domingo Germán stepped into the starting rotation, got his record to 9-2 and then went on the IL with a strained left hip flexor muscle, but he could rejoin the starting rotation as early as next week when the Yanks are back from London.
The team still crosses the Atlantic Ocean nine games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East, during a season in which the Sox have really suffered two injuries of consequence -- to Mitch Moreland and Nathan Eovaldi, one of their pitching stars last October. The Yankees just took three out of four at Yankee Stadium from the Astros, and New York is suddenly 6 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay in the division. The team is still worried about starting pitching. It doesn't know when Stanton or Severino will be back. But the Yanks are still as good as any team in baseball.
There has never been a first half like this for the Yankees -- on either side of the Atlantic.