'Little feisty guys' do big damage for Yanks

Yankees claim season-high 7th straight victory to check 70-win box

August 20th, 2021

NEW YORK -- For all the muscle at the top of the Yankees’ lineup Thursday night, it was the scrappers at the back end doing most of the damage.

Kyle Higashioka homered and drove in three runs, leading the Yankees to a 7-5 win over the Twins in the opener of a four-game set at Yankee Stadium.

“A lot of good things are happening to allow us to win ballgames,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think the fun part about it is that it's kind of taken everyone in that room; all 26 guys -- which has looked a little different at times -- have really played an important role in helping us win games night in and night out.”

The top five hitters in the Yankees’ lineup -- Luke Voit, Anthony Rizzo, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo and Giancarlo Stanton -- could have formed an impressive offensive line for the Jets or Giants.

But it was the lower third of the lineup -- Andrew Velazquez, Higashioka and Tyler Wade -- serving as the driving force in a pair of multi-run innings for the Yankees, who had a 6-0 lead by the end of the fourth.

“We’ve got a bunch of humongous guys on this team,” Voit said. “It’s big to have little feisty guys that can pick it and play multiple positions, be table-setters for the rest of us who need to drive in runs.”

The 7-8-9 hitters had four hits -- they hit for the cycle between them in the third and fourth innings -- and scored five of the team’s first six runs, pacing an offense that knocked out starter John Gant with one out in the fourth.

“For all of us, especially us at the bottom of the order, we just want to contribute to wins,” Higashioka said. “We know if we're putting pressure on the pitchers, we're going to turn the lineup over and Judge, Rizzo, Voit, all those guys are going to come up with runners on base and have a chance to do some real damage.”

“If you're going to be a really good team, you’ve got to have that,” Boone said. “You’ve got to have the support guys that are doing those things on a given night. Those guys have come up big for us when they've gotten those opportunities.”

The Yankees have won a season-high seven consecutive games, their longest winning streak since they rattled off 10 in a row last September. 

Since July 6, the Yankees’ 28-11 record is the best in the Majors. They trail the first-place Rays by five games in the American League East, though they sit atop the AL Wild Card standings, one game ahead of the Athletics and 1 1/2 ahead of the Red Sox.

Jameson Taillon (8-4) allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings to win his seventh straight decision, improving to 7-0 with a 2.57 ERA over his past 12 starts.

“There are nights where the starting pitching has been extremely dominant. There are nights where the bullpen comes in and picks us up,” Taillon said. “There are nights where the offense just scratches and claws and gets us enough. And then there are nights like tonight where they get the starter out of the game early and put up a big crooked number. I think that's a sign of a good team, when you can win in a bunch of different ways.”

The offense staked Taillon to a six-run lead through four innings and the way the righty was twirling, it looked like it would be more than enough. Taillon faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings, retiring 14 straight Twins before running into trouble with one out in the sixth. Minnesota scored three times that inning, sending Taillon to the bench far earlier than he expected.

“I thought tonight was the night where I probably could have pitched into the eighth,” Taillon said. “To have it end at 5 1/3 was pretty frustrating.”

In the end, it didn’t matter for the Yankees, who saw the Twins cut the lead to 6-4 before Stanton ripped a solo shot in the eighth. Chad Green picked up his sixth save despite allowing a run in the ninth, but as has been the case for the past week, it was all smiles and handshakes as the Yankees walked off the field with another win.

“We just come to the field and we expect to win right now,” Velazquez said. “We see the lineup, we see the opponent and we expect to win. … You can argue that confidence comes from results, but you can also argue the other way around. If we come in with that mentality, which is what we've been doing for the past few games, it's going to happen most of the time.”