On several occasions this season, DJ LeMahieu has dug his spikes into the batter’s box and glanced up at the super-sized numbers on a scoreboard somewhere around the American League, blinking hard at a batting average hovering in the .220s or .230s.
The numbers hardly made sense to LeMahieu, who has always been a much better hitter than that. That story has shifted in the last month, with LeMahieu crediting hitting coach Sean Casey for helping him unlock some vintage performances at the plate.
“Sean Casey has been a huge help for me,” LeMahieu said. “I relate to him really well. Great positive energy, a great guy. He’s a great guy to talk hitting with.”
LeMahieu, 35, enjoyed his first multi-homer game in more than two years on Friday at Tropicana Field, helping power the Yankees to a 6-2 victory over the Rays.
He added two singles in Saturday’s matinee -- the only hits of the game for the Yanks -- before homering in Sunday’s series finale.
Overall, LeMahieu has reached base in 34 of his last 37 games (since July 4), a span that included a season-high 10-game hitting streak from Aug. 1-18. Since the All-Star break, LeMahieu is batting .315 (35-for-111) with a .420 on-base percentage.
“You don’t win batting titles in both leagues and not eventually get going,” Casey told the YES Network. “I think a big thing with him is finding that right-field gap, because for me, that opens up the left side for him. In the last month and a half or so, he’s really found what he’s good at, and it’s opening up the pull side for him.”
LeMahieu explained that Casey has improved his lower-half positioning in the box, which has helped him stay in a better position to see the ball through the strike zone.
“It’s so good to see,” manager Aaron Boone said. “There’s a little more life within his load, getting on his back side a little bit. That’s building a little speed in his swing. I just think he’s a little faster [to the ball]. It’s keeping him in the zone with a little more authority, and we’re seeing the patient at-bats, too. He’s getting on base at a big clip, too, which is always a huge part of his game.”
Casey, who replaced Dillon Lawson as the Bombers’ lead hitting coach during the All-Star break, said that he has connected with LeMahieu on a personal level -- in fact, LeMahieu can recall watching him play with the Tigers back in 2006, when LeMahieu was a junior at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
“I don’t think you necessarily have to be a .300 hitter to be a good coach, but we have similar approaches to the game and to hitting,” LeMahieu said. “A lot of the stuff he says, for me, it brings me to other times in my career that I’ve come out of. Just talking the game with him has been helpful.”