Yankees' strengths all on display in third straight win in KC

June 13th, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- The Yankees can win games in a multitude of ways, and during the first three contests in Kansas City they’ve deployed them all on the Royals.

Starting pitching? Check. Defense? Check. Hitting for contact and power? Check. The Yankees have been relentless, pressuring the Royals out of the gate in each game, the latest resulting in an 11-5 win on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

New York is now 30-9 since May 1, and it can secure the four-game sweep Thursday after outscoring the Royals 25-8 so far in this set.

The formula? It has been clear from the beginning.

The Yankees lead the Majors with 57 runs in the first inning this season, with 10 of those coming in three games in Kansas City. Jose Trevino capped a six-run frame Wednesday with a three-run blast that he sent a Statcast-projected 406 feet into the left-field bullpen. New York has taken a multi-run lead in each game before its starter has thrown a pitch.

“Anytime you score runs, however you do it early, I think it does give a little shot of energy and help be one of the factors that helps set the tone for a game,” manager Aaron Boone said pregame Wednesday.

The Yankees have set the tone by leading for all 27 innings. Three of the first four batters have reached in every game, and New York has blasted three homers in back-to-back games.

With Anthony Volpe, Juan Soto -- who reached base four times -- and Aaron Judge, who picked up another hit to extend his monster stretch, leading the charge, the top of the lineup has allowed Giancarlo Stanton to return to form. The slugger now has 17 homers, three in his past eight games, and his Statcast-projected 449-foot blast Wednesday encored his mammoth, 446-foot home run from a day prior.

Stanton has attributed his success to a heightened sense of communication from each batter after his at-bat.

“It’s always ideal, but I think it’s really emphasized this year, just any little bit of information that we may not have covered or looks different -- of if [the pitcher] has made an adjustment from the way he’s attacking us compared to what we prepared for,” Stanton said. “It’s all an evolving work in progress to figure out the algorithm.”

So far, it’s a strategy that has worked to perfection. Stanton’s ability to deepen the lineup has been the catalyst for the major part of the winning script this season: starting pitching.

“I think [the first-inning runs are] huge for anybody, any team. You want to be the ones, especially being the visitors, you want to punch first,” Trevino said. “That way, your pitcher gets in there, gets comfortable and attacks the zone freely.”

New York got all it wanted from Cody Poteet, who tossed 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball. Yankees starters have allowed just three runs over 18 innings against a Royals team that entered the series with the third most runs in the American League. In 59 of 70 games this season, New York’s starters have yielded three runs or fewer.

“When you see that, you just want to go out there and pound the strike zone because they’re scoring like that early on,” Poteet said. “You just want to have a shutdown inning and get the opposing team back out there real quick, which is the goal after something like that.”

Attacking hitters because of large leads has dipped the strikeout numbers -- Carlos Rodón had three on Monday, Marcus Stroman one on Tuesday and Poteet two -- but pitching to contact and using the defense has only added to the winning formula.

DJ LeMahieu made a diving play Monday to help curb a potential rally, Anthony Rizzo made an over-the-shoulder catch Tuesday to rob Salvador Perez of a leadoff hit and Gleyber Torres, who hit a three-run homer Wednesday, saved a run by snagging a 108.3 mph liner from Kyle Isbel with a runner on second in the third. Judge also got in on the action with a sliding play in center to keep a run off the board in the seventh.

“The overall quality of [the defense] has been excellent, but also I just feel like there’s been a number of games where, you know, key moments, there’s been a key play required, and it’s happened a lot,” Boone said. “Whether it’s a great play in the outfield, in the infield, big spot in the game, game on the line, they’ve done a great job with that. … And it’s been a factor in us winning a lot of games.”

And with New York excelling in the three most important aspects of the game, the Yankees should be in position to win many more.