NEW YORK -- It only took DJ LeMahieu's Yankees teammates a couple of months to begin referring to him as "The Machine," a nod to the steely efficiency with which the former batting champion attacks big league pitching. That moniker held true on Saturday, as his two big swings dismantled
NEW YORK -- It only took DJ LeMahieu's Yankees teammates a couple of months to begin referring to him as "The Machine," a nod to the steely efficiency with which the former batting champion attacks big league pitching. That moniker held true on Saturday, as his two big swings dismantled Chris Sale.
Hearing chants of "M-V-P!" rippling through the sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium, LeMahieu homered twice and helped send an infuriated Sale to an early exit. Domingo Germán defeated the Red Sox for the second time in a week, pitching the Yankees to a 9-2 win in the first game of a separate-admission doubleheader.
• Box score
"I tried to block it out and focus," LeMahieu said. "I just tried to put together a good at-bat. Obviously, it's cool. It's a good feeling that the fans appreciate you. For me, I'm just going up there, not changing anything and having competitive at-bats. That's really all I can control."
Shrugging off a minor groin strain that kept him out of the lineup for four games, LeMahieu set a new career high with his 16th and 17th homers of the season. He led off the first inning by cracking a drive into the right-field bullpen, then mashed a three-run shot as part of a seven-run fourth.
"He's a great player," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "He prepares really well. I'm not surprised that he's come right back in and hit the ground running."
In that fourth inning, Sale and Red Sox manager Alex Cora were ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook. Sale was tossed as he left the field following a pitching change, having permitted eight runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.
The Yankees have had Sale's number all season, improving to 4-0 with 22 runs scored in 20 innings (9.90 ERA) against the left-hander. New York has batted .322 (28-for-87) with six homers in 2019 off Sale, who was 7-4 with a 1.68 ERA lifetime against the Bombers, including the postseason, coming into this year.
"He's not a guy I really want to face," LeMahieu said. "I've just had some good swings off of him. I was ready for his heater; his heater is pretty darn good. I was able to adjust to his other pitches. As an offensive unit, I felt like we battled and made him throw a lot of pitches."
All scoring in the seven-run frame occurred with two outs. Breyvic Valera lined a run-scoring single for his first Yankees RBI and Brett Gardner pounded a single to center field to drive home another two runs. After LeMahieu’s homer, Aaron Judge chased Sale with a ground-rule double and scored on Edwin Encarnacion's RBI single.
"Chris Sale is one of the best pitchers in baseball," Valera said. "When I walked in today and saw I was playing against him, I was like, 'Whew, tough battle ahead of me.' But at the same time, you've got to focus on the task at hand, forget about the names and just focus on doing your job."
The support allowed German to grab a share of the Major League lead with his 14th victory, having also pitched New York past Boston last Sunday. Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. knocked solo homers off German, who permitted two runs and five hits, striking out seven without a walk.
After a sixth-inning strikeout of Benintendi, German bounded off the mound with a fist clenched, unleashing a roar that seemed out of his mild-mannered norm but thrilled his teammates.
"It's just a little bit of raw emotion there," German said through an interpreter. "A lot of people talk about trades and all that stuff, but it was exciting, that energy. We've been battling all year. That's the kind of team we've had all year."
Boone said that the Yankees are "absolutely" envisioning German as a postseason force, either as a starter or out of the bullpen, though difficult decisions are on tap. German's odometer has now clicked to 104 innings, and he pitched just 94 last season between three levels of the Minors and the Majors, having never thrown more than 123 2/3 in a professional season.
"We'll obviously start to have those conversations and go accordingly," Boone said. "Now he's over 100 innings, but I still feel like he's strong. I still feel like there's a lot left in there. We'll also try and be mindful of it and smart about it as well. I expect him to be a big part of it."
As a result of the incessant fuss of the Joba Chamberlain era, the Yankees are playing their cards close to the vest regarding German's innings limit, though general manager Brian Cashman has acknowledged that one does exist. It has generally been speculated that German's limit will sit between 130 and 140 innings, with a maximum of 150.
"I feel really good. I feel strong," German said. "I feel great. I'm not worried about it. Every time I go out there, I'm just focused on the task at hand."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.