Yanks regain offensive mojo behind DJ, Voit

September 26th, 2020

NEW YORK -- It has been 61 years since a pair of teammates led the Majors in batting average and home runs. and are poised to change that fact, aiming to help the Yankees conclude their frenzied campaign on a winning note.

LeMahieu’s four-hit performance bolstered his bid to become the first undisputed batting champion in both leagues and Voit slugged his Major League-leading 22nd home run, leading the Yankees to an 11-4 victory over the Marlins on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

“It's pretty cool,” Voit said. “I've been trying to transform myself into a better power hitter, and this year was another stepping stone for me. I felt like every time I hit a home run, José Abreu [of the White Sox] hit a home run, too. It was fun, and the goal is to keep it going into the playoffs.”

The big-swinging duo contributed in a seven-run sixth inning, with LeMahieu stroking a two-run double and Voit belting a three-run homer. Aaron Hicks and Tyler Wade also homered for the Bombers, who snapped a five-game long ball drought while solidifying their grasp on the American League’s No. 5 postseason seed.

“I think everyone understands and absolutely believes that we're capable of something special coming up here,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “But we also know that we've got to play well to do that.”

Set to become the Yanks’ first batting champ since Bernie Williams in 1998, LeMahieu will enter the season’s final day batting .359 (69-for-192), ahead of the Nationals’ Juan Soto (.347) in the Majors and Tim Anderson of the White Sox (.337) in the AL. LeMahieu was the National League batting leader while with the Rockies in 2016, a season in which he batted .348.

“He was a good hitter in Colorado,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “I'm sure he's refined it more, but he looks exactly the same. The guy is a tough out. He uses the whole field. He’s the whole package.”

The only player to win batting titles in both leagues was Ed Delahanty, who led the NL with a .410 mark for the Phillies in 1899 and hit .376 for the Senators in 1902. Some sources credit Nap Lajoie with the 1902 batting title, but Delahanty is still recognized as the champion by the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician of Major League Baseball.

A reliable mainstay despite a foot injury that has hindered his ability to run the bases, Voit leads Abreu (19) by three homers. No teammates have led the Majors in average and homers since Henry Aaron (.355) and Eddie Mathews (49 homers) did with the 1959 Milwaukee Braves.

Yankees legends Lou Gehrig (1934) and Mickey Mantle (‘56) paced the Majors in both batting average and home runs during their stellar Triple Crown seasons. Babe Ruth led the AL in batting average and homers in ‘24.

“It’s an honor to be on that list,” said Voit, who said he has a life-sized poster of Ruth in his Missouri basement. “I've always admired the Babe. I love The Sandlot, ‘The Great Bambino.’ It's just awesome company. That guy hit [714] home runs. I’ve got to start hitting like 150 a year to catch up to him.”

Right-hander stated his case for a postseason role with 6 2/3 innings of four-run ball. Miami did most of its damage in the third inning, as Miguel Rojas, Jon Berti and Matt Joyce recorded run-scoring hits.

The 21-year-old García, who is being considered to serve as the Yanks’ No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the playoffs, walked one and struck out seven.

“It was important to me to finish the season with a good outing,” García said through a translator. “If I keep pitching and executing, the opportunities are going to come. I enjoy the competition. I go out there and have fun.”

New York trailed by three runs heading into the fifth. Wade slugged a two-run homer to the second deck in right field, and Giancarlo Stanton tied the game with a 112.9-mph double to left-center field.

Hicks gave the Yanks the lead with his sixth homer of the year, a two-run shot in the sixth. Boone said before the game that the Yanks’ fortunes could “turn on a dime,” and they’ve seen it to this point -- a 16-6 start was followed by a 5-15 slide, then a 10-game win streak and some ugly losses.

“You exhale a little bit, because we’ve been grinding here,” Boone said. “It's been a struggle this week for us, where we haven't played good baseball. To pour it on and have a lot of people contribute was good. These guys know that there's much bigger fish to fry.”