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Can Yankees' great start lead to World Series?

@MikeLupica
July 11, 2019

The way things have gone for the Yankees this season, Brian Cashman probably expected CC Sabathia to pull something when he walked out to the mound to visit teammate Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's All-Star Game. “Let’s just say,” Cashman said on Thursday morning, “that I

The way things have gone for the Yankees this season, Brian Cashman probably expected CC Sabathia to pull something when he walked out to the mound to visit teammate Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's All-Star Game.

“Let’s just say,” Cashman said on Thursday morning, “that I watched the game a little more closely than usual this year.”

For Cashman’s Yankees, the ending to this year’s All-Star Game -- Chapman striking out Yasmani Grandal -- was also the ending to the first half of the season. Luckily, no Yankee got injured in Cleveland on Tuesday night. Somehow, through it all, Cashman’s team has the best record in the American League and the second best in the Majors as it begins the second half of the season against the Blue Jays.

I asked Cashman if, when the Yanks left Spring Training, he could possibly have expected an injury list that would include, among others, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances.

“I’m wired negative,” Cashman said. “I think that serves me well as a [general manager]. I’m always thinking the worst, not the best.”

Cashman's team stands where it stands atop the AL East without its ace Severino, and Betances, the team’s second-best reliever. Neither has thrown an official pitch this season. The Yankees stand where they stand with Stanton and Judge having combined to play 42 games and hit only 10 home runs. Luke Voit got his chance at first and did well. Then, he got hurt. Cameron Maybin became another of Cashman’s irregulars and hit .314 in 42 games. Maybin, too, got hurt. Yanks fans know all of this as well as they know the location of Monument Park and probably watched the All-Star Game with one eye closed the way Cashman did.

But Yankees fans have also watched Gio Urshela, a career journeyman, look like the MVP of the early season for New York. They have watched DJ LeMahieu perform like an AL MVP Award candidate. LeMahieu, the $24 million free agent, who made the All-Star Game when Bryce Harper (who cost the Phillies $330 million) and Manny Machado (who cost the Padres $300 million) did not. And the whole world watched when the Yanks throttle the Red Sox in the London Series.

Cashman -- like half of the general managers in the AL -- is looking for more pitching before the July 31 Trade Deadline. He has already traded for Edwin Encarnacion, who was leading the AL in home runs when the Yankees got him from the Mariners.

“We still want to pound the hell out of everybody as we think about run prevention,” Cashman said.

What Cashman really looks for as the Yanks look for their first trip to the World Series in 10 years is this:

“That magic carpet ride that doesn’t end until you’re the last team standing. It’s why the real work for us if we want to be remembered is yet to come.”

The Yankees expect to get Stanton, Betances and Severino back before not too much longer, perhaps in that order. So far, though, they continue to survive and advance with what so many of what Cashman calls “the B Bombers.” Domingo German stepped in as a starter when the Yanks desperately needed quality starts and turned in a dazzling 10-2 record.

The Yankees are 6 1/2 games ahead of the Rays and nine games ahead of the Red Sox, and they know they will most likely get Stanton, Severino and Betances back in August. Barring any further calamities, Yanks fans have a right to believe that when their team is whole it will be the best team in the sport; that it can win 100 games again; that the ’19 Yankees can do what the ’18 Red Sox did, in a season that Cashman calls “unfortunately remarkable.”

What’s truly remarkable is what Cashman's team has done so far. But he talked Thursday about how nobody will remember the team’s great first half if the Yankees don’t finish the job for the first time in a long time.

“In the end, our fans don’t remember what we do in the regular season,” Cashman said.

Then Cashman went back to working the phones, trying to find the right pieces to the puzzle as another Trade Deadline approaches, hoping the best is still yet to come for the best team in the AL.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.