Bats, arms moving in right direction for Yanks

New York drops finale in extras, but finishes with 5-3 record on 8-game trip

April 29th, 2021

Following their loss to the Braves on April 21, the Yankees sat five games below .500 at 6-11, having won only one of their previous seven games and only one of their six series to open the season. An ensuing two-city road trip to Cleveland and Baltimore loomed large, an opportunity for New York to correct course against two teams that also had not managed a winning record to that point.

Despite a 4-3 loss to the Orioles in 10 innings on Thursday at Oriole Park -- a result of Baltimore’s execution of a successful bunt and sacrifice fly with the automatic runner on second base to start the 10th -- the Yankees did capitalize on that chance, going 5-3 on a trip that began only four days after their five-game losing streak.

Left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery kept the momentum going for the Yankees’ rotation, which has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 10 of its last 11 starts, and New York's offense started to heat up, hitting 15 homers and scoring 33 runs in the pair of four-game series.

“Obviously, when you go out on a road trip and have a winning record like that, certainly that’s good,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “But we also know that there’s a game or two that -- one thing here, one thing there -- all of a sudden, it’s a special trip. So I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. The offense is collectively having better at-bats, even though we got shut down a little bit today. And we continue to pitch really well.”

Here are three key takeaways from the encouraging trip:

1) Leave it to the pitchers

The Yankees’ pitching staff entered Thursday with the lowest ERA (3.24) in the American League this season and the fifth-lowest mark in the Majors. New York's pitchers posted a 2.67 ERA over 70 2/3 innings on the road trip, while tallying 70 strikeouts and allowing just four homers.

Montgomery added to that by going five-plus innings Thursday, giving up two runs on six hits. He was in line to earn the win until Boone opted to leave him in to face Trey Mancini to open the sixth inning. Mancini hit a game-tying home run into the Orioles’ bullpen in left-center field.

“Frankly, [in a] long season where you gotta lean on starters during everyday stretches, you can’t just run to the best matchup in the bullpen in the middle of the game every time,” Boone said. “I want these starters to be able to push themselves through some situations.”

2) Here come the bats

Though the Yankees were held to three runs or fewer in each of their three losses on the trip, they also had moments when the offense strung together at-bats and also swung for the fences.

“There’s no question it’s been better, and tonight’s a good example of that,” Boone said after Wednesday’s 7-0 win in which the Yanks hit three long balls for the second straight game. “It’s one of those games where we probably could have scored more the way the guys swung the bat. A number of guys hit the ball well, didn’t have much to show for it.”

Even Thursday’s loss showed the Yankees could come through with clutch hits. In the fifth, after the club nearly squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation, Rougned Odor sliced a sharp grounder (108.9 mph exit velocity) through the right side of the Orioles’ infield with two outs. That go-ahead two-run single opened the scoring for New York and held up until Mancini’s game-tying homer.

3) Slumps be gone

Some of the Yankees’ key contributors also started to find their rhythm at the plate. Giancarlo Stanton went 3-for-5 for a second straight game to finish the trip hitting .419 (13-for-31) with three homers. He said Wednesday that “good at-bats [are] contagious,” and that his teammates are beginning to prove it.

And Gleyber Torres, who hit .313 on the trip, had his big moment on Thursday, hitting a game-tying ground-rule double with the Yankees down to their final out in the top of the ninth. Even that was an unfortunate break for New York, however, as DJ LeMahieu looked more than capable of scoring the go-ahead run from first base had the ball not bounced over the wall and into the left-center-field seats.

“We’re not all the way where we want to be, or are going to be,” Boone said of the offense. “But there’s no question I feel like, [on] this trip, the consistency of the at-bats, rallying around that team at-bat, it’s starting to build, definitely, a little bit more now.”