The Yankees ground their bat handles into sawdust during a frustrating weekend series in Baltimore, and as they prepared for a crucial showdown with the Blue Jays, hitting coach Marcus Thames encouraged his lineup to remember what got them to this point.
In a pre-series hitters meeting at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., Thames told the Yankees’ lineup to “relax and be ourselves,” according to outfielder Aaron Hicks. Big league teams generally conduct such meetings, or similar, prior to facing a new pitching staff.
“We just need to produce,” Hicks said. “We are definitely a team that can do that. We’ve only got three weeks to do this, and we believe that we’re still a team that can do this.”
The Yankees arrived in Buffalo coming off a weekend set against the Orioles in which they dropped three of four games at Camden Yards, denting their postseason odds as they fell into third place in the American League East.
New York managed only two homers and 11 runs across the series, batting .184 (23-for-125). The Yanks entered Monday hitless in their last 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position, a performance that prompted manager Aaron Boone to opine that his club was showing signs of pressing.
“I've really liked our intensity and our energy the last couple of days,” Boone said. “I think it manifested itself in a little bit of pressing in at-bats [Sunday], and guys getting upset and frustrated because they want to do so well.”
Boone said that he wants his hitters to strike a balance between showing and focusing upon having quality at-bats, but also not being “obsessed” with results. Hicks said that he agrees the hitters have been trying to do too much.
“We want to score runs and we want to win games,” Hicks said. “We just want that one blowout game where it’s absolutely out of reach.”
Riding the pine
Gary Sánchez was not in the Yankees’ lineup for a second consecutive game on Monday. Boone said that he has not yet decided if Sánchez will return to the lineup on Tuesday or Wednesday. Sánchez has struck out in seven straight plate appearances, has whiffed 48 times in 100 at-bats and is batting .130.
“It's just more about making that little fine-tune adjustment to where [Sánchez is] getting back to really dominating the fastball,” Boone said. “As a hitter, I think that's where it all begins. When you're in a good position to hit the fastball well, that's usually when you recognize and are able to lay off off-speed pitches out of the zone.”
Giancarlo Stanton continued to run bases, hit off a machine and throw on Monday at Yankee Stadium, though the team has not set a date for his expected return. Stanton sustained a left hamstring strain on Aug. 8, at which time the Yankees estimated he would miss three to four weeks.
“It’s just making sure that this thing is completely healed and he's … hopefully not in a position to reinjure it,” Boone said. “When we're talking about soft tissue, you've got to be all the way healed. So maybe it's been a little bit slow, but we do feel like he's making really good progress right now. The last few days have been pretty encouraging.”
Stanton is still believed to be ahead of Aaron Judge, who tested his right calf strain by running on the field at Yankee Stadium on Monday.
“I know [Judge is] feeling well and everything went well in his first running on the field, so that was good news,” Boone said.
Boone said that left-hander James Paxton, on the injured list with a left flexor strain, has played catch at distances of up to 100 feet. Paxton is aiming to make at least one more start prior to the end of the regular season.
This date in Yankees history
Sept. 7, 1985: Dave Winfield stole home plate with what proved to be the deciding run in the sixth inning of a 3-2 victory over the Athletics at Yankee Stadium. Winfield’s swipe came off the battery of Tommy John and Mike Heath.