After starting June by taking two of three from the rival Red Sox, the Yankees began to slide. They lost two of three to both Toronto and Cleveland, split a doubleheader against the Mets, and lost the first two games in a four-game set against the White Sox. They would salvage the final two games by scores of 8-4 and 10-3, settling for a series split.
Those two wins helped build momentum for Monday, the start of a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. Coming into this series, Tampa was only half a game behind the Yankees for first in the A.L. East. The first two games of this series were close, but the Yankees would come through in both by scores of 3-0 and 6-3.
The first win was fueled by a complete-game shutout by Masahiro Tanaka, who was solid, yet inconsistent in his previous handful of starts. Meanwhile, the second win was a team victory as multiple players drove in runs, including recent acquisition Edwin Encarnacion. Acquired late last week, the A.L. home run leader launched his first home run in pinstripes to help seal the victory of both the game and series.
C.C. Reaches #250 in blowout victory:
Veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia took the mound for the bombers in the series finale against Tampa Bay, once more looking for career win #250. The milestone was so close, yet so far away for Sabathia in his previous three starts, when he had 249 career wins. The fourth time would be the charm, as the Yankees would chase reigning A.L. Cy Young winner Blake Snell from the game after scoring six in the first inning, recording only one out, started by a three-run home run by Gary Sanchez.
While the Yankee offense would be shut down by the Rays bullpen for the next five innings, the bats came alive again in the 7th, led by Gleyber Torres. With the bases load and two runs already home in the inning, the 22-year-old sent a ball into the Yankees’ bullpen for his first career grand slam, sealing the sweep. The three victories increased the Yankees lead in the A.L. East to 3.5 games.
Yankees take 3 of 4 from Astros:
Their next test was the Houston Astros, who swept the Yankees in three games back on April 8-10. While the Yankees were coming off sweeping Tampa Bay, Houston was coming off getting swept in four games by the Cincinnati Reds, mainly due to lack of offensive production with RISP. The bombers took advantage, winning the first three games by scores of 10-6, 4-1, 7-5.
Despite losing the series finale 4-9, the Yankees finished the week 6-1. They now face the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game series before flying to London, where they will face the Red Sox in the two-game London Series.
Giancarlo Stanton, who was out since April 1st with a left biceps tear, an aggravated left shoulder, and a left calf strain, finally returned on June 18. It took him most of the week to find his stroke, but on June 22, Stanton laced a pair of go-ahead two-run singles off the glove of Astros third baseman Yuli Gurriel for his first RBIs of the season.
Three days after Stanton’s return, Aaron Judge would follow suit. Judge was out since April 21 with a left oblique strain. In the three games he played this week, he was hitless and only drew one walk as he tries to find his rhythm again. The return of both Stanton and Judge is sure to make the Yankees’ lineup even more potent.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to our first ever Empire Sports Media Yankee of the Week!
Vs. Tampa Bay (6/17): W, 9.0 Innings, 2 Hits, 1 BB, 10 SO
Vs. Houston (6/22): ND, 6.0 Innings, 8 Hits, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO
In Tanaka’s two starts this week, he went 1-0, giving up 2 earned runs on 10 total hits, striking out 11 and walking two.
His first start against the Tampa Bay Rays came when the Yankees rotation and bullpen were both in need of a breather. Tanaka would deliver, allowing only 2 hits and walked one, striking out 10 for a complete-game shutout.
His second start against Houston wasn’t as clean, allowing eight hits, one of those being a two-run home run by Josh Reddick. He would end up getting a no-decision.
This second start was what made it such a tough decision, but the shutout in his first start, in my opinion, helped set up the rest of the week for the rotation and bullpen. As such, Tanaka just edges out our honorable mentions listed below:
Honorable Mentions (Not in order):
6 games, 5-20 (.250), 3 HRs, 9 RBI, 2 BB
Gleyber Torres, still only 22-years-old, continued to show why he’s one of the young faces of baseball last week. Despite only batting .250 for the week, Torres hit three home runs in as many days, including his first career grand slam. His fourth inning three-run home run on June 20 helped propel the Yankees to a 10-6 win over Houston.
6 games, 9-24 (.375), 3 HRs, 9 RBI
The Gary Sanchez comeback tour continued this past week. His three-run home run on June 19 against reigning A.L. Cy Young winner Blake Snell started a six-run first inning on their way to a 12-1 win and a sweep of Tampa Bay.
The following day against Houston, Sanchez hit a solo shot to start another six-spot in the bottom of the fourth. The next day saw Sanchez hit a two-out, solo home run in the third off Brad Peacock, again scratching the first run on the board for the bombers, who would go on to win 4-1.
6 games, 10-23 (.434), 3 HRs, 10 RBI
D.J. LeMahieu continued to show why signing him was actually a very good idea. He had at least one hit in every game he played last week, including three multi-hit games. He continues to excel with runners in scoring position, batting .478/.493/.701/1.195 on the year in those situations.
5 games, 8-14 (.571), 2 HRs, 4 RBI, 7 runs scored
Cameron Maybin continued to be a very good acquisition from Cleveland, starting the week in the midst of a four-game home run streak. Unfortunately, he only had one at-bat on June 21 against Houston before being taken out, having a hit and scored a run. He was subsequently put on the 10-day I.L. with a left calf strain.