The New York Yankees are bracing for the series finale against the Miami Marlins on Sunday afternoon. The team faces a challenge as veteran utility man DJ LeMahieu will be absent for the fourth consecutive game.
Injury Update: LeMahieu and Cortés
LeMahieu’s absence is due to a calf injury that he has been contending with over the past few days. He aims to steer clear of the injured list, a fate that starting pitcher Nestor Cortés could not avoid. Cortés’s season is likely at its end following an aggravation of a left rotator cuff strain.
LeMahieu’s Recent Performance: Heating Up
The timing of LeMahieu’s injury is unfortunate, considering his recent surge in performance. Over the course of the season, the 35-year-old infielder boasts stats of .240 with a .315 OBP, along with eight homers, 29 RBIs, a 22.7% strikeout rate, a 9.6% walk rate, and 91 wRC+.
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July and August: LeMahieu’s Upswing
LeMahieu’s numbers improved in July, hitting .247 with a .359 OBP and accumulating 19 hits in 77 at-bats. As August began, his hot streak continued, with a remarkable .364 hitting, .440 OBP, and .895 OPS across 22 at-bats.
Defensive Role: LeMahieu’s Contributions
The Yankees have eagerly awaited LeMahieu’s best offensive output, especially since he has proven his mettle as a defensive player. In 578.2 innings at third base this year, he has a remarkable .994 fielding percentage, saving two defensive runs and three outs above average. This performance makes a compelling case for him to play third base every day rather than just as a utility man.
Yankees’ Decisions: The Case of Josh Donaldson
Management’s previous choice to prioritize Josh Donaldson’s at-bats seems questionable in retrospect. The possibility now emerges that the Yankees might give LeMahieu the full-time job at third base next year. This move could pave the way for Oswald Peraza to take on a versatile role, with his ability to play both shortstop and second base.
Upcoming Challenges: The Atlanta Braves Series
With a crucial series against the Atlanta Braves—arguably baseball’s top team—looming, the Yankees must rally their forces. They find themselves desperate to maintain a competitive edge in the Wild Card race, trailing by 12 games in the AL East and four games in the Wild Card. The Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and Seattle Mariners are their immediate competitors.
This critical juncture in the season places immense pressure on the Yankees, and the management’s strategic decisions around LeMahieu and other key players could significantly impact their success. Without a doubt, the coming weeks will test the team’s resilience, tactics, and ability to adapt to challenging circumstances.