As so many people struggle to do, the Yankees used their Sunday afternoon to get back on track.
The Bombers’ 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians completed their sweep of the series at the Stadium. But they still didn’t look like the Yankees, as the team went through extended periods of inactivity at the plate, scoring in the first, second, third, sixth and eighth innings.
“It’s nice,” Aaron Boone said of handling a laugh. “But I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Who do we have to lift?’ Each exit is another level of exhalation. But it’s nice to have one of those, for sure.”
More important, at least in terms of the team’s long-term outlook, was the return of Gerrit Cole’s right arm. Cole got off to a slow start to the season, logging only 11.1 innings in his first three starts with an unusually high number of walks.
While any pragmatist would recognize that his ERA wouldn’t stay above 6.00 all season, Cole had yet to start throwing well enough for that to happen. Sunday’s 6 2/3 scoreless innings with just four hits and nine strikeouts came at a perfect time for the Yankees. Now, instead of wondering when Cole will look like himself again, the question is whether he’ll be able to keep up the good work.
“I better talk to myself,” Cole said. “Just a little more aware of situations. There is a balance between overdoing it and not overdoing it. We present a game plan. The last (beginning) was out of sight, out of mind.”
Another person who desperately needed to do something good: the terribly slumped Joey Gallo, who got his long-awaited first RBI and extra-base hit of the season with one swing, a third-inning double that helped open the game. After sending the sharp line drive into right field, Gallo sprinted toward second base like a 500-pound silverback gorilla had been plucked off his back.
The left-handed hitter also struck out three times, but an RBI double mixed with three strikeouts is basically normal for Gallo. As long as his glove remains gold in the outfield, the Yankees will take that kind of game away from him in the batter’s box. Like Cole, the lingering question is whether he can turn Sunday’s success into something more meaningful.
Cleveland starting pitcher Aaron Civale handed the Yankees a broom early in the game, and the Bombers wasted no time in pulling off the sweep. The Yankees had a six-run lead after just three at-bats. Anthony Rizzo, who has been one of the best hitters in the league the first three weeks, got things rolling with a two-run homer in the first inning. DJ LeMahieu followed that up with an RBI double in the second, extending his hitting streak to 11 games, and a fielder and sacrifice fly around Gallo’s streak-breaking double made it 6-0 in the third.
Coming on the heels of Saturday’s action-packed win, in which Gleyber Torres’ hit caused a hurricane of trash to hit the field, a game that allowed the Yankees to turn the clock down and cruise to victory was a welcome sight. Cole found the fastball from him again, maxing out at 99 mph and getting a called strike or blow in 20 of the 47 heaters (43%) he threw. Gallo got out of the schneid, at least temporarily, and they opened up a comfortable enough margin to let some of the bench guys loose.
For their final trick of the night, the Yankees replaced LeMahieu and Aaron Judge with Marwin Gonzalez and Tim Locastro. González served a single to right field for his first Yankees hit, and Locastro surpassed him by hitting his first home run of 2022.
On a sunny and windy day in the Bronx, the fans’ good behavior was rewarded with the Yankees’ first ten-run game of the season. With a ten-run gulf between them and the Guardians, the Yankees were even able to use the Ron Marinaccio human victory cigar for the ninth inning. Marinaccio struck out Jose Ramirez to start his outing, and after spoiling the goose egg by giving up two runs, he finished it off with a can of corn to left field.
The Yankees have ten wins in their first 16 games, and the next hurdles in front of them are the very mobile Orioles and Royals. As early as next week, the biggest question about this team may no longer be when they’ll be themselves again.
“I think the confidence we gained coming back like that (Saturday) stuck,” LeMahieu said. “We were ready for a breakout.”
It could be who possibly delays them.