|DJ LeMahieu greeting Luke Voit on the way back the dugout after his fourth-inning home run. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Yankees are in the midst of a homestand that is turning into a major statement to the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with.
They started the week off with a sweep of their American League East division rival Tampa Bay Rays, and they kept that momentum going on Thursday against another contender in the Houston Astros in a 10-6 rout.
This came after the Yankees scored 12 on Wednesday in the series finale against Tampa Bay.
Astros starter Framber Valdez, making just his third start of the season, kept the Yankees in check for the first few innings, but he ran into major trouble when he had to navigate their monster lineup a second time.
Gary Sanchez led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run, hit 22nd of the season, which tied teammate Edwin Encanacion and the Angels' Mike Trout for the American League lead at the time.
"I think you're seeing just an elite hitter with great power continue to kind of come into his own," Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Sanchez. "It's a young player, again, that's had massive success prior to this year, obviously, had some struggles with injuries, just last year, so I think it's the continued development of an elite power hitter."
Giancarlo Stanton then followed with a double down the left field line for his first hit since his return, and then Edwin Encarnacion drew a walk.
That brought Gleyber Torres to the plate and he drilled a three-run homer, his 17th of the season, to make it 4-0.
With the rain coming down, the inning continued, long enough for Cameron Maybin to draw a walk, which knocked Valdez from the game. With two outs and Chris Devenski in for Houston, DJ LeMahieu launched a two-run homer to give the Yankees a 6-0 lead. It was their third six-run inning in the last two games (they scored six in the first and seventh against the Rays on Wednesday).
A 36-minute rain delay came when the Gary Sanchez was up with a runner on, and he grounded to first base on the first pitch when play resumed.
Houston got two back in the fifth against Nestor Cortes, Jr., when Jake Marisnick and Alex Bregman hit back-to-back solo shots that made it 6-2.
That was the only blemish on the day for Cortes, who threw three innings to earn the win (2-0) in relief of the "opener" Chad Green, who threw two innings in which he struck out three and allowed just one hit.
Boone said of the job his new dynamic duo did, "Greenie was really good again, really efficient, and then Nestor was good, too. You know, we kept him going - obviously, when the rain came, we kept him going. He threw a little bit underneath just to keep him warm, so that limited what we had of him, and I think just the long layoff probably got in his way a little bit in the fifth inning, but he was solid again for us."
After the game, Cortes, Jr., was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in anticipation of right fielder Aaron Judge being activated on Friday. That means Cameron Maybin is still here and the Yankees will be going with five outfielders.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees got the pair of runs right back, as Maybin hit a two-run double off Josh James, who the Yankees worked to the tune of 43 pitches in the frame.
Yordan Alvarez got a solo home run in the sixth off of Tommy Kahnle to pull Houston within 8-3, and they had two on in the seventh against David Hale, who worked out of trouble by getting Michael Brantley to fly out to right field.
In the bottom of the seventh, Encarnacion hit a two-run homer to left to give the Yankees a 10-3 lead and he retook the A.L. home run lead with number 23.
Boone said of his offense showing its full potential, "You saw it again tonight, and a chance to even have more, I mean, just, as a group, they just make it really tough. The at-bat quality I felt like all night was there, and made for some very difficult innings. I thought their starter was really tough the first go-around, it looked like his stuff looked really good and he'd been giving us some problems, but then the at-bats the next go-around, they really locked it in and made it tough on him."
Hale stayed on for the eighth, as he allowed a run, and then Marisnick got another homer, a solo shot, to lead off the ninth, and and then, with two out, Alvarez doubled into the left field corner to bring another run in to make it 10-6, and then Yuli Gurriel got an infield hit. That was all for Hale, who came within one out of a save as he threw 2-2/3 innings (if you throw three innings - regardless of the score - you get a save).
Aroldis Chapman came on and he retired Josh Reddick with two on base to earn his 20th save of the season.