|Kyle Higashioka being greeted by three of his teammates starting with Aaron Judge (in the high socks) after his three-run home run on Wednesday night. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-1, on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, to run their Major League-best record to 46-16, an incredible 30 games over .500 just two months into the season.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked about hitting what feels like an early milestone, and he said, "It's an awesome number, it's an awesome record at this point, but I'm also, and I think we're all very aware that we've got a long, long way to go.
"We've got a hundred left; we've got a hundred of these left, so just a drop in the bucket, it's a good deposit, I'm glad we've been able to rack up wins as much as we have, but we just got to keep rolling and keep our mindset the same as it's been, and that's to come in, 'what can we do to get a win tonight?'"
This is the perfect mindset for Boone to have and to make clear to his team: this is just the start of what they hope to accomplish, that this really is, even though they say it every year, championship or bust.
People who follow baseball, including the media (follow our 1998 Yankees Tracker) and their fans, can focus on the 2022 Yankees' start, as their 46-16 record is just the fifth time in franchise history they have won at least 46 of their first 62 games, joining these four Yankees teams - 1939 (48-14), 1953 and 1998 (47-15), and 46-16 in 1928. All four of those teams went on to win the World Series, so the standard is set.
Boone is making a concerted effort that these kind of benchmarks don't get into his players' heads, as they can cloud the 'what can we do to get a win tonight?' mindset that he articulated, which has resulted in the Yankees playing their most fundamental baseball, marked by hustling and outworking their opponents each night. That mindset, which sounds simple but really keeps a laser focus on the task at hand, can carry over into the postseason, as it could work if they have a lead in a series (don't get ahead of ourselves) or behind (don't press and think you have to make up a deficit with one big play).
Wednesday night was a quintessential Yankees win, as they got contributions from who you would expect at this point - Judge had a solo home run to right field in the first inning, his 25th of the season, and starting pitcher Nestor Cortes allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings to earn the win and improve to 6-2 on the season - they also got a three-run home run from Kyle Higashioka, and superb performances from lefty Wandy Peralta and Holmes out of the bullpen.
"They've found ways to win," Boone said after what has become a typical win for his team. "Obviously, we have some guys that are having great starts to their season individually, but everyone in that room has contributed in so many different ways, defensively, running the bases, out of the 'pen, starting rotation, just a lot of different ways we've been able to win games, and I think that gives everyone a lot of confidence going into each day that we don't have to do it just one way."
Judge is having, to this point, the best year of his career, with a Major League-leading 25 home runs through Wednesday night, to go along with a .313 average, 49 RBI, and an astonishing .384 on-base percentage (OBP). He also is having an incredible year in the outfield, as it is about 50/50 that he divides him time between right and center field. (Note: all stats referenced are through Wednesday's action.)
The pitching staff is proving to be one of the best in franchise history, with so many superlatives including that they have allowed the lowest runs through the first 61 games of any team in franchise history (180) and a starting rotation that has notched 10 shutouts.
To say the starting five - Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery - has exceeded expectations is a massive understatement of how well they've performed.
While their much-vaunted bullpen has performed as would be expected, the big performers have not been the usual suspects, starting with Clay Holmes, who notched his 11th save on Wednesday night, along with big performances from the likes of Michael King, Miguel Castro, and Lucas Luetge.
They also have gotten exceptional years from the right side of their infield, as restoring Gleyber Torres to second base has made him the player he was in 2018 and '19 (.250, 12 home runs, 28 RBI, .298 OBP, and Anthony Rizzo, whom they re-signed and made no doubt he would be the starting first baseman when they traded the popular Luke Voit, is putting together his best year at the plate in quite a while (.218, 15 HR, 41 RBI, .318 OBP), as he is situated in the lineup between Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who also is putting up big numbers (.268, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .346 OBP).