|Yankee Stadium on Saturday morning. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Yankees' offense has struggled of late, and it continued on Friday night when they were shutout by the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-0. It was the Yankees' fifth shutout in their last 13 games, and to put it in perspective, they had only been shutout six times in the first 107 games of the season.
The Yankees have now lost eight of their last ten games, including four of the first five on the homestand, with the only victory the 8-7 comeback win against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. They have lost 14 of their last 18 games, dating to July 31, and their record is now 73-47, eight games ahead of the Blue Jays (64-54) in the American League East. That is a bit less than the 13-game edge the Yankees, who were 64-28 at the time, held at the All-Star Break on July 17.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone is not advocating major shakeups to their lineup, as he sees the big picture of how they have performed all season, but there was one notable move for Saturday's lineup.
Aaron Judge was slotted in the third hole, behind DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi, which is notable because the prodigious slugger has either hit leadoff or in the second spot all year.
Boone was asked about the subtle move in his pregame press conference Saturday morning, and he said, "On my radio show the other day, a caller called in, so I just wanted to appease him," which generated laughs in the room. "Yeah, just, you know, mixing things up a little bit, trying to get a little spark going, get some guys that I want more in that top half of the lineup, and you know, hopefully, this is the combination today that can kind of break through."
On how much he is hearing outside noise amidst this tough stretch, Boone said, "I don't hear any of it. I think guys get affected by it to varying degrees, but again, that's, as I say, it's part of being a Major League athlete, part of playing here sometimes, is you got to be able to withstand that and deal with it, and not let it seep in and affect what you're trying to do, and especially as you go through a tough stretch and a tough time, you know, you really got to focus in on the small things and, as I like to say, winning pitches, you know, let's get back to winning pitches, small success, start stacking those, and that's when you break through and, you know, guys can start to relax a little bit while you're fighting...
"I think you always question tweaks to that process, so those are conversations that we have. I think it's important to also take a step back while you're going through this and, like, look at, on balance, we've been a really good offensive team this year, and because we've struggled going back to the All-Star break, or whatever date you want to mark - the offensive struggles have really been more over the last 10 days. That's where we've really struggled to put it together offensively. That's a really small snapshot in the context of the season. So, look, you're always trying to find little things, tweaks, or things that can unlock not only the team, but individuals, so we'll continue to look for those things, while also certainly not abandoning what we believe is a hallmark of our success so far this year, and what we expect it to be moving forward."
One major positive coming the Yankees' way could be the return of outfielder/designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton, who will be commencing a rehab assignment with Double-A Somerset on Saturday. Stanton, who has played in 80 games and has hit 24 home runs with 61 RBI to go along with a .228 average and a .309 on-base percentage, has been out since July 26 due to achilles tendonitis, his second stint on the injured list this season after one in late May.
Boone was asked what he has to see from Stanton to be confident to bring him back, "He'll probably get between three and five at-bats today and tomorrow, you know, hopefully get through tonight, bounce back tomorrow, be in a good spot physically to do that. Hopefully, he gets some action on the bases, as far as, you know, going from first to third, whatever it may be, just moving around like that, and we'll see how he comes out of, you know, today and, hopefully, tomorrow, see where he's at Monday and hopefully line him up to, you know - he knows himself really well, you know, he'll be honest with us about how he's recovering from these things and then, hopefully, we'll get him in a position to face Sevy (Luis Severino, who's also on the injured list) on Tuesday and then, hopefully, be in a position to take the next step.
"He'll DH the next two days, and then hopefully, when we first bring him back, I think it'll be just DH, and similar to last year when we transitioned to getting him out in the outfield, you know, we'll have him build up to that on the fly as he's DHing with us, so that's kind of the plan. As far as continuing that pregame work, moving around the outfield, I think he'll kind of let us know, and his body will let us know, when we're ready to make that step. It is something that I want to get to at some point, but allow his body to tell us when that time is."