Friday, May 17, 2024

Boone On Soto: "He’s made a huge difference with our team"


Juan Soto connecting on a double Friday night against Mike Clevinger of the White Sox. Photo by Jason Schott.

Nearly fifty years ago, the Yankees brought in a veteran outfielder who was one of the best hitters in baseball, who upon arrival in The Bronx, said he would be “the straw that stirs the drink.”

That, of course, was Reggie Jackson, who arrived after the Yankees were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 World Series. They proceeded to win the next two, breaking a thirteen-year drought.

Fast-forward 47 years and you could insert Juan Soto into that statement nearly word for word. 

The Yankees haven’t won the World Series since 2009, and have knocked on the door since 2017, with three ALCS appearances, with it always feeling like they’re just one player away.

When the Yankees acquired Soto - who won a World Series with the Washington Nationals in 2019 - it felt like they might have finally gotten that final piece.

The Yankees entered Friday with the best record in the American League, at 30-15, and that’s despite ace pitcher and defending Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole yet to pitch this season.

The most consistent force in the lineup, who already is earning MVP conversation, is Soto, who has played in all 45 games, and is hitting .302 with nine home runs and 34 RBI, with a .403 on-base percentage, a .517 slugging percentage, and a .920 OPS.

Soto has been such a perfect fit with the Yankees that owner Hal Steinbrenner confirmed in a YES Network podcast this week that he wouldn’t mind starting contract negotiations with the pending free agent during the season. Soto, when asked about it after the Yankees swept Minnesota Thursday, said he was open to it as well.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked how Soto has blended in with the team, and if he thinks he’ll end up staying, and he said, “I mean, certainly, I hope so, right? I mean, he’s one of the game’s great players, and he’s been awesome in our room. Since very early on in spring training, I feel like he’s fit in really well with the guys and, obviously, you know, he’s made a huge difference with our team and our lineup.

“Obviously, his performance between the lines, but the way he goes about things has been fun to witness for me, and fun to get to know him in that way, see how serious he is about the game, while striking that balance. You know, he does such a good job of striking the balance about being really about his craft, and, like really obsessed with winning, but also a carefree way about him, and an easy way about him to where he’s having a lot of fun playing the game, and I think it’s really important that you strike that balance, even as a Major Leaguer. It’s a grind, and you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing, and he does that really well.”

Juan Soto racing to first base on his double in the fifth inning Friday night. Photo by Jason Schott.

YANKEES 4, WHITE SOX 2: The Yankees opened their three-game weekend set with the Chicago White Sox with a 4-2 win, powered by a great star from Nestor Cortes.

The lefty went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts, as he improved to 2-4 and lowered his ERA by nearly half a run, from 4.02 to a more characteristic 3.56.

Nestor Cortes striking out Paul DeJong in the sixth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Aaron Judge got things started with a monster home run that wrapped around the foul pole in left field for a solo shot in the first inning. It was his 12th homer of the season, along with 30 RBI.

Giancarlo Stanton also homered, on one of his trademark liners that scraped the facing of the second deck in left field, his 10th of the season.

Clay Holmes earned his 13th save of the season, but the two biggest outs of the game may have come in the eighth when Caleb Ferguson got out of a jam in which Chicago had the tying runs on base with one one out.

This was the Yankees’ fifth straight win, which comes after they won five out of six on the road at Tampa Bay and Minnesota. Overall, the Yankees have now won 11 of their last 13 games.

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