Saturday, June 22, 2024

Boone Confident Yankees Will Get Over "Inevitable" Bump In The Road; Saturday A Big Start


Marcus Stroman pitching to Atlanta's Matt Olson in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees had as flawless a start to the season as one could imagine, as they raced out to a 49-21 record.

The last ten days has been a dose of reality, as the Yankees have suddenly lost six of eight games, including the series opener to the Atlanta Braves, 8-1, on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked about what he can expect to find out about his team in this period, and he said, “It’s inevitable. You know, you’re going to have the bump (in the road), even in the best of seasons, so I feel like we are absolutely cut out for it. I love the makeup of our group. We’ve certainly got areas to improve and get better at, and hopefully, we do those things as we go, and you know, but also when you run out, first couple months of the season, everything’s kind of gone as well as it can go. 

“Not that it’s ever easy, because it’s certainly not, but you know, sometimes a little reminder of getting your lunch handed to you or getting popped in the mouth, you know, helps you in the long haul, and just keep that edge, keep that sharpness, and allows you to dig into how a team attacks you maybe, and where you can kind of button those things up. 

“I absolutely feel that way, and feel like this group’s in a really good spot to handle and deal with this little stretch we’re going through, and hopefully get it turned around tonight.”

Boone's comments were prescient, as the Yankees rolled to an 8-3 win over Atlanta on Saturday night at The Stadium.

Marcus Stroman got the start for the Yankees, and his evening got off to a rough start as Marcell Ozuna crushed a solo home run to right-center field in the top of the first. It was the fourth straight game that the Yankees surrendered a run in the opening frame.

This night would be different than the prior three, as the Yankees captain, Aaron Judge, made a statement with a home run of his own in the bottom of the first, a two-run shot off Atlanta starter Charlie Morton. 

That put the Yankees up 2-1 and gave Judge his Major League-leading 28th home run of the season. 11 of his 28 homers have come in the first inning, and 15 of them have given the Yankees the lead, and one has been to tie it up. 

Here's a three-photo sequence of Judge's home run:

Aaron Judge's home run in sequence. 

Judge has seven home runs in his last 12 games, and 15 games over his last 27 dating to May 22, exactly a month ago. He is hitting an astonishing .371, with a .486 on-base percentage, and an .886 slugging percentage, with 24 home runs, 57 RBI, 65 hits, 38 walks, 16 doubles, and one triple since May 27.

This start is one in which Judge continues to cement himself in the Yankees' record books, as he is now just the fourth player in team history to have at least 51 extra-base hits in the team's first 79 games of a season, along with Babe Ruth (twice - 64 in 1921 and 51 in 1928), Lou Gehrig (three times - 65 in 1927 and 51 in both 1931 and '36), and Joe DiMaggio (51 in 1937).

That was just the lift Stroman needed, as he worked around a single in the second and a walk in the third to keep the lead there.

Judge came up in the bottom of the third with a golden opportunity, with the bases loaded and none out, but he hit into a double play. That did result in a run to make it 3-1, but Judge did not get an RBI on the play, and Alex Verdugo then grounded out to end the threat.

The Yankees tacked on another run in the fourth when Giancarlo Stanton doubled to open the inning, and came into score on a double by Gleyber Torres down the left field line.

The one downside of that was that Stanton suffered an apparent leg injury rounding third base, and promptly exited the game. On Sunday morning, the Yankees put him on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hamstring.

Meanwhile, Stroman sailed through the middle innings. Starting with Ozzie Albies' double play to end the third inning, he retired 10 in a row (11 outs) through the end of the sixth.

It all came apart for Atlanta in the sixth. They pulled Morton after he walked Ben Rice and notched two strikeouts in the frame to play the matchups and bring in left-hander Aaron Bummer to face Austin Wells.

Bummer proceeded to walk Wells, who then scored, along with Rice, when Oswaldo Cabrera laced a double into the right field corner. Anthony Volpe then got a double of his own into the right field corner, which brought Cabrera to third base. Juan Soto walked to load the bases for Judge.

This time, the Yankee captain drew a walk to force in a run and make it 7-1 Yankees. That gave him a three-RBI night and an even 70 on the season. Bummer then got Verdugo to ground out to first to end the inning, a 34-pitch odyssey to get that one out.

Stroman came back out for the seventh inning, and he opened the frame by walking Ozuna. That prompted an argument from Boone, and he was ejected from the game.

Two batters later, Travis d'Arnaud drilled a two-run homer to right field to cut the Yankees' lead to 7-3 and that ended Stroman's night.

The final line for the right-hander was: 6 2/3 innings, 3 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, and he earned the win to improve to 7-3 with a 3.15 ERA on the season.

Stroman has allowed three earned runs-or-fewer in 11 of his 16 starts, and he has allowed 3 hits-or-less in four of his last eight starts, and five out of 10 dating back to May 3.

Marcus Stroman pitching to Marcell Ozuna to start the seventh inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

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