By Chris Melore
Things didn’t look good for the Yankees on April 14.READ MORE: Federal Arrest Warrant Issued For Gabby Petito's Missing Fiancé Brian Laundrie
They had just lost their third straight home series to start the year; something they last did in 1982. The lineup was in shambles, losing sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, and Aaron Hicks.
They were 6-9 and didn’t even know they were about to lose both Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier as well. Despite all this – enough turmoil to derail most clubs for the rest of their seasons – this was the point the Yankees seemingly turned it all around in April.
As New York’s big bats get closer and closer to taking back their spots on the diamond, they might want to take some notes on how a collection of spare parts, journeyman big leaguers, and untested rookies salvaged a nightmare start to 2019.
THE FORCE IS WITH LUKE
The biggest key to New York’s turnaround has been the historically steady play of Luke Voit.
The 28-year-old enters Friday with a 41-game on base streak dating back to last season; the longest streak by a Yankee since Mark Teixeira in 2010.
Many critics thought Voit’s eye-popping 2018 was too good to be true, but after slugging 14 home runs in just 39 games, he’s followed it up with an even more impressive start to 2019. The first baseman has posted numbers equaled only by Yankee royalty, according to The Athletic’s Katie Sharp.
Despite all the homers and walks baseball’s analytics community drool over, the biggest tool in Voit’s game might be his uncanny ability to simply to the ball in play hard every day.
The young slugger has totaled as many hits (31) as he has strikeouts, a rare feat for a home run hitter on today’s game. Voit’s also taken away the defensive shift from opponents, spraying 11 of his hits to right and right center this year.
ROLE PLAYERS SHOWING A RELENTLESS SPIRIT
The Yankees around Voit have left many fans asking each other “when did he get on the roster?”
But it’s been unsung heroes like DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, and Tyler Wade who have sparked a fire in a lineup that tends to be more business-like when the sluggers are around.READ MORE: 'I Can't Take This Anymore': Heavy Rain In Tri-State Area Renews Flooding Concerns For Many Still Dealing With Damage From Ida
It’s been well documented this generation of the Bronx Bombers like to sit back and wait for the three-run homer, rather than grind out a five-run rally with base hits and walks like the championship teams of the 90s were famous for.
Stripped of their power last month, the Yankees finally returned to a more methodical approach to scoring runs. This was best showcased in their comeback win over the Angels on April 24.
Trailing 5-0 in the sixth, New York manufactured five runs on a double, a passed ball, a bases loaded walk, a sacrifice fly, and a fielder’s choice hit by Voit to tie the game.
The Yankees would later win that game with a clutch two-out rally by Wade – who singled and stole second – and LeMahieu who singled him home.
The “no-name offense” would win three out of four games in Anaheim, before kicking it into another gear in San Francisco. New York swept the three-game set from the Giants, hitting a scorching .343 with runners in scoring position that weekend.
CAN’T WIN WITHOUT PITCHING
Although the patchwork offense deserves lots of credit for holding the line, the performance of New York’s starting pitchers can’t be ignored when talking about the sudden turnaround.
The combination of James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Domingo German has helped New York go 8-1 in their starts since that fateful loss on April 14.
The return of CC Sabathia to the rotation (New York is 3-1 in his starts) can’t be overlooked either.
Are sluggers like Stanton, Sanchez, and even Judge going to turn into a band of slap hitters overnight? No and they shouldn’t try.
The two-game sweep in Arizona showed fans that, despite an amazing 11-4 run in April, the offense can’t keep relying on backups like Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin for an extended stretch.
What the Yankees’ stars – and the team’s coaching staff – should be taking note of is a less selfish approach to run production. The Bronx Bombers scored four of their six runs on April 24 without even striking a base hit, let alone a home run.
The ability to put the ball in play and not strike out has literally carried teams like the Royals and Astros to world titles in recent years; as both teams were at or near the bottom in strikeouts during their World Series runs.MORE NEWS: 1 Killed, 13 Injured In Shooting At Kroger In Collierville, Tennessee
Come playoff time, if the Yankees make it to October, it’s a formula that could change a team’s fortunes that has seen two golden opportunities at a championship slip through their fingers the last two years.