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Yankees rookie infielders proving to be more than cogs in the machine

 

Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar shouldn’t be regarded solely as budding complementary pieces in a loaded lineup. They’re far more valuable than that.

One could argue the rookie infield tandem has become the backbone of the Yankees’ overwhelming success since late April, and the numbers indicate Torres and Andujar are exceptional youngsters, who just so happen to be competing with each other for American League Rookie of the Year honors. 

In the Yankees’ 4-3 win over the Mets on Saturday night in the second of three Subway Series games at Citi Field, Torres and Andujar were key contributors at the plate.

Trailing 3-0 in the third inning, Torres drilled a solo home run — his 11th homer and 29th RBI of the season — to the left field seats, which cut New York’s deficit to 3-1. The 21-year-old entered the game leading all rookies in homers and RBI.

Then, in the sixth inning, Andujar tied the game with a two-run shot off of Mets’ starter Steven Matz. It was the 23-year-old’s eighth homer and 27th and 28th RBI of the year.

“It’s been really fun to see those guys in the biggest spots just compete really well,” Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone said of Andujar and Torres after the game. “I’ve talked about the adjustments Andujar has been able to make, but the same with Gleyber, they’re really good at making the necessary adjustments and in big situations, just have a way of slowing things down. Not surprising to see them really help lead the way back. We’ve seen those kinds of at-bats from them all season long, and more of the same with them.”

Since April 22 — when Torres was promoted to the majors and the Yankees owned a middling 10-9 record — the team has won 32 of its last 41 games (.780 winning percentage), and of players with at least 130 at-bats, Torres and Andujar lead the team in batting average with .303 and .305 marks, respectively. 

But that’s not all. While hitting at the bottom of the order, the two rookies have also stepped up in high leverage situations. Torres has hit .325 with five homers and 23 RBI in 40 at-bats with runners in scoring position, while Andujar has hit .278 with a homer, three doubles, and 17 RBI in 36 at-bats. In late and close scenarios (plate appearances in the seventh inning or later), Torres has hit .375 in 24 at-bats, and in at-bats with the game tied, Andujar has hit .333 (42 at-bats) with six doubles.

Although Torres and Andujar have less than half a season’s worth of big league experience under the belts, the Yankees have reaped the benefits of their youngster’s poise and preparation. And the wonder of it all is both of them haven’t reached their ceilings yet.

“Those guys have obviously been talked about a lot, their ability, but I think it’s a credit to both those guys and who they are and their makeup and the organization for preparing them very well in the minor leagues,” Boone told the New York Post. “So that when this opportunity has come now, they’re ready for it. You feel great about both players in the toughest of situations.”

 

Dellin Betances is in the midst of a resurgence

 

It looks like Dellin Betances found his long-lost mojo.

The Yankees’ 29-year-old reliever, who’s been known for his mystifying Jekyll-and-Hyde act on the mound since last season, displayed his old dominance in the team’s 4-3 win over the Mets on Saturday. In the eighth inning, Betances struck out Todd Frazier, Brandon Nimmo, and Asdrubel Cabrera on just 11 total pitches. 

“This is probably the best I’ve felt, ever,’’ Betances told the New York Post. “I think my fastball’s good. My breaking ball’s good… Obviously, the more I go out there, the better I feel. So I’ve just got to continue to try to put up zeroes as much as I can.”

Betances’ hasn’t been untouchable — his season ERA is 3.54 — but in his last nine games, his ERA is 0.90, and he’s struck out 16 hitters in 10 innings. Between May and June (17 innings), opponents have hit .113 against him.

Betances has fixed mechanics and regained confidence, and according to NJ.com, his turnaround is largely due to guidance and advice from Yankees’  bullpen coach Mike Harkey.

“I think I’m going out there with a better gameplan,’’ Betances told the Post. “I felt like early on, I probably wasn’t throwing my fastball as [well] command-wise. I think a lot of it was catching too much of the plate. At times I was throwing too many breaking balls. So I think I’m doing a better job of making my pitches. … I’m kind of trusting everything I have and I think that’s worked to my advantage.”

Yankees relievers have a major league-best 285 strikeouts this season, and their .206 batting average against ranks second-best in baseball (first in American League).

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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