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Flirting with contention: Yankees vs. Orioles series recap

The Yankees returned home from the West Coast playing quality baseball with their young guns leading the charge.  The Yankees were sellers at the trade deadline and had supposedly thrown in the towel.  But a recent resurgence has them still on the fringe of contention for a wildcard spot in the playoffs.  The schedule is getting more difficult as September looms ahead, but with head to head games against clubs that are just in front of them in the standings, ground could be made up quickly.

Bombers blast off

Luis Cessa got the start for the Yankees and were it not for Manny Machado, he would have had a three-hit shutout through six innings.  Machado has been the demise of many pitchers, however, so the kid gets a pass here.  Still an effective start for Cessa with a line of 6.0 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, and 5 strikeouts.  He threw 66 off 99 pitches for strikes.  Outside of Machado’s blasts, only three balls made it out of the infield.  He is throwing strikes, and most impressively, is getting swings and misses on all four pitches that he throws.  The Justin Wilson trade is looking better for the Yankees all the time.

After the Orioles took the lead on the first inning Machado homer, the Yankees put together a barrage of hits against Yovani Gallardo.  After a Gary Sanchez single in the bottom half of the inning, Mark Teixeira put the Yankees ahead with a blast to right-center field.  The bottom of the second inning was a flurry of hits for the Yankees,  punctuated by an opposite field double from Sanchez.  The kid is going to hit plenty of moonshots to left field, but this opposite field business is what separates  him from the crowd.  The Yankees piled on six runs in the second frame, knocking Gallardo out of the games after only getting four outs.

Sanchez and Chase Headley would add two-run home runs in the fourth and fifth innings.  Every Yankee starting position player had at least one hit and all but two had more than one hit.  A great game with contributions from just about everyone.  Sanchez continues his ridiculous streak in August and another rookie, Ben Heller, saw his first major league action by pitching a clean eighth inning.  14-4 games are a blast when you are on the right side of things, and this one led to a great Friday night for Yankee fans.

Finding offense at the right time

For the second game in a row, the Yankee offense was clicking on all cylinders.  And just like Friday night it was a total team effort as each starting position player would contribute at least one hit for the second day in a row.  This is a fun team to watch right now and it is easy to get a little overexcited at times.  They are playing more than competitive baseball and are suddenly a force to be reckoned with.

Chad Green got the start on Saturday and it was obvious from the beginning that he didn’t not have his best stuff.  After escaping a bases loaded jam in the first inning, the Orioles finally started pounding his mistakes.  Unable to really locate his fastball, the O’s would tee off on several hanging sliders in his 4.2 innings of work.  3 home runs, including 2 from Chris Davis would lead to 4 runs in those 4.2 innings.  Several other hanging sliders were just misses by Orioles batters and if he hadn’t managed to strike out the side to get out of the first, things could have been real ugly.  The bullpen would come to the rescue, however, with 4.1 innings of one run baseball.

The ball was flying out of the park from the Yankees standpoint as well.  Getting home runs from Sanchez, Castro, and Aaron Hicks, the Bombers would score in all but two innings.  Sanchez is just unconscious right now, and I know everyone keeps coming up with the latest stat to mark the occasion, but it is just time to sit back and enjoy this incredible run.  It is obviously unsustainable and he may end up the greatest Yankee catcher of all time and not have another stretch of 20 games like he has had this month.  It is certainly a beautiful thing to watch right now and to be enjoyed and remembered.

Castro would add four hits on the day and Brian McCann would chip in a 3-for-4 day as well.  The 5-9 batters in the lineup contributed 12 hits and 9 RBIs on the day.  Just a great couple of days to be a Yankee fan and don’t look now, but they are quietly only 2.5 games back of the Orioles in the wildcard standings with an opportunity to creep closer on Sunday afternoon as they go for the sweep.

Can’t get the brooms out

For five innings on Sunday, C.C. Sabathia and Kevin Gausman matched each other in keeping their opponents off the scoreboard.  Steve Pearce changed that with a solo home run in the top of the sixth.  After Sabathia got himself into a two-out bases loaded jam in the seventh, Adam Warren came on in relief and gave up a two-run single to Pearce that pretty much gave Gausman and the Orioles pitching staff all they needed in run support.  Gausman has made four starts in 2016 vs. the Yankees and owns a nifty 0.98 ERA.

The offense didn’t have much to say in this one as they would be shutout 5-0.  Sanchez still managed to go 2-for-4 with a double and Ronald Torreyes had two hits as well.  0-for-6 with runners in scoring position with 7 left on base won’t get you much.  Even though they kept Sanchez in the ballpark, no one has been able to really slow the rookie down.  The list of accolades and comparisons is really quite remarkable, almost bordering on silly.  He is almost assuredly close to the point where he doesn’t see much in the way of a decent pitch to hit, especially with men on base.  However, with the way he handles the bat, that might be easier said than done for opponents.

A lot has been about the way Sanchez has been carrying the Yankees this month, but a couple of other unsung players have had pretty big months as well.  Torreyes has a line of .429/.459/.686 in his last 15 games and Joe Girardi has been riding his hot hand.  Hicks, who had worn the Stephen Drew label for most of 2016, has a line of .340/.365/.520 with 3 home runs and 7 runs batted in in his last 15 games as well.  So, a couple of guys that have been overlooked have been peaking at the right time and helping the team move to respectable status.

The Yankees could have really benefited from the sweep this weekend, but 2 out of 3 is never a bad thing.  They are still 3.5 games out of the second wild card and have 3 games this week against Kansas City, who is just in front of them in the standings.  Contending for the second wild card is certainly not the goal here, but from where the season was a month of so back, i’ll take it.