The narrative took an unexpected twist when Aroldis Chapman’s fastball velocity dipped in the ninth inning on Thursday, unable to blow his usual heat by four members of the Twins’ lineup and coughing up a pair of homers in a 7-5 defeat. Yet that should not overshadow the development of the previous 26 innings: the Yankees finally hit like the Yankees.
New York blasted Minnesota pitching for 22 runs at Target Field, a welcome sight after being held to two runs or fewer in eight of their previous 13 games. Was it the time-tested elixir of facing the Twins, or a sign of things to come? Gleyber Torres credits a pre-series meeting for turning the tide.
“All the guys during the meeting, before the games, we had a really good conversation,” Torres said. “We felt like we were on the same page. When we came into Minnesota, we had the same plan. Just try to be consistent and be patient every time we go to home plate and do the little things.”
The Yankees slugged eight homers in the three-game set, including three by Giancarlo Stanton, who went deep twice on Wednesday against Randy Dobnak and hit a three-run homer on Thursday against former teammate J.A. Happ.
“He’s a very dynamic player, and a lot of it is kind of in your face,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You watch him step in the box; he’s a very physical guy who has the type of strength that very few people in any professional sport have.”
While it might be too tall an order to ask for seven or eight runs a night, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he believes the power surge is sustainable, both for Stanton and the rest of the lineup. His reasoning: This is how the team was expected to produce if the players played to the backs of their bubble-gum cards.
“I definitely feel like the offense is starting to gain a little bit of confidence and swagger,” Boone said. “Look, we’ve got to keep building. We’re a long way from being a complete team, but we’ve got to keep building on some of the guys really starting to come to the party offensively.”
Stanton said that he agreed with Boone’s take concerning at-bat quality that seemed to kick up a notch in the Twins series.
“We feed off each other,” Stanton said. “You see a couple of guys having good at-bats, we see what the pitcher is trying to do to them. You go in there and you do the same. It’s kind of similar and contagious, [just like] with bad at-bats and bad approaches up there. We just learn from these games, learn from these at-bats and continue it.”
New York’s loss on Thursday dropped their record to 33-30, six games back of the division-leading Rays and five behind the Red Sox. Unfurled over a 162-game schedule, their .524 winning percentage would spell an 85-win campaign, which probably wouldn’t be enough to crack the postseason.
Pitching carried the Yankees through most of their early-season doldrums, especially a 17-win May in which the offense was largely absent. It is the hitters’ turn to carry the load, a responsibility that Torres said they are prepared to shoulder.
“Overall, I feel like we competed really well this week,” Torres said. “We had really good things, positive for us. Everybody is asking for the hitting, and we hit really well this series. It’s a really good sign. We have another series [beginning Saturday in Philadelphia], so we’re ready to go.”