After Didi Gregorius belted that high fastball Tuesday night, watched it soar over the right-center field and gleefully skipped around the bases, we were provided yet another reminder of this charmed summer in the Bronx.
Jack Curry marveled at the blast from his perch at the YES Network, asserting that the ball Gregorius bashed, 4 feet above the ground when he swung, was the highest pitch hit for a homer this season. For all of his talent, Gregorius has gone from a power-hitting revelation two years ago to just one of the guys this year, one morsel in pinstriped pastry that has fans licking their chops all season.
This wasn't supposed to happen. But it did. The Yankees have defied odds and have turned jams into gems since the first player plopped onto the injured list.
The Yankees (60-33) have the best record in the AL and the fewest losses in the major, and they lead the only division (AL East) with three teams at least seven games over .500. And their rotation has been surging lately. James Paxton has not allowed more than two runs in any of his last three starts, with a 3.94 ERA on the season. The Yankees have won Masahiro Tanaka's last six starts (including that 17-13 abomination in London). CC Sabathia has tossed four straight quality starts. Domingo German is 11-2 -- tied for the second-most wins in the AL -- and has yielded one run over his last two starts (12 innings pitched).
According to FanGraphs, the Yanks project to have the best bullpen (2.9 WAR) and third-best rotation in the majors (7.4 WAR) the rest of the way, behind only the Nationals and Dodgers, with a 98.7% chance to reach the postseason. And the Bombers could add by default when Dellin Betances and Luis Severino return to the mound. Even without Severino, Betances or a fireballing free agent, the Yanks are eighth in MLB, with a 4.04 ERA as a team.
Nothing can break bad like sports. Baseball coined the phrase that momentum is as strong as the next day's starter. But the Yankees aren't too bad right now. They will likely have home-field advantage in every American League playoff series they play, with the short porch, the thunderous crowd and the bright lights of the Bronx fueling them.
General manager Brian Cashman, who has turned from the man carrying the team's wallet to the team's wizard, is checking all over, from San Francisco to Arlington to Toronto. Joel Sherman scoured the free-agent landscape for the New York Post, listing all the possible pitchers the Yanks can pursue, with the list mutating every day based on teams dropping in and out of contention. As Sherman astutely stated, there will be no surefire ace for whom the Yanks must lavish young talent to acquire (assuming the Nats don't dangle Max Scherzer).
Bumgarner is ideal, with the long, glittering resume and agreeable contract. But after the 2014 World Series MVP, there are a host of variables, a gaggle of good pitchers, one of whom the Bombers need to be great. Is that worth Miguel Andujar or similar?
The Yankees have turned baseball orthodoxy on its head all season. Consider Tuesday's game, which they were losing 3-2 in the eighth inning before exploding to an 8-3 win. Rays pitcher Ryne Stanek has surrendered 19 runs all season -- 10 to the Yankees, nine of them to the rest of baseball. Despite super sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combining to play 48 of a possible 186 total games, the Bombers have scored 524 runs, just one short of the Twins for the most in either league.
The Yankees do what fine teams do, find ways to win despite the percentages or the players in the game, with a turnstile of new stars taking rounds as the hero of the night. There's a reason to trade before the July 31 deadline, but no reason to trade for the heck of it. According to VegasInsider.com, the Yanks have 7-2 odds to win the World Series, an inch behind the Dodgers, at 3-1.
The 2019 season seems to be swathed in blue pinstripes. And this is the final push for the Yankees' final chance to win a World Series this calendar decade. With home runs shooting out of ballparks at record rates, the Bronx Bombers may swing their way to the Fall Classic, without having to trade their way into it.