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Not even a series of COVID-19 outbreaks could slow down the New York Yankees this past week.

Josh Benjamin

The last week served as a brutal reminder for the New York Yankees.

Not from a baseball standpoint, that is. The Bronx Bombers did quite well in that regard, but this week was harder on a deeper level. For the third time this season, the New York Yankees dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak among players.

Even worse, important members of the roster tested positive once again. It started with ace Gerrit Cole and lefty Jordan Montgomery. Then, Gary Sanchez followed, and new fan-favorite Anthony Rizzo tested positive on Sunday.

With Rizzo’s leadership suddenly gone, the Yankees’ looking lifeless in Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners makes more sense.

Yet, that and one bad loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Monday were the week’s low points. The rest of the way, the New York Yankees did what they’ve done best since the All-Star Break: grind out wins and never give up even when you’re behind.

As an added bonus, some new talent debuted on the mound and turned more than a few heads.

Gil-in’ in the Years

Roast me for the bad Steely Dan pun all you want. The fact that rookie Luis Gil came up from the minors to make a spot start for Cole and made not one but two strong appearances is encouraging.

First, some background. Gil is 23 and was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in 2018. He pairs a dominant fastball with a working slider, and is also developing a changeup. Across Double and Triple-A this season, he’s 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA. That may seem high, but Gil also issues 5.3 BB/9 in the minors and his 5.89 FIP at Triple-A surely doesn’t help either.

But across two MLB starts, Gil proved the exact opposite. He didn’t allow a run in 11 innings and fanned 14 hitters. Best of all, he only issued three walks and generated plenty of swinging strikes, particularly on his fastball.

As for the future? Well, let’s look to Lindsey Adler of The Athletic:

But even with Cole and Montgomery coming back, the Yankees still have options with Gil. Luis Severino is fresh off Tommy John and won’t be ready to throw six innings out the gate. Clarke Schmidt too has dealt with elbow problems and is probably coming out of the bullpen.

Be it as a starter, opener, or even bullpen depth, the New York Yankees can absolutely use Luis Gil for a stretch run.

Playing for the team

On the batting side, the Yankees broke out against Baltimore and toughed out against the Mariners. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both homered in Tuesday’s 13-1 win over the Orioles, and Rizzo hit his first Yankee Stadium homer in Wednesday’s 10-3 win. Oh, and just as an added bonus, New York won that game after trailing 3-0.

Seattle, however, proved a tougher opponent. The New York Yankees won three of a four-game set and came from behind each time. Even better was that in each game, a different player carried the team.

On Thursday, Joey Gallo hit his first homer as a Yankee with a three-run jack that just cleared the fence. On Friday, Stanton’s RBI single tied the game in extra innings before Brett Gardner won it with a single of his own. Saturday, it was a succession of a Rougned Odor home run, Kyle Higashioka double, and then DJ LeMahieu’s heads-up baserunning that won the day.

This is what unselfish baseball looks like. Not relying on one or two players to carry the offense and let the pitching do the rest. No, the Yankees won this week thanks to situational hitting and just paying attention to the game.

Getting blown out by Baltimore in Monday’s 7-1 loss was bad, but it was after a tough sweep of the Florida Marlins. Sunday’s loss to Seattle was on the back of three tough wins and yet another positive COVID test with the popular Rizzo.

And yet, the New York Yankees didn’t fold once and can look to the week ahead with their heads held high.

Looking ahead

The Midwest awaits the New York Yankees as today marks the start of a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals. Then, the team travels to Iowa for the Field of Dreams Series with the Chicago White Sox before heading back to Chicago for two more.

But there will be no time for Oklahoma Joe’s in KC, nor Lou Malnati’s or Al’s Italian Beef in the Windy City. The New York Yankees are still third in the AL East, but only 6.5 games back. In the Wild Card, they trail the second berth by just 2.5 games. Moreover, cracks are starting to show in both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

Every fan worth their weight in gold sees the standings, the calendar, and can do the math themselves. I won’t say it regarding each specific race, but you’ll all understand what I mean.

I’m not saying a certain something will happen. I’m just saying that once these New York Yankees are fully healthy, it can be done.