DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees
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The New York Yankees had another strong week and can look forward to getting back some key players.

The way that the New York Yankees have played since the All-Star Break, it’s hard to believe they’re in third place in the AL East. The team is 19-8 since the All-Star Break and making a run not only for a Wild Card berth, but is making noise in the divisional race too.

And it’s not like the Yankees pushed some magic button and suddenly began playing well. Sure, trading for Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo was nice, but the rest of the team is stepping up too.

As a result, the New York Yankees continue to succeed because regardless of who’s on the field, they are winning games they should be winning. Complain all you want about Zack Britton’s struggles, Aaron Boone and his bullpen management, or Giancarlo Stanton’s ongoing rivalry with the slider. Wins are still wins no matter how ugly.

Everything was set up for the Yankees to have a bumpy road this week and, in all fairness, they kind of did. Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery were still on the COVID list with Anthony Rizzo and Gary Sanchez. Even worse, the bullpen took another hit when Aroldis Chapman went down with elbow soreness.

And yet, as they head home this week, the New York Yankees can breathe easy. As they keep on rolling, they’re about to reload in some key spots.

Kansas City, here we come

Let’s start with the Royals series, when the New York Yankees headed to Kauffman Stadium for three games. They only took two of three and had to fight for every single win.

On Monday, for example, Jameson Taillon’s six scoreless innings were wasted by not one, not two, not three, but four blown saves. It didn’t help that the Yankees didn’t score themselves until the seventh inning. Even so, for the bullpen to blow four separate leads shows how tired it is.

Tuesday was just a bad game for Nestor Cortes. Even with a win Wednesday, Zack Britton’s struggles put more stress on the body than the Rocket Pig sandwich at Joe’s Kansas City. Oh, and the Yankees also committed seven errors in the entire series.

But in every game, this team embraced the fight. Not even multiple blown saves beat the Yankees. Until the bullpen imploded Tuesday, another gritty win was in the works.

As many of my old coaches use to say, W’s are still W’s.

They built it, we came

It’s also worth noting that there’s a reason the New York Yankees haven’t had easy wins recently. Thursday’s Field of Dreams game in Iowa marked the team’s 17th game in as many days. Now, add the ongoing COVID issues along with lineup fixtures like Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres being injured. This team is exhausted.

But just as in 2019, the Yankees embraced “Next Man Up” and took two of three from the Chicago White Sox. Even as Britton blew the game in Iowa, it wasn’t before New York came back from a 7-3 deficit. They scored four runs in the ninth inning and only lost because Britton’s control abandoned him.

Cut to two Joey Gallo home runs on Saturday, including a clutch shot in extra innings. Things got scary again Sunday, but the New York Yankees still won.

Half a season ago, this team probably would have cracked under the pressure. Now, they thrive on it.

Looking ahead

Even with the exhausting wins, the New York Yankees have no excuses this week. Gerrit Cole is back from the COVID list and starts Monday’s makeup game against the Los Angeles Angels. Jordan Montgomery could return in kind for a short three-game set with the Boston Red Sox, who were in a 4-11 spiral before sweeping Baltimore last weekend.

We’ll also likely see Gary Sanchez and Anthony Rizzo return from the COVID list this week, and the struggling Minnesota Twins also visit.

It’s 802 miles to Yankee Stadium. Our ace is back on the mound along with another valuable arm, important bats are also returning, the playoffs are within reach, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.