From a baseball standpoint, everything’s fine. The Yankees still own the best record in baseball and a five-game lead in the American League East. Don’t worry about them losing their first series in over a month.
However, all is not well. Some big changes are about to come. It’s not time to sound any major alarms but just the same. It’s best for the team to proceed with caution after a chippy series with Chicago.
Let’s jump right to the takeaways.
Aaron Judge is going to get paid (by someone). Maybe Judge was right to turn down the Yankees’ $213.5 million offer after all. The MVP candidate hit over .400 this weekend, including a clutch game-tying home run. Judge also leads baseball with 15 home runs and ranks third with a 1.065 OPS. Not bad for someone who just turned 30 in April, right?
Make no mistake. Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner will need to up their offer to Judge. He still isn’t going to get Mike Trout money, but he’s proving he deserves something close to it.
Sound the bullpen alarm? Chad Green needs Tommy John surgery. So does Luis Gil. Aroldis Chapman, once near-automatic as a closer, coughed up the lead on his second pitch Sunday and is also now dealing with an Achilles issue. Thankfully, Clay Holmes and his power sinker seem capable of handling the pressures of the ninth inning.
But there’s more trouble in what is normally a bullpen paradise. Jonathan Loaisiga, who had a 2.17 ERA last year and received high praise from Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, doesn’t have his best sinker this year. He’s struggled to a 7.02 ERA and with Green now gone, the bridge to the ninth inning just got Temple of Doom-level rickety.
Hitting machine breakdown. Even as the Yankees only scored one run in the final two games of the series, the lineup isn’t a major concern. Johnny Cueto and Michael Kopech are both really good pitchers. Getting rained out Friday probably cooled everyone a bit and, as YES and ESPN analyst David Cone said after Sunday, the Yankees simply “got stuffed.”
Yet, maybe it is time to be concerned about DJ LeMahieu’s slump. The two-time batting champ is hitting a paltry .214 this month and saw his batting average dip to .252 over the weekend despite a grand slam on Saturday. His line drive rate is down over eight points from last season, so maybe he’s starting to lose some bat speed. He’s the leadoff man because of how dangerous he is hitting to all fields, so hopefully this is just a bad month.
Will Donaldson drama carry over? The doubleheader sweep feels almost karmic, especially after Josh Donaldson and Tim Anderson’s feud continued and tempers flared. Regardless of Donaldson’s intent, this kind of distraction is the last thing the Yankees need right now. The Orioles come back to the Bronx for three games starting Monday. As in, the same Orioles who took two of three from the Rays over the weekend and kept the Yankees’ division lead on the comfy side. The Yankees will then face those same Rays for four games at Tropicana Field.
It’s been a nice, smooth ride for the Yankees so far. Let’s see how they respond after being humbled.