Andrew Benintendi yankees
Wendell Cruz | USA TODAY Sports

The only thing the Yankees didn’t do against the Royals was sweep the four-game series.

In a long weekend full of big swings, namely Aaron Judge’s, New York took three out of four against last-place Kansas City. Only a rare blown save from Clay Holmes kept the Yankees from completing a much-anticipated sweep. The weekend ended same as it began: Atop the AL East with an 11.5 game lead over the Blue Jays.

There’s still plenty of room for improvement for the Yankees. The trade deadline is upon us, Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET to be exact. Count on Brian Cashman to be working the phones intensely despite his team just winning a needed tune-up series.

Some takeaways:

Andrew Benintendi is already fitting in. Benintendi was just acquired from the same Royals the Yankees just played. The lefty-swinging outfielder only had one hit in the four games but was otherwise productive. He’s batting .100 in pinstripes, but with a .412 OBP and just one strikeout. The Yankees are already winning the trade in the immediate, and will even more if Joey Gallo is traded.

Healthy at the top. Also helping the Yankees are DJ LeMahieu and Judge once again commanding the top of the lineup. Judge is back where he belongs at the forefront of the MVP race and hit four home runs in the series, including a walk-off blast on Thursday. He hit .333 with a 1.282 OPS in July and it’s starting to seem a matter of not if he hits 60 home runs, but when.

Even better is LeMahieu continuing to look more like a two-time batting champ. He hit .343 this month and continues to play great defense in the field. The rest of the lineup should soon follow if he and Judge keep seeing the ball well and setting a good pace from the top.

The bullpen is getting tired. For the “Stranger Things” fans reading this, the Yankees bullpen is practically in the Upside-Down. Aroldis Chapman, who seemed a lost cause a week ago, has three perfect innings in his last three appearances. Jonathan Loaisiga also has his good sinker working again.

Otherwise, it’s clear how much New York needs another reliever. Ron Marinaccio struggled with his command on Sunday before inducing a much-needed double play. Holmes never had good command and looks exhausted. Whether it’s David Robertson or someone else, the Yankees need to pad the pen if they’re serious about a deep playoff run.

So is the rotation. The Yankees rank third in MLB with a staff ERA of 3.14, and that’s an elite pitching team at face value. But considering the Yankees often traded first place with the Dodgers up until recently, let’s look at the team’s ERA month by month:

  • March/April: 2.70
  • May: 3.06
  • June: 2.94
  • July: 3.84

Note the jump of allowing almost a full run more per nine innings in just one month. That means fatigue, and it makes sense. Only Gerrit Cole has experience throwing 200 innings a year. Nestor Cortes has tossed a career high 106 2/3 frames this year and labored through five innings Saturday despite picking up the win. Luis Severino, currently out with a tight shoulder, hasn’t thrown 100 innings in almost four years.

The Reds trading Luis Castillo to Seattle should be a rude awakening. Now, Cashman must prioritize Oakland’s Frankie Montas or whichever arm on the market he likes best.

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.