Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees rolled into Cincinnati to face the Reds and did exactly what was expected. New York rolled to a three-game sweep and has won four straight, plus six of seven.

Things are trending in the right direction for the Yankees, who have moved up to third in the AL East. Luis Severino returned with a strong start on Sunday. Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson are also on the mend. Most important of all, the Yankees are winning what should be easy games, even if they have to work a little harder.

Some takeaways:

Aaron Hicks out, Greg Allen in. New Yorkers got quite the shock ahead of Saturday’s game when general manager Brian Cashman did the unthinkable. He owned a big mistake and finally designated Aaron Hicks for assignment. This despite the switch-hitter’s recent good run at the plate, including a three-hit night in Toronto on Thursday.

Hicks’ roster spot was filled by switch-hitting speedster Greg Allen who, in two games, made eating three years and over $20 million worth it. He pinch-ran as the automatic runner to start extra innings on Saturday and scored the go-ahead run on Aaron Judge’s single. Allen added a stolen base and a triple on Sunday just for good measure.

Allen doesn’t negate some of the truly great moments Aaron Hicks had in pinstripes, but the Yankees are trying to win a World Series. Better to cut dead weight now and fill the spot with someone not only cheaper, but just that small amount more reliable up at bat.

Aaron Judge, two-time MVP? It’s easy to miss but believe it or not, Judge actually isn’t too far off his pace from last year. He’s batting .299 and has 13 home runs in 37 games, and that’s after missing ten with a hip strain. Judge had five hits in the Reds series, including a home run. Saturday alone was a four-hit effort with a clutch RBI single in extra innings, enough to get Judge a day off on Sunday.

Judge is batting .378 with seven homers and a 1.402 OPS in May. What’s more is he’s done this without Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. Another 60-homer campaign is unlikely but at this rate, Judge can certainly aim for 50.

Brian Cashman, bullpen genius. The Yankees have leaned heavily on their bullpen again this season and while that isn’t sustainable all year, give Cashman credit where it’s due. He and his front office just know how and where to find quality relievers. Journeyman Jimmy Cordero was the hero again after being an opener in Toronto, protecting a 3-2 lead Friday after entering in the sixth inning.

And how about Ryan Weber in his latest stint off the Scranton shuttle? He notched the save in a perfect appearance Saturday. Albert Abreu also held New York’s 2-1 lead in relief of Severino on Sunday.

The Yankees’ bullpen has an MLB-best 2.94 ERA and will be even stronger soon. Tommy Kahnle’s rehab is progressing and he should be back at the end of the month.

Don’t sleep on the RedsCincinnati is 19-27 on the year and on a four-game losing streak after being swept. Ownership’s latest fire sale leaves a young roster with few household names.  And yet, the Reds are both last in the NL Central and somehow only 5.5 games back.

Granted, the division is weak but the Reds didn’t lie down for New York like their fellow cellar-dweller Oakland A’s did. Rather, Cincinnati played the Yankees tough all weekend.

Friday’s game was close before New York tacked on insurance runs in the ninth. The Yankees came back from trailing 4-1 on Saturday and also battled ace Hunter Greene on Sunday. Manager David Bell clearly knows how to motivate his team.

The Reds won’t contend for a playoff spot in 2023 but at an absolute minimum, they’ll regularly punch above their weight.

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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.