The Chicago White Sox arrived in New York and played the Yankees under some smoky skies. The air quality was bad enough Wednesday that the game was postponed, the sky itself looking ablaze.
The sad part is the Big Apple’s orange atmosphere was more fiery than the Yankees’ bats all series. The White Sox took two of three and New York really missed the injured Aaron Judge. The top of the lineup didn’t produce, leaving the pitchers and the rest of the bats to carry the load. New York sits third in the AL East and is still 8.5 games behind the first-place Rays, except the Blue Jays are rallying and nipping at their heels.
Cue the Red Sox coming up next, and the Yankees really need to rebound from a forgettable performance versus Chicago.
The lefties lead the way. The Yankees’ biggest problem right now, aside from Judge’s toe injury, is too many key players not hitting well. Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, and Anthony Rizzo, in particular, are hitting a combined .093 with just two home runs in June.
The good news is that three depth lefties have stepped up and looked particularly strong against Chicago. Willie Calhoun had two game-tying hits in the first tilt of Thursday’s double-header, including a home run, and his double in the second game preceded Torres’ two-run shot to open the scoring. Additionally, Jake Bauers is batting .375 with a pair of homers in June and hit three doubles against the White Sox.
BILLY MCKINNEY BOMB pic.twitter.com/ReJyVEdcu0
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) June 9, 2023
Even former Yankees prospect Billy McKinney, fresh up from the minors in place of Judge, joined in with a triple and home run. This trio hit a combined .421 in the doubleheader. If that doesn’t spark or inspire the veterans, then losing Aaron Judge to injury might suddenly be a lesser problem.
A broken Machine. An even bigger problem for the Yankees might be DJ LeMahieu’s ongoing struggles. He is 1 for 12 this month and hitting just .221 since May 1. For someone nicknamed “The Machine,” LeMahieu’s swing looks pretty busted.
It truly is Murphy’s Law in motion for the two-time batting champion. LeMahieu’s walks are down and his strikeout rate (K%) has spiked to 27.3% from 13.1% in 2022. He’s in the third year of a six-year, $90 million contract.
The good news for LeMahieu is when it comes to batted balls, he might just be running into bad luck. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was .308 heading into Thursday’s game and he’s making far less soft contact. In fact, his 10.8% rate is a career-best. His hard contact is on par with where it was in 2020, when he won his second batting title.
The greater concern is this slump starting to weigh on LeMahieu. Getting burned by BABIP not only affects a hitter’s confidence, but his whole approach. Just ask former Yankee Gary Sanchez. The Yankees should be praying LeMahieu doesn’t meet the same fate and become Mark Teixeira 2.0.
Pitching storm incoming? I warned back in the offseason that the Yankees’ lack of pitching depth could soon come back to bite them. I just didn’t think it would be as soon as June of this season. Nestor Cortes hitting the injured list with a bum shoulder leaves Gerrit Cole as the sole reliable arm in the rotation, and that’s even with Carlos Rodon moving forward in his recovery.
Luis Severino’s fastball velocity is suddenly down and it’s affecting all of his other pitches too. Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt have looked sharp at points this year, but probably can’t be trusted over a full season. Randy Vasquez shut down the White Sox Thursday, but is still a rookie with just two MLB starts under his belt.
Maybe Severino makes that mechanical adjustment and also learns how to improvise when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Perhaps German’s suspension was just bad luck and Schmidt will finally develop a consistent out pitch.
The Yankees’ arms rank fifth in baseball with a 3.69 ERA. They’ll need all hands on deck if they want to stay in the Top 10.