Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The first-place Rangers took three of four from the Yankees in Arlington back in April, largely because Aaron Judge missed the series with a hip strain.

Not much changed when the series shifted to the Bronx last weekend. Judge was out again, this time with a torn toe ligament, and the Yankees were in the midst of a bad, bad month.

And yet, they managed to take two out of three and win their second straight series. Slowly but surely, the important bats are breaking through their iron-gripped collective slump. The pitching staff is still performing well too and Carlos Rodon is on track to return next week.

Dare we say it, but could the Yankees be turning a corner without their star player?

Some takeaways:

The Rangers are legitimate contenders. In our MLB preview, we discussed how the Rangers could be a sleeper team who could maybe dethrone the defending champion Astros in the AL West. It’s almost July, Texas is first in the division, and the Astros trail them by six games.

It just goes to show that manager Bruce Bochy still has it at age 68. The Rangers lead MLB in batting average and runs scored, and also rank sixth with a 3.73 staff ERA. Moreover, marquee free agent signee Jacob deGrom just had Tommy John surgery and is probably out until 2025.

Against this new upstart team, the underperforming Yankees managed to win a series.

Josh Donaldson is on his way out. The Yankees’ struggling third baseman has hit six home runs this year and not much else. Donaldson is batting .125 on the year and otherwise looks like a shell of himself. He was essentially benched for this series save for a lifeless pinch-hit strikeout in Friday’s loss.

But don’t count on the Yankees simply cutting Donaldson and eating the rest of his contract, a la Aaron Hicks. No, Aaron Boone insists the two are “on the same page” and the former MVP will play “a lot,” according to’s Bryan Hoch.

The Yankees ran this exact same play last year, albeit with Joey Gallo. The difference is with Donaldson’s $21 million salary, eventually benching him and trading for minor league bullpen depth won’t be so easy.

Message received? Two series wins in a row is almost surprising for this current Yankees roster. Winning the Mariners series earlier this week wasn’t a surprise, given Seattle is underachieving again. The Rangers, on the other hand, are young and determined contenders.

This might sound crazy, but maybe Aaron Judge offering full transparency on his torn toe ligament was what the team needed. No return timeframe means only one thing: Shut up and play the game. Anthony Rizzo seems to have gotten this message, having hit .310 over his last nine games after an abysmal start to June.

DJ LeMahieu also seems to slowly be finding his hard contact zone again. We have to assume Giancarlo Stanton will right himself too. Slowly but surely, the rest of the star power in New York’s lineup is finding itself.

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.