Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees knew extending a four-game losing streak against the last-place Royals was unacceptable.

The Bronx Bombers answered with a resounding series sweep in which they outscored KC, 18-11. Even better, some of New York’s key players are finally swinging the bat well again. Anthony Rizzo finally hit his first home run since May, probably the best moment of the whole weekend.

None of this is to say the Yankees have turned things around. The Royals are racing the Athletics to the sub-basement of MLB’s cellar and even held a lead in the series opener. It’s not as though there were playoff or even divisional implications. New York is still fourth in the AL East and 8.5 games behind first-place Baltimore.

Yet, the Orioles are on deck after the Subway Series this week. The Yankees have momentum at their backs and can keep up with the O’s. Oh, and Aaron Judge keeps improving too.

Some takeaways:

Is old school the new school? The Yankees made some waves when they announced Sean Casey would leave his cushy MLB Network gig to be the team’s new hitting coach despite no experience. Bob Klapisch of reports that not only is Casey already popular in the clubhouse, but the Yankees aren’t done bringing in former players. Per Klap, they’ve just hired World Series legend and fan favorite Andy Pettitte as an “advisor” to work with the pitching staff.

Don’t get too excited because the Yankees aren’t fully ditching analytics. The data still serves a purpose. But the brass seems to finally realize that going all-in on the numbers wasn’t working anymore. The end result might not be what the fans want but if the trade-off is the Yankees playing actual baseball again?

No complaints here.

Kickstart the engine. It took until after the All-Star Break, but the Yankees lineup sans Aaron Judge is finally doing something. Gleyber Torres is batting .324 with four home runs this month. DJ LeMahieu is batting .318 in his last 12 games. Even Giancarlo Stanton is heating up, having hit .333 in the Royals series.

Add Jake Bauers coming off the injured list and Judge’s continued recovery, and the lineup could finally hit its stride. Not only did Rizzo break his power outage Sunday, but he had four hits and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

So when does Judge actually come back?

This was a tuneup series. Anyone who’s seen “The Longest Yard” understands the premise pretty quickly. A team of prisoners led by former NFL QB Paul Crewe rallies to win against a team of the hated prison guards in what’s supposed to be a “tuneup” game for the latter. The comparison is easy to make considering how the underachieving Yankees needed to, and did, show out against the tanking Royals.

Except the Yankees, though the Evil Empire, have somehow reversed the roles. They might have bullied and brutalized the Royals to a certain extent, except the result was surprising. In fact, despite the sweep, the Yankees only ever really established full control of a game on Sunday. Friday and Saturday, they either blew a lead or let the Royals tie the score.

The Yankees now have a prime opportunity to gain ground in the standings after the Bronx leg of the Subway Series. They spend the weekend with the Orioles in Baltimore and then come home to face the slumping Rays.

If the Bronx Bombers are indeed the Mean Machine, consider this the two-minute warning.

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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.