After winning eight-straight games and then coming from behind in Kansas City for win No. 9 in a row on Sunday, New York Yankees fans are on cloud nine. Aaron Judge went deep twice, Michael King was again electric out the pen, and even closer Aroldis Chapman came in for his sixth save.
Everything went well other than starter Luis Severino giving up four runs over his five innings. A traditional Yankees lineup, at least over the past couple years, would’ve laid down with an early deficit. But the 2022 Yankees got off the mat and punched back to win 6-4. Fans and riding high and they should be.
Still, maybe they haven’t passed the ultimate test yet? Sure, winning the World Series is technically how the fanbase judges their season, however, the Yankees’ strength-of-schedule has been a bit of a laugher thus far. Doesn’t mean we can just write off winning 16 of their first 22 contests when their rivals, the Boston Red Sox, just lost two of three to the 6-14 Orioles. Baseball is really hard credit is warranted when it’s played well.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 1, 2022
Yankees fans, in general, came into the season critical of the starting rotation when the team ultimately decided to stand pat and accept the return of Severino as their key “addition” on the bump. Most saw that lack of movement as a punt, and we can’t really blame them — so did we. And so far, the Yankees’ rotation has been stellar despite not often pitching deep into games.
The Yankees boast arguably the game’s best bullpen, so length won’t necessarily be mandatory as we enter May, but eventually this could be a cause for concern. When you utilize a strength as often as the Yankees milk their bullpen, it’s easy to see how a lack of innings can come back to haunt a team come October. Burning out your strength is never good.
Michael King has been that bullpen’s standout star. The 26-year-old right-hander has posted an ERA of just 0.61 with 22 strikeouts, leading the league. He was asked about his approach during Sunday’s win, when he was brought in to face Salvador Perez to protect the lead.
“Early my approach was to get chases…I know he’s a big swinger so I wanted to stay out of the zone and I really wanted to go get a ground ball. First and second with one out get out of the inning with a double play would be big,” King said. A reporter then asked how satisfied he was with another 1.2 innings. No surprise, he was pretty happy about it.
“Very satisfied. Bullpen guys we’ve done a great job keeping (the lead) there and we’ve done a great job as a team to be in those situations.”
Michael King's season:
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) May 1, 2022
That lineup, as King alluded to, has been excellent. Yesterday, Aaron Judge blasted home runs no. seven and eight.
Aaron Judge – New York Yankees (7) pic.twitter.com/tHkRlCgwm5
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) May 1, 2022
But how “satisfied” should Yankees fans be?
The Yankees’ 16-6 start should feel more like passing a practice test. We can’t dismiss the bats coming out on fire and the bullpen currently pitching like they’re best in the business — they still had to go out and play and baseball is really hard no matter who you play.
So far, the Yankees have played the Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Orioles (twice), Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Guardians, and the Royals. A couple solid match ups there that ended up in series splits, like in their four-game set with the Blue Jays at home. So there’s a huge emphasis on their upcoming series in Toronto.
The Yankees have Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon on the mound, neither of which receives much run support over their Yankees tenures. The starter for the series-finale is to be determined, which means the lineup needs to come up large. It’s unlikely the Yankees-Blue Jays series is lacking runs.
If the bombers can bring their lumber north of the border and provide some run support to some timely pitching, they’re home free to build a monstrous lead in the AL East. They match up with the struggling Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and Orioles soon after.
THEN Yankees fans can really start getting excited for October. Ton of baseball left before we can crown anyone a sure-fire contender, though.