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Yankees Are Expecting Success, Injuries or Not

Every day is fraught with worry for the Yankees. They made no trades at last week’s deadline. Their rotation is ordinary, their bullpen exhausted, their lineup crumbling. When Gio Urshela fouled a ball off his right thigh in the sixth inning Sunday night, the most predictable thing happened a few moments later: a foul off his left shin, of course.

“I was going up and down the dugout saying, ‘He’s going to hit a home run right here, it’s just bound to happen,’” Aaron Judge said. “The whole crowd was chanting his name. But this whole team’s tough. We know what we’ve been through.”

Urshela did not hit a home run, alas — he bounced to the pitcher — but by then he had already gone deep off David Price in a 7-4 Yankees victory that sealed a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox. At 72-39, the Yankees carry the American League’s best record into a stretch of 11 games against the lowly Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays.

“A little swollen,” said Urshela, whose legs were heavily bandaged after the game, “but I think I’m good.”

These would not be the Yankees, though, without some kind of troubling news: The All-Star infielder Gleyber Torres had a core muscle issue, Manager Aaron Boone said after the game, and was taken to a hospital for tests.

Torres turned out to be fine and was back in the lineup on Monday, but the Yankees have already sent Luke Voit (sports hernia), Edwin Encarnacion (broken right wrist) and Aaron Hicks (right flexor strain) to the injured list in the last five days. They have 16 players on the major league injured list, the most in the game.

“It’s been a crazy year in that way, with the amount of things that have happened to guys physically,” Boone said. “But it’s also been a real rallying cry for us. It’s not just brought a level of physical toughness to the room, but it’s forced guys to be mentally tough as well. It’s part of the hunger that exists with those guys, because they have the mindset of: Nothing’s going to get in our way and nothing’s going to stop us.”

The Yankees would surely welcome Encarnacion, Hicks, Voit and the other injured starters, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, back to the offense. They would love to add Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, who have been hurt all season, to the pitching staff. Some combination of that group will return down the stretch.

But the Yankees expect success either way — and while every team likes to say that, Boone’s team lives up to it. The Red Sox have their health, but a middling record (59-55). The Yankees are chronically injured but soaring.

In the clubhouse afterward, the Yankees played “More Than A Feeling” — by Boston, naturally — and got a pep talk from winning pitcher J.A. Happ, the players’ pick for star of the game.

“He won the belt tonight, for what a performance he did against a really good offense,” Judge said. “Anytime Jay speaks, he controls a room. He’s a veteran, he’s been around the game for a long time, done a lot of great things in this game. ‘Keep moving forward,’ that was his biggest message, just keep moving forward no matter what.”

Happ, 36, blanked the Red Sox for a while on Sunday before giving up four runs in the fifth and sixth. Boston knocked him out early in the playoff opener at Fenway last October, but the Red Sox are sinking fast now.

“A sweep is hard against any team, especially a four-game sweep and especially against these guys,” Happ said. “Anytime you can put a little distance from a team in your division, it’s huge.”

After humbling Chris Sale twice in a week, the Yankees leveled Price this time. Though he buried his big-game demons with a sterling World Series last fall, Price is 1-7 with a 9.61 earned run average for Boston at Yankee Stadium. The fans dialed up a classic for him after Judge’s homer in the first: “Who’s Your Daddy?”, the old Pedro Martinez salute.

The weekend thrashing left the Red Sox six and a half games out of a wild card spot and 14½ behind the Yankees in the East, with Tampa Bay in between. The Red Sox can hit, but their pitching has abandoned them. Their five starters have a combined E.R.A. of 4.84, and only a true diehard could name more than two Red Sox relievers.

Of course, the Yankees’ pitchers looked just as vulnerable at Fenway at the end of July, when the Red Sox flattened them for 38 runs in the first three games. The Minnesota Twins and the Houston Astros, both leading their divisions, also have slugging contact hitters and present similar problems.

The Astros added two starting pitchers, Zack Greinke and Aaron Sanchez, at the deadline, plus a reliever and a catcher. Sanchez was 3-14 for Toronto but fired the first six innings of a combined no-hitter in his Houston debut on Saturday.

The Yankees chose not to strengthen their pitching at the deadline, passing up every possible deal that could have helped the major league team. The prices were too steep, said General Manager Brian Cashman, who deserves the benefit of the doubt. Without the depth Cashman and his staff have assembled since last summer, this season would be a fiasco.

ImageCreditAndy Marlin/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

But you have to wonder why outfielder Clint Frazier remains in the organization. He was passed over again for a promotion when the Yankees placed Hicks on the injured list Sunday, and Boone said the Yankees did not even consider him. Frazier posted a cryptic but sad-looking photo on Instagram Sunday night — he is hanging his head under a red hoodie, with a “Scranton Life” sign lit up in the background — but he can hit and should be on a major league roster. If the Yankees truly have no use for Frazier, they should have dealt him, if only to improve around the margins.

Then again, the biggest lesson from this season is that, improbably, the Yankees really do have the answers within. Whenever one sturdy piece falls, another sprouts in its place.

The questions the Yankees absorb every day are real, and in October they might struggle to overcome all the issues. But for now the evidence keeps mounting, right there in the won-loss record: with this team, in this season, the obstacles have not mattered.

More on the YankeesYankees Sweep Red Sox Even as Injuries Continue to MountAug 4, 2019Yankees Add to Red Sox’ Pain, and Vice VersaAug 3, 2019Yankees Deliver Another Blow to Reeling Red SoxAug 3, 2019


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