ST. PETERSBURG Fla.– The Yankees dropped three of four over the weekend to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. New York lost a heartbreaker back on Friday by a 1-0 score after a good pitching duel between the two bullpens. The Bronx Bombers then split a double header on Saturday and lost another heartbreaker on a walk-off by the Rays in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday.
To add gasoline on top of the fire, Giancarlo Stanton was placed on the 10 Day IL with a left hamstring strain. This injury takes place early this season after only playing 18 games last season. This is now the third trip to the IL for Stanton since arriving to the Yankees in 2018. Stanton was raking at the plate during the young season with a .293 batting average with three homers and 13 RBIs in 59 at bats.
The Bronx Bombers sent down infielder Thairo Estrada to the alternate site on Monday as a result of Stanton headed to the IL so they can bring up either Miguel Andujar who was sent down on Thursday after starting the season 1 for 14 or Clint Frazier. Frazier is more likely as he had a good summer camp and getting called up would also let him highlight his offensive power, which could be a useful trade chip for a starting pitcher at the trading deadline.
The Yankees will also have a decision to make at the designated hitter role with Stanton out. It will most likely be a revolving door with Mike Ford facing lefties and switching Ford out with Luke Voit at first base. On top of that, Clint Fraizer or Miguel Andujar could easily fill the DH role as well. By the same token though, it might not be a bad idea to give Gary Sanchez a half day off as the DH every once in a while.
The injury bug isn’t going away for the Yankees as catcher Kyle Higashioka also landed on the 10 day IL after suffering a right oblique strain. New York signed Erik Kratz to an MLB contract to take over the backup catching role behind Gary Sanchez in the interim.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone told the media on Sunday that Aroldis Chapman, who has been out with COVID-19 will face hitters this week after throwing multiple bullpen sessions.
Both Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres continued their struggles at the plate. Sanchez is batting .103 with four hits and one home run in 39 at bats. While Torres did break his hitless streak on Saturday, he is still only batting .157 with only eight hits and one homer in 51 trips to the plate. While these numbers don’t look good in the slightest, it would be foolish to give up on these two players because when they’re right, they are both dangerous to face for a pitcher.
The good news for the Yankees is that their pitching improved over the weekend as Masahiro Tanaka pitched a playoff type performance as he tossed five innings of one-hit ball with five strikeouts. On top of that, James Paxton finally returned to himself on Sunday as he only gave up one hit and finished with eleven strikeouts before giving up two homers in the seventh due to Boone pushing his luck and keeping him in too long. It is vital that both Paxton and Tanaka can return to their dominant selves for the Bronx Bombers to be able to make a deep push in the playoffs as their pitching will be the difference between advancing or getting sent home.
While the Yankees still have a winning record at 10-6 and stand in first place in the American League East, the Bronx Bombers are now facing their first test of adversity this season with Stanton now heading on the IL. It will require a next man up mentality for the Yankees to continue to win games like they did extremely well with last season. This mentality will be even more important as each game is vital during a 60-game sprint to the playoffs compared to the regular 162-game grind. The Yankees will have their first test of how well they respond to this adversity Tuesday night back at the Stadium as they start a two-game series against the Atlanta Braves with first pitch at 7:05pm.