Last year the Yankees put together a double-digit winning streak by getting 10 straight wins in September to overcome a stretch of blah performances that dulled a 16-6 start and morphed it into a 21-21 record.
While people were following from afar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not the same as this year’s pulsating 11-game run the Yankees are currently on. It is their first since Aug. 31-Sep. 10, 1985, during Billy Martin’s fourth stint managing the team and in an era when both New York teams were good and would have had a strong possibility to face each other in the “Subway Series” if the playoff format was not merely the division winners.
Any winning streak is exciting, especially since they are so difficult to achieve and the evidence of how challenging they are can be found in the results of a streak that has taken 34 hours, 39 minutes to achieve.
This one is impressive for even more reasons such as the quality of the opponent with two wins over the Chicago White Sox, three wins over the Boston Red Sox and two wins over the Atlanta Braves. This one also is noteworthy because of the high-wire games the Yankees are playing.
Seven of the wins are by two runs or less and six different pitchers have recorded a save and nine different pitchers have recorded a win.
“There’s no panic,” slugger Aaron Judge said. “This team is prepared for everything. So, I think maybe it might be a little easier because we’ve been there before.
“We’ve seen all outcomes. We’ve seen the good, we’ve seen the bad, we’ve seen the in-between. Nothing really surprises us at this point.”
The Yankees are holding opponents to 12-for-73 with runners in scoring position and have survived two games where they went 1-for-15 and 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
They also are getting it done late in games by scoring 14 times in the seventh inning or later but the biggest trait is survival of the high-wire variety by relievers.
The Yankees got win number one when Albert Abreu got Tim Anderson to ground out with the bases loaded in the 10th inning (first overtime).
Win number two was secured when Wandy Peralta got Cesar Hernandez to hit into a double play with runners at first and third.
The third win was a 2-1 game decided in the first inning on a two-run homer by Joey Gallo but also featured Gerrit Cole hitting 100 mph in his return from COVID-19 and Chad Green getting the save by stranding the runner.
The fourth win was another thrill ride in the seventh of the first game of a doubleheader against Boston when Jonathan Loaisiga and pretty much every Yankee fan pumped their fist after escaping a bases-loaded jam by striking out Hunter Renfroe.
The fifth win was a run of the mill 2-0 victory when the Yankees got a 1-2-3 final inning and moved past the Red Sox in the wild-card race.
Win number six was a three-run victory that felt a lot closer and ended when Andrew Velazquez made a terrific play at shortstop and completed a strong throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo with runners at first and second. It also illustrated the strategy of the quick hook if needed in the ninth when Aroldis Chapman faltered in his return from the injured list.
Win number seven was a game where the Yankees rolled to a six-run lead and then won 7-5 over the Twins in rather routine fashion. Wins eight and nine were the breathers for the Yankees, who got a 10-2 win followed by a 7-1 win.
The tenth win was Monday’s 5-1 win but the 11th was the most fitting way to keep a pulsating streak going. The Yankees held a two-run lead into the ninth and Chapman allowed a run while loading the bases. So, in comes Peralta to face Freddie Freeman and an eight-pitch at-bat ends with five straight changeups and a fly ball to left to end a pulsating 5-4 win.
The pulsating wins are in contrast to the series of gut-punch losses the Yankees sustained while they muddled through three-plus months and created doubts about what this team could do.
As much as the pulsating wins are a thing, there are other factors contributing.
Such as Giancarlo Stanton’s ease in the outfield, which allows him to get more into the game and produce a .320 average with six homers and 19 RBIs 22 games this month.
Stanton’s comfort and relative ease into the outfield creates more flexibility for designated hitters, which allows Luke Voit to get the playing time he passionately spoke about last week. The acquisition of Anthony Rizzo created a question mark about Voit’s role on the team and there was even some speculation about the Yankees trading the reigning home run champion.
In a season that has been marred by three injured list stints, Voit has batted .320 in his last 15 games with four homers and 17 RBIs further proving what the Yankees constantly say about him being a good hitter.
To get a winning streak of any significant length, many things must break right and actually happen. They can be productive hitters, enough things getting done offensively to overshadow quiet nights at the plate. They can be the ability to overcome the struggles of a closer by getting others to show an ability to get those coveted and often difficult final outs.
These are the things the Yankees were unable to get done earlier this year when they languished in fourth place and seemingly had no chance to win the AL East or even get a wild card spot. Now they are doing them with an intriguing visit to Oakland next on the agenda.
“Just gutsy,” Boone said.
It is the perfect way to describe a win streak featuring many thrills for the Yankees.