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MINNEAPOLIS — Are they locked in? Or was it the Twins? That is the question the Yankees are left with after taking two much-needed wins out of a three-game series against a team they can always count on to fatten up their numbers in the win column.
They left Minnesota after a crushing loss. Aroldis Chapman, the closer who had been so good all season, gave up two two-run home runs in the ninth for his second blown save of the season.
So, the Yankees head into Philadelphia with a 33-30 record and some encouragement about some bats that had been struggling. And they also bring some baggage of that team that came into Minnesota licking its wounds after having been swept at home by the Red Sox for the first time in a decade.
Offensively there were some good signs. Against the Red Sox over the last weekend, the Yankees managed just 10 runs in three games and hit just .243 as a team. They hit two homers and grounded into six double plays. In three games here, they slashed .342/.372/.617 with eight home runs, seven doubles and a triple. They had 21 RBI and hit into only three double plays.
“Offensively we got to feed off of this and see how we grind it out at bats and just put pressure on the guys on the mound,” Giancarlo Stanton said. “So I think we did a great job with this series. And we just got to continue that.”
Stanton certainly found his groove in Minneapolis after going 2-for-24 with 12 strikeouts in his first eight games off the injured list. At Target Field, he went 6-for-15 with a double, three home runs, eight RBI and three strikeouts.
But with the Yankees heading into an interleague series at Citizens Bank Park this weekend, Stanton will have to try and keep that momentum going in limited opportunities. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Stanton, who has been limited by injuries over the past three years, will not play in the outfield.
“I just got to get in there with the high-velocity (pitching) machine and work and try to keep my timing down,” Stanton said. “I mean, nothing can compare to real live at-bats, but that’s the closest thing for me. So just make sure I’m ready to come in and produce when I’m in there.”
Stanton isn’t the only bat that is heating up though.
Miguel Andujar, who could not find a spot in this lineup a month ago, is hitting .326/.348/.674 over his last 12 games and continued his hot streak in Minnesota. He went 6-for-11 with two home runs and three RBIs. Perhaps as encouraging as those numbers are is the fact that he drew two walks — his first of the season — and did not strike out.
“It was a matter of really staying within what I could control and just I knew that over time it was gonna come,” said the 2018 Rookie of the Year finalist.
And Gary Sanchez, who was benched last season in the playoffs and lost his starting job a month into this season, has resurfaced as a force in the lineup. In two games (he sat out Wednesday night because Gerrit Cole prefers to pitch to Kyle Higashioka), Sanchez went 3-for-9 with a home run, two RBI. He struck out twice.
“I mean there’s so many things you think about, when you’re struggling hitting and things are not working out,” Sanchez said. “But at the same time you understand that the only way was to continue to work and never stop. That’s what I focused on and glad that things have been working out.”
While the Yankees are hoping to build off a breakout of their offense this week, there was still at least one worrying sign of an issue that has continued to nag them this season. Thursday night, as Chapman was trying to protect a two-run lead, it was easy to think about missed opportunities. The Bombers went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and were 5-for-32 with RISP overall in the series.
That has been a story all season for the Yankees, who had hit just .224/.329/.312 with nine home runs with RISP.
The Yankees think they can use this series as a springboard for their offense to get them back on track.