To illustrate how battered the first-place Yankees have been this season, take into account the crew’s beginning lineup on Sunday evening towards its rival, the Boston Red Sox. Of the 9 hitters hoping to shut out a four-game sweep, solely 4 had been on the Yankees’ opening day roster: infielder Gleyber Torres, and outfielders Aaron Judge, Mike Tauchman and Brett Gardner.
The checklist of the Yankees’ wounded grew to a major-league main 16 over the weekend, when first baseman-designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion sustained a hairline fracture in his proper wrist after being hit by a pitch, and middle fielder Aaron Hicks strained the flexor muscle in his proper elbow after a throw from the outfield.
In all, 25 totally different Yankees have frolicked on the injured checklist this season. Several of them have been stars, and a few have made a number of visits, such as beginning pitcher C.C. Sabathia and outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Hicks.
Even Torres, an All-Star infielder who has been one of many crew’s rocks this season, exited Sunday’s recreation late. He was despatched to the hospital for checks on a “core issue,” Manager Aaron Boone mentioned, with outcomes to come later.
Yet after Sunday’s recreation, the place they completed off a four-game sweep towards the Red Sox, profitable this one by 7-Four, the Yankees had been neck and neck with the Los Angeles Dodgers for one of the best file in baseball. The Yankees maintained a snug lead within the American League East over the surging Tampa Bay Rays (eight video games) and the floundering Red Sox (14 and a half video games).
“The greatest strength of this team is its ability to overcome adversity and just keep pushing forward,” mentioned Tauchman, whose torrid hitting in July helped the Yankees proceed to win.
The depth of the Yankees’ roster and farm system, in addition to the organization’s resources, scouting, analytics and coaching, has been on display this season. Every step back, such as the injuries sustained by Encarnacion and Hicks during Saturday’s doubleheader, has been followed by two forward, such as the two wins over the Red Sox on Saturday.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Hicks said. “Guys come back and somebody else goes down. It’s tough, but we’ve been dealing with it this whole year and we’ve been able to still win. So it’s a next man up kind of thing.”
It certainly was on Sunday. Third baseman Gio Urshela, an unexpected cleanup hitter, and Judge both homered off Red Sox starting pitcher David Price. Outfielder Cameron Maybin, first baseman Mike Ford and Tauchman all drove in runs. Price coughed up six of his seven runs in the third inning.
Urshela provided a minor scare in the sixth when he fell to ground after fouling two different pitches off his legs, but he ended up staying in the game. Luis Cessa tossed two and one-third scoreless innings of relief behind starting pitcher J.A. Happ.
The mood was different the night before, as some Yankees feared the worst for Hicks: a torn ulnar collateral ligament and Tommy John surgery. “Anything with the elbow makes you nervous,” Hicks said on Saturday.
But after a magnetic resonance imaging examination on Sunday, Hicks and the team exhaled. Boone said Hicks’s elbow ligament was intact and that he would be shut down from throwing for up to 10 days. “We’re optimistic that he will be back,” Boone said of Hicks, who was hitting .235 with 12 home runs.
With Encarnacion, it was more unclear. He said the pain he felt in his fractured right wrist on Saturday was worse than in 2009, when he missed two months with a fractured left wrist. Boone said a rehabilitation plan would be mapped out for Encarnacion after an evaluation in seven to 10 days.
Encarnacion said he hoped to miss no more than three weeks, but was unsure and suggested it could be up to five. Judge missed a month and a half last season when his right wrist was fractured by a pitch. He returned in mid-September for a playoff push.
“For me, it’s frustrating, especially when I start feeling better at the plate and see the ball better,” said Encarnacion, who was hitting .333 with five home runs and 20 runs driven in over his previous 90 plate appearances.
Encarnacion’s injury is particularly concerning for the Yankees because their other first baseman-designated hitter, Luke Voit, returned to the I.L. July 31 with a sports hernia injury. Voit received a cortisone shot last week and hoped to avoid surgery, which would knock him out for more than six weeks.
With the August waiver trade period no longer in existence — this was the first year of the hard July 31 deadline for major-league trades — the Yankees have few options for outside upgrades. Boone said the Yankees would fill first base with Ford, who was called up from Class AAA on Saturday, and D.J. LeMahieu, a versatile infielder.
As for center field, the Yankees will turn back to Gardner, with some help from Tauchman. Gardner manned the position for the first month and a half of the season while Hicks dealt with a back injury. But the Yankees are mindful of Gardner’s age (he will be 36 later this month) and his left knee (he recently missed 10 games because it was inflamed).
Some help may arrive soon: catcher Gary Sanchez, who has been recovering from a groin injury, was expected to return from the I.L. next weekend.
Throughout all the injuries, and all the wins in spite of them, Judge said he has never daydreamed about what the Yankees might look like — and perhaps how many more victories they would have — with a healthy roster.
“We don’t have time to think about that,” he said. “Just focus on winning games with the guys we got here.”
And that’s exactly what they have done.
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