HOUSTON — Glance at the MLB leaderboard for team hitting and the initial belief is the Yankees have several Pete Roses, a few Hank Aarons, possibly a Jose Altuve and sprinkled into the lineup a Manny Ramirez or Barry Bonds.
After all, the Yankees opened a four-game series Monday night against the defending World Series champion Astros at Minute Maid Park on top of six very important offensive categories among all major league teams. Not only that, they were significantly ahead of the major league average across the board.
And while some point to this as being what was expected from a lineup that has Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez in it, not every bat is hot. In fact there are warts attached to all three lately and Brett Gardner, the leadoff hitter, is cold.
The Yankees led the majors in runs (163), homers (41), total bases (435), RBIs (158), slugging percentage (.466) and OPS (.811) and held a 28-point lead over the Red Sox in that category. Of course, the AL East leaders had a two-length lead over the second-place Yankees going into Monday night’s action.
Rarely does a lineup have nine bats going well at the same time, but when you look at what Judge and Gardner have done lately it’s easy to see there is room for the Yankee hitters to improve.
On April 21, Judge was hitting .338. In the eight games since, he batted .267 (8-for-30), hit one homer, drove in three runs and whiffed 17 times. Those numbers, according to Aaron Boone, didn’t factor into his decision to sit Judge on Monday night against right-hander Charlie Morton.
On April 19, Gardner was at .262 which was two points off his career average but in nine games since the leadoff hitter batted .097 (3-for-31) with a .231 on-base percentage.
“There are some mechanical things I am trying to clean up, use my legs more and I am taking a lot of pitches and getting into bad counts,’’ Gardner said. “I am hitting with two strikes too often. I feel good at the plate and physically, I am fine. I need to get more consistent.’’
Stanton hadn’t shown much in the muscle-flexing department — one homer and three RBIs in the previous seven games — but he was hitting .357 (10-for-28) and showing Boone he could be close to an extended hot streak.
“He is starting to find his timing. [Sunday] all his at-bats were good,’’ Boone said. “I feel like he has been a lot more comfortable.”
Sanchez, who was the DH against Morton, had seven homers and 24 RBIs in 24 games but was hitting .208 overall.
Boone points to the eventual return of Brandon Drury and Greg Bird as reasons to believe the lineup could become deeper.
“I hope so. We have help on the way, obviously. Hopefully at some point we get whole from a health standpoint,’’ Boone said. “Hopefully when that happens we will be able to match up even better on a daily basis. We are not satisfied, hopefully we will continue to improve.’’
Should that happen there is no reason to believe the Yankees won’t stay atop the leader boards in the near future and perhaps all season. Which might be the case even if they don’t hit better as a team.
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