Little-known, light-hitting Rays infielder Taylor Walls, in a moment of courageous silliness, suggested about a week ago that the Yankees are “very beatable.” That only proves Walls has no future in scouting once his ballplaying days are over.
The Yankees are very beatable in the sense that Secretariat was very beatable.
Or Michael Phelps.
Or Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
The Yankees are just bludgeoning folks daily. Some nights, like Friday, it doesn’t even seem fair.
The Dodgers were supposed to be baseball’s best team, and right now they are no better than a clear second. The Yankees’ 13-0 victory over the Tigers on a cool night in The Bronx was the season’s most dominant performance yet.
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was pitch-perfect two batters into the seventh inning before Jonathan Schoop lined a clean single to center field to halt history. It was the second straight night the Yankees’ starter threatened the history books, after Jameson Taillon carried a perfect game into the eighth the night before.
The Yankees are a threat to do something special, and they nearly did so two nights is a row.
This time, they even had room for some very nice nostalgia, and the comeback kid, Manny Banuelos, made his Yankees debut a decade after he was supposed to become the club’s next ace. Banuelos threw two shutout innings following Cole’s seven.
“We banged, we played good D and Manny got in. It was a good night,” Cole declared.
Aaron Judge posted a four-hit night, including his 20th homer, as “MVP” chants rang out on Judge bobblehead night. But afterward, when the team had sealed its fourth straight win and eighth victory in 10 games, the talk was as much about Banuelos as the team’s two biggest stars.
“I’m so happy man. I made my dream come true” Banuelos declared, triggering some teary eyes among even the hardened reporters. “This is amazing … everyone knows this is a great team. To be part of it is huge.”
This team looks so good, its biggest hurdle is the record book, as the league appears to be little challenge lately.
The Angels brought the supposed best two players in the sport here earlier this week and they left The Bronx bruised, battered and swept. So what was anyone expecting from the Tigers, the fashionable preseason pick who have turned out to be toothless?
Surprise star Jose Trevino plus sudden hero Matt Carpenter and Anthony Rizzo all joined Judge in the homer brigade. Carpenter has four homers his first five games as a Yankee, off the scrap heap (he’s the third to do so in pinstripes, joining Dave Kingman and Eric Hinske).
The Yankees have turned out very different from what we all imagined, and very different indeed from what Walls suggested.
Very beatable? Hardly.
Sure, they are beatable, in the way that every team loses games here or there. Even the 1998 Yankees, the modern hallmark for baseball perfection, lost 48 games. So technically, the team that won 114 games was also beatable.
“I think everyone in here knows how good we are,” Isiah Kiner-Falefa said.
They know where they stand, and right now that’s at the top of the heap. Their 37-15 record is the best in the game.
It also puts them on pace for 114 wins, same as that 1998 squad.
For those who watched them have to hustle to make the playoffs last year, and follow it up by mostly watching their competitors spend, it’s still a little hard to believe.
They shored up shortstop, added a talented but aging irritant for third, swapped middle relievers with the Mets and mostly hoped for the best.
Anyway, unknown critics on rivals aside, by now we can say it’s no fluke.
The pen is good, the rotation better, and Judge needs to clear his trophy case for the coming MVP.
Cole finished the night allowing two hits and no walks while striking out nine. Twice, he struck out the side. The perfectionist was almost perfect.
Cole has gotten heat and taken criticism as only the extraordinary is expected after he signed a pitcher record $324-million, nine-year deal. But fairly, he is a true ace.
And two others are pitching like that, too. Cole himself endorsed Nestor Cortes, who comes from Baltimore, Seattle and all angles to fool hitter after hitter, for hardware of his own as the Cy Young leader.
And it feels like Taillon, the third ace, finally has arrived as a star. After being selected second overall the star-studded 2010 MLB Draft, right between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Taillon endured two Tommy John procedures and one even more serious surgery, for testicular cancer. So like Cortes, in a way he’s a late bloomer, too.
Greatness seems to come for fellows when they get out of Pittsburgh. New closer Clay Holmes, who like Cole and Taillon started in Pittsburgh, has been nearly perfect.
Which means he has something else in common with Cole.
Lately actually, the entire team has seemed just about perfect.