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Yankees depend on Anthony Rizzo, Joey Gallo to shake up AL East race

There was another season when the Yankees decided they needed more left-handed pop in their hit order – and made that decision in late June, not late July, in 2000. You were 38-35 years old at the time, level on points with the Blue Jays in the losing column, but three games behind in the American League East, only half a game ahead of the Red Sox. At this point, Brian Cashman was making one of the best trades he had ever made trading for Cleveland-based David Justice.

It turned out to be the kind of dream all managers think of during the season. Justice would buckle 20 homers for the Yankees in 78 games that year and eventually hit a three-run shot into the top deck of the old Yankee Stadium in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series against the Mariners, which got the Yankees into the World Series .

“Have your tokens ready,” Yankees announcer Michael Kay yelled during his call from Justice’s Homer that night, “you may be getting ready to get on the subway!”

He meant for the Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets, which the Yankees won in five games. Along the way, the Yankees won the AL East with just 87 wins that year. But they won it anyway. And they wouldn’t have done it without justice.

Fast forward to now. Cashman not only got a left-handed bat on the trade deadline, but two: Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. Gallo should be the bigger threat to the home run, especially with that short porch on the right field in the new stadium. But it’s Rizzo who hit homers in his first two games as a Yankee out and about in Miami. The Yankees won both games against the Marlins.

A week after losing three out of four to the Red Sox at Fenway – the last defeat came when the Red Sox hit them in the eighth inning with five runs after Domingo German kept them seven innings without a hit – the circumstances of the Yankees are these on their way to the final game in the Marlins series:

Her record is 55-48, which come into play on Sunday. They are suddenly only five games behind the Red Sox, who are currently in free fall, only five games behind the Red Sox – and six games behind the losses to the first-placed Rays who made it back to the Sox Saturday night in the Trop. In New York last week, leading up to the deadline, there was a lot of ado about how much the Yankees might be willing to give up (and they eventually gave up half a dozen prospects to get Gallo and Rizzo) to one on a wild card spot Running.

I don’t think Cashman sees things that way – especially given the state of the Red Sox pitching and the fact that Tyler Glasnow, the ace of the Rays, is facing surgery on Tommy John. Cashman can’t give up as much of his farm system as he just did if he doesn’t believe his team can win the division.

The Americans are within striking distance. It’s not like they’re trying to come back from 14 games back in July – as they did against the Red Sox in 1978.

And the Yankees don’t have to look back 20 years to get hope. All you have to do is look back two years, the National League East and the Nationals. The Yankees were five games over .500 when the Friday afternoon trading deadline came and went. Two years ago, the Nationals were six games (57-51) on the deadline, 6 1/2 games behind the Braves, only half a game ahead of the Phillies – after they were 19-30 at one point. They didn’t end up winning the division, but they’ve played 36-18 ball in the past two months and ended up making one of the great comeback stories in baseball by winning everything.

This Yankees team is not the Nationals team starting with the starters. The Yankees have a true ace in Gerrit Cole. The 2019 Nationals had both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, both aces that led them to a title like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling once did for the Diamondbacks in ’01 – and that was just as important in October as the way Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto met.

But the order of the Yankees got even better, got lengthened. They ended up with Rizzo and the Red Sox didn’t. Somehow this season the Yankees didn’t come to the conclusion that they needed left-right balance, especially at Yankee Stadium. You have it now.

Cashman said this the other day:

“When I addressed the frustration with the course of the season, I said, ‘It is up to me to do everything in my power to fix the problem, myself and my staff and our owners.’ That was our commitment – and we’ll try to do that and we’ll see how it turns out. “

It is only played for two games against the Marlins. Cole was still beaten up by the Rays on Thursday. There’s still the scrum for two wild card spots in the AL if the Yankees don’t win the division. But Cashman saw long ago, when justice prevailed, how much of a difference a left-handed player could make in a close race. He just got two.


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