Aaron Judge back? Luis Gil’s limit? Good vibes abound: 3 Yankees takeaways

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — They were so loud you could hear them through the concrete walls.

It was with a raucous, beer-soaked celebration that the New York Yankees capped off their 10-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

Players screamed and even barked as Jahmai Jones, one of the day’s many stars, spoke in front of them and received the championship belt for the team’s player of the game. All kinds of pop music blared from the speakers against one of the walls of the clubhouse. The room still smelled of light beer when journalists were allowed inside.

“Team stuff,” receiver Jose Trevino said. “Dog things.”

It was a good day to be part of the Evil Empire.

It’s actually been a good season, as their 27-15 record puts them within a half-game of the Baltimore Orioles, first in the American League East. The Yankees are 8-3 in May. After Monday’s off day, they’ll travel to Minnesota, where they’ve owned the Twins for years. Since 2018, they are 73-32 against the Twins, their best winning percentage against any club in the American League.

Here are three takeaways as the Yankees continue to advance.

The biggest development for the Yankees was Judge’s return to normal. That is, his return to being one of the best hitters in the game.

Sunday’s win showcased everything that was right with Judge. All four balls he put in play were 104.6 mph or faster. His two-run home run in the fifth inning gave the Yankees a 6–0 lead, and it was his 10th of the year (fourth in the AL). He walked seven pitches in the third inning despite trailing 0-2.

Judge also extended his on-base streak to 10 games. During that span, he hit .364 (12-for-33). Judge had been hitless with two walks and a hit by pitch in the first two games of the series, although Boone said those results were misleading “given the way he swings the bat.”

“He’s walking,” Boone said. “He’s heading to the base.”

Things were looking to change for Judge. Observing him all season, he hasn’t felt any obvious physical discomfort, despite the lingering problem with the right toe injury he suffered last year and the abdominal discomfort he felt during of spring training. And now he’s just getting results. The underlying statistics were also on the judge’s side. A sample :

• As of Sunday night, he had an expected weighted on-base percentage of .399, in the 94th percentile in MLB.

• His bat speed of 76.5 mph was in the 97th percentile.

• His hard hit rate, accounting for balls hit over 95 mph, was 57.4 percent — in the 97th percentile.

Judge reached his lowest point when he hit just .197 with six home runs in his first 33 games.

NOW? He reappears.

“It was inevitable,” Boone said.

Luis Gil is on the attack

No one expected Gerrit Cole’s replacement to have the lowest ERA among Yankees starters at this point in the season.

Yet here comes Luis Gil, holding a 2.51 ERA over eight starts thanks to six scoreless innings on Sunday.

Chew on this:

• Gil is the first Yankees pitcher to throw more than six innings and allow one run or fewer in at least three consecutive starts since Cole did it in June 2022.

• He has also allowed three or fewer hits in seven of his eight starts this season.

• Gil was very quick at changing the ball while mixing in a slider. Opponents have just a .233 slugging percentage against his heater, which he throws 58.3 percent of the time and averages 96.4 mph. His changeup was even better with a .167 slugging percentage against.

“He’s on offense all the time,” Trevino said. “He doesn’t give in to anyone. It doesn’t matter who you are. He tries to attack you with everything he has. I think he does a very good job in this area.

Boone said: “The hitters tell you a lot. They get overwhelmed by his stuff a lot and aren’t really able to do it – even when they get a good swing, they usually aren’t able to cut it, and that speaks to deception, speed, spin . , Whatever. The batters tell you that this thing is attacking you.

Let’s step forward for a moment. At some point, the Yankees will likely have to pull the plug on Gil as a starting pitcher, no matter how much it hurts. His record for total innings came in 2021 when he pitched 79 1/3 in the minors and 29 1/3 for the Yankees. He only pitched four innings last year due to Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees insist he doesn’t meet a traditional inning limit. This is because they use technology to track one’s energy levels. This includes everything from his average speed to his arm trajectory. So maybe Gil could surprise and last a lot longer than expected. More likely, the Yankees could look to push him into a relief role when Cole returns at some point this summer.

“Of course I want to be here,” Gil said through an interpreter. “I want to be part of this team. But at the same time, I’m too focused on what I have to do.

So many good vibes

Winning cures everything, and the Yankees are proof. So far, they have been able to leave behind the terrible memories of their fourth place finish in 2023. And the clubhouse has been filled with good vibes.

Some interesting scenes:

• Gleyber Torres, who was pretty terrible with a 58 OPS+ on Sunday, crushed a three-run home run in the eighth inning to extend the Yankees’ lead to 9-5 on Sunday. When he crossed home plate, Anthony Rizzo wrapped him in a hug and held him there for a moment. The players came out of the dugout to congratulate him. This isn’t how Torres thought his contract year would go, but he felt the love on Sunday.

“For that reason I always say it’s home, it’s more than teammates, it’s family,” he said. “The relationships I have here are amazing and everyone is here with me right now.”

• Jones only made six appearances at the plate this season before crushing a solo homer in the third inning – the first outburst of his career. He made his MLB debut in 2020. Boone and the players knew Jones had been through a lot, barely getting a chance to play despite being there every day. They doused him with beer during the post-game celebration, which was also nice because his moment fell on Mother’s Day. Jones’ father, Andrew, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 2011, when Jones was 13 years old. His mother, Michele, took care of him and his five siblings.

After the home run, the Yankees dugout went crazy and Alex Verdugo — whose spot Jones took in the lineup — greeted him with a loud high-five.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Jones said.

(Photo of Aaron Judge hitting a two-run homer: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

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