Aaron Judge back? Luis Gil's limit? Good Feelings Abound: 3 Yankee Takeaways

scheduled tribe. Petersburg, Florida – They were so loud you could hear them through concrete walls.

The New York Yankees scored a 10-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Sunday afternoon, resulting in a loud, beer-soaked celebration.

The players screamed and even barked when Jahmai Jones, one of the day's many stars, gave a speech in front of them and received the team's Player of the Game championship belt. All kinds of pop music were playing from speakers mounted against one wall of the clubhouse. When journalists were allowed inside, there was still a slight smell of beer in the room.

“Team stuff,” catcher Jose Trevino said. “Dog stuff.”

It was a good day to be a part of the evil empire.

In fact, it has been a good season, as their 27–15 record puts them half a game behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Yankees are 8-3 in May. After Monday's off, they'll head 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 American League club.

Here are three takeaways as the Yankees continue to rise.

The biggest development for the Yankees is Judge's return to normal. Which is to say, he bounced back to become one of the best hitters in the game.

Everything was right with Judge in Sunday's win. All four balls he played were 104.6 mph or faster. His fifth-inning, two-run home run gave the Yankees a 6–0 lead, and was his 10th home run of the year (fourth most in the AL). He worked a seven-pitch walk in the third inning despite falling 0-2.

Judge also extended his on-base streak to 10 games. Over that span, he is batting .364 (12 for 33). Judge was hit and held without a loss, allowing two walks and one hit-by-pitch in the first two games of the series, although Boone said these results were misleading “considering how he's swinging the bat.”

“He's walking,” Boone said. “He's coming to base.”

Things seemed to be changing for the judge. Watching him throughout the season, he did not appear to have any obvious physical issues, despite a right toe injury suffered last year and stomach discomfort he experienced during spring training. And now he is only getting results. The underlying statistics were also in the judge's favor. A sample:

• As of Sunday night, his expected weighted on-base percentage was .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 over 95 mph, was 57.4 percent – ​​just inside the 97th percentile.

Judge reached his lowest point when he was batting just .197 with six homers in his first 33 games.

Now? He appears back.

“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.

Still, here's Luis Gil, maintaining a 2.51 ERA through eight starts thanks to six scoreless innings on Sunday.

Chew it:

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

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

• Gill has been fastball-changeup heavy 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 has been even better, posting a .167 slugging percentage.

“He's on the attack all the time,” Trevino said. “He doesn't bow down to anyone. It doesn't matter who you are. He's trying to attack you with everything he has. I think he's doing a pretty good job at it.”

Boone said: “Hitters tell you a lot. They're too overwhelmed with his stuff and aren't really able to do it – even when they get a good swing, they're usually not able to clip it, and that's what Whether it's fraud, velocity, spin, it could be anything. Hitters let you know that stuff is getting to you.”

Let's get ahead of ourselves for a moment. At some point, the Yankees will have to pull the plug on Gill as a starting pitcher, no matter how much it hurts. His highest innings total came in 2021 when he struck out 79 1/3 for the Minors and 29 1/3 for the Yankees. He pitched only four innings last year due to Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees insist he is not on the traditional innings cap. This is because they are using technology to track his energy levels. This includes everything from his average velocity to his arm path. So, perhaps Gill can surprise and last longer than anyone expects. More likely, the Yankees may consider pushing Cole toward a relief role when he returns sometime this summer.

“Of course, I want to stay here,” Gil said through an interpreter. “I want to be a part of this team. But at the same time, I am also focused on what I need to do.”

lots of good vibes

Winning fixes everything, and the Yankees are proof of that. So far, they have managed to leave behind the dreadful memories of finishing fourth in 2023. And the clubhouse is filled with a good atmosphere.

Some interesting scenes:

• Gleyber Torres, who was coming off a rough 58 OPS+ entering Sunday, crushed a clutch three-run home run in the eighth inning to extend the Yankees' lead to 9-5 on Sunday. When she passed the plate, Anthony Rizzo hugged her and held her there for a moment. The players came out of the dugout to congratulate him. Not that Torres thought his contract year would be up, but he felt the love Sunday.

“That's why 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 with me through this time.”

• Jones had made just six plate appearances this season before he crushed a solo homer in the third inning – the first blast of his career. He made his MLB debut in 2020. Boone and the players knew that Jones had been through a lot, barely getting playing time despite showing up every day. They showered him with beer in the post-game celebration, which was all the sweeter because their moment came on Mother's Day. Jones' father Andrew died suddenly from a brain aneurysm in 2011 when Jones was 13. His mother Michelle took care of him and his five siblings.

After the home run, the Yankees dugout went crazy, and Alex Verdugo – whom Jones had replaced in the lineup – greeted him with a vigorous 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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