OAKLAND, Calif. — Together, as Yankees, Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo had teamed to post a .176/.307/.371 slash line when they reported to the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday.
So why does it feel like they have contributed so much more?
Because this represents an instance of the veteran lefty hitters’ reputation speaking for themselves — if not louder than their actual production, then to a level that mitigates the disappointing results. And, friends and foes agree, plays a role in the Yankees’ surge since the duo came aboard.
“I think having their presence in the lineup has definitely created some balance,” Aaron Boone said, before the Yankees concluded their weekend series with the A’s. “Forces some decisions, some non-automatic decisions. [You can’t] go to this particular guy, this particular reliever in a situation, knowing you’ve just got a righty lane.”
“Rizzo’s on the bench today. Where does he show up, too? Later on in the game [you think about him],” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Sunday afternoon. “So they’ve got some options off the bench. But when they’re fully healthy, this is probably as difficult a lineup as there is to deal with.”
The Yankees’ late-July acquisitions of Gallo (from the Rangers) and Rizzo (from the Cubs) served as an acknowledgment that not only their offense needed some help, but that it could benefit from some diversity. From Opening Day through July 29 (both Rizzo and Gallo joined the Yankees in Miami on July 30), the Yankees’ lefty hitters tallied a .196/.295/.334 slash line (thanks, FanGraphs). So the two new guys at their worst (you’d think) still got on base at a higher rate and slugged better than the Yankees’ few lefty bats (primarily Brett Gardner and Rougned Odor) did prior to their arrival.
Then you throw in what the new Yankees can do, and how they conduct themselves during funks, and those intangibles contribute to a 13-game winning streak rather than hinder it.
“I think that balance has definitely helped us as a team. I think it’s helped some of our big right-handed hitters,” Boone said. “And it’s just made our offense overall, even when you don’t get results necessarily, when you have the kind of at-bats that they’re able to put on you, the kind of work a pitcher has to do to get through them, probably nets you overall more mistakes at some point in the game, whether it be for them or somebody else.”
It can’t be a total coincidence that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have surged as the Yankees lengthened and spiced up their lineup. Said Melvin: “It’s very difficult to pitch around or identify one or two guys that you don’t want to hurt you when you have a whole lineup of guys it feels like that can [hurt you].
“It is what it is. You look at what Judge and Stanton are doing right now and they’re back-to-back today. It’s tough to work around those guys. And you know with this team that one bad pitch means a couple of runs sometimes.”
During their streak, the Yankees put up 75 runs, the second-most in baseball during that stretch, as per ESPN. They grounded into only four double plays. They registered hard-hit balls 35.5 percent of the time, third-best. They played, in short, like a finely tuned machine, despite their two recent additions hardly performing optimally.
It bodes well for the Yankees’ ability to function at a very high level when their world isn’t perfect. Because it surely won’t be for much if not all of the remaining journey. It helps to have people whose presence counts for something even when their counting stats suffer.
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