Yankees must show they can take the show on the road
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Southern California sun was shining brightly as Gary Sanchez stepped in for extra batting practice five hours before the start of Friday night’s game between the Yankees and Angels at the ballpark unofficially known as the Big A.
The Yankees are on a big tear.
Sanchez, with only a .202 average, is on a home run spree and the Yankees’ offense is coming off a series during which they destroyed the Twins, mentally and physically. There still is a big challenge ahead for this club.
For all their 11-5 success at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees are 4-4 on the road — a small sample size indeed. The Yankees feel so comfortable at home they are going to have to find the same comfort on the road. That may be easier said than done against the improved Angels and a vital four-game set against the World Series champion Astros at Minute Maid Park that begins Monday.
The Yankees have won six straight. They own a plus-35 run differential.
Now it has to happen on the road. As Sanchez took his swings, manager Aaron Boone watched carefully, as did hitting coach Marcus Thames.
One of the problems for the Yankees early in the season, Boone noted, is that with all the bad weather they have faced they could not get extra hitting in like on Friday. Boone grew up in SoCal, so he knows all about this perfect baseball weather.
The Yankees and Boone are trying to build the perfect baseball team.
Right now they do not even lead the AL East. Their 15-9 mark is only second best there because of the hot start the Red Sox have gotten off to this season as they have clicked on all cylinders.
The Red Sox are off to an 8-1 start at home entering Friday. They have already played 15 road games before the calendar flips to May. They have posted 11 wins in those 15 games, giving them confidence that they can beat any other team in any other place. The Red Sox run differential is a gaudy plus-65. They are not just beating opponents, they are crushing them.
The Yankees’ offense can be relentless, but it hasn’t fully clicked yet. Giancarlo Stanton is doing better, but still hasn’t made that transition to a new team, new league and playing in a bunch of new ballparks. That takes time.
But here are some scary numbers: Despite the Yankees still getting it together, they are off the charts in many categories. They entered Friday leading the majors in OPS with an .826 mark, 143 RBIs, 392 total bases, 39 home runs and a slugging percentage of .475. The Angels were second in home runs with 36.
Some of that has to be attributed to playing in the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium, but remember the Yankees have played in some frigid weather this month, when the ball didn’t carry. Now that they get to take their show on the road, the hitting could really take off or it could go south when it runs into the Astros’ pitching staff.
This is a vital trip for the Yankees, seven big games and then they return home to face the Indians and Red Sox, so they will need to be at their best.
While the Yankees were first in slugging with that .475 mark, the Mets were 22nd at .372. Even though the Mets got off to a tremendous start, the Yankees have matched them now in victories.
There is a lot of work to be done and that is why the Yankees were out there early on a beautiful Friday afternoon.
Leading the Yankees’ hitting charge has been shortstop Didi Gregorius, who continues to amaze as he gets to play a series against his childhood friend from Curacao, Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Gregorius was leading baseball with a 1.245 OPS. He was second in the majors in batting average, .354, to the Cardinals Tommy Pham at .372.
Baltimore’s shortstop Manny Machado was fifth in batting at .347 as he continues to build an incredible free agent résumé.
All this and still five months of regular season baseball to play.
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