It is inevitable that over a 162-game season, even the hottest baseball teams will at some point go cold.
But as the Yankees near the halfway point of the 2018 season, the weather has been their toughest adversary, causing six games to be postponed and one to be suspended. Even a visit this week from the Seattle Mariners, who arrived in the Bronx on Tuesday at 20 games over .500, could not shake them.
On Thursday, the Yankees finished a three-game sweep of Seattle with a 4-3 win that gave them a 50-22 record, good for a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, and kept them on pace for 112 wins this season.
The Yankees prevailed on Thursday despite a subpar performance from their ace, Luis Severino, who battled into the sixth inning, and a stall by their high-powered offense after an explosive first inning. A pair of two-run homers, by Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar, gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead against Seattle starter James Paxton, who allowed seven hits and three walks while striking out nine over five innings.
The little things preserved this victory. David Robertson bailed out Severino by getting Mike Zunino to fly out with two runners on to end the sixth. Dellin Betances, who appears to have regained the dominant form he displayed in 2014 and 2015, pitched a shutdown eighth inning. Austin Romine assisted, throwing out pinch-runner Guillermo Heredia trying to steal second to end the eighth.
That’s a good club over there that we beat,” Manager Aaron Boone said. “They made Sevy work hard.”
Severino (11-2) lasted five and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, including a homer by third baseman Kyle Seager, and one walk, while striking out five.
Things could have been slightly easier for the Yankees if Mitch Haniger, a Seattle right fielder making a rare start in center, had not made a spectacular catch on a fly ball by Giancarlo Stanton, stealing what might have been the Yankees’ third home run in the first inning.
And things might have been harder if Romine had not gunned down Heredia, because Betances — who had walked Ryon Healy with two out — had just missed badly on a 2-2 pitch to Ben Gamel and appeared close to issuing another walk.
But that’s the way things seem to go when a very good team is playing very well.
“We expect to win every day,” Romine said. “We know what kind of athletes we have in this room and we’re excited about it. We’re strong.”
The Yankees have not lost more than two games in a row this season. But Boone, who knows how volatile a baseball season can be, added a note of caution.
“We’ve obviously played well and racked up a lot of wins,” he said. “It’s gratifying to know we’ve played pretty well against some elite teams and some hot teams, and I think it shows the confidence these guys have no matter who the opponent is. But you also realize every night how precious those wins are and how hard they are to come by. This game can change in a hurry.”
Masahiro Tanaka, on the disabled list since June 9 with strains of both hamstrings, threw off flat ground today and will accompany the team on its road trip to Tampa and Philadelphia. Tanaka is expected to throw his first bullpen session since the injury, suffered while running the bases against the Mets on June 8, on Sunday.