PHILADELPHIA — For more than two months, the Yankees had been unable to string together more than two straight games with double-digit hits. And they hadn’t scored more than five runs in a game in four consecutive games since last September.
Both of those streaks came to an end this week. Over their past four games, the Yankees have put up at least five runs and 10 hits.
Three of those games came against the Twins, a team the Yankees have feasted on most of this century. But there’s another, more intriguing, bit of timing that goes along with the Yankees’ recent offensive resurgence: The spotlight of Major League Baseball’s impending crackdown on pitcher’s using foreign substances has been turned up in the last week.
That raises the question: Is this what the Yankees needed to get their bats going?
If so, perhaps their offensive struggles will fade in the coming months and they will hit as they were expected to before they fell into a collective funk for most of the season.
And if so, they may need to score more runs to offset whatever potential impact the enforcement of the rules against pitchers using substances such as Spider Tack and Pelican Grip will have on their own staff.
Gerrit Cole pitched well in his most recent outing, his spin rate not terribly impacted by whatever adjustments he has had to make. Teammates Jameson Taillon and Aroldis Chapman both insisted Thursday they don’t use anything — and Taillon said he was in favor of banning even rosin on the mound.
Not surprisingly, Yankees hitters were only concerned with what the changes could mean for them and how their numbers might improve — and not the possible negative effect it could have on their pitching staff.
On Wednesday, Aaron Judge said he believed “95 percent of the guys I face in the league, something’s going on. It’s kind of one of those rules I feel like hasn’t really been enforced or defined, whatever you want to say about it.”
If that’s the case, it hasn’t slowed Judge much this year. Despite dealing with side soreness and lower-body tightness earlier in the season, Judge has been the Yankees’ best and most consistent hitter.
If he is able to stay healthy — no small feat considering his history and the fact the Yankees are asking him to play center field occasionally due to a lack of depth at the position and Brett Gardner’s age and ineffectiveness — Judge figures to be in the AL MVP conversation.
But there aren’t many other positives in the Yankees’ lineup and there is some consensus that at least some of their underperforming hitters — namely DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres — have been especially hurt by what pitchers have been able to do this season.
LeMahieu’s slugging percentage is down well over 200 points from a year ago and is nearly 200 points lower than in his first season with the Yankees. His hard-hit rate has also slipped significantly, according to Fangraphs.
Aaron Boone said he doesn’t plan on moving LeMahieu out of the leadoff spot, since the Yankees need him to hit wherever he is in the lineup.
Torres has hit better of late (12-for-31 with two doubles and a homer in his past eight games), but his power numbers remain dreadful and drastically lower than where they were in each of his first two seasons.
The Yankees are done with their personal punching bags, the Twins, and now face the Phillies, who have won four of five, to get a good test to see if they’re back to being the Bronx Bombers.