BALTIMORE — The Yankees have been winning in a variety of ways this season; plenty, in fact, with pitching and defense helping them build the best record in the Major Leagues. But this franchise has home runs embedded into its DNA, and when they’re belting the ball, it makes the ride a lot more fun.
“You have guys that have hit a lot of home runs in this game for a long time,” Rizzo said. “I don’t think we’re really trying to go up there and slug. We’re trying to just pass it on to the next guy, and that’s the best part.”
Though Luis Severino pitched six sterling innings of one-run ball and Gleyber Torres started a fantastic first-inning double play that manager Aaron Boone called “the play of the game,” the long ball has been the Yankees’ best buddy throughout this surge.
Even with Aaron Judge resting after 13 consecutive days in the lineup, the Yankees flexed their muscles. Trevino clanged a three-run homer off the right-field foul pole in the fourth inning before Donaldson and Rizzo went back-to-back with solo shots in the ninth.
The Yanks have now scored 51.4 percent of their runs via the home run, the most in the Major Leagues. Monday marked New York’s eighth game hitting at least three homers, a stat that also paces the bigs.
“Our offense is going to give us opportunities throughout the game, and we know that,” Donaldson said. “We know that if we don’t get the job done early on, we’re going to have more opportunities to do that.”
Facing O’s starter Kyle Bradish, Giancarlo Stanton doubled home Rizzo in the third inning to put New York on the board before Trevino connected for the first homer hit by a Yankees catcher this season, lofting a fly ball to right field that Boone didn’t expect to leave the ballpark.
“It was big; I feel like he’s had competitive at-bats every day, even though he hasn’t gotten a lot of results,” Boone said of Trevino. “That ball, I didn’t even consider it hitting the pole. The way [right fielder Anthony] Santander was running after it, I was body-languaging it and hoping it landed in fair territory. Then all of a sudden it’s off the foul pole for a three-run homer. That was obviously huge at the time.”
That was enough support for Severino, who buzzed through Baltimore’s lineup in a seven-strikeout performance, walking two while generating 15 swings and misses. Severino’s hairiest spot came in the first inning, when Joey Gallo misplayed a leadoff Cedric Mullins fly ball for a three-base error and Trey Mancini worked a walk.
Santander then stroked a broken-bat flare that appeared destined to find turf in right field, but Torres snared the ball with a dive near the lip of the infield dirt, tossing to Rizzo at first base to double off Mancini.
“In that situation, I prepared myself really well to get any ground ball and line drive,” Torres said. “I tried to save a few runs for Sevy.”
Said Severino: “He’s been great all year defensively. Because of that, I got out of that inning without a run.”
Santander comprised all of Baltimore’s offense, homering from both sides of the plate — off the right-handed Severino in the fourth inning and again facing left-hander Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth. Donaldson and Rizzo each homered off Félix Bautista in the top of the ninth.
Rizzo opened the year with a torrid home run surge but had skidded of late. His 10th homer established some history, making the 2022 Yankees just the eighth team in Major League history to have three players with 10 or more homers through their first 35 games of a regular season (last achieved by the 2020 White Sox).
“That’s the best part; when you’re struggling personally,” Rizzo said, “you know there’s guys up and down this lineup that are going to pick you up. And winning helps with all of that.”