A three-game sweep by the Guardians left Aaron Boone heartened by many things he’d seen over the weekend, from the Yankees’ defense and pitching to their base running and offense showing signs of clicking.
But perhaps the most important development, aside from Gerrit Cole finally serving like an ace, was DJ LeMahieu continuing to look like his old self as the game-changing hitter at the top of the Yankees lineup.
The veteran infielder had punctuated the end of last season with a sports fracture that required surgery, but the Yankees hoped the injury could partially explain LeMahieu’s missed year in 2021 — the first season of a six-year, $90 million contract.
In the first 15 games of this season, LeMahieu didn’t waste much time becoming a key hitter in the Yankees’ roster again. After a game of three in Sunday’s 10-2 win over the Guardians, he now has an 11-game hitting streak, batting .333 with three doubles, two homers, five walks and a 175 OPS-plus (100 is League average) per year.
“I’m feeling good — I’ve been feeling good all year,” LeMahieu said ahead of Monday’s rest day. “But [Sunday] I just saw it well and put some good swings on it. Hopefully I can continue.”
If he can — going back to the consistent offensive threat he was in pinstripes his first two years — it would be a huge boost for a Yankees offense that has been tussling for most of last season.
“[In 2019 and 2020], he was an MVP candidate,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think everyone understands what a great player he has been for us, especially over those two years. So it would mean a lot.”
Boone put LeMahieu’s name on the starting pitch in all three games against the Guardians, having netted just one first in the Yankees’ previous 13 games. LeMahieu, who served as the Yankees’ lead-off hitter for 144 games last year, responded with a 5-for-11 win in the series as the offense looked like what the club believes it can be.
While Boone said he could keep tinkering at the starting position — with Aaron Hicks, Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rizzo also seeing time there — “he likes it too[s] and dream[s] about DJs hitting the heart of the action.”
“I am [just] intrigued by him to the hilt now,” Boone said after Sunday’s game. “The consistency of his at-bats, even on the days when he doesn’t get three hits, I just feel like he’s in a lot of fields. Put the run on many pitches, even if it doesn’t completely stab one. He’s just in a really good place. So I like him to the bat wherever that is in the lineup.
LeMahieu, who has also been sharp defensively, particularly on third base, is hitting the ball harder than he has in years. His 58.5 hard hit rate is among MLB’s top 3 percent getting in Monday, showing he’s not just finding holes to rack up hits.
While his teammates’ at-bats were often hot and cold during the early weeks of the season, LeMahieu was the Yankees’ most consistent hitter. He’s hoping the Yankees can start showing their offensive potential for other bats in the lineup after a mostly strong weekend.
“There’s definitely been signs of that over the past few days,” LeMahieu said. “Great comeback [Saturday] and just kept it going [Sunday]. It was good to see.”
https://nypost.com/2022/04/25/dj-lemahieu-looks-like-old-self-in-massive-yankees-development/ DJ LeMahieu looks like an old self in massive Yankees development