Yankees end first half with series win over Red Sox

NEW YORK — For the second time in 24 hours, the Yankees saw a series of crooked numbers lining the video screen above center field at Yankee Stadium, offering an invitation to begin their All-Star break a few innings early. They’ve earned this respite, no doubt, while reminding anyone within shouting distance that there is still more to do.

With a 13-2 road of the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, the Yankees steamed into the break with 64 wins, establishing a new club record for victories before the Midsummer Classic. It is already one of the most impressive starts to a season in Major League history, but for a storied franchise that measures itself by championships, this must be viewed only as the beginning.

“It’s pretty big; it’s pretty cool,” said ace Gerrit Cole, who struck out 12 over seven strong innings, finishing the first half with a 9-2 record and a 3.02 ERA. “But we have bigger goals. We have a lot more baseball to play, so we’re trying to keep it in perspective, in that regard.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yanks are the sixth Major League team since 1947 to win at least 64 of their first 92 games, joining the 1954 Indians (64-28), 1969 Orioles (64-28), 1970 Reds (64 -28), 1998 Yankees (68-24) and 2001 Mariners (66-26). Only one of those clubs — the ’98 Yanks — hoisted the World Series trophy at the year’s end.

That’s why manager Aaron Boone said that his team is “keenly aware of how much longer we’ve got to go,” noting, “All we’ve done is put ourselves in a great position to do something special.” Boone plans to spend the break vacationing with his family, already daydreaming about holding a spatula and donning board shorts. He hopes that his players will similarly recharge from the first-half grind.

“You want to roll into the break feeling good,” Boone said. “It’s good to see the guys really finish off a strong half.”

The Yankees have won games in a variety of ways, including a few in which they bludgeoned their opponents. After a deflating extra-inning loss in Friday’s opener, the Bombers busted out the bat to outscore Boston 27-3 over the final 18 innings of the series — a steamy three-game set witnessed by the largest crowds of the year thus far in the Bronx.

In this one, it didn’t take long to put on a show. New York scored three first-inning runs off Chris Sale, who was hit on the left pinkie finger with a line drive, sustaining a fracture. Cole said that the Yankees “felt really bad about” Sale’s injury, noting the left-hander’s efforts to return to the big leagues after missing most of the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery.

With the Red Sox tossing an unexpected bullpen game, the Yanks erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning, sending 12 men to the plate. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge laced run-scoring hits, Matt Carpenter drilled a two-run double, Aaron Hicks singled home another run and Isiah Kiner-Falefa lifted a sacrifice fly before Tim Locastro belted a two-run homer into Boston’s bullpen.

Locastro’s impressive game also included two hits and a pair of stolen bases, earning him — for the first time — a chance to hold the wrestling-style title belt that the Bombers pass around their clubhouse following wins. The speedy outfielder has been back and forth from Triple-A this year, but those cameos have provided a glimpse under the Yankees’ hood.

“It’s special, what’s going on here,” Locastro said. “Every single game, they’re never out of it. You can tell that every single night. That’s what happens with a winning ballclub.”

The Yankees have a Major League-high six All-Stars heading west for this week’s festivities at Dodger Stadium: Judge, Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, Clay Holmes, Nestor Cortes and Jose Trevino. In Boone’s view, that is an acknowledgment of the “single mindedness” that his club showed beginning in Spring Training, buying into an organization-wide refocus on doing the little things right.

For example, Locastro’s two steals on Sunday gave the Yankees 63 stolen bases for the season, matching their tally from their station-to-station 2021 performance. Boone also points to defense, positioning and attention to detail, drilled down from the coaches and frequently discussed among the players — all ingredients in the club’s success thus far.

“It just seems like we can compete with anybody, in any kind of game,” Cole said. “That’s a good feeling to have.”


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