Yankees first half highlights (with videos)

Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray | USA TODAY Sports
As most Yankee fans are probably well aware, the first half has been pretty rough for the team. The Yanks have been inconsistent and although they aren’t out of playoff contention, they certainly don’t look like championship contenders. Needless to say, there have been a lot of heartbreaking, frustrating, and aggravating moments. At times, it’s been bang-your-head-on-the-wall bad. However, they have also had their share of highlights, right from the beginning. Which brings me to the first highlight of the Yankees’ season…

...Starlin Castro’s hot start. 
Castro was brought in with the hope that he would fill the Yankees’ void at second base and recapture some of the success he had early on his major league career. Of course, Castro hasn’t quite lived up to that expectation, but during the first series of the season, against the Houston Astros, it sure looked like it. The Yanks took two of three against Houston, and Castro was a big part of that, hitting .583 with two homers and eight RBI. A serviceable second baseman, Castro has cooled down from his hot start, but it sure was fun to watch him turn back the clock during the first few games of the year. And speaking of turning back the clock, the next highlight is…

...Jacoby Ellsbury’s steal of home.  
OK, Ellsbury didn’t necessarily turn back the clock with this one; he’s probably still the fastest player on the team and ranks in the top 10 in the American League in stolen bases. However, Ellsbury’s steal of home against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 22nd brought back memories of when he pulled off a straight steal of home against Andy Pettitte and the Yanks during the 2009 season. This time, though, Ellsbury, swiped home in pinstripes and not against them, taking off on a two-out, full-count pitch in the bottom of the fifth with Brett Gardner at the plate. The pitch went high for ball four, and Ellsbury barely swiped his hand across home plate before the tag. A pretty daring attempt, Ellsbury’s gamble paid off and helped the Bombers to a 6-3 win over their division rivals. A straight steal of home is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, but one of the few things that can top it is...

...a walk-off home run. 
Three of them, in fact. The first was a shock for everybody--except Brett Gardner, who hit it on May 29th against the Tampa Bay Rays. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the game tied at two, Gardner mashed a 3-1 delivery from Erasmo Ramirez into the second deck in right field, pointing to the Yankees dugout and starting his home-run trot before the ball even landed. Gardner only had five homers over the entire first half, none bigger than this one.

The second came from Starlin Castro, who claimed it was the first walk-off dinger he’s ever hit in his life, Little League included. A June 22nd game against Colorado had looked to be all but over, as the Rockies led 8-4 through six innings. But the Yankees put across four runs in the bottom of the seventh, and the bullpen shut down the Rockies over the last few innings, giving the Yanks a last crack at it. Castro led off the inning and turned on the second pitch he saw, driving a towering homer to left field to give the Yankees the win and a series split.

But even though that win seemed improbable, it’s nothing compared to the last-gasp heroics of Didi Gregorius only a week later. In this game against the Texas Rangers, the Yanks trailed 7-3 going into the ninth, and many fans had already left the ballpark when the comeback started. Brett Gardner delivered an RBI single to pull the Yanks within three, and Brian McCann bridged the rest of the gap with a pivotal three-run homer off of closer Sam Dyson. Starlin Castro worked a one-out walk, and Didi lashed the first pitch from Dyson into the seats in right field, giving the Yankees their second walk-off win in a week.

These three moments might have been the most exciting isolated events of the first half...

...but the performance of the Yankees’ bullpen trio is pretty exciting as well. 
Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg | NY Post
It almost feels belabored talking about the trifecta that closes out tight games, but the trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman is absolutely electric. They each have an ERA below 2.70 (2.66 for Betances, 2.49 for Chapman, and an absolutely lights-out 1.37 for Miller), and all strike out over 13 batters per nine innings. Additionally, each has a fastball that can hit 100 mph on the radar gun, which is both exciting to fans and terrifying to opposing batters. They mess up occasionally, but they look downright unhittable most of the time. While we’re on the topic of unhittable pitching, the next highlight is…

...Nathan Eovaldi’s near-no-hitter.
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez | Getty Images
Nathan Eovaldi has had a rough season which has recently seen him demoted to the bullpen, but on April 25th against the Texas Rangers, Eovaldi nearly wrote his name into baseball’s record books by throwing baseball’s 289th no-hitter. Eovaldi pitched his way through six innings without giving up a hit, made even more impressive by the fact that he was facing one of baseball’s more formidable lineups. However, Eovaldi gave up a leadoff single to Nomar Mazara in the 7th, and later, a double to Prince Fielder, finishing with no earned runs and two hits allowed over seven innings pitched. Although Eovaldi fell just short of history and his since fallen off a cliff performance-wise, his outing was the most dominant by a Yankee starter this year. I’m all out of good transitional phrases here, so the last highlight is…

...Aaron Hicks’ record-breaking throw. Hicks has been an absolute disappointment at the plate in the first half, but he has also made some very impressive plays in the field, headlined by the fastest outfield throw ever recorded, according to StatCast. In the fourth inning of an April 20th game against the Oakland Athletics, Hicks nailed Danny Valencia at the plate with a laser throw measured at 105.5 mph. Although the A’s would go on to the game 5-2, the most memorable moment was Hicks’ record-breaking throw. The previous fastest outfield throw was measured at 103.1 mph by the Astros’ Carlos Gomez, meaning that Hicks shattered the record by almost 2.5 mph. If a pitcher were to break the pitch speed record by that much, he’d have to throw over 108 mph; a throw like this is absolutely unheard of. Hopefully, Hicks can pick up his game at the dish over the course of the second half, but if not, he’ll most likely continue to impress with his arm.

Some highlights are as quick as one swing of the bat or one throw, while others take place over the course of days or even weeks. But one thing is constant throughout all of these Yankees highlights of the half--every one of them is a great memory for me and reminds me why I love Yankees baseball. Granted, the Yanks’ performance isn’t quite up to par with what I would like to see from them, but as I wrote this piece, I enjoyed reflecting on the best moments we’ve seen so far. Hopefully, we’ll see even more in the second half, and maybe they’ll be accompanied by a few more wins as well.

If there are any highlights that you think deserved a place in this article and didn’t get one, feel free to let me know in the comments section, or tweet us @BronxBomberBlog.

Article by: Peter Marshall
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