It really doesn’t matter where the Yankees play baseball games these days, because they are more likely than not going to win the game. It doesn’t matter who they play, since this much-anticipated 13-game swing against fellow contenders is off to a breezy 2-0 start after they dismissed the Rays, 4-3, Wednesday night.
Once upon a time, the slogan on the T-shirts declared: “We play today, we win today.” The way this season has gone so far, that isn’t just a goal, it’s a daily fact of life. They are 46-16. They are 30 games over .500 half a month before the Fourth of July. We can talk about the pace they’re on (it’s 120-42) and the near-perfection with which they play each game.
It all matters. It all applies.
But it’s worth noting something else that has developed over the past couple of weeks. The win Wednesday was the 13th in a row at Yankee Stadium. It is the longest home winning streak the Yankees have put together since June-July 1973. That’s one stadium and one renovation ago, and that’s notable.
Think about all the terrific teams that populated the second iteration of Yankee Stadium, from 1976-2008. Six of them won World Series. Seven of them won more than 100 games. Eighteen of them went to the playoffs. None of them won as many as 13 games in a row there, and that second version of the original Stadium is often credited with providing one of the great home-field advantages of all time, in any sport.
It is an encouraging harbinger. Since the newest version of Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, they are 22-13 there in the postseason. But much of that damage was done in two Octobers: 2009 (7-1) and 2017 (6-0). The Yankees have lost three elimination games there. It has been, as often as not, as advantageous as a neutral site.
There has been the sense that for whatever reason — acoustics, ticket prices, lack of energy — the House the Boss Built has been a pale comparison to the House that Ruth Built across the street. Early returns this year indicate it’s a whole new experience now.
“It’s important to play well and if we want to have a great season, usually to do that you have to play great at home,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after his team’s overall record at home improved to 28-7, a tidy .800 winning percentage.
“I know our guys love playing here. The energy at Yankee Stadium is always good, but it does feel like the start we’ve gotten off to, there’s been a lot of energetic and special nights already for being a couple of months into the season. It’s a great place to play. Our guys are thriving and feeding off the energy of this place.”
It’s funny, too. Both games against the Rays so far have turned the Yankees’ way because of dropped fly balls by outfielders, which is normally the most routine play in the sport. Now, the Rays do a lot of things well, though defense isn’t one of them.
Still: On Tuesday, Manuel Margot fumbled a fly from Gleyber Torres, leading to the only two runs of the game. And Wednesday an even easier fly ball from Josh Donaldson plopped out of the glove of center fielder Brett Phillips, opening the door to the three-run rally that provided just enough of a winning margin.
The Rays aren’t an easily intimidated team, but seeing things like that does make you … well, wonder a little bit.
“It’s the fans, you kidding me?” Aaron Judge said with a laugh, when asked about the Yankees’ sudden invincibility in The Bronx. “They’re loud and on their feet each game from he first pitch. In the top of the ninth, they were screaming and bringing energy. you got 40,000 behind you at home it makes for a tough day for the opponent.”
Of course, having leader-in-the-MVP-clubhouse Judge hitting his daily home run makes for a tough day, and having leader-in-the-Cy-Young-clubhouse Nestor Cortes deliver 5 ¹/₃ more innings of shutdown ball makes for a tough day, and closing things out with Clay Holmes and his unhittable array of darts makes for a really tough day.
And if the working conditions are this difficult in June, you can only speculate what they’ll be like in October. Good luck to any team that will find out the hard way, hoping against hope for the lousy acoustics to lend it a hand.