This is a start for the Yankees

Look, it’s a start. There will be no bold declarations after these first three games, post-break. There ought to be no conclusions drawn. The Yankees took two out of three from the front-running Red Sox this weekend, and you have to think that was the bare-minimum requirement.

They stomped the Sox, 9-1, Sunday night, even though many of the Yankees regulars were elsewhere. In some ways it was a most nostalgic callback to a more innocent time, a few years ago, when cynicism didn’t choke the Yankees every day, when they would plant no-names in the lineup every day and keep winning.

Then, the names were Ford and Tauchman and Urshela and Voit, and Yankees fans were charmed by the way they would seize the baton whenever the front-line regulars flocked to the IL.

Yankees fans are harder to charm these days. They are impatient with this season, displeased with much of what they’ve seen across the first 92 games, unhappy with the long spasms of lifeless ball the Yankees have turned in. So maybe this is something to hold on to.

Maybe the thrashing of an ancient rival with a lineup dominated with surnames that most certainly require a first-name qualifier — Gittens and Amburgey, LaMarre and Allen — can provide something of a heading-for-the-homestretch spark. Or at least enough of a push across the next week and a half — during which time the Yankees are going to endure missing stars every night — to flip a switch and try to make August and September matter.

If anything, the Yankees should realize after three days of coming eyeball-to-eyeball with the Red Sox that these are not the 2018 Sox, the ones who lapped the American League to the tune of 108 regular-season wins and 119 overall on the way to a fourth World Series championship since 2004. Boston is good, very good. But Boston also has a lot of games left with the Yankees and Rays. Boston can be had. Maybe they can even be caught.

Aaron Boone gives a thumbs up on Sunday.
Aaron Boone gives a thumbs up on Sunday.
Robert Sabo

And the Blue Jays will continue to be heard from, too. The Yankees are still in fourth place in their own division but they will have a say in all of that. The message they needed to send — to the brass, yes, but also to themselves — was that they can keep their head above water now with six regulars sidelined to COVID-19 issues, notably Aaron Judge.

Consider their heads safely above sea level.

And now it must be sustained.

“It’s been a hard week,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Bottom line, it’s been a very hard week and I think we really played with a level of focus and energy. We lose the first game and it’s easy to be deflated. And nobody was.”

The Sox did themselves no favors this weekend. They had a 1-0 lead in the rain Saturday night, and at that moment they could probably detect that the glint in the Yankees’ eyes was flickering. But the Yankees came back Saturday night, winning a rain-truncated six-inning game behind Gerrit Cole. And then they took it to the Sox early Sunday, poured it on, delighted a jazzed-up house of 40,309.

“You saw everyone contributing,” Boone said.

That included Jameson Taillon at the start, who was terrific across 5 ¹/₃ scoreless innings. It included Aroldis Chapman at the end, and his redemption tour made an important stop with a 1-2-3 ninth inning that started out a little adventurous but soon calmed.

And in between it included a second home run in as many days from way-overdue Gleyber Torres and some legit contributions from the brigade of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, notably Allen (Greg) who is now hitting .500 for the Yanks and LaMarre (Ryan) who finished the scoring with a two-run blast in the eighth.

Again: No declarations. No conclusions. No pronouncements. But none were necessary this weekend. The requirement was providing proof of life, and the Yankees did that. They took two of three from the Sox. They shaved their deficit to seven games. Lots of ballgames left. Lots of season left. Heads above water, for now. It’s a start.

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