BALTIMORE — The Machine is learning. DJ LeMahieu, who is coming off a 2021 that was one of the worst of his career, is getting even better, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Friday. The 10-year veteran who is the only player in the modern era to win the batting title in both leagues is continuing to evolve this season.
“I think it’s just kind of lining up now. Yeah, I mean, I look he’s almost a .390 on base now is just remarkable. I just think he’s gotten so good at situational at-bats,” Boone said before the series opener against the Orioles at Camden Yards. “Depending on where we are in the game, the score, the guy on the mound, obviously (Aaron) Judge and the heart of the order coming up, just how he navigates and that bat is really fun to watch. But I think it’s also he’s probably just been rewarded a little bit more for what I feel like it’s been a real consistent approach and consistent contact throughout the year.
“I feel like there was a long stretch there where he was getting his hits and getting on base some but it was to line outs to right or right center, just miss a ball to center,” Boone continued. “Where he’s starting to get some results now. And I think the clip, which he’s getting on base now it’s been impressive.”
LeMahieu went into Friday night’s game having reached base in each of his last 23 starts and is batting .348/.496/.472 with two doubles, three home runs, nine RBI and 25 walks in that span. He has reached base multiple times in each of his last nine starts, the longest streak by a Yankee since he did it 10 times in 2019. Since June 21, he leads the majors in walks (26) and ranks second in on-base percentage (.496) in that span. His 50 walks this season are the third most in the American League and tied for the sixth most in the majors. His 13.7% walk rate is the highest of his career and a considerable jump from the 8.3% he walked in 2020 when he won the AL batting title.
“I think he’s just a smart player, a great hitter. So I would say aptitude, experience and then knowledge gained from that and how to apply it. And I just think you watch his at-bats in a particular situation. The lack of fear of getting the two strikes, the lack of fear of getting deep into a count, knowing where he is in the lineup, who is hitting behind him. It’s just, it’s fun to watch him do that,” Boone said.” So I would just think obviously, it’s just him being a very talented hitter and his swing being conducive to being a good hitter. I also think the experience he’s gained over all these years, he’s, he’s applying really well.”
LeMahieu hit .268/.349/.362 with a .802 OPS last season as he tried to play through a sports hernia. He was shut down at the end of the season and had surgery this offseason.
DOUBLE DUTY DAY OFF
Aaron Hicks walked into the clubhouse at Camden Yards Friday and admitted that he was a little tired. The outfielder played both ends of the double header in Houston on Thursday, so Aaron Boone had him off his feet and out of the lineup Friday night.
It was the same for Gleyber Torres, who recorded his 500th career hit in the ninth inning of the second game Thursday. Torres played in both ends of the doubleheader, so he was off for the series opener in Baltimore.
Torres’ single in the ninth inning made him the fourth fastest Yankee to 500 hits in the last 36 years, trailing Derek Jeter (24 years and 24 days), Robinson Cano (24 years, 338 days) and Melky Cabrera (25 years and 26 days).
The Yankees returned JP Sears to Scranton Thursday night. The lefty pitched three innings in the doubleheader and was the designated 27th man. That means the Yankees did not have to use an option with him this time. … Ron Marinaccio was making his second minor-league rehab start Friday night and Boone said that there was a possibility he could be back here by Sunday. … Catcher Ben Rortvedt, who the Yankees acquired in the trade with the Twins that brought in Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson, had his rehab assignment moved from Calss-A Hudson Valley to Triple-A Scranton Friday.