HOUSTON — If you believe in miracles, maybe — just maybe — there was a sign to put faith in this 2016 New York Yankees team during the 100th game of the season: Aaron Hicks was racing around the bases with a two-run triple in the fifth.
Yes, that Aaron Hicks. The guy the Yankees have consistently played, despite a .191 average entering Tuesday. The one Yankees fans would probably nominate as the face of this so far disappointing season. A guy whose talent seems to be in exact opposite proportion to his production. Yes, that Aaron Hicks.
Hicks’ first triple of the season, which scored two runs, was part of the Yankees’ latest win, a 6-3 defeat of the Astros. CC Sabathia pitched well, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing just two runs. The Yankees have won three in a row, eight of 10 and 10 of 14 as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches.
“Nobody wants to break up,” Sabathia said. “We have good chemistry in here. We have battled all year. You kind of want to plug away with the guys you have been battling with.”
They are playing like they don’t want to be sellers. Can the trade deadline be a motivator for a team?
“I think it can be,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m not necessarily saying it is. We have played better for the last few weeks.”
The Yankees will send their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, to the mound Wednesday with a chance to sweep the Astros. The Yankees have moved to a season-best four games over .500 by beating good teams. They took three of four from the Indians before the break. After losing two of three to the Red Sox at home to begin the second half, they won three of four aginst the Orioles and two of three against the Giants. Now, they are going to take another series from a good team.
Our stance is that the Yankees should still be sellers because, among other things, consistently playing for the wild card is not a viable long-term strategy. Yankees GM Brian Cashman has not publicly agreed, but he might be itching to change this roster so he can really build it with championship-level talent.
With each win, the idea of selling will be less palatable for Hal Steinbrenner, who is said to be more in favor of going for the playoffs in 2016, even if the math is not in the Yankees’ favor. With 62 games to go, they trail the Orioles by 6.5 games in the AL East and are four games back in the wild card.
“Anything can happen in baseball,” said Mark Teixeira, who had two hits, including a double. “A lot weirder things have happened. If we get hot, we can play with anybody, but we just need to keep grinding away.”
In the eighth inning Tuesday, Girardi put the binder down to reach for his security blanket. Dellin Betances entered, and even though he walked two batters to load the bases, he extinguished the Astros by striking Jason Castro out on three pitches. Closer Andrew Miller finished it as this team tried to make it so the front office won’t be allowed to sell.
“We did it last year,” Miller said of making the playoffs. “It is pretty much the same guys as last year. In an ideal world, that last month last year [when the Yankees struggled] was the first month this year. If we have momentum going into the playoffs, that is even better.”