Yankees Oozing “Confidence” in Early Rise To Top of AL East Standings

The New York Yankees are off to a hot start in 2024, and there's a strong sense in the Bronx that something is different this season.

Juan Soto #22 of the New York Yankees celebrates with Aaron Judge #99 on a solo home run in the eighth inning of their MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 17: Juan Soto #22 of the New York Yankees celebrates with Aaron Judge #99 on a solo home run in the eighth inning of their MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on April 17, 2024 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

While the New York Yankees may have lost their third game in their last five outings with Saturday’s extra-inning home defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, there is no question that these Yankees believe they have the talent to shake off the disappointments of seasons past.

Sure, New York’s 14-7 mark to begin the season is one of the reasons for that confidence. The Yankees were 14-6 before the loss on Saturday, marking just the fourth time this century they have started the year 14-6 or better. However, this is also a team that has a strong belief in its chemistry and star power.

“It’s just a confidence in each other,” Yankees captain Aaron Judge said. “We look around this room every single day in this clubhouse there’s a lot of dawgs, like Doogie (Alex Verdugo) says. Just guys that don’t quit. They have good at-bats all the way to the end. Guys come out of the bullpen and give us big outs. I think it’s just confidence in each other to get the job done.”

A case in point came on Wednesday in Toronto. Even as the Yankees were in the midst of trying to snap a three-game losing streak (and avoid their first sweep in Toronto since 2016), the good vibes emanated from the clubhouse in the late morning hours. A bamboo-scented candle and light jazz music before a 3:07 p.m. first pitch helped set the tone for a Yankees team that showed absolutely no panic heading into the ninth inning down by a pair of runs.

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The Blue Jays entered that final frame with a perfect record (9-0) on the young season when leading after eight innings. On this Wednesday, however, that streak would come to an end.

Giancarlo Stanton started the inning with a home run, the first of three consecutive hits to open the ninth. By the time the ninth was over, every Yankees player had stepped to the plate and a two-run New York deficit had turned into a two-run lead.

Arguably the biggest hit of the rally came from Jose Trevino, the catcher who had been given the day off but pinch hit in the ninth with an RBI single that tied the game.

“He was ready,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “As soon as I saw (Blue Jays manager John) Schneider pop out to go get (reliever Tim) Mayza, I turned to him and he just smiled like, ‘Let’s go.'”

The “let’s go” mentality is rampant right now in the Yankees clubhouse, and it’s hard to deny the impact Juan Soto has had since his arrival via an offseason trade. Soto entered Saturday slashing .563/.636/1.188 (9-for-16) with a double, three home runs, 17 RBI and five walks with runners in scoring position this season.

“We have confidence; grinding every day, playing 27 outs,” Soto said after the comeback win in Toronto. “I have really good confidence in this team. We all know what kind of players we have. I trust every single one of them.”

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Soto, Judge, Stanton and the rest of the big names in the Yankees lineup have (for the most part) been doing their part early in 2024. The Yankees are 14-2 this season when scoring at least three runs, and they have scored at least four runs in 14 of their 21 games.

But it’s not just at the plate where the Yankees have excelled in March and April. Yankees pitchers have posted a 2.99 ERA in 2024 and have held opponents to three runs or fewer in 13 of 21 games this year, as well as two runs or fewer in seven of those contests.

“I feel like it’s a priority on the starters and relievers to just keep the game close because that top five, six, seven in this lineup, one through nine, it’s hard to navigate,” Yankees starter Marcus Stroman said. “You see the capability of it when the guys are swinging. It just makes it incredibly hard on pitchers to navigate the top of that lineup.”

Sure, it’s still early in the season, and with the defending division champion Baltimore Orioles joining Toronto and Tampa Bay lurking in the division, nothing will be easy for the Yankees as they try to erase the memories of last season’s postseason miss. And, yes, Yankees fans will be quick to remind the team of any shortcomings.

A loss on Saturday? OK, turn the page and get ready for Sunday.

“Purpose. Competitiveness. A feeling that we’re not out of it,” Boone said when asked about his team’s ability to bounce back from losses. “It’s been a common theme. Whether we’ve won a game or lost, I like the intent and focus of the group.”

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