NEW YORK — The New York Yankees lost six of their last eight regular-season games, which included series losses to the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins, but they still limped into the wild-card round as the fifth seed in the first 16-team expanded playoffs in MLB history.
“It’s pretty cool. I don’t think it’s really sank in yet,” LeMahieu said after learning he won the American League batting title. “I wish it was over 162 games, and I wish there were fans in the stands, but it is what it is and I’m definitely proud of it.”
By winning the AL batting title, LeMahieu became only the fourth player in Yankees history to lead the majors in batting average, joining Mickey Mantle (.353 in 1956), Joe DiMaggio (.381 in 1939) and Lou Gehrig (.363 in 1934). It is LeMahieu’s second career batting title; he won one with the Colorado Rockies in 2016 and becomes just the second player in MLB history to win the batting title in both leagues, joining Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty.
Luke Voit went hitless Sunday, but his 22 home runs were the most in this pandemic-shortened 60-game season. LeMahieu and Voit became the first pair of teammates to lead the majors in batting average and home runs since Hank Aaron (.355 BA) and Eddie Mathews (46 HR) for the 1959 Braves.
“They have been the pillars in our lineup, the rocks in our lineup,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Voit and LeMahieu. “Luke just put together an amazing season. I think both guys are worthy of MVP consideration. What DJ has meant at the top of our order now for two years, just his amazing consistency and what he brings with his defensive versatility. … We are not getting on a plane and going to the playoffs without the performance of those two guys.”
LeMahieu complimented Voit: “It’s definitely well-deserved. Not only hit a bunch of homers, but had some huge homers for us and really carried us this year. He’s a complete hitter, he’s not just a home run hitter. He definitely takes big swings, but he has a great approach the other way, gets tough RBI in situations and, obviously, the home runs speak for themselves, so I am really happy for him.”
The loss to the Marlins put the Yankees in position to finish the season as the eighth seed and take a plane to Florida to face AL East rival Tampa Bay Rays, but a Toronto loss to Baltimore guaranteed that New York would start the postseason against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
“We’ve had a week where we haven’t played our best baseball, where we’re struggling a little bit, but I know what we’re capable of, our guys know what we’re capable of, and opportunity knocks right now,” Boone said. “We have an amazing opportunity. We hold the bat; we hold the ball; we hold the pen. We can write the story right now; we don’t need anyone’s help. And that’s exciting, especially when you’re walking in with the group of guys that we have.”
“I think we have the best team in the league still. I don’t know why it was so up-and-down. I’ll chalk it up to 2020. It’s been kind of a roller coaster,” LeMahieu said. “We’re all excited to get in the postseason, kind of turn the page on this last week. I love our team in that clubhouse so I’m just excited to get out there with them in the playoffs. I think it’s gonna be a really fun month.”
It has been an erratic season for the Yankees. Although the club finished 33-27 and in second place in the division, their final losing streak came on the heels of a 10-game winning streak.
Which team will show up against the Indians? Boone admitted that the first round of the playoffs, particularly in what he called a “crazy, different, challenging season,” will be a throw of the dice.
“I trust that we have a team that is capable of going out and winning. But obviously, we are entering a three-game series, and I think the same can be said for all 16 teams that are going to be in it,” Boone said. “[This season] there have been a lot of ups and downs for us, peaks and valleys that we have to avoid moving forward. But we look forward to the challenge of going in and competing for a championship. Anything can happen in these. We know if we’re playing our best baseball we cannot only play with, but we can beat anyone.”
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