by Disha Thoussar
FOX Sports MLB Writer
New York – Jaleber Torres Taking a few steps to his right, he cleaned a globe behind the second base bag and fired a powerful throw at the first base. He walked out, then smiled widely as he tossed the ball around the court.
This can be described as a normal part of any baseball game. But the moment was noteworthy, not because of Torres’ sharp play but because of his loose, refreshing body language – and the batting that followed.
At six o’clock on Wednesday morning, with Yankees lagging behind twins 3-1 in a single header game in the Bronx, Minnesota made a bold decision to advance Aaron Judge. The Yankees had a starting runner and tie-breaker, who was the judge, at the plate. Moving on to Judge, rather than intentionally walking with him, was an odd choice given how much the rest of the Yankees have been suffering lately. Yankees coach Aaron Boone had run out of a three-way lineup from Scranton in the first game, complete with his first starting man. Ronald Guzman Clean batting in his first season.
But the twins neglected to walk with the judge at least in part because protecting the hero was Torres, who maintained that at least one Major League baseball team was still afraid of the damage a second baseman could do. Minnesota right Griffin Jax He made the judge out for the second time out of the inning, bringing Torres to the plate. Torres was 1-2 behind before pounce on the fastball inside Jax, a perfect tonic for his slack.
Torres, who recently lost his time playing for promising beginners Oswald Peraza, tied with two lanes at home to the left to tie the match 3-3. You can see the heavy chains of his offensive slither break, the persistent monkey finally let go and jump off his back. It was Torres’ 19th home run this season, although only his third long ball since July 28. This home run has a chance to mark a fundamental turning point for the 25-year-old, and one that could lead to a breakthrough for this season. Otherwise hard-to-watch Yankees offense.
It was something about Torres’ attitude, and his carefree spirit, from Wednesday’s jump telling us how the afternoon was going to go. That wasn’t Torres in August, who deployed an infantry slash of .180/.204/.260 with 33 strikes in 100 bats. Last month, Torres’ sunken body language reversed the Yankees’ record: 10-18 with 0.297 in the team’s percentile base. And on Wednesday, his shy smile and good spirit were once again a microcosm of New York’s success: The Yankees ended up with a double-headed sweep as they showed flashes of their overbearing nature in the first half.
The past two months have been an adjustment period for both the Yankees and Torres. The team dropped from its 15.5-game lead in the Eastern Conference on July 8 to a mere four-game lead on September 3. Everyone on the offense other than Aaron Judge failed to overcome injuries to the mainstays of the squad. Giancarlo StantonAnd the Anthony Rizzo And the DJ Limaheu.
A lot of this latest failure, fair or not, rests on Torres’ shoulders because it was meant to be a cornerstone of the franchise. But he’s pretty sure he didn’t act that way. As his peers collapsed from injuries, rather than step up Torres and lift the team, his struggles only deepened. Of course, his horrendous numbers showed disappointment — he’s hitting .186 with a .543 OPS in 40 games since the All-Star break — but a quick look at the second baseman and his dismal demeanor also showed that this was deep-rooted, and Torres was going through it.
Much like his Yankees teammates, Torres had a solid first run. His 14 home runs in 81 games were five more than he did in the whole of last season. The first half of his .809 OPS felt like a throwback to the 2018 and 19 All-Star years. Torres excelled at the same time as the rest of the squad was clicking, helping propel the Yankees to their best record (64-28) in MLB before the break.
But doing well when the play scene is rainbows and fairy dust doesn’t make for a star. The judge soon became – and remains – the only attack-related reason why the Bombers are contenders for the playoff. Torres faltered when the Yankees collapsed to start the second half. Lately, Boone hasn’t held back when evaluating the 25-year-old, saying that Torres often looked midfield and was generally uncertain in the box. Earlier this week against the Rays, Torres was sent off for collecting bench shards as Peraza started at second base instead.
Those are just some of the reasons, while the Yankees finished their double-header sweep of the Twins on Wednesday, Torres’ path in game one was overlooked in Game One.
Yes, his six-stroke shot was a claw and exhilaration at a time when the Yankees were able to use more of their offensive prowess that got them to this point. Yes, his positive attitude is a welcome change that may help him step into his superstar or at least lengthen the squad. But Torres has to bring that overpowering presence over and over and over again as a good measure. Only then can he be counted on to bring the Yankees out of their unsatisfactory performance into something akin to their dominance in the first half.
Torres was partly responsible for the Yankees’ relegation in the second half, but on Wednesday his momentum changed, as it emerged on Wednesday that he could also be the reason the Yankees ended the regular season in the same strong manner they started.
Disha Thoussar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered for the Mets for the New York Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @Dishes.
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