To prove a point while getting ejected in a profane rant at rookie plate umpire Brennan Miller on Thursday afternoon, Yankees manager Aaron Boone described his hitters as "savages at the plate."
The implication is that his hitters tend to batter opposing pitchers, and among those doing it extremely well is infielder DJ LeMahieu, whom the Yankees signed away from the Colorado Rockies to a two-year contract this winter.
LeMahieu is hitting so well that he leads the American League with a .329 average heading into the opener of New York's three-game series with Colorado on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
"I expected him to be a good player for us and he has obviously more than delivered on that front," Boone said earlier this week. "He has been so valuable behind the scenes in the clubhouse and what he has brought."
LeMahieu appeared in 918 games for the Rockies and batted .299. He won the NL batting title by hitting .348 in 2016, batted at least .300 for three straight seasons (2015-17) and joined the Yankees after hitting .276 last season.
So far, LeMahieu's performance is among the many reasons why the Yankees hold the best record in the American League and are attempting to go 30 games over .500 after completing a doubleheader sweep of Tampa Bay with 6-2 and 5-1 victories. Gio Urshela drove in three runs in the opener when Boone got tossed for extensively cursing to protest called strikes on Brett Gardner and LeMahieu.
"Make it hard on the pitcher all the time," Boone said. "That's something that those guys take a lot of pride in as a lineup. You may have your way with us, you may have success against us, but I want you to feel us."
Ryan McMahon is replacing LeMahieu and is hitting .263 with nine homers and 42 RBIs. McMahon is hitting .350 (14-for-40) in 12 games this month, but the Rockies head to New York on a significant slide.
Colorado is 2-11 in its last 13 games after ended a four-game sweep by the San Francisco Giants with an 11-8 loss on Wednesday afternoon. The Rockies are getting outscored 108-57 in this skid and Wednesday marked the fourth time they allowed double-digit runs in this skid.
"Not a lot of satisfaction here from the homestand," shortstop Trevor Story said. "We are all trying to deal with this as best we can. This wasn't our team. We are much better than the way we showed."
Colorado allowed 40 runs against San Francisco and is hoping Kyle Freeland can slow down the Yankees.
Freeland (2-6, 7.39 ERA) was a 17-game winner last season but has struggled so much that he is making his second start since returning from spending over a month in the minors where he posted an 8.80 ERA in six starts.
Freeland returned from the minors last Saturday in a 17-9 loss to Cincinnati when he allowed five runs and nine hits in four innings in a no-decision.
Freeland is facing the Yankees for the first time and is 6-2 with a 3.03 ERA in 11 career interleague starts.
J.A. Happ (7-5, 4.93) is 6-2 with a 4.92 ERA in his last 11 starts and was pushed back a day due to the doubleheader. He last pitched Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Toronto when he allowed two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He is 4-0 in seven games (six starts) with a 3.20 ERA vs. the Rockies.
--Field Level Media