AL-best Yankees find another way to win — even on day they lose

Yankee Stadium, which was populated to capacity for the marquee matchup with the Dodgers, is filled with mostly positive vibes daily these days. While Yankees fans’ emotions swung briefly from enormous relief and joy to temporary disappointment on a beautiful and otherwise perfect summer Friday in The Bronx, one defeat in a 162-game slate isn’t going to damper yet another day that stands as a net positive. 

Technically, the Yankees lost their eight-game winning streak with a 2-1, 11-inning defeat against the rival Dodgers in the monster confrontation between $300 million-plus powers. But unofficially, the day was yet another winner. 

The most vital result came not in extras but seven hours earlier, a victory that won’t count in the standings but ultimately means much more than what happened later on the field. The happy news came via a mid-day MRI exam reading showing that Yankees superstar Juan Soto is suffering only from inflammation in his left forearm/elbow area. 

Aaron Judge singles in the 11th inning of the Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Soto was said to be “day to day,” and although he sat Friday, the relief was felt throughout all the boroughs. The combination of Soto and home-grown superstar Aaron Judge, particularly, is helping transform this into a celebratory season, and no one around here wanted to imagine either of the American League co-MVP favorites missing serious time. 

The mood throughout most of the game was understandably joyous for the sellout crowd of 48,048 after the Yankees survived the serious injury scare for the new Bronx favorite (just behind the home-grown Judge). Falling to 45-20 is nothing to cry about. 

The Yankees and Dodgers have long played out their best dramas in Octobers past, and this one featured a playoff atmosphere (with better weather) between the two celebrity-filled rosters. The clubs were viewed as World Series favorites entering the season, and the Yankees have only reinforced the early view of oddmakers. 

Yankees pitcher Caleb Ferguson reacts after a scoreless eighth inning. Robert Sabo for NY Post

The crowd was filled with anticipation also to see the Dodgers’ greats — most notably Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman — and there were plenty of Dodgers fans there to witness L.A. push across the winning runs on a two-run double by Teoscar Hernandez off Ian Hamilton. But until the final frame, the Dodgers’ big-name lineup failed to dent Yankees fill-in starter Cody Poteet and four relievers who matched the Dodgers’ $325 million pitcher (plus $50.6 million posting fee) Yoshinobu Yamamoto zero for zero. 

Yamamoto, coveted this winter by the Yankees (and just about every other big-market team), dialed it up for the big occasion, hitting 97 mph more than 20 times after only previously reaching that figure three times. There was a lot of extra juice in the park, and Yamamoto authored a signature performance against the powerful Yankees lineup (minus the great Soto, who was held out after manager Aaron Boone suggested he could possibly come off the bench to play). 

Soto’s glorious diagnosis, first reported by The Post, was cheered by Yankees fans from all over town. It was news they just had to have. An educated guess is the fans actually worried more than Soto himself. For the record, Boone didn’t sense much anxiety on his part. 

Juan Soto avoided the worst with his elbow issue. Robert Sabo for NY Post

“He’s a pretty cool customer,” Boone said. 

He’s also a once-in-a-decade type talent who’s energized the Yankees lineup. After a lost 2023 season, they are the Bronx Bombers again. And folks throughout the area are loving it. 

Little, it seems, can go wrong for these Yankees, who are dominating the game right now. Not every ounce of positivity can be tied to him, but it’s probably no coincidence so many things are happening since he got here. Things are nothing short of magical for the American League’s best team. 

Alex Verdugo seems rejuvenated playing for the chief rival of his former team. Long Islander Marcus Stroman looks at home pitching for the team he grew up rooting for. Luke Weaver is a revelation. Yes, Brian Cashman had quite a winter. 

Alex Verdugo has been impressive this season. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Almost everything is going right. And of course, the most right thing is Soto, who’s helped transform a lineup that looked moribund last year, especially after most of its key pieces started suffering injuries. 

Yankees fans probably had flashbacks to last year when news came down late Thursday that Soto has been feeling “discomfort” in the forearm/elbow for about 10 days. He was simply toughing it out, and somehow continuing to thrive at less than full strength. 

It’s been that kind of year. The Yankees faced their one real setback, which of course was ace Gerrit Cole’s elbow injury, and have marched on. Miraculously, the Yankees’ rotation is the best in baseball with the game’s best pitcher still sidelined. And Cole is on his way back. 

Cole told me he felt “great” after his first rehab start for Double-A Somerset. And while he doesn’t want to guess at a return date, others suggest two more rehab starts could put him on track to be back June 20. That will make the best team in the American League even better.

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