If any hope could be found in this dreadful Yankees‘ season, well, it arrived this Labor Day weekend with Jasson Dominguez and Austin Wells.
On an aging and injury-prone club with an inability to put together much offensively, the too-often dull 2023 Yankees received a jolt of energy -and a reason for optimism – by the addition of two promising rookies.
Dominguez’s second homer in his third big-league game was a go-ahead two-run shot in Sunday night’s sixth inning, boosting the Yankees to a three-game sweep of the dreaded Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Wells added an RBI double in a three-run ninth, sending the Yankees to a 6-1 victory before another full house, but the atmosphere and the opponent only seemed to deepen both rookies’ focus.
As Michael King told reporters, including the YES Network, afterward: “We’re just having fun, playing a lot more loose. And they definitely brought an awesome energy in here.”
Yankees already learning a lot before ’24
Yes, a bit of “playing loose” now comes with having played under .500 into September.But credit the Yankees (68-69) for knocking off a Houston team (77-61) that had won five straight entering the weekend and had a chance to take over first place in the AL West.
Five Yankees rookies were in the lineup Friday night and Dominguez, batting fifth, homered in his first at-bat – off future Hall-of-Famer Justin Verlander – in a 6-2 Yankees win.
Saturday’s 5-4 win marked the first time since June 21, 1970, that the Yankees had four players in the lineup aged 24 or younger each drive in a run.
On Sunday, the switch-hitting Dominguez, 20, batted third for the second straight night (the youngest Yankee to do that previously was Bobby Murcer in 1966) and his two-run shot off Christian Javier made it 3-1.
With nine games of Triple-A experience, Dominguez has a chance now to make center field his job to lose next spring.
And as important as anything this weekend, Wells, 24, showed he’s more than a promising lefty bat, catching all three wins.
Praised for his preparation, communication and ability to adjust in-game, Wells “knows how to handle a staff and calls a really good game,” King told reporters at Houston.
Michael King’s rising stock as a starter
As the veteran of the rookie group, shortstop Anthony Volpe continued his very solid second half with a brilliant defensive weekend.
With the first of his two weekend home runs, Aaron Judge became the quickest player (810 games) to reach 250 career homers.
Continuing a long stretch as the Yankees’ best hitter, Gleyber Torres returned Sunday from a two-day back issue to launch a 435-foot homer. He’s batting .317 with 11 homers since July 6.
But one of the best late-season happenings is the transition of King back into a starter, with the potential to make a big impact.
In his fourth start since leaving the bullpen, King tossed five innings and yielded one run Sunday, with no walks and four strikeouts.
King stretched to 69 pitches Sunday, suggesting he might get to 80 his next start, with two or three more to go.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Jasson Dominguez, Austin Wells bring hope and energy to Yankees during sweep at Houston