NEW YORK – Long International Federation bus trips with stops at greasy fast-food joints and overnight stays in mid-priced hotels lacked charm, but they also provided Jake Powers and Billy McKinney with opportunities to dream. They thought about going back to the Majors, of course, but they also tried to focus every day on where they got their feet.
There were no guarantees that either player would get a chance after his service with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which makes their success in the pinstripes that much sweeter. Powers and McKinney hit the visitors early on Wednesday, helping the Yankees edge past the Mariners, 4-2, at Yankee Stadium.
“I think the bond at this club is very strong,” Powers said. “I think everyone here is so supportive of each other. It was good. You enjoy coming every day; you enjoy spending time with these guys. It helps a lot.”
Anthony Volpe also hit his 10th homer of the victory, marking the Yankees’ first win since they took two of three off the Dodgers earlier this month, as Aaron Judge hit his right toe and hit the right field wall.
The show has been sparse throughout Judge’s absence from the lineup, as New Yorkers averaged just 3.2 runs per game on Wednesday. It looks like this trend will likely continue against Seattle’s Luis Castillo, a dominant right-hander who was a trade target for the Yankees this past July.
Powers connected with a two-run homer in the third and McKinney hit a solo shot in the fourth off Castillo. Thirteen of the Bauers’ last 18 hits went for extra bases (nine doubles and four hits), while McKinney hit consecutive games and hit 12 straight games.
“I’m glad we were able to contribute tonight and help the team,” said McKinney. “Jake is an amazing player, and he’s been doing it for a while now. It’s fun to watch, and I’m happy for him.”
Powers added, “I love seeing my buddy Billy pitch well. He came in and did a great job for us.”
Since attending spring training as non-roster invitees, Powers and McKinney have proven to be discount catches. Powers reworked his swing in the offseason last season, shortening his stroke while concentrating on the launch angle, while McKinney got his call in part by hooking up a nine-footer for the RailRiders.
“We talked about having fun wherever you are,” Powers said. “If you’re at Triple-A and all you think about is the big leagues, chances are, you’re not going to play well. You’re going to be miserable. Most of the conversations we had revolved around how we can enjoy whatever happens, wherever it happens.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that Powers showed “a little presence” in the lead and that McKinney had “consistent batters, day in and day out”.
“We needed it,” Boone added.
Powers and McKinney’s blasts supported right-hander Johnny Brito, who threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings on his Scranton/Wilkes-Barre return. Brito allowed only two hits, walking one and striking out three.
The 25-year-old, who has seen mixed results over his first 10 big league games, said he’s excited at the chance to take on Castillo, a two-time All-Star that the Mariners acquired from the Reds last July. (The Americans were interested in Castillo, but refused to give up Volpe or player Oswald Peraza.)
“It was a great opportunity to take on a guy like that,” Brito said through an interpreter. “He’s one of the stars of this game. At the same time, I have to go in there and make and pitch the idea. It was a good experience.”
Volpe extended the Yanks’ lead in the seventh with a homer by Gabe Speer. He joins Tony Lazzeri (1926) and Alfonso Soriano (2001) as the only Yankees rookies to have racked up 10 or more home runs and 15 or more stolen bases in a single season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Seattle’s Dylan Moore hit a shutout in the eighth off Andy Peralta, Michael King had some trouble in the ninth, but Boone called out Tommy Canley to shut it down, and the 33-year-old right-hander recorded his first save of the season and sixth of his career.
“We have to take it day by day,” McKinney said. “Today is over, and we will come back after it tomorrow.”
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