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‘That’s a team that we need to beat’: Healthy Aaron Hicks confident ahead of Yankees’ critical series vs. Rays

Aug 19, 2020; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) scores a run against Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino (10) on a sacrifice fly by New York Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela (not pictured) during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A sprinkling of Yankees magic and 2020 circumstances brought the Bombers from a season-low, seven-game losing streak to a three-game Subway Series win streak and a 19-13 record from Saturday to Sunday – and – that’s perhaps just what the team needed ahead of another run-in with the first place, 24-11 Tampa Bay Rays beginning Monday night.

Sitting 3.5 games out of first now, a three-game sweep over the Rays would bring the Yankees within striking distance, making September baseball as interesting as ever.

Dominance in that upcoming series would cast effect on the Yankees returning to a “winning spirit,” outfielder Aaron Hicks said on Sunday night.

“It’s just very important for us to get wins, especially with the Rays coming in, that’s a team we need to beat,” Hicks said, separately noting that he’s healthy following a calf cramping scare against the Mets.

“We have a team that’s ready to go so it’s exciting to be able to have them here.”

Hicks’ enthusiasm for payback comes as the Yankees forfeited the AL East lead to Tampa Bay some days ago as the team has only beaten the Rays once in seven outings on the season.

It also comes after the Yankees have played seven games since last Wednesday and have returned outfielder Aaron Judge to the IL following a re-emerging calf injury where he rejoins a laundry list of superstar talent, many of whom were sidelined against the Rays in past games. 

“We’re in a tough stretch right now, it’s not easy at all for us, but we’re grinding,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said on Sunday night following the team’s doubleheader victories over the Mets.

Speaking on Tampa Bay Monday, Boone said that the Rays position players “compliment one another really well,” which has evidently posed a challenge to the skipper’s squad this season.

That grinding group of Yankees appears to be what Boone and General Manager Brian Cashman will be committing to on the year as Monday’s 3:00 p.m. MLB trade deadline passed uneventfully for New York ahead of the three-game series.

“Nothing came to our fruition enough,” Boone said on Monday, adding that everyone in the clubhouse “knows what we’re capable of” as far as still being championship contenders in 2020 goes.

Boone added that he wasn’t anticipating Cashman making any major moves for the past day or so.

A bright spot in the Yankees lineup for this series is the mechanical second baseman DJ LeMahieu continuing to play after coming off the team’s IL with a left thumb sprain on Saturday.

LeMahieu said he’s “good to go” on Saturday after ‘a long few weeks,’ adding that he doesn’t anticipate dealing with a relapsing injury to his thumb in the upcoming stretch of games.

Boone also said that shortstop Gleyber Torres is “getting close” to a return from the IL on Monday.

The Yankees are going with the squad’s top ace on the mound Monday night as Gerrit Cole will face Tyler Glasnow to open the crucial series in the Bronx.

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