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Yankees notes: Character rebound, Gary Sanchez improvements, Zack Britton soreness

Yankees Torres LeMahieu
The Yankees have won five of their last six to stabilize after a rough stretch.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a week makes for the New York Yankees — and what a way to pass Aaron Boone’s latest character test.

The Yankees skipper questioned his team’s mettle following a third-straight weekend series sweep last week, dropping both games of a set to a familiar face in Joe Girardi and his Philadelphia Phillies.

It dropped the Yankees to 33-32 on the season amid a 5-13 stretch, good for their slowest start since 2008; which just so happened to be Girardi’s first season with the team.

“We’re going to find out what character we’re made of. We’re clearly in the midst of incredibly tough times,” Boone said at the time. “We’ve faced it throughout this season. And we’re going to find out what we’re made of and if we’re the team we think we are.”

His Yankees certainly answered the call.

They swept the Toronto Blue Jays before taking two-of-three from the Oakland Athletics, who had been red-hot with six straight wins entering the series in the Bronx.

It surmounted with a 2-1 victory in Sunday’s rubber game that ended with yet another triple play turned by the Yankees — their third of the season and second in four days that ended the game and got Aroldis Chapman out of a monster jam.

“It felt like a big series,” Boone said. “Coming off some real quality wins in Buffalo where everyone had a hand in it, taking the games late — I think we trailed in all of them — and coming home and knowing we were coming up against a really good team and losing the first game, for them to come back yesterday and to get some really good at-bats today… it wasn’t easy… but some winning at-bats in winning spots and the pitching did their thing.”

That included a game-winning double by the ever-improving Gary Sanchez in the sixth inning, while raising his season OPS to .820 while providing more evidence that he’s back on the right track toward becoming an anchor of the Yankees’ offense.

“Just watch the at-bats. The competitiveness, every pitch… He’s on time, he’s making really good decisions,” Boone said. “It continuously doesn’t mean you’re always getting results, but it’s not an accident that he’s getting the results. He’s in the fight every pitch he’s under control, he’s balanced… when those things happen, his talents come out.”

In the eighth inning of Sunday’s win, Boone opted to go with reliever Lucas Luetge rather than Zack Britton, who returned on June 12 from his recovery from elbow surgery. While the move worked, Boone disclosed that Britton was feeling “a little bit sore” on Sunday and he wanted to take advantage of the off-day Monday to give him a rest.

“He could’ve pitched but he’s still kinda going through that build-up, going through that spring mode, getting that soreness out of there,” Boone said. “He was just heavy today. It was just him working on the mound, working to get back. Just kind of decided to stay away from him with the off-day tomorrow and I feel like we should be good.”

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