NEW YORK — No Yankee was happier to see the calendar flip from August than Gleyber Torres, who opened the month reading his name in trade rumors and ended it in one of the worst slumps of his career. September has been much more promising for the infielder, who says he’s poised to make an impact in October.
Torres homered twice on Sunday in the Yankees’ 10-4 rout of the Rays at Yankee Stadium, belting a three-run shot in the first inning and a solo blast in the second. Giancarlo Stanton and rookie Oswaldo Cabrera also went deep as the Bombers won for the sixth time in eight games. They now hold a 5 1/2 game lead in the American League East.
“I think I’m more confident,” Torres said. “In August, I worried too much about myself if I struck out or didn’t do anything for the team. It seems like there were too many things mentally. Now I can come to the field with 100 percent confidence and just try to feel good.”
The contest marked Torres’ 12th career multihomer game and his second of the season, having also done so on May 24 vs. Baltimore. Torres is the fourth Yankee to hit 20 or more homers this season, joining Aaron Judge (55), Anthony Rizzo (30) and Giancarlo Stanton (26).
“When he’s at his best, he’s a guy that lengthens our order and gives us power,” said manager Aaron Boone. “When he’s at his best, he’s a tough out against really good pitching, too. He’s done it in his playoff career so far, just being a tough out and good bat-to-ball, using the whole field. Hopefully this gets him rolling a little bit for the stretch drive.”
While Torres was pleased by his performance, he was even more thrilled for his fellow Venezuelan Cabrera, whose second-inning homer was his first in the Majors — a two-run shot that put the Yanks into double digits in runs.
The ball was retrieved for Cabrera by a club security official, and the 23-year-old said he plans to offer it to his extended family in Miami.
“I feel so good, so excited for it,” Cabrera said. “It feels amazing. Right now, inside the clubhouse, we are feeling so good. We are working together.”
This year had the markings of a bounce-back campaign for Torres, 25, who seemed to be on an All-Star track for most of the first half. Though he wasn’t selected to attend the Midsummer Classic in Los Angeles, it wouldn’t have been outlandish; Torres slashed .268/.325/.484 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs through 81 games.
But Torres’ fortunes turned sharply in August, a month that nearly saw him dealt to the Marlins for right-hander Pablo López. That deal collapsed at the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline, but it was not Torres’ inclusion that nixed the swap; instead, the Yankees refused to part with infielder Oswald Peraza.
Torres slashed just .180/.204/.260 in 25 August games, producing only four extra-base hits — two doubles and two homers.
“In August, I just missed too many pitches,” Torres said. “Every pitcher I faced, they threw me really good pitches and I missed too many. As a hitter and as a player, when you struggle, you always try to do a little bit more.”
Torres does not believe that the trade talks were a factor, saying, “At the end of the day, it’s just a business. I just try to play every day and do my job for the team.”
This weekend’s divisional showdown with the Rays was productive for Torres, who went 5-for-14 (.357) as New York outscored Tampa Bay, 22-11, across the three games. Even in the Yanks’ Friday night loss, Torres came within a few feet of a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth, which Boone took as a sign of good things to come.
“It’s about getting him into strong positions with his lower half,” Boone said. “I feel like sometimes he gets disconnected; that was happening to him a lot in August, where he’s got that leg kick and gets underneath it. When he gets in that strong hitting position ready to fire, he gets off a lot of ‘A’ swings.”
Torres senses that, too, crediting his work in the batting cages and studying video of opposing pitchers. As such, he said that this could be a postseason to remember.
“That is my type of game, those moments,” Torres said. “I feel like those games are the most exciting games for any MLB player. I just try to enjoy those moments and try to win the game.”