Juan Soto, Yankees aim for better July, starting with Reds series

The New York Yankees capped an inconsistent June by surviving an injury scare to Juan Soto and avoiding another series loss.

After going 14-13 in June and losing sole possession of the AL East lead, the Yankees hope to get rolling again when they open July by hosting the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a three-game series on Tuesday night.

Following their 8-1 win at Boston on June 14, the Yankees were 50-22 and held a 3 1/2-game division lead, but they ended the month by dropping 10 of 14, including seven losses by three runs or more. That resulted in them losing four straight series before completing a four-game split with the host Toronto Blue Jays by earning an 8-1 win Sunday.

Soto batted .275 in his third month as a Yankee and missed four games due to injury. He sat out a series with the Los Angeles Dodgers June 7-9 because of left forearm inflammation, missed Saturday’s 9-3 loss due to a bruised right hand and was not in the original lineup Sunday before declaring himself fine to play.

Soto contributed a single in the first inning immediately before Aaron Judge hit his major league-leading 31st homer. Judge’s homer capped a month in which he batted .409 and drove in 37 runs to raise his MLB-best total to 82.

“Especially if you consider the hitting climate we’re in, it’s head and shoulders above anything we’re seeing,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Soto and Judge. “What he and Juan are doing as a tandem is hard to wrap your brain around.”

The Reds travel to New York with 10 losses in 15 games after Jonathan India and Stuart Fairchild got their only two hits in a 2-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. Before this stretch, the Reds had won 14 of 19 from May 24-June 14, but Sunday highlighted their inconsistencies at the plate.

Cincinnati scored 20 runs on 29 hits in its two wins in the four-game series, but also was blanked twice and produced six hits in the two losses to the Cardinals.

India is amongst Cincinnati’s most consistent bats of late. He is batting .489 (22-for-45) during a 12-game hitting streak that included eight straight multi-hit games before Sunday.

“I’m looking at all areas of our game, like I do every day, to find ways to improve in every area,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I know two of the games in this series were our inability to score, so we just have to figure out how we can get better in these situations, and we’re going to do that.”

The Reds’ next attempt at better results at the plate will come against rookie Luis Gil (9-3, 3.15 ERA), who has been shelled for 12 runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings in blowout losses to the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets after winning his previous nine decisions.

Gil, facing the Reds for the first time in his career, will oppose Graham Ashcraft (4-4, 5.45), who rejoined the rotation after being optioned to Triple-A Louisville.

Ashcraft struggled in his return in a 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, when he allowed six runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Ashcraft took a no-decision in his lone start against the Yankees on July 12, 2022 in New York. He allowed three runs on seven hits in five innings before the Reds used a four-run ninth inning to grab a stunning 4-3 win.

–Field Level Media