Mariano Rivera was explaining how the 1998 Yankees looked out for one another when Jorge Posada, the former catcher, walked by.
“Hey, Mo, you need me to translate for you?” Posada joked.
Case in point.
The mood was understandably light at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon with most members of that 114-win team back in town for a 20th reunion. There was Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte, David Wells. Shortstop Derek Jeter addressed the crowd via video message from Miami, where he is now the Marlins’ chief executive. He said he couldn’t miss his daughter’s first birthday to come to the Bronx.
The current iteration of the Yankees followed with a dispatching of the Toronto Blue Jays for an 11-6 win, moving to a season-high 31 games above .500 for the season.
Still, the Red Sox held a 10-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East, pending the result of their Saturday night game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Boston is doing a more spot on imitation of the ’98 Yankees, the supreme piece of a dynasty that won four World Series in five years.
“You’re 30 games over .500 and you look at the standings and you’re still 10 games back,” said Joe Torre, the dynasty’s manager, who threw out the first pitch on Saturday. “That’s not fair. But this game isn’t necessarily fair all the time.”
Torre pointed out, however, that the ’98 Yankees would be a lot less memorable if they had not continued their regular-season dominance in the postseason.
“When you get to the postseason, there’s a whole lot of pressure on you,” he said. “That’s the season that’s going to be most important for them.”
In other words, there is still hope for the Yankees, and a good sign on Saturday was their ace starter, Luis Severino, looking a bit more like himself after a ragged month.
He earned his 16th win, finishing five innings and allowing two runs on six hits, with eight strikeouts and two walks. Severino (16-6) started the sixth, allowing both runs then and failing to get an out, but the first five innings were what Manager Aaron Boone wanted to focus on.
“I thought it was a giant step in the right direction,” Boone said. “I liked his pace, I liked his demeanor. He was really on the attack.”
Severino was still a bit erratic with his command. But it was the first time since July 1 that he had allowed no more than two earned runs in a start.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “My body’s feeling strong and my confidence is way up.”
In the first three innings, the Blue Jays made two errors, threw two wild pitches, misplayed a fly ball, had a base runner picked off and gave up a homer to shortstop Didi Gregorius, his 22nd this year and the first of four by the Yankees in the game. After all that, Toronto seemed lucky to be trailing by only 6-0.
A solo home run by Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth inning made it 7-0 and emphasized how dangerous the Yankees slugger is at the plate right now. The homer was his seventh in the last 12 games and his eighth in August. He hit 18 home runs in August last year, when he was a Marlin on the way to his majors-leading 59.
This year, Stanton has 32 home runs, which tied him with the Texas Rangers’ Joey Gallo for the fourth most in the American League entering Saturday night’s games. He has come a long way since April, his first month as a Yankee, when he hit only five home runs and had a .230 batting average.
“I knew I had a big hole to dig out of, but I don’t ever doubt my craft or my work,” Stanton said. “Sometimes in this game it takes longer than you expect or want, but you can’t do anything but keep working.”
Miguel Andujar made it 8-0 in the fifth with his 20th home run. He had already driven in two runs with a double in the third.
“The guy’s got, what, 70 doubles this year?” Gregorius joked.
Actually, it’s 36.
Toronto scored five runs in the sixth, helped by a misplayed fly ball by right fielder Neil Walker, who let the ball bounce through his legs with the bases loaded. But Greg Bird led off the eighth with his 10th homer of the season, allowing the Yankees to breathe more easily.