Gleyber Torres latest walk-off hero for red-hot Yankees

NEW YORK -- Was there any doubt?

Variations of that question have been posed often in recent days as it pertains to the New York Yankees.

Was there any doubt the Yankees could march back from down four late to win? Was there any doubt the Yankees’ least experienced players would instantly flourish at the big-league level? Was there any doubt New York could sweep three potential contenders during a difficult 18-straight-games stretch?

Was there any doubt the ball Gleyber Torres hit would be a home run?

The Yankees have answered those inquiries with a resounding “no,” punctuated Sunday afternoon by the booming blow Torres delivered with his final swing. At the close of a six-pitch, ninth-inning at-bat, Torres crushed an 88 mph slider, dropping it into the Yankees’ bullpen, just a few feet from Monument Park in center field.

“He hammered that ball,” manager Aaron Boone said.

The Yankees will look for the emotional lift from that swing, which delivered a 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians, to carry over into Tuesday, when they welcome the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox to Yankee Stadium. New York enters the series one game back in the division.

On Sunday, emotions at Yankee Stadium hit a fever pitch once Torres rounded the bases to complete the three-run, walk-off winner. When he touched home plate, and as he was mobbed by teammates who doused him with a cooler full of yellow Gatorade, the 21-year-old recent call-up effectively ended any lingering doubts about his ability to contribute at the big-league level. He became the youngest Yankee ever to hit a walk-off home run.

“Everybody knew the kind of talent that Gleyber has. That’s not a secret,” Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez said through an interpreter. “For me, he’s just doing what he knows to do, which is play good baseball.”

Torres’ blast completed another New York comeback, as the Yankees trailed 4-0 in the eighth. This marked the first time in 52 games that the Yankees won after trailing by four runs or more in the eighth inning or later.

It also was the Yankees’ 15th win in 16 games and completed their third sweep in four series. The Twins and Angels also went winless in recent sets against New York.

In addition to Sunday’s walk-off homer -- which Torres said was the first he has had at any level of baseball -- the rookie has batted .327 with 11 RBIs, five extra-base hits and an .857 OPS in the two weeks he has been a major leaguer. He also has had his share of defensive gems at second base, sliding, diving and ranging to his left and right for a series of head-turning stops.

“It seems like the bigger the spot, the bigger the situation, the better he is,” Boone said.

As well as Torres has played, he isn’t the only reason the Yankees have lost just one game since his arrival from Triple-A. As cliché as it may sound, they’ve been getting timely production throughout their lineup and have received dominant pitching performances too.

Domingo German was the latest to give the Yankees a quality performance, throwing six no-hit innings and striking out nine in his first major league start.

Was there any doubt German would have that kind of outing? The Yankees say "no."

“It’s a tribute to how good of a pitcher he’s become, and the weapons [of pitches] that he has,” Boone said.

Prior to Sunday, German had appeared in just 12 games out of the bullpen for his career. With fifth starter Jordan Montgomery out six to eight weeks due to an elbow injury, the 25-year-old right-hander was called upon as a replacement. German did exactly what other Yankees starters have done in recent weeks. Yankees starters have allowed three or fewer runs in 16 consecutive games, the team's longest such streak since 1981.

One thing that has given the Yankees a special feel through this run has been their ability to have a different hero each game.

Earlier in the weekend, 23-year-old third baseman Miguel Andujar had the big walk-off hit. Twice in the past two weeks, Sanchez, by comparison a grizzled veteran with 207 career games under his belt, has delivered the timely blow in the Yankees’ last at-bat.

“We’ve shown we can win in a lot of different ways,” Boone said. “We’ve won pitchers' duels. We’ve won where we had to scratch against the other team’s closer. We’ve won where we’ve really swung the bats in a massive way and run away with something.”

The ability to understand this about themselves could play an important role in the evolution of the Yankees.

“To win games like this over the course of a long season, it’s integral to the team winning the division and going forward,” first baseman Neil Walker said. “So days like [Sunday], and really this whole weekend, are signs of a really good team.”

With more performances like they have had of late, there’s no doubting where the Yankees could be by October.