Aaron Boone stealing win from Luis Gil would've gone differently for recent Yankees

This team, man. Different.

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Gil (81) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the
New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Gil (81) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the / Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY
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Think of the 2017-2023 Yankees, ending with a thud last fall. This era was marked by occasionally spectacular offensive performances, both individual (Aaron Judge chasing and passing Roger Maris) and team (the Juiced Ball All-Stars in 2019). Occasionally, the pitching matched, and certainly began to rise to the occasion under Matt Blake.

Still, though, moments of discontent often reigned supreme, especially on that side of the ball. Sonny Gray smiling through his teeth while getting booed, all the while knowing that Larry Rothschild had set him up for failure. JA Happ entering in relief of Deivi Garcia in a playoff game after privately explaining he had no desire to do so, then publicly pitching like he had no desire to do so.

Luis Severino appearing to forget the start time of ALDS Game 3 against the Boston Red Sox while the team refused to acknowledge it. Luis Severino fuming at the front office after being shown a calendar to explain a 60-Day IL trip he didn't believe was necessary. Luis Severino calling out Aaron Boone in the media scrum after Game 3 of the 2022 ALDS, wondering why Clarke Schmidt had been allowed to lose his game instead of a gassed Clay Holmes.

Any conversation about energy shifts between 2023 and 2024 begins with Juan Soto in the box, whose sneering, preening and begrudging respect for the pitcher appears to have rubbed off on Oswaldo Cabrera, at the very least. James Rowson has changed the offensive formula to Aaron Judge's delight; the Yankees are taking the most pitches per plate appearance, and players like Anthony Volpe and Alex Verdugo are embodying the exact roles they should be, rather than swinging constantly for the fences.

No conversation about energy shifts year-over-year should be had without including Marcus Stroman, of course, but also Luis Gil, who has earned the fifth starter role after Gerrit Cole vacated the rotation, and dominated in his first regular-season appearance of 2024 on the road against the defending National League champs in Arizona on Monday.

But see if you can spot something else -- besides the crackling 100 MPH fastball, tight slider, and gumption to work out of a tremendous jam with the heart of the order up. While Gil isn't on any sort of public innings restriction, Monday represented his first big-league start following midsummer 2022 Tommy John surgery. Stroman threw 100+ pitches in his debut, but the Yankees see no reason for any of their other starters to push past that mark, let alone Gil, who deserves a little early coddling.

When he toed the rubber for the fifth inning pushing 80 pitches, it didn't seem likely that he was long for this game. And after he retired the first two batters of the frame, reaching 84 pitches thrown in the process, Boone bit his tongue and decided he was done stretching his all-important young right-hander, stealing a "pitcher win" opportunity from him in the process.

But when Boone got to the bump, was there a heated conversation? An uncomfortable silence? A wordless transfer of the baseball from one palm to another? No. There was a longer-than-expected nurturing talk, with the entire infield looking on. There was a laugh, and a smile from both parties. And then there was a glove-pounding bout of thankfulness from Gil, who didn't need a win in the record books to feel stronger than ever in that moment.

Yankees starter Luis Gil's mound visit from Aaron Boone showed camaraderie and class

Gil, of course, led his team to a victory; the Yankees don't escape the desert with a 5-2 win without his brilliance. Or Luke Weaver's escape artist work. Or Volpe's 4-for-4 day. Or the pressure the Yankees' young shortstop put on the defense, leading to the type of error-filled frenzy they were responsible for far too often in recent years.

And, like Carlos Rodón -- a fellow vibe-shifter -- said a few days back, "Listen, man, I'm never gonna be mad when our team wins."

Winning, of course, changes everything. Severino wasn't angry midway through 2022 amid a winning streak (though he might've caused the 2018 playoff loss by forgetting his duties). Happ wasn't stewing around after a postseason comeback. Previous versions of this Yankees team weren't seeking anger. But this group has bought in, and each key member appears to be playing for the collective. If the bullpen had coughed up Gil's 5-1 lead quickly, something tells us he still would've been thankful for his right arm's glorious return rather than furious in the aftermath. This new edition of the Yankees appears uniquely poised to shake off a losing streak and get back to doing their job the next day.

Luckily, that remains all guesswork. After all, we haven't seen a loss yet.

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