TORONTO -- You want to know what really makes this New York Yankees team scary? It's the fact that on a night when the Yankees' biggest, most power-filled bats end up going silent, the rest of the offense still has the ability to operate on all cylinders and pick up the slack.
At least, that's what the bottom of the Yankees' batting order proved Friday night, as the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters powered New York to a 4-2 victory over the host Toronto Blue Jays. Those performances, coupled with Masahiro Tanaka's dominant eight-strikeout, six-inning outing, made for a complete early-season victory.
For one night, forget Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Offensively, this was the Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade Show. Odds are that, with a long way still to go this season, it's a show that will need to be reprised a few more times. When that happens, or when someone not named Judge, Stanton or Gary Sanchez plays the hero role, don't be surprised.
"No question," manager Aaron Boone said. "We have a lot of confidence in those guys [down in the order]."
On Friday, Judge and Stanton went a combined 0-for-8, striking out three times and grounding into a pair of double plays. With tough right-handed sinkerball pitcher Aaron Sanchez at the top of his game, the sluggers found it difficult barreling and elevating his pitches.
As the stars struggled, Drury and Wade teamed up to go 3-for-7 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs. The tandem drove in all of the Yankees' runs.
When pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, there couldn't have been anyone on earth (except possibly Yankees general manager Brian Cashman) who could have expected the combination of Drury and Wade to pace the Yankees' already prolific-looking offense in an early-season game.
Back then, prospects Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres appeared destined to anchor the bottom of the order and the third-base and second-base positions, respectively. Yet here we are.
With the likes of Drury -- a post-pitchers-and-catchers addition whom Cashman had his eye on long before trading for him -- and Wade, the mid-March winner of a position battle -- already contributing, the Yankees have shown they will be OK on those nights when Stanton and Judge just don't have it.
"That's the whole key," Judge said. "Whenever somebody doesn't step up and doesn't do their job, you've got 24 guys behind him to pick him up."
There wasn't a complete zapping of electricity in the heart of the Yankees' order Friday. Didi Gregorius finished 2-for-3 with two extra-base hits and two runs scored while hitting cleanup for the first time this season.
Opening Day, just one game ago, featured all sorts of production from the top and middle of the Yankees' order. Stanton, batting third, blasted a pair of 425-plus-foot home runs in his Yankees debut, and Judge, batting second, had two hits, including a double. Stanton even drove in Judge once, a sight that soon will be routine for Yankees fans.
What made Drury stand out in particular Friday was the way he took advantage of a pair of favorable two-out counts during his first two at-bats.
Ahead 2-1 in the count in the second inning, he slapped a hard line drive to right that hit the top of the wall, mere inches from going over it for a three-run home run. The double still plated a run to give the Yankees an early lead. His next time up, Drury jumped a 1-0 fastball and ripped it into left for an RBI single.
"Going up there with a plan like he always does," Boone said. "There's just been a grit and a grind to the way he goes about things, and he brings that up to the plate. Two really good at-bats."
It bears mentioning that the Yankees got this down-in-the-order production from a lineup that was without Greg Bird (out six to eight weeks following foot surgery) and Aaron Hicks (put on the 10-day DL Friday because of a muscle strain near his rib cage).
Boone hopes the bottom of his order will continue to experience success this season in part because of the respect his fearsome No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 hitters command. With such dangerous batters as Stanton and Judge, pitchers will have to pitch carefully, using a lot of pitches in the process, Boone believes.
"Ultimately, that's what truly makes a good lineup over the course of 162," Boone said. "When you have elite, special elite power guys that'll grind you down [as a pitcher].
"There's just so much energy expended. Hopefully that leads to some fat pitches at times for guys in the middle and down at the bottom of the order."
Fat pitches served up to hitters as opportunistic as Drury and Wade sounds like the kind of frightfest opposing pitchers will soon discover they don't want to see.