KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An offensive awakening had lifted the Yankees to first place, riding a season-high seven-game winning streak through the weekend.

But more subtly, a once-suspect defensive team had tightened things up.

“We try to be the most complete team possible,” manager Aaron Boone said ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. And so far, “in all aspects, we’re showing signs of being able to do a lot of different things and win games in different ways.”

Through Friday night, the Yankees had been error-free in 13 straight games, which tied for the second-longest such streak in franchise history.

The franchise record was an 18-game error-free streak in 2009, their final World Championship season.

Better than 2021

Last season, the Yankees won 92 games with a club that was mid-range in defensive efficiency, the percentage of balls in play that are converted into outs.

The 2021 Yankees’ .984 fielding percentage was 12th in the 15-team American League, and they committed the third-most errors in the AL.

But through the first 20 games of 2022, the Yanks’ .995 mark has been the best in the majors.

“Trying to be as specific as possible,” Boone said of the preseason’s focus on defensive improvement.

Boone credits the addition of new first base/infield coach Travis Chapman – freeing up bench coach Carlos Mendoza to oversee other areas – with helping the club make progress in field reach and quickness first steps.

And this “focus on where we can make the most gains” has made a difference so far.

Improved infield

Gleyber Torres’ move from shortstop, where he struggled, to second base, and the addition of Isiah Kiner-Falefa – a recent Gold Glove third baseman – as a stop -short tee was a noticeable improvement.

So does a defensive catching tandem of Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka, following Gary Sanchez’s trade to Minnesota.

DJ LeMahieu moved seamlessly between starts at second base and third base, and “I’m really excited about how DJ looked,” Boone said of his defense.

After a season below his own standards in 2021, LeMahieu underwent surgery in October for a sports hernia.

“(He) moves and throws better than any time last year,” Boone said. “And that’s been really encouraging to see.”

To have an impact

And the Yankees infield has already been saved from more than a handful of pitching errors by Anthony Rizzo, a former Gold Glove multiple first baseman.

Rizzo had an immediate impact in that department last summer, following his trade deadline acquisition from the Cubs.

“(He’s) the anchor there at the start,” Boone said. “Rizzo brings it all together. »

Aaron Judge’s ability to play center field occasionally – and play it at a high level – has increased the club’s flexibility, as have Giancarlo Stanton’s contributions as an outfielder.

Stanton split the time evenly as the designated hitter and outfielder, with no defensive issues.

To catch

For the second straight time, Trevino was behind the plate for a Gerrit Cole start on Saturday.

Higashioka was almost exclusively Cole’s catcher for the past two seasons, including the first three starts this year – when Cole compiled a 6.35 ERA.

“Just that it was transparent when he got in there,” Boone said of what impressed him about Trevino’s work with Cole last Sunday, when the Yankees ace pitched 6.2 innings. scoreless, easily his best performance of the new season.

But Boone said he has “a ton of confidence in both receivers” and views the catch position as a time split between the two receivers, regardless of which starter leaves that day.

This weekend, Boone explained that Higashioka made up Friday night’s game and Sunday’s game after a Saturday night game.

Pete Caldera is the author of Yankees beats for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Yankees analysis, news, transactions and more, please sign up today and download our app.

E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @pcaldera