Didi Gregorius belts big HR to propel Yankees to win in 10
ANAHEIM, Calif. — There is no need to go hunting to find out who has been the Yankees’ best player in the opening month of the season. Nor is X-ray vision required.
At the start of the year Gary Sanchez was considered the Yankees’ most complete hitter. Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP last season and Aaron Judge was the AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in the AL MVP voting.
Yet, two dozen games into a season with a lot of schedule remaining, Didi Gregorius is easily the Yankees’ best player and the primary reason they are on a seven-game winning streak after beating the Angels, 4-3, in 10 innings on Friday night in front of 40,416 at Angel Stadium.
“It’s awesome,’’ Giancarlo Stanton said of Gregorius’ hot streak that included a 3-for-5 night and the game-winning homer off Blake Parker in the 10th inning. “I have a front-row seat for it being on deck.’’
Gregorius is tied with Mike Trout for the AL lead in homers with 10 and upped his AL-leading batting average to .368.
In the last 11 games, Gregorius is hitting .429 (18-for-42) with seven homers and 17 RBIs. Yet, the slick-fielding shortstop sounds like a guy struggling to get the average above .200.
“I am trying to make adjustments and trying to get better,’’ said Gregorius, who went deep into the hole to rob Zack Cozart of a hit in the fifth inning. “It’s not about one month, it’s about the season.’’
With the AL East-leading Red Sox losing to the Rays, the second-place Yankees are three games back.
While Gregorius’ towering homer that reached the seats above the right-field wall was the turning point, the game had something for everyone.
Aaron Boone admitted he waited too long to challenge Stanton being doubled off second on Neil Walker’s drive to right that was snagged by a leaping Kole Calhoun at the wall.
“I had run out of time,’’ the manager said, whose first thought was to make sure Gregorius, who was on third, scored before Stanton was called out for not tagging up at second although he and the Yankees believed he did tag.
Luis Severino provided seven strong innings in which he allowed three runs and five hits. Jonathan Holder, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman delivered three shutout innings after Severino. Each team had issues with plate umpire Alan Porter’s strike zone and Yankees bench coach Josh Bard got tossed by Porter after Judge (0-for-5; four strikeouts) was called out leading off the fourth.
If that wasn’t enough Gregorius received a curtain call outside The Bronx.
“It was a little weird but there are a lot of [Yankees] fans here,’’ said Gregorius, who had a broken-bat bloop double in the fourth and a bunt single in the sixth. “I didn’t expect that to be honest.’’
Gregorius is correct in stating it’s not about doing well in the first month of the season. Nevertheless, what he has done hasn’t escaped his teammates.
“He is amazing,’’ Severino said. “I don’t know how he is doing it. He is hitting everything.’’
And still attempting to be a better player today than he was yesterday.
“I am trying to improve my whole game, offensively and defensively,’’ said Gregorius, who has to be in the conversation about who the best shortstop in baseball is. “You never can be satisfied or the game will pass you by.’’
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