Aaron Hicks? Yes, Aaron Hicks.
The often ridiculed, sometimes downright unremarkable outfielder was the Yankees’ hero on Thursday night. His three runs, no doubt, are the ninth tied things at the bottom of the house. After five at-bats, Aaron Judge’s walk-off liner in the left-field corner gave the Yankees an impossible 7-6 victory.
Hicks was leading just .288 in the game, the eighth-lowest of any player with at least 200 plate appearances. As for his late game performances with Astros close Ryan Pressley, it was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was the ball meeting the bat, and Hicks did it with a cathartic force.
When he cries that he’s overrated, overpaid, and in the top of his head, Hicks’ immediate skyrocketing point when he hits a home run indicates one thing: I’m over all of that.
Jose Trevino chased him on the seventh pitch of his bat with a single in the middle. The Yankees have lacked such an at-bat in their last eight innings, failing to detect either Framber Valdez or Houston’s first two relievers. Valdez repeatedly went to large places in his sinker. At the end of his day, 62 of Valdez’s 101 pitches were sinkers. The Yankees were often left rubbernecking in front of the umpire as 17 of those sinkers landed for strikes. All told, 32% of his drownings led to a strike or a tremor. In 2022 the average pitcher is being called to strike or whiff 27.5% of the times.
It only took 20 minutes for Pressley and his replacement, Wright Rhine Stanek, to spoil all of that. Not that he needed to, considering that almost everything has turned out well this season, but the Yankees’ ninth inning gave his spirit quite a boost. Their comeback showed the kind of resolve that would make them one of the toughest teams to beat in September, October and every poor soul they have yet to face.
It’s not like the Yankees win games. is that they win the game when their opponent turns in a 95% grade. He’s still A, but the Yankees are at A+ level. When the judges came to the plate with two outs and two runners on, a base hit seemed like an imperative. After a waste of the eighth inning, the crowd was back in full swing, thanks to Hicks’ homer and DJ LeMahieu leading the judge. They were completely atomized when the judge’s ball touched the grass on the left field. Just like that, a clean, possibly confirming play turned out to be a loss for the Astros.
Houston made his runs in bunches, but could do so too quickly. He started things off with three in the first and attacked three more in the third. The heart of his command – which actually runs from one to six – remains utterly terrifying. Yordan Alvarez, who is built like a statue in cleats, continues his budding MVP case. While the award now belongs to Aaron Judge, Alvarez made his first appearance of the year at Yankee Stadium. Playing for a national TV audience on MLB Network, the Astros’ left-handed laser show went 2-for-5 with three RBIs thanks to a heat-seeking missile in the right-field seats.
Alex Bregman equalized with his own three-run smash that a fan immediately returned to the field. Both sluggers made their losses to Jameson Tallon, who had unquestionably had the worst start to his otherwise illustrious season. Talon’s finish line featured ten hits, six earned runs and nine batted balls that the Astros threw at speeds of 100 mph or better.
Alvarez and Bregman’s shots in the cheap seats weren’t enough to get the Astros a W, even as the Yankees’ aggressive output was extremely limited for the first eight frames. Giancarlo Stanton, not as he is used to, converted a lazy fly ball into an opposite field homer in the first. With a launch angle of 34 degrees, Stanton’s ball stayed in the air for so long that the entire stadium was sent through a familiar thought process while watching the hitter one-on-one. “It’s not going out, is it? It looked like he barely swung. Wow, he’s in the other deck.”
But then, the ninth inning happened. Presley and Stanek melted while the Yankees held firm. If it looks like they’ll never lose again, it’s because of the game, the players, and moments like that. As Frank Sinatra sings to the team’s trademark song, they want to be a part of it.