From 2016 to 2018, Didi Gregorius was the cornerstone of the Yankees. He played defense in his demanding shortstop position, improved his plate discipline and hit at least 20 home runs each year, a crucial counterweight to the left-handed Yankees side.
This season, however, was anything but mild for Gregorius. He missed the first two months after Tommy John's elbow throwing surgery last fall from an injury he suffered during last season's post season. And when he returned in June, Gregorius failed to regain pre-operation form on either side of the ball. Still, coach Aaron Boone stayed with Gregorius as he entered the playoffs.
It all seemed like a distant memory on Saturday when tens of thousands of fans shouted, “Di-di! Di-di! And he obeyed the request of a curtain, pushing both arms into the air of the hiding place stairs. He had just gone crazy Yankee Stadium with a third-round grand slam, leading the Yankees to an 8-2 win and emphatically confirming that the Yankees' bats could be too much for the Minnesota Twins in this division of the American League Series.
The best of five series will be transferred to Minneapolis on Monday, with the Yankees one win away from winning a seat in the A.L. Championship Series. And if the twins can't neutralize even the Yankees' hitters, they have little hope of extending their post-season.
"It just shows what this team can do," said Gregorius. "We're not just trusting one person."
It was the Yankees 12th consecutive playoff win against the Twins – the biggest post-season sequence of any team against any opponent in major league history.
Seeking to contain the Yankees' attack at their stadium, the Twins turned to ground ball pitcher Randy Dobnak, who fired into the low-key major leagues in the early stages. of the season.
Dobnak's story was captivating: he was not betrayed, played in an independent league, was a Uber driver this spring to supplement his income as an underpaid minor thief, and skipped a couple of twins to get married in late September – date on that he and his wife had chosen because it was after the minor league season.
The Yankees did not approach Dobnak, but wore it out with hit singles and doubles. The twins' coach Rocco Baldelli hooked Dobnak after the Yankees loaded deadlocked bases in the third round and turned to Tyler Duffey, a reliable defender during the regular season. But Duffey was no better against the Yankees' circular saw, which began to pile up on the tracks.
Left defender Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead with a sacrificial fly. Second baseman Gleyber Torres hit a single to make it 3-0. And then Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch, carrying the bases again. When Gregorius hit a 1-2 shot on the right field, it was the fourth direct attack that Duffey failed to shoot a Yankees scout with two attacks.
In this third round alone, all Yankee pitchers, besides Gio Urshela, entered or scored a race. The scoring blast propelled a strong performance from the Yankees pitch team – led by incumbent Masahiro Tanaka, who allowed a race more than five times – against a powerful twin attack. Tanaka, who lowered his E.R.A playoff. at 1.54, he joined Sandy Koufax as the only major league pitcher to allow no more than two races in each of the first six postseason games.
"We were a little shy," said C.J. Cron, first of the twins, adding later, "We wanted to rock. We weren't rocking with the same aggression we have all year."
But the star of the night was certainly Gregorius, who was falling like no other player entering October. From mid-August to the end of the regular season, he had a miserable batting average of 0.184 in 30 games. It didn't help in August that he dealt with finger and shoulder injuries, none of which sent him to the injured list. Some metrics showed that Gregorius had regressed in defense. And given the versatility of D.J. LeMahieu and Torres, it seemed plausible that Gregorius would sit against a southpaw pitcher this post season.
"Just try to stir up strikes," Gregorius said of what he needed to improve. "That's one thing for me now and be patient."
Boone never stopped supporting Gregorius. The coach's words before Saturday's game were prescient.
"I still maintain that Didi still has the best, and I know he will have big changes to move on," Boone said, adding that Gregorius was pushing the plate and working behind the scenes to get out of the role. your funk. Boone continued, "Sometimes it just takes a blow, a spin to spin it, and I believe that's what Didi still has."
Gregorius said this swing came in his second round on Saturday, and more evidence came later. After he threw a high ball into the right field, Gregorius stayed home and admired his work before tossing the club aside. He said he was happy to have adapted to Duffey's high fastball instead of fighting it, as he had in the previous game. As he skirted the bases, Gregorius, stoic throughout his struggles, seemed to maintain an expressionless face.
At the shelter, right-wing defender Aaron Judge asked the crowd to cheer, waving his arms. Dellin Betances, the crutched-out star who had predicted Gregorius's grand slam for his teammates before the bat, hit the top of the house with delight. Gregorius finally smiled as he greeted his teammates, another Yankees victory, but guaranteed with his breakout blow.
Here are the highlights of the Yankees' victory, as they happened:
8th inning: it's all over
The announced participation in game 2 was 49,277, and most of them went out after the twins fell in order at the top of the eighth, scoring twice to increase their total to 12.
7th inning: about this fall …
The Yankees must be falling – they haven't scored four times.
Adam Ottavino came into the game for Tommy Kahnle and went around for a double by rookie Luis Arraez. Ottavino attacked Miguel Sano to increase the twins' total strikeouts to 10 to 7 times.
Didi Gregorius led seventh place to the Yankees and took a walk. With a grand slam and a single for Gregorius, it's an encouraging sign for the Yankees – like adding another diamond to a ring, so to speak. Gregorius finished the regular season with just one hit in his last 31 clubs and was 14 out of the last 85 in his last month of play by an average of 0.167 bats (he was 0 to 3 with a walk in game 1 on Friday). ) The formation of the Yankees is relentless and, because of their fall, teams may have seen Gregorius as the only hole – so far. With Sir Didi showing signs of emerging from funk, the question is: How can anyone be interested in this formation?
4th inning: Twins finally gather a race
Call it a rally, or maybe the same as the twins might face against Masahiro Tanaka. Minnesota scored a race on R.B.I. from Mitch Garver. single to reduce the deficit to 8-1. The only blow Tanaka struck during the first three entrances was Nelson Cruz's back-to-box security that Tanaka failed to corner. The twins did not hit a ball out of the inner court until Jorge Polanco's ball into the left field left the room. Tanaka has thrown 73 shots in four innings.
The Yankees didn't actually mark at the bottom of the room. This game has two hours and they are not even halfway.
3rd inning: Gregorius explodes a Grand Slam
The route is enabled. Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam to counter Tyler Duffy, and it was so unquestionable that right-back Eddie Rosario didn't even pretend to go after. The Yankees took the lead 7-0 and the celebrations were already underway.
The Yankees knocked Dobnak out of the game at the beginning of the turn, when they loaded bases with no one out, and scored seven races. Duffy replaced Dobnak, who allowed four races more than twice. Giancarlo Stanton hit a sacrificial fly and Gleyber Torres chose the left before Gregorius struck.
Dobnak's short period was quite predictable. A recent Uber driver against this lineup? Very optimistic of the twins. The last Twins rookie to start a post-season game was Brian Duensing at Yankee Stadium in 2009. Duensing gave up five races in four and two thirds of the shifts and his father was hit by a car outside the stadium (he was OK) .
Gregorius 'slam was the 12th for a post-season Yankee and the first since Robinson Cano left Detroit Tigers' Al Alburquerque in 2011 (WFAN's Mike Francesa knew him as Alberto)
1st entry: Incarnation offers an initial advantage
Yankee Stadium is alive with this early afternoon on a cool fall day, and the Yankees have wasted little time with twin rookie Randy Dobnak, the novice pitcher who drives a Uber in the off-season. The fans were singing "U-ber" when Dobnak had problems in the first round. He gave up running after D.J. Lemahieu doubled and Edwin Encarnacion later released a single-scoring single, but the 24-year-old right-hander got more trouble – and calmed the sarcastic chants – when he induced a ball from Giancarlo Stanton.
Masahiro Tanaka also used a double move to escape problems in the upper half of the turn. With one out, he hit Jorge Polanco with a pitch and then failed to score the Nelson Cruz striker. But Tanaka had Eddie Rosario change Lemahieu at first base and Tanaka covered the bag and hit Didi Gregorius's relay in time.