NEW YORK -- Anthony Rizzo knew what to expect once he completed a slow trot around the basepaths, having snapped a 45-game homerless streak that represented the second-longest drought of his career. The silent treatment was coming, and he was having none of it.
Rizzo exuberantly bounded through the dugout, slapping still backs with abandon until his teammates belatedly came to life, showering the first baseman with hugs and sunflower seeds in the Yankees’ 8-5 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s easy to look out and say, ‘I’m drowning and in the water,’” Rizzo said. “I just kept saying, ‘I’m on the boat and waiting for the winds to pick up.’ You’ve got to have fun with it. I think the reaction from the dugout and the guys shows that you’ve got to try to find highs, keep yourself up, stay positive.”
The third-inning homer off Jordan Lyles was Rizzo’s first since May 20 at Cincinnati, helping the Bombers complete a three-game sweep of Kansas City. Rizzo enjoyed his first four-hit game since Aug. 4, 2019, when he was with the Cubs. The Yankees have won each of their last 15 series against the Royals since May 2015, going 36-11 in that span.
It was a feel-good weekend for the Bombers, who watched Aaron Judge take his first game-speed swings in months, sent Nestor Cortes on a Minor League rehab assignment, re-hired Andy Pettitte as an advisor and activated two outfielders (Greg Allen and Jake Bauers) from the injured list.
Even a potential wet-blanket moment – Gleyber Torres exiting with left hip tightness – seemed to be much ado about nothing, as Torres had no tests scheduled and soon appeared on the Yankee Stadium diamond for the team’s annual picnic.
“We were struggling the last couple of days, but we have a team that can fight back,” said Luis Severino.
The best vibes surrounded Rizzo, who has been searching for answers to snap his skid. He even eschewed batting gloves on Saturday, though he wore them for Sunday’s homer. The more notable change was in Rizzo’s walk-up song: the selection of Taylor Swift’s “…Ready For It?” yielded instant results.
“Taylor Swift, it’s her summer, really,” Rizzo said. “She’s helping the economy in every city.”
The matchup with Lyles likely felt comfortable for Rizzo; no batter has faced Lyles more than Rizzo’s 43 plate appearances against the veteran.
“I know he is not swinging it as well as he wants to right now, but he is a really good hitter and pitchers don’t love seeing him in lineups,” Lyles said.
Rizzo’s homerless streak ended one shy of his career-high of 46 games, which came across two seasons: June 12, 2011 through June 29, 2012, with the Padres and Cubs.
“To see him get going the way he did today, it means a lot to us,” Harrison Bader said. “We pull for each other. We support him; we support everybody. It’s a big day. More important than the results are how he’s been battling through it, staying positive, staying focused. It’s awesome to see him pop one.”
Rizzo, who singled in his final two at-bats of the game, also stroked an RBI double in the Yankees’ four-run first inning, powered by Torres’ 16th homer of the season and Bader’s run-scoring single.
“When you’re going through it, it’s not easy; it’s not fun,” manager Aaron Boone said of Rizzo. “But he’s got a lot of support in that room. Everything points to, we should be able to get that out with the physical attributes he still possesses. It was a good day for him.”
Severino navigated 5 2/3 innings to pick up his second victory, permitting three runs and eight hits. Salvador Pérez and Michael Massey homered off Severino, who walked none and struck out five.
Ian Hamilton (1 1/3 innings), Michael King (one inning) and Ron Marinaccio (one inning) finished off the sweep, the Yanks’ first in a three-game series since May 19-21 at Cincinnati -- coincidentally, the same set in which Rizzo belted his most recent homer.
“I’ve learned through the ebbs and flows of this game, going through ups and downs,” Rizzo said. “It comes and goes. No matter how good you think it’s going, or how bad you think it is, it usually evens out if you just stay the course.”