Headley keeps up surge with late heroics

Yankees third baseman delivers game-winning double as pinch-hitter

May 16th, 2016

NEW YORK -- His extra-base hit drought now firmly behind him, Chase Headley continues to produce for the Yankees.

Headley didn't start Sunday's series finale against the White Sox, but he was the one who delivered the decisive hit in New York's 7-5 win at Yankee Stadium. The switch-hitting third baseman ripped a pinch-hit, two-out, tiebreaking RBI double to the center-field wall in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Headley is hitting .333 in his last nine games, including Sunday's double and a pair of home runs -- the first of which, on Thursday, ended a streak of 126 plate appearances without an extra-base hit that spanned the end of last season and the first month of this one. Now, he has three extra-base hits in four days.

"He went through a really hard time. And it was for a while. But he has pulled himself out of it, and he had a huge hit for us today," manager Joe Girardi said.

When Headley was mired in his slump, he was fielding advice from all sides, trying to solve the riddle of how to break out. He talked to the Yankees' hitting coaches, Alan Cockrell and Marcus Thames. He approached the team's veteran hitters, Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez. He sought help from Mr. October, Yankees great Reggie Jackson.

Ultimately, Headley said, his conclusion wasn't to implement a slew of brand-new adjustments, but to try to compose his swing in the image of his best season, 2012, when he hit 31 homers for the Padres, drove in 115 runs, won a Silver Slugger Award and finished fifth in the National League MVP voting.

"Some of it is stuff that I've done in the past. Actually, a lot of it is stuff that I've done in the past," Headley said on Sunday. "When I'm comparing my swing now to 2012, when it was the best it's ever been, I'm doing a lot of things the same. ... So that's probably the big thing."

Headley never felt his swing was broken, after all. Like players often do, he thought his results looked worse than his hitting actually was, even though he did admit he had felt "terrible" from the left side of the plate.

"I think the tough part about it is that it coincided with the team not playing well," Headley said. "So then when you come in in a big spot and you're just like, 'Man, I've got to get this team going,' and you're not able to do it, that's tough."

Headley's surge has, in fact, coincided with a Yankees turnaround. His double on Sunday helped notch New York a series win over the White Sox; since May 7, the team is 6-3 and Headley has raised his batting average almost 50 points.

"I think it's only normal," Girardi said, "when you're swinging the bat the way he is now, that you're gonna feel better."