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Didi stays hot as Yanks prevail in power struggle

Gregorius drives in 10 of club's 30 runs in series win over Twins
@BryanHoch
July 25, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The golden championship belt that is awarded to each game's most prominent contributor finally landed in Didi Gregorius' grasp on Wednesday evening, one night after the shortstop ceded honors to Aaron Hicks despite going 5-for-5 in a seven-RBI performance. Gregorius was happy to do so, an appreciative nod

MINNEAPOLIS -- The golden championship belt that is awarded to each game's most prominent contributor finally landed in Didi Gregorius' grasp on Wednesday evening, one night after the shortstop ceded honors to Aaron Hicks despite going 5-for-5 in a seven-RBI performance.

Gregorius was happy to do so, an appreciative nod to Hicks' game-saving catch. Now it was his turn to shine; Gregorius stayed hot as the Yankees notched their seventh victory in nine games, outlasting the Twins, 10-7, in another wild slugfest at Target Field.

Box score

"It was good for me," Gregorius said. "I needed that to go one step in the right direction. I was hitting the ball all over the place, so that's one thing I can look at from this series."

Gregorius' two-run triple highlighted a three-run fourth inning as he collected three hits, drove in three runs and finished a homer shy of the cycle. Gregorius drove in 10 of the Yankees' 30 runs in the series despite only pinch-running in the first game.

"He's using the entire field," manager Aaron Boone said. "You look at all his hits the last couple of days, it's with authority from line to line. I think he's getting really good balance and he's getting off his 'A' swing a lot. And when he does, he can get as hot as anyone."

In a possible preview of what could await these contenders in October, reliable pitching was difficult to come by on both sides. The clubs combined for 57 runs, 80 hits across the three-game series, with the Yankees peppering Jake Odorizzi for 10 of their 15 hits in the finale.

"Every single game was a battle, from pitch No. 1 to the end," said Hicks, who hit a third-inning homer, one night after making a sensational game-saving grab to seal an extra-inning win. "It was definitely a battle."

High, far, gone
The deep drives were flying early and often once again, making spacious Target Field play like a bandbox. Eddie Rosario, Marwin Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz cracked homers for the Twins, with Hicks, Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnacion answering for the Yankees.

Minnesota and the Yanks combined to slug 20 homers in the three-game series, and when asked to describe his visit to the Twin Cities, Boone offered: "Hitterish."

"I think the offense speaks for itself," Boone said. "Both sides are swinging it really well up and down. We're just trying to limit damage as much as we can."

Starters out early
Another Yankees starter departed with an ugly pitching line, as J.A. Happ was charged with six runs over 3 1/3 innings. Combined with subpar outings from James Paxton, CC Sabathia and Domingo German, Yanks starters have permitted at least six runs in four straight starts for the first time since 1950.

"Tonight [the Twins] seemed to be real patient," Happ said. "They're tough up and down, for sure."

Odorizzi was thumped for nine runs and 10 hits across 10 innings. Mike Tauchman's two-run triple highlighted a four-run second inning, then Hicks and Torres launched solo homers in the third. Gregorius' two-run triple in the fourth effectively sealed Odorizzi's night.

"I think it was just two real good offenses that are hot," Happ said. "Luckily, we came out on top."

What a relief
Unlike Tuesday's epic, when there were five blown saves between the clubs, the bullpens were able to restore order. Summoned earlier in the day from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Nestor Cortes Jr. spun 3 1/3 sharp innings, hurt only by Cruz's solo homer in the fifth.

"They all can hit, obviously," Cortes said. "They're in first place in their division. I was commanding the fastball pretty good and keeping them off balance with the off-speed."

Tommy Kahnle used his changeup heavily to record four outs, moving the ball to Aroldis Chapman, who rebounded from an erratic outing to log his 26th save in 31 chances.

"That was big," Boone said. "To slow them down in the middle helped win us the game."

Milestone muscle
The final blow came on Encarnacion's ninth-inning homer off Devin Smeltzer, giving Encarnacion 30 home runs in eight consecutive seasons.

"I did the hard work every offseason and tried to be consistent every year," Encarnacion said. "It's not easy to do it, but thank God I've been doing it for the past eight years. I've been blessed."

Encarnacion limped around the bases, having fouled a ball off his left foot during the at-bat. He was greeted at the dugout steps by Torres, who handed him a plush parrot to commemorate the occasion. Encarnacion said that he believed Gio Urshela was responsible for the idea.

"I've been waiting for that," Encarnacion said. "It looked nice."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.