NEW YORK -- Instinct spurred Gleyber Torres toward the middle of the diamond as he pursued a potential double-play ball in the eighth inning on Friday, executing a backhand snag. A split-second determination was made that the only possible play was to use the glove to flip the ball to
NEW YORK -- Instinct spurred Gleyber Torres toward the middle of the diamond as he pursued a potential double-play ball in the eighth inning on Friday, executing a backhand snag. A split-second determination was made that the only possible play was to use the glove to flip the ball to Didi Gregorius.
Torres executed flawlessly, and that dazzling twin killing came at a crucial moment, helping to preserve the Yankees' seventh straight victory. Torres and Gary Sánchez had earlier homered for their third consecutive game, powering a 4-1 win over the Astros at Yankee Stadium.
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"I'm so happy with the job I'm doing right now on defense, and hitting too," Torres said. "I just feel happy because I help my team and just try to continue that."
Sanchez connected for a 481-foot shot, the fifth-longest in the Majors this season as measured by Statcast.
On an evening when the Yankees welcomed Aaron Judge back for his first game in two months, they were reminded how the club was able to win 37 of 54 games in the slugger's absence. Torres' mature on-field demeanor frequently overshadows the fact that he is still only 22 years old, with an immensely bright future ahead.
"My goodness. When I was 22, I was playing in Low-A Charleston," said Judge, who went 0-for-4 in his return. "He's up here facing the best of the best and exceeding all expectations in what he's been doing. It’s been impressive. He's a star on this team, the future of this team. And, man, it's exciting to watch."
Before Torres' slick defense bailed reliever Zack Britton out of that late jam, Sanchez and Torres became the first pair of Yankees teammates to homer in three straight games -- no small feat, considering that this is the franchise of Ruth and Gehrig, Mantle and Maris.
"Man, he's amazing," said James Paxton, who limited Houston to a run and five hits over five-plus innings to pick up his fifth win. "He's been playing so well. Really fun to watch. Just a great guy, great player. Loves playing the game of baseball. I'm having a great time being his teammate."
Facing Houston's Brad Peacock in the third inning, Sanchez cleared the left-field bullpen with his 23rd homer, reclaiming a share of the American League home run lead with teammate Edwin Encarnacion. It marked the Yankees' 24th consecutive game with at least one long ball, one shy of a franchise record established in 1941.
Peacock was no pushover, fanning 11 over six innings, but Torres broke through once Houston turned to the bullpen. Announced as a finalist for what he hopes will be his second All-Star appearance, Torres extended the lead in the seventh with a two-run shot off Hector Rondon, his 18th homer.
"When he hits that ball, it always goes 10 feet further than you think it's going to go," manager Aaron Boone said. "And he can do it to all fields."
Torres laughs at the characterization that he is developing into a power hitter, saying that he will continue to stick with his contact approach. But he believes that his book on the American League's pitchers is gaining data every day, and that his offseason work is translating into big league thump.
After finishing third in last year's AL Rookie of the Year voting, Torres said he outlined specific goals for his sophomore campaign. Most prominent among them were to stay healthy all season and display consistency on the field, both objectives which he can proudly claim so far.
"I just feel really good," Torres said. "Every day I do my routine. I go with a really good plan to home plate, try to do damage and help my team."
The cheers were still loudest on Friday for Judge, with Aaron Hicks remarking that there is a different energy in the ballpark when the slugging right fielder is active. Yet Judge's postgame applause was reserved for Torres, whom he sees developing into one of the Yanks' cornerstones before our eyes.
"I hope so. For sure, I want to stay with the Yankees for a long time," Torres said. "We are a really good team right now. The goal is to go to the championship. That is the mentality for us. We are on the same page. The most important thing for us is to win every night, and we'll see what happens."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.