Bird's slam, Happ's focus lead Yanks to sweep

August 19th, 2018

NEW YORK -- Over the past few days, Yankees manager Aaron Boone has spoken repeatedly about the little things he sees in Greg Bird, of the signs that suggested his first baseman seemed poised to break out. Increased bat speed has allowed Bird to swing with more "authority through the zone," Boone said, perceptible compared to the cuts that have defined his summer-long slump. Boone closed his comments on Bird early Sunday morning by predicting a turnaround, noting that "when he's right, it's a big deal for us."

Maybe Boone was on to something.

Judge still not hitting; Romine cleared to play

A day after Bird connected for his first home run in three weeks, he continued to display results in the Yankees' 10-2 win over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. In socking his second career grand slam, Bird capped a six-run first inning off losing pitcher , a rally the Yankees rode to an emphatic three-game sweep.

"That's two days in a row where we saw the life through the zone," Boone said. "It's like night and day, right?"

Though the Yankees tacked on four more runs against reliever in the sixth, Bird's 386-foot shot in the first provided the bedrock for their second double-digit output in as many days. The effort came in sharp contrast to the last time they faced Borucki, who held New York to one run over seven strong innings on July 8 in Toronto. The rookie's first career outing in the Bronx went differently.

Each of the Yankees' first six hitters scored off Borucki after he issued back-to-back free passes to and to open the first. Hicks and Stanton pulled off a successful double steal before singled Hicks home and Didi Gregorius scored Stanton with an infield single. legged out an infield single before Bird tagged an inside fastball to the second deck in right, just his third off a left-hander this season. He entered play hitting .140 in August.

"It's a product of keeping your head up," Bird said. "I felt like I did a better job of using my legs today … I just keep playing. I keep going. The biggest thing is not getting caught up and chasing results, and just doing what you can when you get the opportunity."

The early outburst was more than enough offense for J.A. Happ, who held his former team to little more than two solo homers over 5 1/3 innings. He remains undefeated in pinstripes since being acquired from Toronto in late July, the lefty now 4-0 with a 2.22 ERA across four starts with New York.

"It was strange, I can admit that," Happ said. "I think I'd probably prefer not knowing the opposition the way I know those guys. But we got through it, had a big first inning and got a good win."

All told, the Yankees put up 28 runs on 31 hits in 23 offensive innings against the Jays over the course of a drizzly weekend in the Bronx, where they used that firepower to improve to 12-4 against Toronto this season. The Yankees are now 78-46, marking the first time they've been 32 games over .500 since the end of the 2011 season.

"A lot of people contributing, and really, I felt like our hunger was good coming in," Boone said. "Really pleased with how the guys came out today from a focus, energy standpoint, to finish this homestand that was kind of up-and-down on a really good note."


According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees' first-inning rally marked the first time since Sept. 14, 1997, against Texas, that they scored six first-inning runs without recording an out.

Bird's only other career grand slam came on July 11 of this season, against Orioles righty .


Sunday's win did not come without another injury concern for the Yankees, who are already playing without (wrist) and (groin), and with a compromised Stanton (hamstring). Now they could be without Gregorius for some time after he suffered a bruised left heel on a collision at first base.

The Yankees' shortstop initially remained in the game despite slamming into while legging out an infield single in the first, but he was removed two innings later and sent to a local hospital for further testing. Boone said the injury could require a DL stint.


"Those guys were behind me for a long time, and they probably have an idea of how I pitch, but [pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] said something good, he said, 'There are no secrets in this game anymore.' Everybody knows what you're trying to do, for the most part. It's about executing. So I tried to do that." -- Happ, on facing his former team


Andujar nearly had an RBI nullified when the Blue Jays challenged his run-scoring forceout in the sixth. First-base umpire Jansen Visconti ruled Andujar had beaten ' return throw to first, but Jays manager John Gibbons challenged, momentarily putting Andujar's 65th RBI of the year in jeopardy. That total leads all MLB rookies. After a one-minute, 45-second review, Andujar learned his new tally was safe. The original call made by Visconti, who would eject Gibbons for arguing another play later in the inning, was confirmed.


All eyes will be on Stanton when the Yankees travel to Miami to begin a two-game Interleague series Tuesday, following their off-day Monday. Stanton won the National League Most Valuable Player Award last year with the Marlins, who employed him for his first eight big league seasons and are now co-owned by former Yank Derek Jeter. Stanton plans to test his tight left hamstring in the field so he can play under NL rules -- the slugger has been exclusively batting at designated hitter since Aug. 8. Tuesday's opener is set for 7:10 pm ET from Marlins Park, where (9-4, 4.03 ERA) will oppose (2-3, 4.79 ERA).

"It's going to be weird for sure, walking up and going to the visitor's side," Stanton said. "But I'm looking forward to it. It's a big part of my life, my time down there."