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Austin gifts himself a birthday home run

Rookie, 25, hits go-ahead shot off Blue Jays' Sanchez
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- On his birthday, facing one of the American League's best pitchers, Tyler Austin finally got career home run No. 2 -- and even with the late-inning fireworks that buried it on the scoreboard, it was a pretty big one for the Yankees.

The rookie first baseman, who turned 25 on Tuesday, drove a go-ahead two-run shot off the Blue Jays' Aaron Sanchez, in the seventh inning of what turned into a wild, 7-6, series-clinching win over the AL East leaders at Yankee Stadium.

Full Game Coverage

NEW YORK -- On his birthday, facing one of the American League's best pitchers, Tyler Austin finally got career home run No. 2 -- and even with the late-inning fireworks that buried it on the scoreboard, it was a pretty big one for the Yankees.

The rookie first baseman, who turned 25 on Tuesday, drove a go-ahead two-run shot off the Blue Jays' Aaron Sanchez, in the seventh inning of what turned into a wild, 7-6, series-clinching win over the AL East leaders at Yankee Stadium.

Full Game Coverage

"It's a huge win for us," Austin said. "Exciting game, too. So it's been a great day."

Austin's long ball was his first since his Major League debut on Aug. 13, when he went back-to-back with Aaron Judge in the first at-bats of their careers, a glimpse of the Yankees' potential future. After that home run, though, Austin went his next 12 games without an extra-base hit, batting .135, until he broke out with a two-double, two-RBI game on Monday.

He followed up on Tuesday, driving a 95-mph sinker 425 feet, as projected by Statcast™, into the right-field bleachers with Judge aboard, ending the home run drought at 44 at-bats.

Austin's opposite-field approach was a critical one against Sanchez, whose sinker is extremely difficult for right-handed hitters to drive to the pull field, and Austin said it's what he aims for every at-bat.

Maybe fittingly, the last Yankee to homer on his birthday was Alex Rodriguez, who did it on July 27 of last season, the day he turned 40. Incidentally, A-Rod represents part of the Yankees' old guard that is giving way to the youth movement, of which Austin is a part.

"New blood can stir things up," said Chase Headley, whose two-run homer an inning after Austin's provided the margin of victory, as the Yankees moved to seven games over .500 and within 3 1/2 games of a Wild Card spot.

For New York, especially with longtime first baseman Mark Teixeira set to retire after the season, it would be significant if Austin could build on these two games and keep producing through September.

"Mechanically, he got a little bit out of whack; he's seemed to find it back," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's had some big at-bats."

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Yankees, Tyler Austin