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Gio gives Yanks tighter grip on 1st in Game 1

@BryanHoch
July 18, 2019

NEW YORK -- It is possible, as Aaron Judge suggested earlier this week, that the Yankees would not be in first place if not for Gio Urshela’s presence. The hot-hitting infielder did his part to help tighten that grip on Thursday. One of the Yankees’ biggest surprises of the season,

NEW YORK -- It is possible, as Aaron Judge suggested earlier this week, that the Yankees would not be in first place if not for Gio Urshela’s presence. The hot-hitting infielder did his part to help tighten that grip on Thursday.

One of the Yankees’ biggest surprises of the season, Urshela slugged his ninth homer as part of a three-RBI performance, helping to lead New York to a 6-2 victory over the Rays in the first game of a single-admission doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

"He continues to be huge for us," said manager Aaron Boone, who was ejected in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes. "Those are big hits, obviously. [Urshela played] more good defense. He continues to be an impact player for us."

New York’s lead in the American League East now stands at seven games.

Box score

The long day at the ballpark began on an inauspicious note for the Yanks, as Domingo Germán surrendered back-to-back homers to Austin Meadows and Yandy Diaz to open the game. The right-hander settled in to complete six innings, permitting only two other hits, and he joined the Rangers’ Lance Lynn as the only 12-game winners in the Majors this year.

“I wanted to focus and try to get out of that inning as soon as possible,” German said through an interpreter. “I wanted to keep pitching deep in the game. I wanted to kind of forget about that and execute pitches.”

Urshela tied the score with a two-run homer off Yonny Chirinos in the second inning. Two batters later, Boone was ejected by home-plate umpire Brennan Miller, fireworks that were set off when Brett Gardner was rung up on a called third strike and the bench continued to bark through the first pitch of DJ LeMahieu’s at-bat.

“I loved it,” German said. “He went out there, and he had a good reason to go out there and fight for us. Personally, I fed off that energy. It gave me a boost to concentrate and go out there and do my job, and try to get this victory for him because he went out there and fought for us. I felt that it was my responsibility to go back out there and return the favor.”

Gary Sánchez and Luke Voit collected run-scoring hits in the fifth inning, then Urshela recorded his third RBI of the game with a double off Chirinos, who allowed five runs (four earned) over five innings.

Aaron Hicks extended the Yanks’ lead in the sixth inning with his ninth homer of the year, a solo shot to the second deck in right field.

Boone does not believe his outburst is responsible for the victory.

“I feel like we always play fired up and inspired,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think anything like that. We came out focused today.”

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