TORONTO -- The stacked top of the Yankees' lineup is a nightmare for opposing pitching coaches, forcing them to focus the majority of their game plan on preventing the big bats from doing damage. That is just fine for someone like Miguel Andujar, who has been permitted to thrive below the fold, making for a truly dangerous one through nine.
Andujar played the hero on Tuesday evening, crushing his first career grand slam in the seventh inning to help lift the Yankees to a 7-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Aaron Hicks added a three-run homer in the eighth as the Bombers posted their sixth win in seven games, improving to a Major League-best 30-9 since April 21.
"I'm ready for every situation. This is the game. I try to do my job and help the team," Andujar said. "We have good players here. I feel good to be part of this team."
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
Seunghwan Oh served up Andujar's grand slam and Aaron Loup surrendered Hicks' three-run shot, adding late fireworks after Carsten Sabathia and Marco Estrada kept the game scoreless into the sixth inning.
"With our lineup, we're always close to getting something done or close to doing damage, because we can hurt you in so many different places in the lineup," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Teoscar Hernandez broke up the shutout with a sixth-inning homer off Sabathia, who also served up a seventh-inning shot to Kevin Pillar but held on to pick up his 250th career win (240 in the regular season, 10 in the postseason). It was Sabathia's first win since April 29 vs. the Angels, and his seven innings pitched tied a season high.
"This is a great offense, and you know they're going to come through at some point," Sabathia said. "You're just trying to get back in the dugout."
Sabathia permitted the two runs on three hits in an 89-pitch effort, walking one and striking out six. He was matched frame for frame by Estrada, who was chased by Gary Sanchez's single to center field leading off the seventh, having struck out six while scattering six hits without a walk.
Oh entered in relief and hit Didi Gregorius on the left foot with a pitch, then walked Hicks to bring up Andujar, whose 29 extra-base hits lead all Major League rookies. Andujar teed off on Oh's first pitch, an 83-mph cutter down the middle, crushing a projected 426-foot blast, according to Statcast™, into the second deck in left field for his seventh career homer.
"It seems like he can do everything; offspeed, fastballs, guys that throw hard," Hicks said of Andujar. "He's able to have great at-bats against everybody. He's able to be patient in big situations. Bases loaded right there, young hitter, first pitch -- he's ready to go. That's hard to come by."
In the eighth, Loup entered with a runner on after Joe Biagini started the inning, then walked Gregorius with two outs before Hicks deposited his sixth homer into the visiting bullpen in right field. Hicks' homer came on a 2-2, 94.6 mph fastball that caught a healthy amount of home plate.
"It took a while tonight," Boone said. "Estrada was obviously really good against us and made a lot of big pitches when he had to, but the guys kept plugging away and took advantage of a lot of traffic out there."
Andujar is just the third Yankees rookie third baseman to hit a grand slam, joining Horace Clarke (Sept. 21, 1965, vs. the Indians) and Mike Pagliarulo (Sept. 18, 1984, vs. the Orioles). Seven of Andujar's last nine hits have gone for extra bases.
HE SAID IT
"He's matured a lot. He's being more selective. He's not chasing as many pitches. I think that's one thing you want to see offensively, and defensively, everyone is talking about he's not that good, blah, blah, blah. But he's been putting in a lot of work early, and that's what you want to see from everybody. … I think he's proven to everybody that he can play." -- Gregorius, on Andujar
Sonny Gray (4-4, 5.50 ERA) will be on the mound Wednesday as the Yankees complete their brief visit to Toronto with a 7:07 p.m. ET contest against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Gray has alternated good and bad starts over his past five outings, spinning six innings of one-run, four-hit ball at the Orioles last time out. Sam Gaviglio (2-1, 3.32 ERA) will get the ball for Toronto.