NEW YORK -- Greg Bird has been heating up at the plate over the last few weeks after hitting .184 with just six RBIs for the entire month of June, and he was due for a big hit. It came in the eighth inning of the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader.After
NEW YORK -- Greg Bird has been heating up at the plate over the last few weeks after hitting .184 with just six RBIs for the entire month of June, and he was due for a big hit. It came in the eighth inning of the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader.
After New York dropped Game 1 to Kansas City, 10-5, Bird delivered a game-tying blast to lead off the bottom of the eighth, and Aaron Hicks sent the go-ahead runner across the plate with a sacrifice fly, lifting the Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Royals.
"We've seen the at-bats really improve from him over the last three, four weeks. More at-bats today, I thought, and a big one there," manager Aaron Boone said. "You know, facing the lefty to go down and get that ball, I mean, he nailed it. ... There's no question in my mind over the last couple of weeks, he's really starting to feel physically strong, and I think you can tell he feels like he's in a good place."
The Bombers were trailing in the eighth, 4-3, when Bird launched his first career game-tying home run a Statcast-projected 395 feet to right-center. Neil Walker and Austin Romine each followed with base hits before Gleyber Torres drew a walk to set up Hicks for the go-ahead sacrifice fly.
"You never want to drop two in a doubleheader," Bird said. "We had a chance in the first one, and [the second one was] close the whole way; we obviously got off to an early start. Being able to get it there is huge, for sure."
The Yankees were forced to turn to their bullpen early again on Saturday night, as Carsten Sabathia was pulled after tossing just 4 2/3 innings, permitting two runs on six hits. The first run came on Salvador Perez's solo shot in the third before Sabathia walked in a run in the fifth, prompting his early departure. In the sixth, Jonathan Holder gave up an RBI single to Rosell Herrera, tying the score at 3, before Zach Britton walked in Kansas City's go-ahead run in the seventh on four straight balls.
"[Britton has] been an elite guy in this league now for a long time, and it happens," Boone said. "I think what makes these guys special -- especially a lot of our guys at the back end -- is, you've got to have a short memory. If you're going to be great at this, especially in the bullpen, you've got to be able to turn the page real quick. ... What's made them who they are is their ability to continue to pitch, turn the page and trust and go out there with confidence the next time they get the ball. And I would expect that to be the case for Zach."
Miguel Andujar got the Yankees on the board in the first with an RBI single up the middle and Walker brought in a run on a sacrifice fly two batters later. Shane Robinson then launched his first home run in pinstripes -- and first since June 4, 2016 -- to give New York a 3-1 lead in the fourth.
Albertin Chapman closed out the game to record his 27th save of the season.
Sabathia's start was his 274th as a Yankee, tying him with Bob Shawkey for eighth place on the club's all-time list.
HE SAID IT
"[My knee is] OK. I was just trying to make a play. My brace got caught in the turf and just kind of, like, flipped. I didn't really know where I was at or what was happening, but yeah, it's good for the highlight reel. [I don't worry about my knee] because I hopped up and felt good right away. It was just funny after that." -- Sabathia, on his tumble in an attempt to field a grounder toward the first-base line in the fifth inning
After arriving in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon, left-hander J.A. Happ will make his Yankees debut in the series finale against the Royals on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Happ (10-6, 4.18 ERA) has struggled in July, losing his first three starts of the month before settling for a no-decision last time out. In that last start, he allowed one run on four hits with nine strikeouts through five innings against the Orioles. Right-hander Burch Smith (1-1, 5.58 ERA) will get the ball for the Royals.
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.