NEW YORK — It didn’t happen with a boom, a blast or the manager talking tough. It wasn’t an inspirational speech from a retiring teammate or their GM giving them a vote of confidence.
It wasn’t even a little poke that stopped the stench coming from Yankee Stadium. It was a walk. The Yankees’ finally broke through the funk with a base on balls from a struggling outfielder. Aaron Hicks, who had been benched from the starting lineup earlier in the afternoon, drew a pinch-hit walk and scored the winning run as the Yankees snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Braves in front of 10,107 at the Stadium.
The Yankees (6-10) will take the win and the runs any way they can get them these days. The win was their first in over a week, since beating the Blue Jays in Dunedin on April 12. It came after they dropped three straight series to American League East opponents. The Braves are the first team the Yankees have seen outside the division. The Yankees will look to win just their second series of the season on Wednesday night in their last game of the homestand.
It was not a dramatic turnaround.
Hicks made a surprise appearance as a pinch hitter in the eighth. The struggling center fielder drew the leadoff walk that started the Yankees rally. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge followed with singles and manager Aaron Boone sent up Clint Frazier as a pinch hitter for Brett Gardner.
Hicks scored the go-ahead run standing up on a wild pitch as Travis d’Arnaud could not block a slider to Frazier by reliever Nate Jones, who then walked Mike Ford with the bases loaded for the Bombers’ insurance run.
A day after GM Brian Cashman made a point to get in front of reporters and say he has confidence in Aaron Boone, his staff and the players, the manager sat Hicks — as well as Frazier and Rougned Odor — for the series opener against the Braves.
Hicks is not only hitting 160/.236/.240 with a home run and 14 strikeouts on the season but was 1-for his previous 15 and made two costly defensive mistakes on Sunday. Frazier does not have a home run nor an RBI in 66 straight plate appearances and is hitting .162 in the 12 games he has played. Boone also sat Odor to put Mike Ford at first and move LeMahieu back to his natural second base spot.
Sunday, as the Yankees were swept by the Rays, Hicks’ struggles at the plate seemed to reach a peak. He flew out to shallow center and popped out to shortstop twice.
Boone downplayed all the moves as a chance to get veteran left-handed outfielder Gardner in a game against veteran right-hander Charlie Morton and Mike Tauchman and Ford, who was called up to take the roster spot of Bruce into the game.
“Just wanted to get him back in there against Morton, get a few lefties in there obviously against Morton,” Boone said of Gardner, who went 0 for 3. “Then kind of decide on how you want to space them out against Charlie, and then they have a number of left handers in their bullpen thapitch in a lot of different roles. So just trying to space out the three lefties tonight.”
The Yankees were looking for anything to snap the streak. Cashman tried to take some of the heat off the clubhouse by coming out and saying he acknowledged the poor play, but that he had faith they would turn it around.
The team he built to win on power and power pitching has started the season 6-10 because they really haven’t got a lot of either.
The starters behind Gerrit Cole have been disappointing, but Tuesday night, Jameson Taillon gave the Yankees five strong innings. He held the Braves to one run on four hits. He walked one and struck out five. Most impressive was how he rebounded after giving up back-to-back, hard-hit doubles to Guillermo Heredia, who scored on Ehire Adrianza to strike out Freddie Freeman and Marcel Ozuna.
Still the five innings left four more for an already stretched bullpen to cover and the lack of offense was not helping taking the pressure off those innings.
They went into Tuesday night’s game tied with the Tigers for the fewest runs scored this season. They have the worst .642 OPS in the majors. Their slugging percentage (.346) is the second to last in the big leagues. .
Gio Urshela hit his second homer of the season, a 437-foot shot that was 109 mph off the bat to dead-center field in the fifth to take Taillon off the hook.