The Yankees beat the Rays 11-4 on Wednesday afternoon in the 2018 home opener. The 11 runs would be impressive under any circumstances, but on this afternoon Giancarlo Stanton struck out five times and Gary Sanchez was hitless in five at-bats.
Between them in the order was cleanup hitter Didi Gregorius who hit a pair of three-run homers, drove in eight runs and scored three times. It was the most RBI for a Yankee in a game since Alex Rodriguez drove in 10 runs on April 26, 2005 against the Angels. He’s also the first shortstop with eight RBI in a game since Nomar Garciaparra did it in 2002.
Despite missing the first month of the season last year, Gregorius set a franchise record for shortstops with 25 home runs. What is he capable of over 162 games?
“I would hate to start speculating on that but I think we’ve seen a really good player continue to get better and better each year,” Aaron Boone said.
Gregorius had an underwhelming 2015 as the first shortstop in the post-Jeter era, hitting .265 with nine home runs and 56 RBI. He’s improved his power stroke, hitting 20 homers in 2016 and 25 last year.
In 2017, he was overshadowed, as most of his teammates were, by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. At least until the playoffs, when he hit a game-tying three-run home runs against the Twins in the Wild Card game, and hit two home runs off Corey Kluber in the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS. Sometimes, it’s tough to get attention when you’re a shortstop in a league with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons. That can make All-Star votes tough to come by, but his manager believes he has a solid reputation around the league.
“I think everyone around the game understands what a good player he is, and what a big time money player he’s become,” Boone said. “I think everyone, certainly his peers, have a lot of respect for him around the league. And the guys in our room really respect just who he is.”
It’s tough to know who might have appreciated the outburst more: Stanton or Jonathan Holder, who was charged with three runs in one third of an inning. Stanton, in his first home game at Yankee Stadium, was booed after reaching platinum sombrero territory. It looks like his two home runs on Opening Day in Toronto didn’t even buy him a full week of the fans endearment, but Gregorius was not immune to being heckled during his first year in the Bronx.
“Fans are always going to boo you,” Gregorious said. “And the reason they boo you is because they want you to do good. It’s not because they hate you. They want you to do good.”
Through five games, Gregorius is hitting .444 with nine of the team’s 27 RBI. He leads the team in runs scored, hits, total bases, RBI, doubles and triples. That should keep the fans off his back for a few days.