A game at Yankee Stadium between two teams that combined for more than 600 home runs could be expected to be a back and forth affair but Saturday’s game was over in the third inning.
It was over when Didi Gregorius crushed a grand slam off Tyler Duffey to give the Yankees a 7-0 lead in what would eventually be an 8-2 win to put the Twins on the brink of elimination.
How sweet it was for the shortstop who was limited to 82 games this season and hit .184 in the last 30 games.
“Everybody goes through ups and downs, but the confidence level always got to stay up,” he said after the game. “So for me, just focus on my job and try to get better.”
He took his time watching the grand slam though he said he knew it was fair right away.
Gregorius was turning into the forgotten man for the Yankees as Gleyber Torres led all middle infielders in baseball with 38 home runs and DJ LeMahieu built a case for MVP.
“I’ve been doing the same work I’ve been doing since I got here,” Gregorius said. “I didn’t try to change anything, just try to swing at strikes. That’s the one thing for me right now and be patient.”
Aaron Boone said he wasn’t surprised at all but Gregorius coming through.
“I expect this from Didi,” he said. “Just when you think you’ve got him down, he’s got a big swing on him. He got on what looked like a pitch up, maybe up and out of the strike zone, and obviously a no-doubter and a real dagger at that point. Really excited for him because I know how hard he’s worked behind the scenes to kind of get it going, and obviously, he’s very important for us.”
Of course he’s connected against Minnesota before. It was his first inning home run against the Twins in the 2017 Wild Card Game that started the Yankees on a Lazarus-like ride to Game 7 of the ALCS.
His contact is up at the end of this season. Perhaps his performance this month will determine whether he’s back in pinstripes, in which he’s done better than almost anyone could’ve expected in replacing Derek Jeter, or somewhere else.
For the shortstop the home run was second to the crucial win.
“It’s a great feeling to come back for the team, but the best thing is just getting the ‘W,’” he said. “That’s what we always focus on and like I said in the beginning. That’s all we want to get, get a ‘W.’”
His grand slam helped make that happen.