NEW YORK — The Yankees were one strike away from losing eight of their last nine games.
In the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets at Yankee Stadium, New York's offense had looked lethargic, the bullpen had been sloppy and the Bombers' dugout seemed lifeless all game long.
When Mets' closer Edwin Diaz kicked and delivered a full-count offering to Aaron Hicks with two outs in the seventh inning, however, that all changed with one swing.
The Yankees' outfielder unleashed a missile to straightaway right field, sneaking the liner over the wall for a game-tying two-run home run. Not only did his 106.1-mph blast send the game to extra innings, but it capped off a five-run comeback all with two outs.
"They just continued to battle and put up good at-bats there at the end and Hicks, who can really hit a fastball and control the zone, has been grinding lately, been battling and finally got to a really good heater and put a great swing on it," Yankees' manager Aaron Boone said.
One inning later, after right-hander Chad Green struck out the side to keep the game tied at seven apiece, third baseman Gio Urshela sent virtual fans home happy with a walk-off single to right field.
Outfielder Mike Tauchman's acrobatic slide at home plate, extending his body just out of the reach of Mets' catcher Wilson Ramos, was the difference in the play at the plate, clinching the 8-7 victory. It's the Yankees' second-consecutive game with a walk-off win.
A five-run comeback when down to a club's final out doesn't happen very often. In fact, Sunday's seventh inning outburst was the first time since July 17, 2000 against Philadelphia that New York has scored five runs to at least tie the game in the final inning.
Hicks wouldn't have even had a chance to tie the game if it wasn't for a throwing error from Mets' third baseman Andres Gimenez, a walk, a check-swing double from Luke Voit and a hit by pitch.
"It was awesome from my perspective, being able to hit that home run right there," Hicks said, flashing back to a matchup where Diaz struck him out in a big spot during a previous game. "It just feels good, especially when someone just struck you out a couple days before that."
Yankees' starting pitcher Mike King, who was watching the game from the clubhouse long after his outing came to a close, admitted that he didn't think New York would be able to come back down to their final out in the seventh.
"Unbelievable," he said, beaming. "I thought it was Game 2, we’ve got to come back and bounce back and when it all started to unfold, I was like ‘here we go, here we go.’ Then Hicks pimps one that was a foot over the wall. It was fun to watch."
As Hicks dropped his bat, admiring his work as the dugout erupted in cheers, it was reminiscent of the outfielder's go-ahead home run off Houston's Justin Verlander in last fall's American League Championship Series. Hicks' iconic postseason homer clanked off the right-field foul pole. This homer appeared to barely clear Yankee Stadium's short porch.
With the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres all on the 10-day injured list—and DJ LeMahieu playing in just his second game back from a stint on the IL as well—New York has struggled scoring runs. After averaging just under eight per game during the Bombers' dominant six-game winning streak earlier in the month, the club's offense had produced just 2.63 runs per game over its next eight contests entering play on Sunday.
Not to mention the fact that the Yankees are in the midst of playing the final 33 games of the season in a span of 31 days after a slew of coronavirus-induced postponements.
"This is a time of the season where it’s hard right now," Boone said. "We’re going through some struggles, we’ve got some guys down and that’s to be expected in the season. You’re going to face some challenges along the way and you’ve got to just continue to grind through it and fight through it."
Asked what Hicks and Urshela's late-inning heroics can do for momentum and confidence of taking advantage of scoring opportunities in the clutch moving forward, Boone assured that those strulgges are part of the game and he's certain the bats will start rolling from here on out.
"Until the end of time, we're going to talk about a team and their season and how they’re struggling with runners in scoring position at different times in the year. Book it," he explained. "We’re equipped to handle that. That’s why these guys are in that room, it’s part of it. Especially as a hitter, failure is part of it. You’ve got to be able to handle it and turn the page. We do a really good job of that in there. We’ll grind our way through this, really start rolling and it’ll be a lot of fun."
To keep up with all of Inside The Pinstripes’ coverage, click the "follow" button at the top right-hand corner of this page.