NEW YORK — Anthony Rizzo has made his presence felt in every single Yankees game he's been a part of since he was acquired from the Cubs last week.
Wednesday evening was no different.
The first baseman kicked off another contest as a key contributor in a Yankees uniform with a 13-pitch walk in the bottom of the first, wearing out Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey with nine foul balls.
Rizzo hooked a few line drives down the right-field line, fouls that had home run distance in the Bronx. With each passing pitch, the excitement in the ballpark intensified.
"You start to smile a little bit inside because it's one of those at-bats early on in the game, it's like somebody just hit a triple," manager Aaron Boone said. "Starts to get the crowd into it. And it's building, building, building and he's getting off a lot of good swings."
That plate appearance culminated with a tremendous take on a backdoor slider that nearly clipped the outside corner. Harvey was forced to use all five of his pitches, eventually losing the battle.
On the bench, Yankees starter Jameson Taillon looked on as the first baseman continued to barrel up foul balls and work the count, thinking to himself that Rizzo was due for something big in his next at-bat.
"I thought he was on every pitch, he was seeing the ball well, he probably had seen everything he had," Taillon said. "Then, sure enough, he hits a homer."
In Rizzo's next opportunity to face Harvey, the slugger clobbered a fastball down the heart of the plate into the Yankees' bullpen. It was his first home run at Yankee Stadium in pinstripes, breaking up a no-hitter and putting his club on the board, a result—in part—of that 13-pitch clash three innings earlier.
"Whenever you grind a pitcher like that I feel like it always goes to the advantage of the hitter," Rizzo said. "To work a walk and then seeing him the next time and he left one over the middle there and I put a good swing on it."
The Yankees went on to shellack the Orioles, winning 10-3 and scoring double-digit runs for the second night in a row. With an RBI on that home run—his third with the Yankees so far—Rizzo became the first player in franchise history to drive in a run in each of his first six games with the team.
The 31-year-old was humbled by the historic feat, understanding the caliber of players that have donned pinstripes before him and haven't been able to produce at this clip during their first week with the team.
"It's definitely special. It's definitely something that you put on a Yankee uniform, a lot of kids out there dream of playing for the New York Yankees growing up, and there's a lot of kids out there right now that are dreaming," he said. "To be able to come in at the trade deadline and just have success right away is something I'll never take for granted."
Rizzo's impact on this club extends beyond his .400/.519/.850 slash line, though. Every player and member of the coaching staff that's been asked about his contributions these last several days has had nothing but positive things to say, a testament to Rizzo's ability to adjust to a new clubhouse after 10 years in another organization.
"From Jump Street, he's fit right in," Boone said. "He's easy to be around, he loves playing the game, he loves talking the game, there's a laid back way and energy about him and he's also this awesome competitor, too. So he's been a perfect guy to place in the room."
Taillon pointed out that Rizzo has even been a leader ever since he came over at the deadline, energizing the clubhouse with his experience and his love for the game.
"He's super outgoing, just from the baseball side," Taillon explained. "He came in and we were playing a National League series against the Marlins and he was like, 'here's how I want to run the bunt play, here's what I'm looking for on a back pick.'
"It seems like he's been here for a while. I was just talking to him in the locker room. It feels like I've known him for a long time. So he's a great fit."
His production on the field has even translated to helping others in the Yankees' lineup. Not only does he provide a balance to the middle of the order, swinging from the left side, but with his propensity for quality at-bats, he can report back to his teammates after facing a pitcher—like he did for Gleyber Torres on Wednesday after his 13-pitch walk—and help them perform.
"He's the perfect guy to help everybody in the lineup," Torres said.
Rizzo chalked up his ability to gel with his new teammates to how welcoming everyone has been, allowing him to be himself during this challenging and emotional transition.
For a club that's been unable to find consistency across practically every facet of the game in 2021, Rizzo is bringing productive at-bats, reliable defense, a spark and so much more each time he takes the field.
It'll be tough for the first baseman to sustain this historic run that he's been on since joining the Yankees, but if he can continue to bring chemistry in the dugout and clubhouse, there's no saying just how much of an impact this one player can have on New York's bid for a postseason spot.
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