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Sparked By Pennant Chase, Anthony Rizzo Is Showing Yankees Why 'He's a Keeper'

MIAMI — After the Yankees acquired Anthony Rizzo this week, Aaron Boone called up the first baseman's former manager, David Ross, taking a few minutes to learn about his newest slugger.

Boone recalled Chicago's skipper referencing Rizzo's recent stretch of at-bats leading up to the blockbuster trade, revealing the three-time All-Star was "really starting to lock in" at the plate.

Even with that bit of foreshadowing, nobody could've anticipated the type of performance Rizzo has put together in his first two ballgames in a Yankees uniform. 

Reaching base five times on Saturday night—mixing in another towering blast at Miami's loanDepot park—Rizzo is now hitting .800 with his new team, scoring five times while working three walks. 

"He's a keeper," Boone said after New York's 4-2 win. "What can you say? He's been terrific."

Rizzo was in the midst of another solid campaign on the North Side before the trade, but this is another level of dominance at the dish. The first baseman has been retired just once over his first nine plate appearances with the Yankees. That's good for an .889 on-base percentage to go along with his jaw-dropping 2.889 OPS. 

In fact, Rizzo's lasting first impression for Yankees fans has also been historic. The first baseman is the first player in Yankees history to reach base eight-plus times in his first two games with the franchise, according to Stathead's Katie Sharp

He's also just the seventh player in team history to go yard in each of his first two games with the team, the first since Ji-Man Choi in 2017, per ESPN Stats & Info. 

Those numbers will (probably) return from the stratosphere soon, but Rizzo is proving early on that he's seamlessly transitioning to his new gig. It's been almost as smooth as his silky stroke from the left side of the plate.

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The reason he's been able to find so much success right away, to Boone, is the prospect of playing for a championship.

"I think the heat of the chase has definitely invigorated him," Boone said. "He's shown throughout his career not only is he a great player, but he's been really good in big spots and when it matters most. I don't think there's any question that him playing for something probably elevates his game a little bit."

In his three stops in the Yankees' Zoom room over the last few days, Rizzo has addressed the emotions of leaving Chicago, the nerves he's felt in a new uniform and how special it's been to be playing for the Yankees for the first time in Miami, close to where he grew up. Another common thread as Boone alluded to, however, is contention and how excited the first baseman is to contribute to this club's chase for the ultimate prize. 

Remember, Rizzo was previously suiting up for a fourth-place team inching closer to what turned out to be a fire sale. The Yankees have faced their own set of adversity this year as well—and have ground to make up in the standings—but Rizzo now has a clear path back to the promised land, taking the field for a team that's going all-in on a deep postseason run.

"When you're in the chase, it's different," Rizzo said Saturday. "Every game intensifies as you move forward, so it's fun. It's definitely what you play baseball for and to be able to come here in New York and join this team who's had a lot of success in years past, it's amazing and it's a good feeling."

Rizzo hasn't even made his Yankee Stadium debut yet, let alone finished a three-game series with his new club. But the underlying excitement of playing games that matter has galvanized this veteran as he trades one historic jersey in for another.

"It's a long way to go," Rizzo said. "One game at a time, but coming in and winning two games definitely helps."

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