NEW YORK — The Yankees' two-run rally in the eighth inning on Tuesday night wouldn't have happened without Aaron Hicks.
The outfielder led off the inning for New York, coming off the bench to pinch-hit for Mike Tauchman. Flipping around to the right side of the plate against Braves left-hander Tyler Matzek, Hicks worked a four-pitch walk.
Three batters later, after the Yankees loaded the bases, Hicks scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
"It was huge," manager Aaron Boone said of Hicks' at-bat after the game. "I thought Aaron went up there and put on a great at-bat that ends up being the difference in the game so happy for him."
In the grand scheme of things, laying off four balls below the zone doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Tauchman could've potentially gotten on base the same way if he was left in to face the lefty. For Hicks—who was taken out of the starting lineup on Tuesday due to his season-long slump—it was a glimpse of the player this team hasn't seen too much this season.
"I thought he looked like Aaron up there," Boone said. "Looked like there was some swagger and some confidence and easy layoffs and things like that. So happy to see him get a good result in a close hard-fought winning game."
Before the game, a 3-1 victory to snap a five-game losing streak, the skipper explained why he left Hicks out of the starting lineup, hinting at the possibility of sitting the center fielder on Wednesday as well.
"Just a couple days to take a step back and get some of the proper work and adjustments that he wants to make. Just kind of taking it day-to-day right now," he said.
After Tuesday night's win, Hicks is hitting .160 (8-for-50) over 14 games played. The switch-hitter has struck out 14 times, working just five walks after leading the American League in walk rate (.194) a year ago.
Tuesday's timely base on balls was certainly a step in the right direction, but Hicks hasn't necessarily figured it all out just yet. The 31-year-old started 1-for-15 at the plate through the first four games of the year. After a three-hit game against the Blue Jays last week, he's gone 1-for-15 once again over his last five appearances.
Boone mentioned that Hicks was working with the coaching staff on some drills to get his swing back on track. While it's "nothing drastic," New York is striving to help build Hicks' confidence back, giving the outfielder an indication of exactly what he's capable of.
"It's not going down there and doing 100 drills and hitting for hours," Boone said. "That's not the answer. It's just really reminding him and getting him to really lock in and focus on what truly are his strengths. But then, just trying to help get him to that point of, go out there and play now. Go out there and be Aaron Hicks."
To the Yankees' skipper, Hicks is still a vital component to the success of this team. The lone switch-hitter in this lineup, typically penciled into the three-spot in the order, Hicks can make his teammates better if he's swinging a hot bat and working counts in the middle of New York's lineup.
That's why he typically hits third. He has the ability to extend innings with his elite plate discipline, getting on base to create run-scoring opportunities for the meat of the order behind him while occasionally clipping an extra-base hit.
That part of Hicks' game has been absent through the first few weeks of the season, but those ugly numbers won't change Boone's mind on how he views his starting center fielder.
"The bottom line is, if we're going to be the team we expect to be, Aaron Hicks is going to be right in the middle of that and play a huge role for us," Boone said. "Nothing's changed as far as what I believe Aaron's going to be for us this year, and how important he's going to be for us this year."
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