Don’t call it a revenge game, because that would imply Aaron Hicks is resentful toward the Twins instead of relieved they gave up on him. Whatever it was, Hicks’s two-out magic at the plate and with the glove saved New York’s bacon in an absolutely bananas 14-12 Yankees win that saw 35 combined hits and five different ties and lead changes after the seventh inning.
“It was probably one of the most fun games I’ve ever played,” Hicks said. “So many lead changes, just a lot happening. And it was fun.” Easier to say when you win, of course.
A former first-round pick, Hicks stagnated with the Twins to the point where, in the 2015 offseason, they shipped him to New York in exchange for a backup catcher. He’s blossomed since, and this spring signed a seven-year deal to make him the Yankees’ center fielder of the present and the future.
All of which was merely deep, deep backstory for this Twins-Yankees series, which has a good chance of being a postseason preview and through two games has just been weird, exciting baseball. Monday’s 8-6 Minnesota win featured five Twins home runs, plus a triple play. Tuesday’s game, before Hicks even got involved, saw the Twins grab and then blow an 8-2 lead, and Didi Gregorius go 5-for-5 with seven RBI.
A lot happened. A lot! For the purposes of this Hickscentric blog we can skip to the ninth inning, after the Yankees had wrested away their first lead since the first inning, then promptly given it back, and were down to their final out. Twins closer Taylor Rogers walked the No. 9 hitter Mike Tauchman, and then Hicks pulled the first pitch he saw into the bullpen.
Hicks had a smile on his face, but insisted there wasn’t that much extra juice from doing it against his old team. “It was a fun experience to be able to do it here,” he allowed, “but I’m just glad my team was able to come out of it with the win.”
But the win wasn’t won yet. Aroldis Chapman blew a save in the bottom half, and the Yankees regained a lead in the 10th before walking the bases loaded full of Twins. And so, with two outs and the tying and winning runs on base and Max Kepler at the dish, it was Hicks, again:
Hicks said afterward he noticed catcher Austin Romine setting up on the outer half of the plate, so he shaded Kepler a couple of steps toward left field. Every step mattered, as Hicks had to run a season-high (according to StatCast) 27.4 feet per second to put himself into position for the diving, game-saving grab. “You do everything right, and it gets caught,” a frustrated Kepler said.
Aaron Judge said the game had the feel of October, while simultaneously being just a prelude.
“That’s a postseason game right there,” Judge said. “That’s fun, every minute of it. Even them taking a lead. Who wants it more? Guy after guy continues to get big hits. That’s what this team is about. That’s what championship teams are made of. The Twins are a great team … we’ll see them down the road. That’s for sure.”
The Yankees have the league’s best record, while the Twins lead their division by three games. A lot can change between now and then, but the most likely scenario is a divisional series matchup between the two. If those games are anything like these last couple, it’ll be a good one.