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Yankees come back in 9th inning for 7-6 win over Astros on clutch Aaron Hicks HR – The Denver Post

Aaron Hicks? Yes, Aaron Hicks.

The oft-ridiculed, sometimes downright insurmountable outfielder was the Yankees’ hero on Thursday night. His undoubtedly three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth tied the game. Five batters later, Aaron Judge’s understudy in the left-field corner gave the Yankees an unlikely 7-6 win.

Hicks was hitting just .288 heading into the game, eighth lowest among all players with at least 200 plate appearances. For his late game showdown with Astros closer Ryan Pressly, that didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was the meet bat with the ball, and Hicks did it with cathartic force.

Amid cries that he’s overrated, overpaid and in over his head, Hicks’ immediate skyward point after hitting the home run signaled one thing: I’m over it all.

Jose Trevino followed it up with a single down the middle on the seventh pitch of his at bat. It was the kind of batting presence the Yankees lacked in the previous eight innings, failing to figure Framber Valdez or either of Houston’s top two relievers. Valdez went to his lead time and time again in big spots. At the end of his day, 62 of Valdez’s 101 pitches were sinkers. The Yankees were left to the umpire quite often, as 17 of those sinkers landed for called strikes. A total of 32% of his sinkers led to a called strike or a puff. The average pitcher in 2022 receives a called strike or puff 27.5% of the time.

It only took about 20 minutes for Pressly and his replacement, right-hander Ryne Stanek, to mess it all up. Not that they need to, given that pretty much everything has gone well this season, but the Yankees’ ninth inning was a huge boost to their spirit. Their comeback showed the kind of determination that will make them one of the toughest teams to beat in September, October and for every poor soul that has to face them right now.

It’s not just that the Yankees are winning games. That’s because they win games when their opponent gets a 95% rating. It’s still an A, but the Yankees are A+. When the judge headed for the plate with two outs and two runners, a hit seemed inevitable. After a wasted rally in the eighth inning, the crowd was fully back in the game thanks to Hicks’ homer and DJ LeMahieu’s rambling walk past Judge. They went completely nuclear when the judge’s ball hit the left-field grass. Just like that, a clean and presumably affirmative game for the Astros turned into a loss.

Houston scored their points in bunches, but could only do so early on. They started things off with three in the first before adding three more in the third. The heart of their order – which really goes from one to six – remains downright terrifying. Yordan Alvarez, who is built like a statue of studs, continued his budding MVP case. With the award still up for grabs for Aaron Judge, Alvarez showed up in his first Yankee Stadium recital of the year. Playing for a nationally televised audience on MLB Network, the Astros’ left-handed laser show went 2 for 5 with three RBIs thanks to a heat-seeking missile in the right field seats.

Alex Bregman tied it with a three-point smash that a fan immediately returned to the field. Both sluggers did their damage against Jameson Taillon, who unquestionably had the worst start to his otherwise brilliant season. Taillon’s last line showed ten hits, six earned runs and nine batts that the Astros hit at 100 miles per hour or better.

Shots from Alvarez and Bregman in the cheap seats weren’t enough to get an Astros W, even though the Yankees’ offensive output for the first eight frames was extremely limited. Giancarlo Stanton, as he is wont to do, turned a lazy fly ball into an opposite field homer in the first. With a 34-degree launch angle, Stanton’s ball held in the air long enough to send the entire stadium into a familiar thought process watching the one-of-a-kind hitter. “It’s not okay, is it?” It looked like he was barely swinging. Wow, it’s in the second deck.

But then round nine came. Pressly and Stanek melted away while the Yankees held on. If they feel like they’ll never lose again, it’s because of the games, the players and moments like this. As Frank Sinatra sings in the team’s trademark song, they want to be part of it.

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