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Aaron Hicks’ power surge reminding doubters his role won’t be diminished

 

If any impatient Yankees fans still view Aaron Hicks as an obstacle impeding rookie Clint Frazier’s path to the majors, take a look at the numbers again. 

Those sentiments should be tempered for good now. 

Hicks swiftly hushed his critics in the Yankees’ 11-1 drubbing over the Red Sox on Sunday night in the Bronx, recording the first three-home run game of his career as the team’s leadoff hitter.  It was the first time the franchise had a player hit three homers in a game since Alex Rodriguez did so nearly three years ago, and it was also just the third time in history that a Yankee accomplished that feat against Boston. 

The latest chapter of baseball’s storied rivalry was far from ordinary — it was quite distinct, actually. 

Although the Yankees and Red Sox entered this past weekend with the top records in the game — and they still do, tied for first place in the American League East standings — this series wasn’t the heavyweight clash everyone expected.  In three steamy summer nights at Yankee Stadium, there was no butting heads, no late-inning drama or theatrics.  Instead, there were three lopsided scores, and depending on which game fans tuned into, one team appeared to be far superior than the other.

During ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, the Yankees owned the primetime spotlight, hitting a total of five home runs off Boston’s expensive left-hander David Price in the first four innings.  And it was Hicks who spearheaded the team’s power surge. 

“It feels awesome. To be lucky enough to hit three home runs, it feels good,” Hicks told the YES Network after the game. “I blacked out after the third one. I didn’t know what to do after it went out… It was fun.

“I feel like I’m being able to be patient in the box. When I get down 0-2, I don’t feel rushed. I feel confident in my abilities to put the ball in play and do it hard.”

Since the beginning of June, Hicks has hit .300 (27-for-90) with nine homers, eight walks, 17 RBI, and a .388 on-base percentage.  Plus, eight of those dingers have come in the last 15 games.

Hicks has made tremendous strides at the plate.  It wasn’t too long ago — May 15, to be exact — he was hitting a measly .206. 

And even when Frazier was knocking on the door for a big league promotion while Hicks was struggling, the Yankees stuck to their guns by starting Hicks, who’s still an above average center fielder. 

Suffice to say things have worked out for both sides.

“[Hicks] controls the strike zone from both sides of the plate,” Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone told YES. “He’s one of those guys that makes the pitcher work really hard, takes his walks. We’ve really seen the power come on here, especially right-handed. He’s hit some really big shots. He’s playing really well for us and we need it.”

Hicks also deserves credit for his balanced numbers from both sides of the plate.  The 28-year-old has hit .256 with eight homers and 25 RBI in 156 at-bats against right-handers, and .260 with six jacks and 15 RBI in 73 at-bats against southpaws.

That production and ability sticks out in Boone’s mind.

“I can’t imagine hitting from both sides of the plate at this level,” Boone continued.  “To be able to do it like he has and to do it on this stage, to have a three-homer night and one from each side, I’m sure that’s some pretty special company he joined.”

Among the Yankees’ slugging outfielders, Hicks ranks third behind Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and that will never change. But Hicks has displayed enough power of late to warn opponents not to test his hot stroke.

 

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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