New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks missed an important event since leaving a Sept. 2 game with an oblique injury. In the brief time he’s been away, the team managed to clinch a spot in the postseason.
Hicks may have missed out on that moment, but he made up for it Tuesday. In his first game back, Hicks helped ensure the Yankees would receive home field in the American League wild card game with a tremendous leaping catch to rob a grand slam in the first inning.
Before the Yankees even had an opportunity to bat, things looked bleak. Pitcher Jordan Montgomery loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first. Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos stepped to the plate, and belted an 84 mph changeup deep to center.
Hicks charged back toward the wall, timed his jump perfectly, leapt at the ideal moment and snagged the ball in his glove before it left the park. He robbed Ramos of a grand slam. It’s a highlight you’ll likely see on defensive end-of-season reels.
Though the Yankees would go on to win the contest 6-1, Hicks’ robbery came at a crucial time. Had the Rays gotten out to such a big lead early, it may have completely changed the game. Montgomery was able to recover and turn in six strong innings, as the Yankees gave him ample run support. That may not have been the case had he fell behind early.
With the win, New York will host the AL wild card game next Tuesday. That is, if they don’t win the American League East.
While it’s unlikely, the Yankees can still wrestle the division away from the Boston Red Sox. Boston lost Tuesday, bringing their lead down to three games. The two teams don’t play each other in the final series of the season, so Boston would have to completely collapse down the stretch while the Yankees would have to go on a last-minute winning streak.
Considering that, it’s more than likely the Yankees will host the wild card game. Their opponent is undetermined at this time, though the Minnesota Twins have the inside track. The Twins could have clinched that spot Tuesday night with a win and a Los Angeles Angels loss, but things didn’t fall completely in their favor. Minnesota won, but so did Los Angeles.
No matter what the outcome, the AL wild card game should feature some exceptional defense in center field. We’re already likely getting Hicks, but we should get either Mike Trout of Byron Buxton on the other side.
If we could offer one word of advice for that game, we would tell hitters to keep their fly balls as far away from center field as possible.
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