After another of his ho-hum heroics – this time a 10th-inning home run in the New York Yankees’ 4-3 victory over Los Angeles on Friday night – Didi Gregorius did something remarkable even for him.
He took a curtain call.
Such a gesture would have been perfunctory at Yankee Stadium, but with a ballpark 3,000 miles from the Bronx teeming with Yankees fans, he was happy to oblige when they began chanting his name after he had circled the bases.
“It was a little weird for me,” Gregorius said. “But there’s a lot of fans here, so it was still nice. But I didn’t expect that.”
Aroldis Chapman sealed the Yankees’ seventh consecutive victory when he retired pinch-hitter Chris Young on a soft liner to first baseman Neil Walker with the tying run at second.
In a line-up whose heart is populated with the sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, it is Gregorius, who hit third, who has been leading the way for the Yankees. Gregorius hit his 10th home run, tied for the most in baseball this season, and is hitting .368 with 30 runs batted in.
“It seems like he’s got a lot of magic when he walks up there,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I don’t know if I expect him to hit a homer, but I know I like seeing him in the box in a high-leverage spot, and he delivered again.”
It was a rousing victory for the Yankees, who tied the game in the ninth inning when pinch-hitter Brett Gardner lifted a fly ball to left field that scored Gary Sanchez from third with the tying run.
The Yankees had to survive a game effort from the Angels, who got a booming home run from Shohei Ohtani, two sensational catches from right fielder Kole Calhoun and a two-out, two-run, seventh-inning triple by Andrelton Simmons that had put the Angels ahead.
Ohtani later left the game with an ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Ohtani’s home run, on a 97mph fastball from Yankees ace Luis Severino on the inside part of the plate, travelled 410 feet into the right-field seats. It was a no-doubter on a night in which the heavy marine air knocked down several deep drives.
“Next time I’m not throwing inside any more,” Severino said.
It was a night when Stanton in left field, Ronald Torreyes at third base and Gregorius at shortstop all turned in sparkling defensive plays but were outshined by Calhoun, the Angels former Gold Glove right fielder.
Calhoun robbed Gleyber Torres of an extra-base hit to lead off the third inning with a full-out dive into the right-centre gap. But he outdid himself in the sixth, when he leapt at the wall and pulled back what would have been a three-run homer by Walker, who was so incredulous that he sank to a squat as he rounded first base.
“It makes you wonder if I haven’t gone to church enough,” Walker said.
Calhoun alertly fired to second base where shortstop Andrelton Simmons stepped on the bag to double off Stanton, who was ruled to have left the bag early.
Though Simmons appeared to step on second base an instant before Gregorius – who had tagged up at third base – touched home plate, his run stood, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Though Simmons grabbed the lead back for the Angels, they could not make it hold up.