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TODAY'S PAPER

Greg Bird's hard work not yet paying off

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird walks back to the dugout after popping out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 16. / Jim McIsaac

The boo-birds were out early at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.

So were the boo Birds. As in the many fans who are routinely booing Greg Bird, whether it’s at home or on the road.

 Bird, who had been benched for four of the previous five games, went 0-for-4 and made an embarrassing, though inconsequential, error, when he dropped a throw to first on the first batter of the game.

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 “Lance [Lynn] picked me up,” Bird said. “I owe him a drink.”

Actually, Bird should have bought a round for the whole team on Tuesday, starting with Neil Walker, who hit a first-pitch, pinch-hit, walkoff home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth as the Yankees beat the White Sox, 5-4.

 The Yankees had fallen behind, at 4-0 and were in danger of losing their second straight to Chicago. Cue the boos.

But then they rallied on two-run home runs from Miguel Andujar in the sixth and Aaron Hicks in the eighth to tie the game. Cue the cheers.

And then Walker ended it with his first career walkoff homer. Cue the celebration.

“That was a good win, coming back like that,” a broadly smiling Bird said. “Got off to a slow start, but it was a big win. Lance kept us in it, bullpen did its job and then Walk with the cool walkoff.”

Bird is an excellent game recapper, but the Yankees are paying him to be a sweet-swinging lefty bat and to make the plays at first base. He did neither on Tuesday and is not guaranteed to be in the lineup Wednesday against righthander Reynaldo Lopez.

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Bird is hitless in his last 21 at-bats and his average is down to .196, although he did hit the ball hard three times. The Yankees are intrigued by Luke Voit, who went 1-for-4 as the designated hitter and is batting .351, and Walker has to be in there somewhere after he started Tuesday on the bench for rest. That could leave Bird as the odd man out.

Has the 25-year-old hit rock bottom? Hopefully for Bird that came on the first batter of the game, when Yolmer Sanchez sent a routine grounder to second base. Ronald Torreyes made a routine throw to Bird at about eye level. Bird reached out and watched the ball bang off his first baseman’s mitt for an error.

A stunned Bird looked at his glove and then the ball at his feet as if it was their fault instead of his. Bird later confirmed this when he said he was breaking in a new glove.

“That was stupid,” Bird said. “That was a funny one. That’s tough. I have a glove that I’ve been using and it’s been tearing and so I switched over and that one just popped out. It happens. I don’t know. That was stupid. Just a dumb mistake. Just laugh at those ones.”

Bird was laughing when he said the above words. But the fans weren’t when it happened and manager Aaron Boone probably wasn’t, either, especially after he ripped the Yankees for sloppy play after Monday’s defeat.

Bird, who got booed by Yankees fans in Baltimore over the weekend, heard it again in the second when he cleanly fielded a grounder by Omar Narvaez and got the out at first. This time it wasn’t boos. It was sarcastic cheers. Cuts just as deep.

The best part of Bird’s night were his first three at-bats: drive to the wall in right, liner to first that was turned into a double play, and a drive to right-center that Avisail Garcia ran down.

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In the eighth, after Hicks’ homer tied it, Bird had a chance to give the Yankees the lead, but he popped out to short left with the tying run on second.

“What are you going to do?” Bird said. “That’s the name of the game. Keep going. Keep pushing.”