For nearly two weeks, the Yankees were unrecognizable through a losing stretch that cost them first place in the AL East. The bullpen that’s been a strength blew three late leads in a row. With most of its top hitters on the injured list, the lineup that’s never out of a game didn’t deliver. There was a seven-game losing streak that erased a solid start to the season.
Now the team that everyone remembers finally seems to be reemerging.
The Yankees swept a doubleheader from the Mets at the Stadium on Sunday with a pair of eight-inning victories — a sensational comeback for an 8-7 win in the opener and a 5-2 victory in the nightcap on Gary Sanchez’ pinch hit grand slam.
The losing streak has been replaced by a three-game winning streak entering a key three-game series with AL East-leading Tampa Bay.
“This is definitely big. We’ve been struggling trying to get wins and completing games,” said Aaron Hicks, whose two-out, two-run homer off Edwin Diaz capped a five-run rally in the seventh and sent Game 1 to extra innings. “It’s great that today we were able to get two . . . The Rays are a team we need to beat and we need to get back into that winning spirit of expecting to win and knowing we have the ability to win — because we do.”
In the eighth, Gio Urshela laced a two-out single to rightfield on an 0-and-2 pitch from Diaz and Mike Tauchman dived home headfirst — with Wilson Ramos whiffing on the tag — to give the Yankees a walk-off win.
It was the third straight walk-off win in the series — two for the Yankees, one for the Mets.
“You usually don’t win many of those, but they just continued to battle and put up good at-bats in the end and then Hicks, who can really hit a fastball . . . got to a really good heater and put a great swing on it,” manager Aaron Boone said.
The nightcap featured a stunning major league debut by top prospect Deivi Garcia, who allowed one run, which was unearned, in six innings.
Two innings after the Mets tied it at 1-1 in the sixth, the slumping Sanchez watched his grand slam all the way out to the bleachers above the Mets’ bullpen, 453 feet away. “I’ve been anxious to contribute to the team, you know, especially when you’re going through a rough patch and you’re not helping the team and you’re not producing for the team the way you’re expected, the way that I expect myself to,” he said through an interpreter. “When I hit the ball, I definitely knew that it was going to be deep enough that at least we were going to get a run in. That’s why I stood there and looked at the fly ball. I understood I was going to give my team a chance.”
Michael Conforto’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth made it 5-2, but with the winning run at the plate, Luis Cessa struck out pinch hitter Ramos to end it.
In Game 1, the Yankees managed only four hits in the first six innings and the Mets took a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh. The Yankees would get only two hits in the inning, but they made them count.
After third baseman Andres Gimenez made a throwing error to begin the inning, Tyler Wade drew a two-out walk and Thairo Estrada was hit by a pitch. Luke Voit tried to check his swing and grounded a soft two-run single through the wide-open right side of the infield to make it 7-4. Estrada nearly was thrown out at third on the play, but after tagging him for what would have been the game-ending out, Gimenez had the ball knocked loose.
Diaz then replaced Jared Hughes, and on 2-and-2, he threw a wild pitch that nearly hit Hicks in the foot to make it 7-5.
Hicks, who entered the day with a .198 batting average, then lined Diaz’ fastball into the rightfield seats to tie the score. He immediately dropped the bat as if he knew it was gone, but the low line drive barely cleared the wall.
“The hit batter and then Voit check-swinging it through the other side and all of a sudden the table is set for something strange to happen,” Boone said. “Just a good job by these guys. Obviously, we’ve been going through a tough time, but we continue to grind away.”
With two outs and runners on first and second in the eighth, Urshela hit a soft liner to right that Conforto played on one hop. He fired the ball on the fly to Ramos, but it was up the third-base line, and his sweep tag just missed Tauchman. The Mets asked for a video review, but it clearly showed Tauchman was safe.
“That was unbelievable,” Game 1 starter Michael King said. “I’ll be honest, I thought we had no chance . . . It was fun to watch.”
Chad Green, who had blown two late leads in his previous two appearances against the Braves and Mets and given up four home runs in the process, struck out three in the top of the eighth for the win.
“He was great,” Boone said. “That was against the heart of their lineup. He really came in and executed. I’m not surprised to see Greenie bounce right back like that. He’s not overly affected by great highs or failures at any time. He’s really good at turning the page.”