Aaron Boone channeled his inner Frank Sinatra before Saturday’s ALDS Game 2 when he was asked about the slumping Didi Gregorius.
“I still maintain,” Boone said, “that the best is yet to come from Didi.”
“The Best Is Yet to Come” is a 1959 song that is associated with Sinatra — in fact, the song title is etched on his tombstone at Desert Memorial Park Cemetery in Cathedral City, California.
Gregorius hit a massive grand slam in the third to highlight a seven-run inning and break open the Yankees’ 8-2 victory over the Twins. The Yankees hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
“Didn’t surprise me at all,” Boone said. “I expect that from Didi . . . A real dagger at that point.”
Gregorius’ slam, which gave the Yankees a 7-0 lead, was a big factor in the team getting to congratulate each other on the field when the game was over as another Sinatra song — “New York, New York” — played over the loudspeaker.
It was Gregorius’ fourth career postseason homer, his sixth career grand slam and his first home run of any kind since he hit two on Sept. 10 at Detroit.
The free-agent-to-be shortstop hit .238 in 82 games after returning from Tommy John surgery. He had struggled for so long and looked so lost as the plate — a .165 average in his last 23 games — that some Yankees fans wondered if Boone would consider benching Gregorius and playing Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu at second in the postseason.
But Boone said days ago that the thought never crossed his mind.
“You know, just a stretch where you’re not getting results,” he said. “The game’s hard. Hitting’s hard . . . I know he’s working really hard behind the scenes, but sometimes when you go through an extended stretch where you’re struggling a little bit, you can press. You can try and do some things until it really clicks. Sometimes it just takes one at-bat, one swing to kind of turn it, and I believe that’s what’s in there for Didi still.”
Said Gregorius: “The slump that I had — everybody goes through ups and downs, but your confidence level has always got to stay up. For me, just focus on my job and try to get better. That’s all I can do. People are always going to say something if you do good or do bad.”
Gregorius, hitting from the No. 8 hole in Friday’s series-opening 10-4 victory, went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.
“I saw a big walk in his last at-bat,” Boone said. “That was huge.”
Gregorius drew that walk after falling behind 0-and-2. It loaded the bases in the seventh inning ahead of a three-run double by LeMahieu that sealed the Game 1 victory.
Gregorius batted eighth again on Saturday against rookie righthander Randy Dobnak. He singled in the first at-bat in the second inning and came up in the third against reliever Tyler Duffey with one out, the bases loaded and the Yankees leading 3-0.
The count was 1-and-2 when Gregorius launched a high 94-mph fastball into the second deck in right, just inside the foul pole.
Gregorius whirled his bat and was about to flip it when he realized he needed to wait for the ball to stay fair. When it landed, he simply set his bat down and trotted to first.
The best had arrived.
“It’s a great feeling to come up big for the team,” Gregorius said. “But the best thing is just to get the ‘W’. That’s what we always focus on.”