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Yankees' Gio Urshela starting to embrace the power of his hitting

Gio Urshela #29 of the Yankees runs out

Gio Urshela #29 of the Yankees runs out a fourth inning RBI single against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Gio Urshela has a very simple explanation for his latest hot-hitting streak; he hates striking out.

He doesn’t do it often – batting .294 with two strikes this season – but Urshela said he’s become more aware of each pitch thrown his way recently, looking to make contact as often as possible.

He did just that in the Yankees’ 8-3 win over the Orioles Tuesday night at the Stadium, going 3-for-5 with a double and fourth-inning RBI. Urshela is the first Yankee to have three straight three-hit games since Alfonso Soriano in 2013.

“It’s just swinging at good pitches in the zone. That’s all I’ve been doing,” Urshela said before the game. “You don’t want to chase pitches. [Opposing pitchers are] going to make a mistake and you’ve got to pick up on it.”

Urshela added that he’s done his best to stay consistent no matter what count he’s facing. His third-inning single came with two strikes, as did all three of his hits in Game One of Monday’s doubleheader.

“I get up there and if I see the scoreboard is 0-2, I just don’t want to strike out,” he said. “I want to put the ball in play and I guess I’ve gotten a good result off that.”

Good is an understatement.

In his last nine games, Urshela is hitting .514 (19-for-37) with four doubles, seven home runs and 15 RBI.

And while Urshela admitted that his teammates have joked about his recent power surge, he also said he’s embraced the description. If he keeps hitting homers, Urshela said he’s not worried what anyone calls him.

“They’re always laughing at me, saying, ‘Oh, you’re a power hitter now,” Urshela said. “I’m trying. I think if you hit one homer, you can hit 30 homers.”

The performance has impressed manager Aaron Boone who lauded Urshela for his “innate” ability to work the strike zone.

“I think it’s something that he’s frankly always had and something that frankly attracted us to him in the past,” Boone added before the game. “Even before we acquired him, we felt like the bat to ball skills were something that could eventually translate. Certainly has.”

Urshela’s success at the plate has also sparked a few mumblings of a possible run at the league batting title and he might not have to look very far for some competition. DJ LeMahieu is currently hitting .337 while Urshela is right behind at .336.

The Yankees are no strangers to intra-clubhouse rivalry. Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly competed for the title on the ’84 squad.

Urshela would need 502 plate appearances this season to qualify and, after Tuesday, has 356. Still, he was quick to downplay any possible post-season awards, saying he only “thinks about winning games.”

If Urshela keeps hitting the way he has, that’s a trend that’s likely to continue and something he doesn’t take for granted.

 “Sometimes I think about it,” he said. “The work I’ve been doing the last couple of years, I’m finally seeing good results. Like right now, with the Yankees, I’m feeling really happy.”

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