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Yankees' Greg Bird on grand slam: 'I felt like I was in a good place'

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird heads toward first

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird heads toward first base after hitting his grand slam during the first inning against the Blue Jays on Aug. 19, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Greg Bird showed some signs over the weekend that he is coming out of a slump that has lasted the better part of the past month. For the Yankees, given an injury situation that may have gotten worse Sunday, this return to form cannot come soon enough.

Bird’s first-inning grand slam to rightfield was the biggest hit of the Yankees' 10-2 win over Toronto and his second home run in as many swings. He went 1-for-3 with a walk Sunday after hitting a solo shot in the eighth inning on Saturday.

“I felt like I was in a good place, just getting ready to hit,” Bird said of his first at-bat Sunday, which ended when he drove a 2-and-1 sinker from Ryan Borucki into the second deck for a 386-foot homer that made the score 6-1. “The consistency just hasn’t been there like I’d like, but when it’s not, you have to find a way to get it done.”

Bird entered Saturday with a .125/.206/.179 slash line dating to July 31. After starting the season on the disabled list, he  batted  .191 with a .690 on-base plus slugging percentage in his first 28 games back. Things turned around starting with a two-homer game against Boston on June 29, and from then through July 29, he hit .286 with a .905 OPS. But then he slumped again, going 7-for-56 since July 31. The lowlight was his first-pitch foul pop to third with the bases loaded and none out in the ninth inning in Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Rays.

The Yankees  hope he can return to that midsummer form, especially with Didi Gregorius leaving Sunday's game with a bruised left heel. He could be headed to the disabled list, and the Yankees already are without sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.

While Bird said the loss of Gregorius would be “a huge blow,” he added that he is confident that the team can continue to pick up the slack in the absence of its stars. This is not without merit, as the Yankees have scored 5.3 runs per game since Judge joined Sanchez on the disabled list on July 27, compared to 5.2 before his injury.

The uptick is thanks in large part to surges by Miguel Andjuar (.315 average with eight home runs in this span), Giancarlo Stanton (.300, nine home runs) and Gregorius (.300, five home runs). Gregorius’ potential absence now leaves a new void that Aaron Boone will need to have filled.

Boone said he was impressed by Bird's  process at the plate as much as the results this weekend. “That’s two swings in a row where you see the life through the zone that is really night and day from a couple of days ago,'' he said. "You really see the bat coming through with some authority.” He added that Bird’s typically strong command of the strike zone also was on display.

“You keep your head up, you show up the next day, you put in the work, and if it doesn’t go your way, you step in there again and go after it,” Bird said of his approach through his recent struggles. “I think the biggest thing is not getting caught up in chasing results but just doing what you can when you get the opportunity.”

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