49° Good Afternoon
49° Good Afternoon

Surging Aaron Hicks homers again, batting cleanup

Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks reacts after he

Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks reacts after he scores on his two-run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning of an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The home run potential of Aaron Hicks may be overlooked in a lineup that, when healthy, contains Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The centerfielder is on a power surge with 11 homers in his last 35 games, and he’s as anxious as anyone to see how it plays out during the next two months.

Hicks, who had three home runs against the Red Sox on July 1, added to his career high Sunday by hitting his 17th, a two-run shot that hit the mesh on the rightfield foul pole, in the Yankees’ 6-3 victory over the Royals at Yankee Stadium. He also doubled, singled and walked. He has 47 RBIs, five shy of his career high, and a .256/.359/.491 slash line.

In the current Judge-less lineup, Hicks batted cleanup for the fourth time. He’s hitting .545 with two homers and five RBIs in that slot.

“I just continue to do what I do,’’ Hicks said. “I haven’t really changed the way that I approach hitting. I’m not going to try to hit like a four-hole hitter. I’m just going to confine to be myself and do what I can to help the team win.’’

Hicks, 28, said that since last season, he has tried to lift the ball more. “I’m just trying to get the ball in the air, that’s essentially what it is,’’ he said. “It’s actually been helping me to not swing at pitches down [low] for swing and misses, so if I feel like I can’t get it in the air, then it’s just not worth swinging at.’’

Hicks hit a curveball off Royals starter Burch Smith (1-2) for his home run with Didi Gregorius on base. He said Smith threw him the same pitch on his double to right in the fourth. Hicks then scored on Miguel Andujar’s two-out single.

General manager Brian Cashman compared Hicks to then-surging Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. after Hicks was acquired from the Twins in 2015 for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. While Bradley has slumped at the plate, Hicks’ career is trending upward.

Before this season, manager Aaron Boone’s observations of Hicks — who had 15 homers and 52 RBIs in 88 games in 2017 — came as an analyst for ESPN.

“Last year in a lot of ways was a breakout season for him,’’ Boone said. “This is a former first-round pick, got to the big leagues obviously with Minnesota, had some struggles, got over here and really broke out last year.

“[Hicks] didn’t have a full season because of some injuries, but we saw the power and the ability to get on base from the centerfield position that’s really, really valuable. And I think we’ve seen him take an even bigger step this year, continuing to get on base a lot and the power along with it, so it’s not surprising, frankly. This is the kind of talent he has and we’re seeing a guy now kind of in the prime of his career [who] really has matured into a good all-around player.’’

Hicks was asked if there are loftier home run totals in store. “I don’t know. We’ll have to see,’’ he said. “I mean, [see] just what it’s like to play a full year, see what the end results are and kind of go from there.’’


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