Any day now, Tyler Austin is going to begin to serve his suspension for his role in a brawl at Fenway Park on April 11.
Until then, Austin is playing and producing. He hit a three-run home run and made a key defensive play Wednesday night as the Yankees won their fifth in a row, 7-4 over the Twins, at foggy Yankee Stadium.
“We won this game because of what Tyler Austin did with his bat and his glove,” catcher Austin Romine said.
Didi Gregorius helped, too. The scorching-hot shortstop homered for the fourth consecutive game and went 3-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs to increase his major league-leading RBI total to 29. Gregorius has nine home runs.
Austin is waiting for MLB to rule on his appeal of the five-game suspension he received for charging the mound at Fenway. Once the ruling is handed down, Austin immediately will begin serving the ban and the Yankees will play a man short.
“I obviously wish it wasn’t going to happen at all,” he said. “But it’s going to and we just have to deal with that and go forward.”
With that in mind, Aaron Boone started Austin at first base over Neil Walker even though Walker was 15-for-40 (.375) with three home runs and 10 RBIs against Lance Lynn.
“It was actually a really tough decision for me,” Boone said. “I grinded over it most of the day.”
Austin snapped a 2-2 tie with a three-run homer in the third inning. With the Yankees leading 6-4, he ended a Twins threat in the seventh with a sliding catch of a foul pop down the first-base line.
The bases were loaded with two outs when Austin sprinted after Robbie Grossman’s foul and caught it reaching backward over his left shoulder while sliding near the stands. According to MLB.com Statcast, Austin ran 90 feet to make the grab.
“It was pretty tough,” Austin said. “The first [pop-up] I had hit to me, I didn’t see it at all. It was pretty foggy out there.”
Aaron Judge, who was tracking the ball from rightfield, said: “I can’t imagine trying to go back on a ball like that, with the fog, in a big situation, bases loaded like that. It’s impressive. It got me hyped up, and a lot of guys in the dugout were pretty fired up.”
Chad Green (2-0) was the winning pitcher in relief of Sonny Gray, who was in line to get the victory but couldn’t get through the fifth. Gray allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings.
The Twins took a 2-0 lead in the first on Miguel Sano’s two-run home run. The Yankees got a run back in the first on an RBI single by Gregorius and tied it in the third when Gregorius homered. Later in the inning, Austin unloaded a three-run homer to left to make it 5-2. It was Austin’s fifth home run.
After being staked to a three-run lead, Gray allowed singles to the first three Twins in the fourth. He gave up a run on a fielder’s choice grounder to make it 5-3, but struck out Jason Castro and got Brian Dozier to pop to Gleyber Torres. It wasn’t an easy play for the rookie second baseman. Torres had to run nearly to the first-base line because Austin couldn’t find the ball in the fog.
Gray ran into trouble again in the fifth. Joe Mauer lined a ball off the back of Gray’s pitching arm for a leadoff single. Gray allowed a single to Sano before striking out Eddie Rosario and getting Max Kepler on a fly ball to center.
One more out and Gray would have qualified for the victory. But the erratic righthander walked Eduardo Escobar to load the bases after getting ahead 0-and-2. Green came on to get Logan Morrison on a pop-up to third.