CHICAGO — The Yankees have won in all sorts of ways in their burst from the gate to early AL East supremacy, most frequently as king of the comeback.
The most recent example came Friday when the Yankees, trailing by two runs and down to their last strike, won it on Brett Gardner’s three-run homer. That gave them their seventh victory when trailing after five innings, second-most in the big leagues behind Houston’s eight.
Saturday night brought no such drama. The Yankees drove Cubs lefthander Brett Anderson from the game after one-third of an inning, tallying five runs in the first en route to an 11-6 laugher in front of 40,735 at Wrigley Field.
“We’ve talked about, we don’t ever know where the offense is going to come, but you feel like it’s going to come [from somewhere],” Joe Girardi said. “It’s been so spread out. Tonight it was Hicks and Castro with big nights.”
The Yankees (19-9), who entered the night leading the AL in runs (151) and homers (45), added to those totals while bashing 14 hits, including homers by Aaron Hicks (four hits) and former Cub Starlin Castro (three).
“To come back here and hit a homer is really fun,” said Castro, signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 2006 and a big-leaguer with them from 2010-15. “I feel really good to come here and compete against my ex-team. I didn’t try to hit a homer, I just wanted to play well against my ex-team, and it happened the right way.”
He has a .381/.421/.584 slash line, six homers and 19 RBIs.
Hicks, meanwhile, continues to make it difficult to take him out of the lineup. Though Girardi said before the game that Jacoby Ellsbury will be ready to play Sunday night, it’s unlikely to be at the expense of Hicks, who is in a 10-for-20 stretch.
Vanquished by Aaron Judge in the final days of spring training in the battle for the starting rightfield job, Hicks has a .355/.468/.710 slash line, six homers and 14 RBIs. “I’m just going to be ready for opportunities that I get,” said Hicks, whose three-run homer in the eighth made it 11-3. “Of course, the better you play, the more opportunities you’re going to get.”
Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius each added two hits. Aaron Judge, who entered the game with 22 hits in his last 55 at-bats, batted cleanup for the first time this season and went 0-for-5.
The Yankees are 18-5 since a 1-4 start, their best 23-game stretch since going 18-5 from June 3-28, 2012.
Entering the night, they had a plus-46 run differential, tops in the AL and second-best in the majors behind Washington’s plus-50.
Rookie lefthander Jordan Montgomery happily benefited from the run support, allowing three runs (two earned), three hits and four walks in improving to 2-1, 3.81. He took an 8-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth before allowing two runs, one earned.
Anderson allowed five runs and six hits — increasing his ERA from 6.23 to 8.18 — before leaving the game, the Cubs announced much later, with lower-back tightness.
Six pitches into the game, the Yankees had the lead, and 23 pitches into his night, Anderson was gone with the Cubs (16-14) trailing 5-0.
Montgomery, whose unflappability impressed the Yankees in spring training almost as much as his four-pitch arsenal, shrugged and smiled afterward when asked if he had trouble gathering himself for a nationally televised game against the defending World Series champions in their historic ballpark.
“It’s a new year,” he said. “It’s anybody’s game now.”
And few, as of this early date in the season, are playing it as well as the Yankees.