Aaron Boone Turns Dramatic, and the Yankees Come Back for a Win

Aaron Boone Turns Dramatic, and the Yankees Come Back for a Win
Aaron Boone Turns Dramatic, and the Yankees Come Back for a Win

Under normal circumstances, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone is a pretty even-keeled fellow. He greets the news media before his daily pregame sessions with a jaunty “Good day” and peppers his speech with the lingo of a Southern California surfer dude. Many times, he can barely stifle a smile when asked a question that his predecessor, Joe Girardi, might have considered provocative.

So it was something of a shock to see Boone in the fifth inning of Friday night’s game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers with the bill of his cap colliding with that of the home plate umpire, Nic Lentz, his index finger an inch or so from the umpire’s face and his mouth forming words we cannot repeat here.

When Boone assumed a catcher’s crouch to demonstrate to Lentz where he thought a 1-1 pitch to Gleyber Torres had crossed the plate — down low enough to be ball two, in Boone’s opinion — it was clear we were seeing a side of the Yankees manager that had not been on display through the first 134 games of his rookie season.

“I just hadn’t stretched yet tonight so I wanted to make sure I was good and loose,” Boone said, that mischievous smirk back on his lips. “I was just giving my kids something to make fun of.”

That’s what a come-from-behind 7-5 victory will do for a manager, especially one who earlier in the evening had described an 8-7 loss the night before as “a kick in the stomach.”

Boone’s theatrical crouch turned out to be his final scene of the game — before he even left the dugout, Lentz had tossed him for arguing balls and strikes. But from the video room just off the dugout, Boone had a good view of what was to come: three Yankee home runs in the sixth inning that overturned a 3-0 Tigers lead and seemed to shake his team out of its offensive lethargy.

Whether there was a cause and effect between Boone’s outburst and the Yankees’ explosion is open to question. (“I don’t know about that,” he said later.)

The Tigers cast further doubt on the theory by fighting back to gain a 5-4 lead before a three-run eighth inning gave the Yankees the win. But there was no question that after losing three of the first four games on this homestand to sub-.500 teams, the Yankees desperately needed this win.

“I thought we came in with a good purpose today from the get-go,” Boone said. “Obviously it took a little while to get going, but we continued to fight after we gave back the lead. So I don’t know. I just thought the guys really rallied today and played a really clean game overall.”

The Yankees were held hitless by Jordan Zimmermann for five innings before Brett Gardner homered with one out and a runner aboard in the sixth. After Giancarlo Stanton flied out, Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andujar hit back-to-back home runs to cancel out the Tigers’ early lead against Luis Severino.

But after the Tigers tied the game in the seventh against Jonathan Holder, and took a 5-4 lead in the eighth against Zach Britton, the game started to take on the look of Thursday night’s loss, in which the lead changed sides five times before Detroit won with three runs off Dellin Betances in the ninth inning.

Just as on Thursday night, the Yankees took a 7-5 lead in the eighth — on a two-run single by Torres and a run-scoring infield hit by Austin Romine. And just as in the fifth inning, a manager got ejected — Detroit’s Ron Gardenhire, for arguing a check swing by Luke Voit that was ruled ball four instead of strike three. Gardenhire added humor to the proceedings by asking Voit, “Did you swing?”

“I just started laughing,” Voit said. “He’s old school. He’s trying to have fun. He’s trying to help his players and have his players’ back, so I get it. He’s trying to have fun with me too.”

It was no fun when the Tigers got the tying runs on base in the ninth, though, creating a disquieting sense of déjà vu for the Yankee Stadium crowd. But unlike Betances on Thursday, David Robertson was able to strike out the last two Tigers to preserve the win.

Voit revealed that before the game Boone called a team meeting to clear the air after Thursday’s loss.

“He was just trying to pick us up,” Voit said. “I think it was the right situation for him to do that, and I think all of us respected that. It just shows what kind of guy he is. He wants to win. We were stuck in a rut, we weren’t getting the job done these last couple of games. For him to do that definitely pumped us up.”

Inside Pitch

Andrew McCutchen, the Yankees’ newest acquisition, is expected to arrive in time to be in the starting lineup for Saturday’s 4:05 p.m. game against the Tigers. Manager Aaron Boone said McCutchen, who won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2013 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, would be an everyday outfielder for the Yankees and might even become the leadoff hitter — possibly displacing Brett Gardner both in the field and in the lineup.

“This is a big deal for us, getting him,” Boone said. “We’re getting a really good player, and I think his reputation precedes him. This is as high character a person as we have in our game, and I know he’ll fit well in our room. I’m just really excited for him getting here.”

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