CINCINNATI — Matt Holliday got going against Chris Sale on April 27 — and he hasn’t stopped raking since.
Holliday’s hot streak continued on Monday night at Great American Ball Park.
The 37-year-old veteran went 2-for-4 with a 418-foot solo homer to straightaway center and three runs scored in the Yankees’ 10-4 victory over the Reds.
“I mean, having a swing that stays in the strike zone is part of it, but I fancy myself as someone who’s pretty strong,” Holliday said when asked about his prodigious power. “Staying behind the ball and hitting the ball to the middle of the field has always been my strength, and its’ something I try to remind myself of.”
Holliday had been in a 2-for-28 slump before going 2-for-3 off the Red Sox left-handed ace. In his last 10 games, he has four homers and 11 RBIs. His batting line currently stands at an impressive .287/.400/.552.
“I think it’s just it’s going to happen,” Joe Girardi responded when asked about Holliday breaking out at the plate. “These guys are too good of hitters to stay in funks for a while. And then eventually they come out of it, and he’s come out of it in a big way. He’s getting on base all the time, he’s driving in runs, so he’s looked really good.”
And he isn’t the only one. Brett Gardner has six homers in his last nine games, Gary Sanchez just recorded his first three-hit game of the season and Aaron Hicks might be the best fourth outfielder in all of baseball. The Yankees rank first in the American League in homers (50), runs scored (177) and OPS (.820). And the injured Greg Bird hasn’t even gotten going yet.
“I think you could tell in spring training that we were going to have tough outs up and down the lineup, and I think that’s our strength is that every inning we put pressure on the other team’s pitcher,” Holliday said. “There are no easy outs. We have guys that can take you deep up and down the lineup, and I think that’s the mark of a really good offense.”
Holliday signed a one-year, $ 13 million contract with the Yankees to be the team’s primary DH. The goal is to keep him healthy and fresh throughout the season.
“I’d heard so many great things about him, but having never been around him before I think he’s a good leader,” Girardi said. “I think he’s very inviting for players to come talk to, I think he’s very level-headed. He’s just a really good person, and I think our guys look up to him. He hits the ball hard, too.”
Holliday’s impact isn’t just felt on the field. Like his manager said, his ability to connect with young players is of the utmost importance. Clint Frazier learned a lot from Holliday during the spring, as did Aaron Judge. Holliday and Judge can be found frequently hanging around one another in the clubhouse and around the batting cage.
“I don’t know about it being a responsibility, but I enjoy hanging out with these guys, just talking about baseball and talking about life,” Holliday said. “Just things that I’ve learned and people have talked to me about. And the thing that makes it easy is they’re great young kids and really good people.”
Holliday recently told Judge to take it easy on the basepaths after the 25-year-old slugger was thrown out trying to steal at Wrigley Field. “‘We don’t need you to steal a ton of bases big fella,'” Holliday said. “‘Take it easy. Every time you slide, it’s like a car crash.'”
But Holliday thinks the world of Judge, who has set the baseball world on fire by belting 13 homers.
“It’s the consistency of his swing,” Holliday said. “And if he’s able to hold his swing with his physical talent, it’s going to be crazy. But the most impressive thing about him is how hard he works, how he carries himself. And on top of that his talent is off the charts and he understands his swing really well.”