Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks went 3-for-3 with his 17th home run of the season in Sunday's 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, continuing his success in the cleanup spot in a lineup bitten by injuries.
Hicks, whose 370-foot home run off Burch Smith gave New York a 2-0 lead in a game it wouldn't trail, is 6-for-11 in four games when batting fourth this season. He also hit a double and a single to improve his batting line to .256/.359/.491.
"I just continue to do what I do,'' Hicks said, according to Newsday's Steven Marcus. "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 has batted everywhere but second in the lineup this season, but his presence in the middle of the order is needed more now given the injuries to outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez, two of the Yankees' biggest power hitters.
The 28-year-old Hicks is four games away from matching his 2017 total, a season plagued by an oblique injury. Last year, he had career-highs of a .266 batting average, .372 on-base percentage and .475 slugging percentage, and manager Aaron Boone thinks a healthy Hicks can put up even better numbers.
"He 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," Boone said. "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.''
His first-inning home run snapped a 15-game drought. His approach at the plate has helped him swing at fewer pitches out of the zone and create lift on the ball.
"I'm just trying to get the ball in the air, that's essentially what it is,'' Hicks 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.''