The longest home run drought of Anthony Rizzo’s career is finally over.
His New York Yankees teammates did something special for him to celebrate.
Since May 20, Rizzo, known for his sweet power from the left side of the plate, cranked a moonshot that landed on the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium to extend the home team’s lead to 5-0 against the Kansas City Royals.
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You could tell how much it meant to Rizzo as he carried a big smile around the bases, but the crowd was louder because they too had been waiting a long time to see one of their greatest sluggers take the yard.
When Rizzo returned to the dugout, however, the love the crowd had been showering Rizzo with was nowhere to be found.
They were treated in silence. Rizzo was laughing as he hit all of his teammates and coaches who didn’t mind him, making his way through the dugout.
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But they finally broke up, when they showered him with seeds, gum and other things while praising a key clubhouse leader.
For a power hitter, slumping doesn’t always mean not getting a batting average where it needs to be. Hitting home runs becomes an important part of why you’re high in the batting order, which Rizzo usually does on a nightly basis. He has earned that right in his 13 years in the MLB.
But as of Sunday afternoon, he had just 11 homers entering the contest, meaning it had been more than three months since he had rounded the bases.
Rizzo was still managing to hit .244 with a .332 on-base percentage. However, his .379 slugging percentage would be the worst mark of his career since he debuted for the San Diego Padres in 2011 if the season ended today.
If the Yankees want to make a postseason run this October, they need players like Rizzo to get back on track offensively. Their offense is 22nd in the league in batting average, and has improved since the start of the second half, as they were among the bottom in all of MLB. A .301 on-base percentage also ranks him 27th in the league.
New York is still waiting for Aaron Judge to return, but Rizzo needs to get those extra base hits to get the Yankees back on track overall.
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It was a step in the right direction, but the prospect felt too big for the left-hander to overcome the shortfall.