In last night’s victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, it wasn’t who you think it’d be propelling the New York Yankees to their fifth win of the season. The top six batters in the New York order went hitless, leaving it to the bottom three for production.
With one out in the fifth, newly-acquired Yankee Rougned Odor roped a curveball down the first-base line for the team’s first hit of the evening. Just three pitches later, back-up catcher Kyle Higashioka took an 0-2 fastball over the centerfield wall for a two-run home run, putting the Yankees ahead 2-1. Higashioka came up once again in the eighth inning and provided the Yankees some insurance, lacing another home run to give the team a two run advantage.
Not just that he was great offensively, but Higashioka called another great game for ace Gerrit Cole. In six innings, Cole allowed just three hits and one run against the Blue Jays, all of which were early on. Cole retired his last 15 batters of the evening.
This performance from Kyle Higashioka may seem somewhat surprising, but he’s making a habit of killing the Blue Jays. On September 16, 2020, Higashioka laced three home runs against Toronto, another game in which Cole was on the mound. In his career, Higashioka bats .279 against the Blue Jays with five home runs and a .986 OPS.
In four games this season (two starts), Higashioka is a quick 4-for-7 and swinging one of the hottest bats on the team. Some people had concerns about his rough Spring Training performance, but so far, Higashioka looks locked in to start the 2021 season.
In the future, we should continue to see Higashioka catch Cole regularly. Most of Gary Sanchez’s off-days happen to fall on days that Cole is expected to pitch, and that helps the team as Cole performs significantly better with Higashioka catching. However, we may be seeing more of Higashioka altogether with how hot he’s been to start the season.