Didi, Castro make history with homers

Didi, Castro make history with homers

NEW YORK -- Some of the most recognizable names in Yankees history took their positions in the middle of the diamond, but for all of that talent, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius have accomplished something that the likes of Derek Jeter, Willie Randolph, Tony Lazzeri and Phil Rizzuto never did.

Gregorius hit his 20th home run of the season on Tuesday in the Yankees' 6-4 victory over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, joining Castro (21) as the first double-play combination in franchise history to each hit 20 or more home runs in a single season.

"My mom actually told me that [Tuesday]," Gregorius said. "Me and Castro, we talked in Spring Training about just trying to make something great. We said, 'Let's be the best we can.' We try to push each other and help each other out, on and off the field. It's great and it's fun.

"To be the first middle infielders in Yankees history, we can say that we added something to all the history that's already here."

Castro and Gregorius are just the third double-play combination in Major League history age 26 or younger to hit at least 20 homers, according to the YES Network. They joined the Astros' Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa (2016) and the Mariners' David Bell and Alex Rodriguez (1999).

Both Castro and Gregorius have established new career highs in homers this year; Castro's previous high was 14, done twice with the Cubs, while Gregorius' previous high was the nine he hit last season with the Yankees.

"I'm not sure if I would have predicted that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I've always felt that Didi would hit for power. I had a better understanding of who Didi was more than Starlin. I knew Starlin had power. I had seen him hit home runs in Chicago, but I'm not so sure I would have predicted that. I might have predicted one, but maybe not both."

Even as a right-handed hitter, the Yankees expected that moving to Yankee Stadium might help Castro's power numbers. Fifteen of his 21 blasts have come at home, and the change in scenery has agreed with the seven-year veteran.

"It's a really good place to hit. There's nothing better than home," Castro said. "I feel really good at the plate; I'm just looking for a pitch that I can drive, and it's happening in a good way."

Castro is the fourth second baseman in Yankees history to hit 20 homers, joining Robinson Cano (five times), Joe Gordon (four times) and Alfonso Soriano (twice). Castro said that he plans to join that club again.

"Why not? If I did it this year, I can do it more," Castro said. "Just continue to work, continue to get better every year. Better at-bats, look for better pitches."

No Yankees shortstop other than Jeter has hit more homers in a single season than Gregorius; Jeter hit 24 in 1999, 23 in 2004 and 21 in '01.

"I think Didi is a good hitter that uses the whole field," Girardi said. "He's big and strong enough to hit home runs."

Though Gregorius credited Carlos Beltran for helping his plate discipline over the last one-and-a-half seasons, he said that he still does not consider himself a power hitter, as the homers have come as a result of maintaining a line drive, gap-to-gap approach.

"I'm just trying to hit line drives all over the place like I'm doing always," Gregorius said. "If it turns into home runs, it turns into home runs. I'm not going up there trying to hit home runs. I'll work in the offseason on trying to make my swing a little bit shorter and try to stay consistent with it. That's all I'm trying to do."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.