Anthony Rizzo ends home-run drought aided by Sean Casey, Taylor Swift’s song

Yankees Anthony Rizzo celebrates after a home run vs. the Royals at Yankee Stadium on July 23, 2023.

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Anthony Rizzo was finally able to end his prolonged home run drought with a decisive performance against the Royals on Sunday. The first baseman didn’t forget to give the credit to Yankees’ new hitting coach Sean Casey and singer Taylor Swift for inspiring him.

In the third inning of Sunday’s game against Royals’ right-hander Jordan Lyles, Anthony Rizzo launched a solo home run over the right-field wall, breaking his home run drought since May 20. It also marked the end of the longest period without a home run in his career.

While he admitted that Sean Casey’s perfect blend of old-school mind and the new approach encouraged him, Anthony Rizzo jokingly told that adopting Taylor Swift’s “… Ready for It?” as his walk-up song also turned around his fortune.

With a sense of joy and relief, Anthony Rizzo celebrated his long-awaited home run with an unusual trot around the bases. As he rounded the bases, he raised his arms to the sky and directed his gaze toward his teammates and coaches in the Yankees‘ dugout.

Upon his return to the dugout, Anthony Rizzo’s teammates decided to playfully give him the silent treatment, attempting to keep their composure while the seasoned player pushed and playfully shoved his way down the line, wearing a wide grin on his face. When Anthony Rizzo finally reached the end of the dugout, his teammates couldn’t contain their excitement any longer and rushed to swarm the 33-year-old in celebration.

The struggling power hitter broke his two-month homer drought and had a perfect 4-for-4 performance, driving an RBI double to left-center in the opening inning, two singles up the middle, and launching a 364-foot home run to right at Yankee Stadium.

Anthony Rizzo breaks HR drought

In an effort to break free from a prolonged hitting slump that had lasted for two months, Anthony Rizzo tried some drastic measures in recent days. He ditched his batting gloves and stepped up to the plate on Saturday without them, something he hadn’t done in years. On Sunday, he also made a change to his walk-up music Taylor Swift‘s “… Ready for It?,” hoping to find a spark in his performance. It clicked.

Since May 21, Anthony Rizzo had been struggling at the plate, with a batting average of .182 and a meager .492 OPS. Among all qualifying position players during that period, his OPS, accompanied by a 43 wRC+ and -0.9 fWAR, ranked as the lowest.

For reasons unknown, the Yankees’ severely struggling first baseman had a remarkable performance, achieving his first four-hit game of the season and, after more than two months, smashing his long-awaited home run in a decisive 8-5 victory against the Royals to complete the series sweep at the Stadium.

After the game, the 33-year-old first baseman stated that he now possesses a different perspective on the game. He mentioned that it might seem like he’s struggling and “drowning in the water,” but in reality, he feels like he’s on a boat, waiting for favorable winds and set sails. Anthony Rizzo emphasized the importance of having fun and finding moments of joy during challenging times. He also expressed appreciation for the reaction from his teammates in the dugout, which helped him stay positive and avoid getting discouraged.

Anthony Rizzo remarked that on that day, it was indeed a significant step in the right direction.

Anthony Rizzo acknowledges the effects of Sean Caset

Anthony Rizzo highlighted that before the game, there were discussions among several players about mechanics and their approaches with the hitting coaches. The team has recently undergone changes, with new hitting coach Sean Casey taking over after the All-Star break, working alongside the holdover assistants. This collaborative effort among the players and coaches aimed to improve their overall hitting performance.

Anthony Rizzo expressed his admiration for Casey, emphasizing their longstanding friendship. He commended Casey’s blend of old-school baseball knowledge with modern approaches. According to Rizzo, the team has many talented baseball minds, and their discussions on feel, mechanics, and strategies have been beneficial, leading to moments where things “click” and improvements are made.

“I love Casey, he and I have been friends for a long time,” he said. “So it’s the old-school baseball mind and it blends so well with the new school. … We have so many good baseball minds in here. Just talking through feel, mechanics, sometimes something clicks.”

According to Anthony Rizzo, the key to his recent success at the plate is about being in the right hitting position and finding that rhythm. As he starts getting more hits, his confidence grows, and he regains the feeling of being in sync with his swing. He expressed the desire to maintain this positive feeling and never let it slip away.

Yankees' Anthony Rizzo in action against the Royals.
New York Yankees

Yankees welcome Anthony Rizzo’s end of HR drought

Following his solo home run to right field in the fourth inning off Royals starter Jordan Lyles, Anthony Rizzo shared that his teammates playfully continued the tradition of giving him the silent treatment in the dugout. This marked his first home run in 188 plate appearances and 167 at-bats since his last one on May 20 against the Reds.

Aaron Boone acknowledged that going through a tough period is undoubtedly challenging and not enjoyable. He emphasized that despite the difficulties, there is a lot of support for Anthony Rizzo in the clubhouse.

Anthony Rizzo mentioned that sometimes things just click, and he felt really good during his first at-bat of the day. He hadn’t homered since May 20, and getting a couple of hits helped him gain more confidence in his swing. He expressed the desire to keep that positive feeling, like bottling it up and never letting it go.

During the 45 games between his homers, Anthony Rizzo’s batting average was .182, and he recorded 46 strikeouts in 165 at-bats. This significant decline occurred during a crucial phase of the season, with Judge mostly absent from the lineup.

Aaron Boone praised Anthony Rizzo’s performance and expressed his excitement for what happened on the field, indicating that everything points to Rizzo being able to bounce back based on his physical attributes.

As Anthony Rizzo rounded the bases, the Yankees’ game-ops team played Mase’s “Welcome Back,” a fitting choice for his triumphant return to form. Additionally, Rizzo himself acknowledged the change in his walk-up song, switching to Taylor Swift’s “… Ready For It?” for a fresh start at the plate.

The Yankees first baseman jokingly mentioned that Taylor Swift is having quite the summer, as she seems to be contributing to the economy wherever she performs.

Although it hasn’t been the most successful summer for Anthony Rizzo and the Yankees, there’s still time to turn things around. The team has shown promise by scoring 18 runs in the last three games against Kansas City. Additionally, the return of captain Aaron Judge from the injured list could provide a much-needed boost to the lineup.

Perhaps his challenging period is coming to an end. Anthony Rizzo reflected on the lessons he’s gained from the ups and downs of the game, acknowledging that the ebbs and flows are a natural part of it. He expressed the importance of staying steady and not getting too high or too low, as things tend to even out in the long run. He also mentioned breaking his 0-for-20 streak with a single on Saturday, which provided a positive shift in momentum.

Luis Severino, the winning starter, mentioned that they had Anthony Rizzo back.

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