NEW YORK, N.Y. - Greg Bird shrugged his shoulders a few times, gave a bashful smile or two and talked about how he's just honoured to be helping his Yankees teammates. Nothing seemed to faze this 22-year-old rookie.
Not even those two soaring homers he hit in his fourth big league start.
Bird hit a pair two-out, two-run drives Wednesday, supporting an overpowering effort by Nathan Eovaldi and leading the New York Yankees to a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins for a three-game sweep.
"His composure. You feel like he's been here already six months," teammate Chase Headley said. "He's very calm."
Eovaldi (13-2) did not allow a baserunner until Chris Hermann singled with one out in the sixth. Topping 100 mph on the scoreboard radar a handful of times, Eovaldi was touched for three runs in the inning when he lost command of his secondary pitches.
In seven electric innings, Eovaldi gave up four hits and struck out eight. He walked three in improving to 8-0 in his last 11 starts since June 20.
Dellin Betances pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save — first since July 1 — for the AL East leaders, winners of six of seven.
Called up from Triple-A on Thursday, Bird has been in the lineup since replacing Mark Teixeira on the field Monday night after the switch-hitter fouled a ball off his right shin. He connected twice off Ervin Santana, who fell to 0-8 in his last 11 starts against New York.
"This whole week's been crazy," Bird said, "but at the end of the day I'm just trying to do my job here, nothing more nothing less."
Bird got a ride to the ballpark from his parents, then he gave them something to remember in the fourth inning, sending an 0-1 pitch into the second deck in right field after Carlos Beltran squirted a hit off the glove of diving second baseman Brian Dozier.
He put New York back in front in the sixth, this time after Beltran was walked by Santana (2-4), with a homer into the Yankees bullpen for a 4-3 lead. The 38,086 fans demanded a curtain call and he obliged with a quick wave of the helmet from the top step of the dugout.
"The first one at any level," he said.
Bird did not get to face Santana for a shot at three long balls. The right-hander with a red glove was lifted for Trevor May with two outs in the eighth and Bird due up. With fans in the bleachers chanting, "Greg Bird!" he struck out.
The lefty swinging first baseman from Colorado got his first career RBI on Tuesday night and received plenty of praise from manager Joe Girardi about 12 hours later.
"This is a big comparison and I'm not saying this is what my expectation is, but Miguel Cabrera had a slow clock and really had an understanding of what he wanted to do. And I think Greg Bird has an understanding of who he is and what he wants to do," said Girardi, who managed Cabrera with the Marlins in 2006.
Shane Robinson followed Hermann's one-out hit in the sixth with a single. After an out, Dozier walked — following a 102 mph fastball — on a splitter in the dirt. Joe Mauer laced an 87 mph slider into right-centre for two runs. Trevor Plouffe drove in another with a chopper to third for an infield single on a splitter.
"That split combination with the velocity was too much for us to handle today," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Twins: CF Aaron Hicks was put on the 15-day disabled list after stringing his left hamstring. He was replaced in the sixth inning. "Not sure if it's going to take two weeks. Hopefully not, but given the circumstances, I don't think he's going to be in a position to play here for a little while," Molitor said. Top prospect 21-year-old Byron Buxton will be recalled from Triple-A for Tuesday night's game in Baltimore. ... Closer Glen Perkins returned to Minneapolis to have an MRI on his ailing neck. He was given a cortisone shot and will join the team in Baltimore, where he will be reevaluated.
Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (forearm strain) will make a second rehab start, Friday for a yet undetermined minor league team.
Twins: Tyler Duffy (1-1) makes his third career start, at Baltimore. He took a no-hitter into the sixth in his previous start, his first win. He
Yankees: RHP Ivan Nova (5-4) is set for his 10th start since returning from Tommy John surgery in June. He's won four of his last five outings, allowing three runs or fewer four times. Josh Tomlin (0-1) is set to start for Cleveland.