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Anthony Rizzo snaps home run drought in hopeful sign for Yankees

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It had been a long, 27-game stretch since Anthony Rizzo last took a swing like this.

Maybe his eighth-inning home run — which he hit over John Schreiber’s sweeper to give the Yankees their first run of the game — was a blip in a losing season.

Or maybe, after going nearly five weeks without a home run, Lizzo will finally find something and start to transform into the old Lizzo.

“I hope so,” said Rizzo, who hit his first home run since May 10 against the Royals on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. “I definitely feel like I’m feeling better. I’ve felt that way for a while.”

Anthony Rizzo celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Royals. Getty Images

Rizzo did not play in Sunday and Monday’s games, a decision made by manager Aaron Boone to give the first baseman time to clear his head and work on his swing.

In his first two games after coming off the bench, Rizzo was 1-for-8 at-bats.

He certainly hit some powerful balls, but he continued to struggle to get the ball up to the right and too often grounded out to first and second base.

“I feel like I’ve had some good swings the last few days,” Rizzo said, adding that he felt his swing was closer to ideal on Tuesday.

Rizzo, who missed the 2023 season with what appears to be a concussion, is 34 years old and in his 14th year as a major leaguer.

There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to regain the form that saw him play in three All-Star games.

This season, he has hit eight home runs in 67 games with an OPS of .626.

But a day in which he went 1-for-3 on 9 pitches, including a walk, gave him some hope.

Anthony Rizzo hit a ball against the Royals in a game earlier this week. Getty Images

“It was good to see him have two more good at-bats today,” Boone said. “He had two more good at-bats today.” [Wednesday]Hopefully, Anthony will continue to build something.”

Friday marks the return of Alex Verdugo to Fenway Park. Verdugo struggled with manager Alex Cora last season and was benched twice, once for a lack of effort and once for arriving late to a game.

The outfielder is a popular figure in the Yankees clubhouse and a solid cleanup hitter.

Alex Verdugo hit a two-run single in Wednesday’s Yankees-Royals game in his first return to Fenway Park as a member of the Bombers. AP

“First of all, he’s a good player,” Boone said of why Verdugo was a good fit for the team. “Our leadership group, especially our captain, Aaron, [Judge]I think [Judge] I was so excited to have him and gave him a quick hug and he gave our group a hug too.

“Not only does he play great baseball, he brings a really exciting, really strong element to the team. He’s been everything we hoped he would be.”

Judge (0-for-4, strikeout-4) ended a 37-game on-base streak that was the longest by a major leaguer this season.

In a hot, sunny day game following the night game, Judge was given a half-day rest as the designated hitter.

Trent Grisham will start at center, with Giancarlo Stanton out of the starting lineup.

“However, [Judge] “Sometimes those days happen,” Boone says, “and it helps keep G fresh.”

Boone said Gerrit Cole is expected to throw 65-70 pitches on Friday in Rochester against Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Gerrit Cole is on a rehab assignment with the Somerset Patriots. Bill Costloan/New York Post

The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner threw 57 pitches over 4 2/3 innings in his second and latest rehab appearance.

Boone did not say whether his third minor league start would be his last.

Outfield prospect Everson Pereira, who hadn’t played for SWB since May 19, was placed on the Railriders’ full-season injured list. The team did not disclose details of the injury.

Gleyber Torres (1-for-4, 1 double) extended his season-high streak of consecutive on-base streaks to 20.