BOSTON – After running through most of September, the Yankees’ season has reached a turning point. In the final week and a half of the regular season, they have six games on the schedule against two of the teams – the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays – with whom they are battling for the final two playoff spots in the American League.
And in their first two of those games in Boston, the Yankees performed well – and they have slugger Giancarlo Stanton to thank for that.
In Friday’s 8-3 win over the Red Sox, Stanton led the Yankees with three hits and four RBIs. A day later, Stanton did it again, guiding the Yankees to a 5-3 victory, their fifth in a row, and tied with the Red Sox for the first AL wildcard spot.
With the Yankees (88-67) trailing by one point with two strikeouts in the eighth inning, Stanton arguably delivered the biggest swing of his tenure in stripes, hitting the first pitch he saw from the Red reliever. Sox Darwinzon Hernandez onto the Green Monster to the left field and out of Fenway Park for a go-ahead grand slam.
âA great feeling,â said a low-key Stanton afterwards. âA lot of emotions are happening. I’m just glad I got to do it, just compress everything and be on time for the fastball and something good happened.
His teammates, however, were more enthusiastic about the explosion estimated at 452 feet but which seemed longer. As Stanton ran around the bases, his teammates threw their arms in the air and bounced in joy. The many Yankees fans at Fenway Park applauded.
âIt was amazing,â said starter Nestor Cortes, who allowed two runs in four innings and a third on Saturday, and has produced an earned run average of 2.85 for the Yankees this season. âThe whole canoe was electric. We were so happy. As soon as he rounded second base he looked at us and we gave him like a flex. It was a great feeling.
Since the start of August, Stanton has been the Yankees’ leading hitter – Saturday’s explosion was his 17th during that span. Stanton attributed the push to making his swing more direct towards the ball, in order to establish more contact, and lifting the ball more into the air, after a streak of too many hard-hit balls on the ground.
This season – and not just the past two months – has been a strong reminder of Stanton’s mighty bat. After appearing in 41 combined games over the previous two seasons due to a litany of injuries, Stanton was the Yankees’ second-most productive hitter, behind star outfielder Aaron Judge.
Including Saturday, Stanton is hitting .275 with 33 home runs and 91 RBIs with a .872 based slugging percentage this season. He played in 132 of the Yankees’ 155 games.
“Our focus is on trying to keep him healthy and what’s the best way to do it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. âBut I think he’s tweaked and tweaked some things along the way, both off season and in season, to keep him healthy. He has done a great job preserving himself physically and making sure he is able to post as much as he has this year.
Stanton came to the rescue on Saturday with throws from the Yankees that held off Boston’s powerful offense. Luis Severino, making his second appearance since the 2019 playoffs due to Tommy John’s surgery and ensuing setbacks, took the win while removing four sticks in two scoreless innings.
Sitting in the dugout between his sleeves, Severino said he spoke to wide receiver Gary Sanchez about what he wanted to throw when he took over the mound as he was dragging through a run. But after the Yankees loaded up Stanton’s bases with quality hitters – Brett Gardner and Judge walked, and Anthony Rizzo was hit with a pitch – Severino said he changed the plan because he said to Sanchez that Stanton was going to shoot over the fence for the lead.
“It’s not the first time he’s found himself in a big situation and come out of it,” said Severino, who is normally a starter but returns to the major leagues as a reliever. “I could feel it.”
After Red Sox manager Alex Cora brought in left-handed reliever Hernandez to take on Rizzo, Stanton figured he was like, “They better get him out.” It was Stanton’s confidence speaking, and over the past two months, he’s certainly been supporting it.
“I can’t wait to see it replay a few times tonight,” Boone said of Stanton’s home run. “In this atmosphere, in this environment, just to get the air out of the building, it’s up there for me in the ones that I saw G hit.”