The most ironic moment of the Yankees’ series-opening 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers had nothing to do with Luis Severino staring and nodding in the other direction as Aaron Boone desperately tried to stop him from dominating any more.
No, the height of Yankees irony came in the eighth inning, when Marwin González, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton headed to the plate against rocket-armed Jonathan Hernández, gassed up with high-90s cheddar. Stanton has been struggling to catch up to high velocity for months, hampered by lower body issues; his OBP is down to .295, his OPS stuck just above league average (111 OPS+) at .751. González is, of course, Marwin González.
And yet, two home runs were hit in three at-bats, neither by Judge. Stanton’s laser off a middle-in fastball stole the show, nestling 457 feet away and traveling at 113 MPH for his 30th blast of a shortened season.
The natural immediate reaction — after an eye roll at Judge’s awkward misfortune, of course — was to declare Stanton emphatically BACK, prepared for Postseason Crush Mode. That conversation got even louder Tuesday night, when Stanton fired another missile into the bullpen, his 31st of the season.
At this point, though, we still haven’t moved beyond the “seeing signs” stage.
Is Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton ‘heating up’ in time for playoffs?
Stanton hasn’t emerged from his slumber just yet. Rather, he’s proven a few times in recent weeks that his light-tower power is still there, and could be activated at a moment’s notice.
Unlike DJ LeMahieu’s toe injury that’s seemed to sap 100% of his power, for the time being, Stanton’s soreness didn’t make his innate ability temporarily disappear. It’s just lengthened the timeline of his ramp-up phase longer than anyone would’ve liked — and that period isn’t over yet.
Counting Stanton’s moonshot on Monday, he still entered play Tuesday 4-for-his-last-27 (two of them homers), with 13 strikeouts accounting for more than half of his total outs recorded. His rhythm hasn’t departed for the winter … but it’s also not fully engaged.
The long-time master of the Hard Out hasn’t been striking the ball particularly well lately on non-home runs (the strikeout totals could’ve told you that, too). Stanton hasn’t hit a non-homer at over 100 MPH exit velocity since Sept. 22, when he smashed a single off Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier that registered at 101.8.
That day, in fact, things seemed to be coming together nicely overall; Stanton’s single off Brasier was one of three balls in play he struck over the century mark, including a 106.2 MPH homer and a 101.8 MPH single up the middle, both against Michael Wacha.
Since that day, though, Stanton’s only two balls in play to pass 100 MPH left the yard: pulled homers off Hernández (113.3) and Austin Voth of the Orioles (112.8).
Before anyone emphatically declares that Stanton has arrived once more to put on a postseason show, the consistency of that hard contact must increase, even if the strikeouts remain.