The player Brian Cashman described last year as having “legendary bat speed” had perhaps the swing of the season for the Yankees.
Clint Frazier’s walk-off three-run homer off Brewers closer Corey Knebel with one out in the ninth inning lifted the skidding Yankees to a 5-3 victory Saturday afternoon in front of 40,224 at the Stadium.
“First walk-off in my career, I think,” Frazier said. “None better than it be a major-league one.”
The victory saved the Yankees (45-40) from an 18th loss in their last 24 games and gave them a chance at a series victory over the NL Central-leading Brewers (49-41) going into the All-Star break.
“That’s a big win,” Joe Girardi said. “We needed that.”
Added Aaron Judge, who went 1-for-3 with a walk: “Every win’s huge. We just showed some heart there, some fight. That’s what it’s all about. Hopefully we can build off it.”
Held hitless for 4 2⁄3 innings before Frazier singled to right against lefthander Brent Suter and shut out for six innings, the Yankees didn’t look poised for a breakout entering the ninth against Knebel, who brought a 1.11 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 40 2⁄3 innings into the afternoon.
But Didi Gregorius worked a four-pitch walk and, after Chase Headley struck out, Jacoby Ellsbury also walked on four pitches.
Noting his own bullpen’s recent propensity to walk people, Girardi said, “What’s been haunting us haunted them today.”
That brought up Frazier, whose RBI triple had made it 3-2 in the seventh. After taking a ball, the rookie drove a 97-mph fastball, a pitch he was hunting, well over the auxiliary scoreboard in leftfield to win it.
“For me, I was really amped up, so I was trying to make sure I didn’t go up there and take a big swing,” said Frazier, who entered the game in a 1-for-12 slide. “The way I had swung the bat the previous two at-bats helped me keep my poise going into that final one. I was sizing the guy up for one pitch, and he threw it.”
Two pitches after a contested hit by pitch, Luis Severino allowed a three-run homer to rightfield by Domingo Santana with two outs in the first inning that gave the Brewers a 3-0 lead.
Severino otherwise was terrific, allowing six hits and two walks in seven innings and very much keeping his team in the game. He recorded 10 of the 15 strikeouts by the Brewers.
Suter, making only his third start of the season, allowed two runs, five hits and one walk in 6 1⁄3 innings.
The Yankees finally broke through against him in the seventh. Centerfielder Keon Broxton initially broke in on Headley’s one-out drive, which cost him a chance to catch what turned out to be a ground-rule double. Ellsbury’s single put runners at the corners and Suter’s terrible pickoff throw to first trickled deep into foul ground, allowing Headley to score.
Frazier — who was acquired by the Yankees in the Andrew Miller deal with the Indians at the trade deadline last year and was called up last week — then tripled off the wall of the Brewers’ bullpen, his second triple off that wall in as many days. This one hit about one-third of the way up.
“I finally stopped hitting that wall,” he said with a smile, “and hit one over it.”
But with the score 3-2 and the infield in, pinch hitter Ji-Man Choi swung at Jared Hughes’ first pitch and drilled a grounder right at second baseman Jonathan Villar. Ronald Torreyes then popped up, stranding Frazier at third.
Two innings later, that didn’t matter. With his parents in attendance, Frazier enjoyed a dream trip around the bases on his second career homer, with a Gatorade dousing from joyous teammates awaiting him at the plate. Brett Gardner did the honors.
“You don’t really know what’s going on until you cross third base and you see all of them standing there, with the Gatorade, with their hats off, screaming,” Frazier said. “It’s a really cool moment to be part of.”