One pitch was all it took for Clint Frazier to show he belonged in the Yankees’ lineup for Game 1 of the ALDS.
In his first start of the postseason, Frazier hammered a high 96-mph fastball from lefthander Blake Snell 418 feet into the upper deck in leftfield on the first pitch of the third inning Monday night at Petco Park in San Diego.
"It was exciting," Frazier said after the Yankees’ 9-3 win. "Obviously, I didn’t get the playing time I wanted last series. To have my first postseason hit in my career be a home run in that moment was special for me and special for the team.’’
Batting eighth, Frazier combined with No. 9 hitter Kyle Higashioka to become the first 8-9 hitters to homer for the Yankees in a postseason game.
"With Snell, he’s a guy that likes to throw up in the zone a lot and his fastball plays up, so I was going into that at-bat anticipating him to try to go to that pitch up in the zone and I kind of had my sights set right there,’’ Frazier said. "But it’s not often you hit that pitch because it’s so difficult. It’s a tough one to hit. It’s probably the first one of my career I’ve ever done like that and it came at a big time and I was really excited and I’m still excited right now and I can’t wait to go out and see my girlfriend and give her a hug."
Frazier ended up playing only five innings, but his first career postseason hit gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead and validated Aaron Boone’s decision to start him over Brett Gardner in leftfield.
After going 1-for-20 in his final six games of the regular season, Frazier was passed over against two righthanded starters in the wild-card series in Cleveland. Gardner went 3-for-8 with two walks, a home run and three RBIs as the Yankees swept the series. Frazier had one at-bat, a three-pitch strikeout as a pinch hitter in Game 2.
Boone said it was a tough decision to bench Frazier for Gardner in Cleveland but an easy one to start Frazier against Snell, who struck out Frazier with the bases loaded in the fourth.
"He’s answered the bell at every turn this year," Boone said after the game. "The focus, the work, the professionalism he’s been able to show . . . [He’s] a big reason we’re in the postseason, and [he] doesn’t start the first two games. Gets his opportunity tonight . . . I’m just really proud of how he’s handled things. Showing himself to be a real pro."
King added, Kratz out. The Yankees increased their pitching staff to 14 for the ALDS after carrying 13 arms in the wild-card series by adding rookie righthander Michael King. Third catcher Erik Kratz was taken off the roster. King, 25, went 1-2 with a 7.76 ERA in nine games (four starts) this season.