SAN DIEGO — Giancarlo Stanton didn’t sugarcoat it.
The power-hitting outfielder/DH knows his history in a Yankees uniform has mostly been one of frustration.
And so Stanton, who went 2-for-7 with two homers and two walks in the Yankees' two-game sweep of Cleveland in the wild-card round, said "it’s big for me" to get something positive going at this time of year. And to continue to do so.
"I know what I mean to the lineup, what I can bring to the table," Stanton said shortly before the Yankees flew from Cleveland to San Diego for the American League Division Series against the Rays that started Monday night. "So it's a matter of not show it on paper but be out there and do it. So we have a new task at hand, and that's Tampa Bay in San Diego."
Stanton showed how much he meant — or can mean — to the lineup in the Yankees’ wild 10-9 series-clinching victory in Cleveland on Wednesday night, going 1-for-2 with a homer, two RBIs, two walks and two runs.
With the Yankees trailing 4-0, Stanton led off the second with a homer off Carlos Carrasco to get the Yankees on the board and ignite the dugout with some electricity on the rainy, windy night. Stanton hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead, then worked a leadoff walk against Cleveland’s stud closer, Brad Hand, in the ninth. He eventually scored as the Yankees rallied from a run down.
"It's that time of year where people like to beat the drum on 'little ball' and all that, but at the end of the day, the home run is going to play a big role in who continues to advance," Aaron Boone said. "I feel like Giancarlo's at-bats have been excellent."
Stanton enters the ALDS feeling as good — at the plate and physically — as he has all season. Stanton, as no Yankees fan needs reminding, was limited to 18 of 162 games last year because of an assortment of injuries and played in only 23 of 60 games this season, again battling the injury bug.
"It’s been very tough, but at the same time, that's behind me and not even a thought right now," Stanton said.
Instead, it’s about facing the Rays in a ballpark not too many Yankees are familiar with, though Stanton is an exception.
Because of his eight seasons with the Marlins in the National League, Stanton has appeared in 19 games at Petco Park, home of the Padres, hitting .323 with eight homers and a 1.190 OPS.
"We’ll get a couple of practice days there, but I don’t really have a scouting report for it," said Stanton, who put on an impressive power show in winning the 2016 Home Run Derby at Petco Park. "It has interesting dimensions, I’d say. Good for righthanded hitters, and we’ve got a lot of those. So we'll get there and I’ll throw some tidbits in there that I remember from playing there over the years."
Stanton, because of his injury issues, appeared in only three of the 10 games the Yankees played against the Rays this season (he went 2-for-7 with a homer and three walks), but those games were enough for him to get a taste of the bad blood that cropped up in just about every meeting.
He mostly avoided going there. Mostly.
"Interesting, too," Stanton said. "Who would have thought we would be playing against Tampa Bay in San Diego when this year started? It's good. We know what they’ve got, and we know it's going to be a fight and we have to play our best . . . We [are] ready, we’re ready. It’s going to be fun. It's going to be a good fight, to take this East Coast battle out to the West Coast now."
The Rays, of course, coasted to the AL East title. Stanton couldn’t resist a slight jab about that.
"They won the division, so they got that," he said. "Now's it’s an opportunity to let them just have the division. It's the full bragging rights chances here [in the postseason]. Shirts and hats, that doesn’t mean anything. We’re going to be in San Diego and we play it out there."