Giancarlo Stanton has been saying all along that he’s not worried. That he’s not having trouble adjusting to New York and is just doing his thing the way he always does.
Maybe it’s time to listen to him after his three-run home run powered the Yankees to a 6-2 victory over the Braves at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
Stanton is showing signs that he could be ready to carry the team after an early part of his Yankees career that included plenty of strikeouts and boos.
“I’m close,” he said.
Stanton can have at-bats that look completely non-competitive — when, in his words, he swings at “nonsense.”
Then he can swing and produce a mighty blast to the right-centerfield bleachers, as he did on an 0-and-2 pitch with two outs in the third inning against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran.
“That’s him,” Aaron Boone said. “You watch him take batting practice and his approach is to try and go that way. Obviously, in this building, it’s a good approach to have, especially as a righthanded hitter when you have power.”
After the games of July 4, 2017, Stanton was hitting .265 with 21 home runs, 50 RBIs and an .870 OPS for the Marlins. He went on to hit 38 home runs and drive in 82 runs in his last 78 games, compiling a .299/.405/.746 slash line and an OPS of 1.150.
After the games of July 4, 2018, Stanton is hitting .267 with 21 home runs, 51 RBIs and an .853 OPS. And he bats in a much better lineup in a much more homer-friendly home ballpark.
“Just having better overall at-bats,” said Stanton, who is hitting .390 (16-for-41) with three homers and nine RBIs in his last 10 games. “There’s some sloppy ones in there, but [being] consistent, better plans, better approach overall. I’m just giving myself the best chance to be successful out there.”
Is the best yet to come? If it is, the rest of baseball may not be able to keep the Yankees from breaking the single-season home run record. The 1997 Mariners hit 264. The Yankees have hit 144 in 84 games, which projects to 278 in 162 games.
They hit three more on Wednesday to back CC Sabathia (6-3, 3.02 ERA), who allowed two runs in six innings for the victory. Aaron Judge hit his 24th — no shock there — and rookie catcher Kyle Higashioka homered for the second time in two days and for the third time in his brief career.
In fact, Higashioka has three career hits in 34 at-bats over the last two seasons and each has been a home run. He became the second Yankee to hit home runs for his first three hits (Alfonso Soriano, 1999-2000).
But the solo homers by Judge and Higashioka were just icing on the cake (whether it was for America’s or John Sterling’s birthday on Wednesday). The entree was served up by Stanton, who also homered in the Yankees’ 8-5 win on Tuesday.
The Yankees were leading 1-0 on Greg Bird’s second-inning RBI single when Stanton sent a 3-and-1 pitch deep into the humid afternoon sky. It was a no-doubter, unlike the wall-scraper he hit to right on Tuesday.
Higashioka’s homer to left in the fourth made it 5-0.
Sabathia allowed a run in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Danny Santana and another in the sixth on Johan Camargo’s ninth home run. He gave up five hits, walked three, hit two batters and struck out five in a season-high 103-pitch effort.
Judge’s high solo shot to right off lefthander Luiz Gohara made it 6-2 in the seventh.
The Yankees took the rubber match against the NL East leaders despite losing rookie Gleyber Torres to a strained right hip after four innings. Torres, who had an MRI, will be placed on the 10-day disabled list on Thursday, Boone said. With Torres down, Boone said Neil Walker will be the first man up at second.
The Yankees are off on Thursday before beginning a three-city, 11-game road trip in Toronto on Friday leading into the All-Star break.
Stanton may not make the AL All-Star team, but Boone thinks last year’s NL MVP is just getting warmed up.
“Game in and game out, I feel like there’s more at-bats where he’s on,” Boone said. “From a timing standpoint, when he’s on, he’s as deadly as there is, and we’re starting to see that on a more consistent level. That’s really all I can say about it.”