TORONTO — Tyler Austin’s two home runs Saturday should have made him the main story rather than an entertaining footnote in the Yankees’ 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
It’s not easy to overshadow the team’s two heaviest hitters, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, but Austin crushed a pair of mammoth home runs that could have topped either one in a longest-drive contest.
Austin launched a tying two-run homer off Jays starter Marco Estrada in the fifth inning that cleared the leftfield second deck before crashing into the sign that displayed the exit velocity: 112.3 mph. He delivered the next one, a two-out solo shot, with the Yankees down 3-2 in the seventh.
After Estrada fell behind 2-and-0 in the count, he threw the same 89-mph fastball to virtually the same spot, and Austin barreled it up to roughly the same section as his first home run. He even followed it up with a little lumber toss.
“I had no idea what happened,” Austin said of the flip. “I got caught up in the moment.”
How could he not? Two days earlier, it was Stanton who earned himself the back pages by going deep twice in the Yankees’ season opener. But damage like that is expected from Stanton. It’s why he’s wearing pinstripes. For Austin, on the other hand, it’s a career moment.
When asked about the sensation of drilling a ball that far, he shrugged.
“You don’t really feel it, to be honest with you,” he said. “They don’t come very often for me.”
Austin was being a bit too modest. Not only did he homer in his first major-league at-bat in the Bronx in 2016 — going back-to-back with Aaron Judge — but he now has nine homers in 53 games with the Yankees. Of those nine, eight have either tied the score or given the Yankees the lead.
Austin said he was unaware of that statistic, but he’s making the most of his opportunity while taking over for the injured Greg Bird, providing similar pop at first base.
“I’m just trying to take it day-by-day,” Austin said of the chance. “Not worry about the little things.”
He definitely got Estrada’s attention. In the second inning, Austin struck out on three pitches, fouling off the first fastball before whiffing on two changeups. The next time up, Austin ambushed Estrada by jumping on the first-pitch heater for a colossal homer that was conservatively measured at 432 feet by Statcast. He nearly put it into the luxury box right below Joe Carter’s name on the stadium’s Level of Excellence.
“I tried to get a good pitch and not miss it,” Austin said. “That’s what I did right there.”
Sounds simple enough. But the results were spectacular, even if they ultimately didn’t pay off for the Yankees.