That the Yankees set the single-season home run record this year with 267 isn’t a surprise in itself. As Aaron Boone said over the weekend: “It felt like those were the first questions I got on the job.”
With a lineup featuring Aaron Judge, coming off a 52-homer season, and Gary Sanchez, who hit 33 in 2017 despite missing a month, and the addition of National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 with the Marlins, breaking the record seemed not only possible but probable.
In Boone’s spring training kickoff news conference — and even, really, at the December winter meetings after the acquisition of Stanton — many of the questions revolved around just how good the Yankees’ powerful offense would be. So their homer total this year wasn’t shocking. What was surprising, however, was the “how” element of doing it.
“The fact that it’s come from so many different people I think’s been the cool thing,” Boone said. “If you would have told us we were going to break that record at the beginning of the year, you would have probably thought Giancarlo’s hitting 50 or 60, Judgie’s hitting 50 or 60, Gary’s hitting [a lot]. But because of injuries and different things, that hasn’t been the case.”
Among the triumvirate Boone mentioned, Stanton led the way with 38 homers. Judge, who missed 45 games with a right wrist fracture, hit 27. Sanchez, who had two stints on the disabled list and never got his swing going when he was healthy, had 18.
But rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, neither of whom started the season in the majors, hit 27 and 24 homers, respectively, and Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius each contributed a career-best 27. And the phenomenon that was Luke Voit had 14, including 10 in September.
When Torres went deep on Saturday, the Yankees became the first team in MLB history to get at least 20 homers from all nine spots in the batting order.
“It’s incredible,” said CC Sabathia, who is in his 18th big-league season. “And Judge was out for [some] of the year. I think we would have shattered that record if he would have been around, but it’s been amazing to watch. This team is young and powerful and it’s just a lot of fun to see the display every day and every night.”
Boone’s team will begin what it hopes will be a long postseason run Wednesday night when it hosts Oakland in the American League wild-card game.
How that season-long power display will translate against the A’s is anyone’s guess. While the A’s haven’t announced who will start the game, reports out of Oakland on Sunday suggested that righty Liam Hendriks will serve as their “opener,” the first of a parade of relievers likely to be used by manager Bob Melvin.
The Yankees haven’t announced who will start from among J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, but Boone has indicated that whoever starts probably won’t get more than one time through the A’s order.
At that point it will become bullpen vs. bullpen, and while the A’s have made bullpen games work for much of the second half, the Yankees believe what they can run out to the mound is as good, if not better.
But they derive most of their confidence from playing at the Stadium, where they were undefeated last postseason (6-0) and 53-28 this season, the majors’ second-best home mark (the Red Sox were 57-24). Also, the Yankees hit 144 homers at home compared to 123 on the road.
“We’re a hard team to beat at home,” Hicks said. “To have that advantage in a one-game elimination game is huge for us.”