BOSTON — Giancarlo Stanton called Friday night’s victory over Boston a "great first punch" to the critical three-game series.
On Saturday, Stanton might have delivered a knockout blow, or at least a shot that wobbled the Red Sox’ knees.
With his team four outs away from a tough loss, Stanton’s 452-foot grand slam in the eighth inning gave the Yankees a 5-3 win in front of a sellout crowd of 36,103 at Fenway Park.
The Yankees, who have won five straight games, pulled into a tie with the Red Sox at 88-67 for the American League’s two wild-card spots. They lead the Blue Jays by two games and the Mariners by three with seven games remaining.
The Yankees finished with only four hits, and after they blew a prime opportunity to tie the score in the sixth and failed to capitalize on a pair of leadoff walks in the seventh, they obliterated a 2-1 deficit in the eighth.
Tanner Houck struck out Rougned Odor and Gio Urshela, but Brett Gardner fought back from a 1-and-2 count to work a walk and then stole second. Aaron Judge walked and Alex Cora summoned lefty Darwinzon Hernandez to face Anthony Rizzo, who was hit by a 96-mph fastball to load the bases.
Sitting fastball, Stanton got one on the first pitch and hit it over the Green Monster, over the Green Monster seats and onto Lansdowne Street — so far that he had a chance to admire it before beginning his trot around the bases. His 33rd homer of the season and ninth career grand slam put the Yankees ahead 5-2 and caused teammates to pour from the dugout as if it had been a walk-off hit in October.
Was Stanton hunting a fastball on the first pitch? "Yeah. Gotta be ready for fastest bullet there first pitch and adjust from there,’’ he said. "Great feeling. A lot of emotions going on. Just glad I was able to do it, compress everything and be on time for the fastball and something good happened."
"We were talking about it in the dugout; we had the right guy up,’’ Yankees starter Nestor Cortes Jr. said. "You don’t want anyone [else up] at that point. It was incredible. The whole dugout was electric."
"Electric,’’ Aaron Boone said. "A lot of really big-time at-bats to put us in that situation, and G capped it off."
He added, "I’m looking forward to watching it back on replay a few times tonight, I’ll tell you that much. It was, in this atmosphere, in this environment, just to take the air out of the building with one of those, that’s up there for me in the ones I’ve seen G hit."
In 47 games beginning Aug. 3, Stanton is hitting .316 (56-for-177) with 17 homers and 45 RBIs. He has two homers and eight RBIs in the past two games and seven homers and 18 RBIs in the past 13.
In 23 career games at Fenway Park, Stanton is 33-for-86 (.384) with five homers, seven doubles, one triple and 20 RBIs.
Luis Severino, who had struck out two in a scoreless seventh, fanned two more in a scoreless eighth. Aroldis Chapman allowed a one-out homer by Bobby Dalbec in the ninth to make it 5-3 and hit Kevin Plawecki with a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate, but he struck out Jose Iglesias and got Kike Hernandez to ground out for his 29th save in 33 chances.
Boone said of Severino: "It was awesome. It was big, man. Two innings there, ends up going through their big boys, too. Just a great job by him. You could tell he relished being out there in this atmosphere and this kind of game. Another huge step for him."
In the third, Plawecki hit a 408-foot drive high off a light tower atop the Green Monster in left to make it 1-0.
Kyle Schwarber led off the fifth with a single and Dalbec was robbed of a two-run homer by Judge, who made a running catch. "What a play,’’ Boone said. "[It was] hit very well off the bat. I saw he [Judge] got off to a good break. He knew he had to get on his horse and he was able to do that. It was a really special play. And then to almost double him [the runner] off. Just a special play in a big spot."
Said Cortes, "Game-changer right there."
After Plawecki singled, the Yankees replaced Cortes with Michael King to face Iglesias, whose infield single loaded the bases. King spiked a curveball for a wild pitch that made it 2-0 before striking out Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe.
With one out in the sixth, Urshela singled and went to third on Gardner’s double down the rightfield line. Hansel Robles replaced Nick Pivetta and immediately threw a wild pitch that made it 2-1 and sent Gardner to third. But Judge grounded to the drawn-in Rafael Devers on the next pitch, and with the contact play on, Gardner was easily thrown out at the plate. Rizzo then popped to short.
In the seventh, Houck walked Stanton and Joey Gallo on eight pitches to begin the inning, but Gleyber Torres hit into a 4-6-3 double play and Gary Sanchez struck out on three pitches.
It seemed big at the time, but Stanton took care of that. "We all know what is [at stake] and we’re now in a better situation than we were yesterday, the day before,’’ he said. "So it’s our job to get out of this city in an even better situation tomorrow."