If the All-Star Game were being played next month rather than this coming week, Matt Carpenter almost assuredly would be headed there.
Just try convincing the Yankees he doesn’t belong as it is.
The 36-year-old former Cardinals star, an under-the-radar signing in late May, has been on fire since, and that quite emphatically continued Saturday night.
Carpenter, whose bat has forced Aaron Boone to get him in the lineup on a regular basis, ripped a pair of three-run homers and drove in seven runs in a 14-1 demolition of the Red Sox in front of a noisy sellout crowd of 47,997 at the Stadium.
Aaron Judge also homered twice, raising his MLB-leading total to 33. He tied Roger Maris (1961) for the most homers hit by a Yankee before the All-Star break.
The Yankees (63-28), losers of five of their last six entering the night, outhit the Red Sox 12-3.
Carpenter earned his first Yankee Stadium curtain call after his second homer made it 8-1 in the fifth. He also drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.
Upon reporting to the Yankees in St. Petersburg on May 26, Carpenter said, “I told them, if they want me to load the bags on the plane, I’ll do it.” No need to be that humble now.
“I’ve watched him for quite a bit,’’ Judge said. “I’ve been a fan of his, the way he plays, big fan of his swing. It’s pretty impressive. You can’t sneak anything by him. Bringing him over, you never know what’s going to happen, but once I saw the way he works, the way he prepares, I knew he was going to do something special with us.”
Carpenter became the first Yankees outfielder with at least seven RBIs in a game against the Red Sox since Joe DiMaggio did it in Game 2 of a doubleheader on Aug. 13, 1940. He has all 13 of his home runs and all 31 of his RBIs in 20 starts for the Yankees.
“Kind of at a loss for words for it,’’ he said. “I said it the first day I was here, I was just so grateful to be in the clubhouse, to be here with this group of guys. I come to the ballpark every day just thrilled to be a part of this. To be able to play like I’m playing and the way our team’s playing on a nightly basis is a lot of fun.”
He’s a good fit in the clubhouse, too. “From his presence, from the way he talks to the younger guys, the way he fit in from Day 1 in Tampa,’’ Judge said. “There was no awkward period trying to fit in. He jumped right in with the guys and bought into our process, bought into this team. He’s just out here ready to win. That’s our main goal, that’s what this team wants to do. Pretty cool having another guy like that that’s been in big games. He came here, put his ego aside and wants to win.”
Carpenter’s first homer was a three-run shot in the first inning off Nick Pivetta to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
Judge homered leading off the fifth and added a 444-foot two-run shot in the sixth to make it a runaway at 10-1.
Jameson Taillon, who entered the night with a 6.81 ERA in his previous seven starts — including his most recent one last weekend in Boston, when he allowed six runs in five innings — was as good as he’s been as a Yankee. After allowing plenty of hard contact in the first inning, which included yet another Rafael Devers home run, Taillon retired the final 17 batters he faced. He allowed one run and two hits in six innings in which he walked none and struck out five, improving to 10-2 with a 3.86 ERA.
“I was able to just attack and get a bunch of quick outs, pound the zone,’’ Taillon said. “And for a guy that doesn’t have the results going my way [the last month], it was nice to get those quick outs . . . For me, the past month hasn’t been easy, but I’m just going to keep my head down and keep working and hopefully the results keep coming.”
Devers continued his assault on Yankees pitching in the first. After Taillon retired leadoff man Jarren Duran on a fly to short right, Devers hammered a first-pitch curveball to right for his 22nd homer. That gave him five homers against the Yankees this season and 18 in his career. Devers is 25, and the only player to hit more homers against the Yankees before turning 26 is Ted Williams, who hit 20. After allowing a sharp single by Xander Bogaerts, Taillon did not allow another baserunner.
The Yankees came right back. Judge, in a 9-for-49 skid coming in, lined a single to left. After narrowly missing a two-run homer down the rightfield line, Anthony Rizzo lined a double that hit near the top of the wall in right-center. Giancarlo Stanton worked a five-pitch walk, loading the bases for Josh Donaldson, who tied it at 1-1 with a soft groundout to third. Carpenter came next and clobbered a 1-and-1 curveball to right.
“I really don’t know where to pitch him right now if I were on the other team,’’ Taillon said. “He’s hitting breaking balls in the zone, he’s handling fastballs and he doesn’t chase a ton. There’s not a ton of room for error.”
Judge led off the fifth by crushing a full-count slider to make it 5-1. Pivetta immediately went to his knees upon contact, knowing the ball was long gone. After Rizzo singled and Stanton doubled, lefty Darwinzon Hernandez came in to face Carpenter.
Righty, lefty, it made no difference. He launched an 0-and-2 curveball to right and it was curtains for the Red Sox — with a curtain call to follow.
“Pretty awesome,’’ Carpenter said. “To have that moment here, with this group of fans, on this team, and where this year started for me, it’s pretty special.”