Giancarlo Stanton has a plan.
Not that he didn’t have a plan before. But the Yankees’ highly-paid and oft-injured slugger said on Wednesday that he has a new plan to stay on the field for the rest of the regular season and the entirety of the Yankees’ playoff run.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before . . .
"I’ve got a good plan in place," Stanton said before the Yankees hosted the Blue Jays in the return of another healed slugger, Aaron Judge, from the injured list.
"Pregame, in-game, all of these adjustments, I’ve had those. We’ve got a new warmup, new mid-game routine. If certain things happen in the game – like if I’m DHing and I don’t run the bases for two at-bats, that’s an hour and a half of no movement – so you’ve got to do more in-between at-bats and stuff like that."
Stanton made his return from a stint on the injured list with a hamstring strain on Tuesday and the Yankees scored 20 runs against Toronto. Stanton had little to do with that – he went 0-for-4 with a walk – but that he was able to get through five plate appearances in his first game since Aug. 8 was a small victory that was added to the Yankees’ actual, very large victory over their division rivals.
Tuesday’s 20-6 thrashing allowed the Yankees to hop over the Blue Jays and into second place in the AL East by one-half game. "We’re No. 2!" may not be the rallying cry Yankees fans wanted to hear going into this shortened season, but in 2020 finishing second in your division guarantees a playoff spot.
Also, the second-place team with the best record among the three second-place teams in the American League will get to host the entire three-game wild-card series. Going into Wednesday, the Yankees were 19-7 in the Bronx this season and 8-14 away from it.
So, if the Yankees can’t catch the first-place Rays by the end of the regular season on Sept. 27, at least they can still hope to have some home postseason games before baseball heads into its Texas and California bubbles.
Speaking of bubbles, the Yankees have tried everything except encasing Stanton in bubble wrap over the last two seasons, with little success.
After a standout 2018 in his first season in pinstripes, Stanton in 2019 appeared in just 18 games in the regular season (including the final nine) and five in the playoffs before breaking down again. This year, he had appeared in 15 games going into Wednesday.
"It’s just an interesting, tough year all around," Stanton said. "Just to be back grinding with the guys is what I’m looking forward to and we’ll leave all the other stuff out."
Stanton was not in Wednesday’s lineup as manager Aaron Boone predicted on Tuesday. The Yankees are going slowly with Stanton even though the postseason begins on Sept. 29. He should be back in there on Thursday.
"I think you’ve still got to be smart with this for the long haul," Stanton said. "We’ve got a plan in place for these 12 games and just stick to that and should be ready to go in the postseason."
The team figures Stanton is worth the effort. Even with Tuesday’s oh-fer, he still had a .964 OPS going into Wednesday.
Gerrit Cole talked the other day about how just having threats such as Stanton and Judge in the lineup will make opposing pitchers think twice.
And Luke Voit – who hit two homers on Tuesday to take over sole possession of the Major League Baseball home run leaderboard with 18 – said after the game: "We’re clicking at the right time – right before playoffs start. Top to bottom tonight, pretty scary lineup, and we’re getting a really, really good player here back soon – Judge – which even makes it even scarier. A couple of weeks ago, I don’t think teams were scared of us. Now we’re back to being the Bronx Bombers. I don’t think people want to play us in the playoffs."