In the middle innings of the Yankees-Red Sox game on Saturday afternoon, a rainbow appeared behind the outfield walls of Fenway Park. It framed the old ballpark beautifully.
An hour or so later, after day turned to night, Giancarlo Stanton hit a go-ahead grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning that would have just about reached that rainbow — or gone somewhere over it.
At the end of that rainbow for the Yankees? The playoffs, they hope, and then a chance to do some major damage once they get there.
That’s the pot of gold.
Stanton’s grand slam turned a one-run deficit into a three-run Yankees lead in a game they went on to win, 5-3.
With their fifth straight victory, the Yankees pulled even with Boston for the two AL wild-card spots. The Red Sox hold the tiebreaker because they’ve already won the season series, so if the two rivals finish with the same record, the wild-card game will take place at Fenway.
Stanton’s grand slam on a first-pitch fastball from lefthander Darwinzon Hernandez left the bat at 114 mph and traveled an estimated 452 feet over the Green Monster, over a DraftKings sign and completely out of the venerable ballpark.
"Didn’t waste any time," manager Aaron Boone said. "Got after it from jump street and nailed it . . . 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."
It wasn’t Bucky Dent/Boone level, but Stanton’s blast was huge for the 2021 Yankees, who were staring at a frustrating loss and were one out away from not scoring despite getting four walks and a hit batter in the seventh and eighth innings.
And it was huge for Stanton, who has established himself as the "great, fearsome hitter" (in Boone’s words) the Yankees thought they were acquiring after his 2017 NL MVP season.
The Yankees also should give a shout-out and a hat tip to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who ignored the consequences of the three-batter rule to set up the Hernandez-Stanton matchup.
Let’s back up and see how it got there.
In the seventh, with the Red Sox leading 2-1, righthander Tanner Houck came out of the bullpen and walked two batters on eight pitches. But Gleyber Torres grounded into a double play and Gary Sanchez struck out.
In the eighth, with two outs and no one on, Houck walked Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge on 3-and-2 pitches. Cora brought in the erratic Hernandez to face Anthony Rizzo, even though the lefthanded batter is hitting .326 against lefties and .218 vs. righties and Hernandez had walked 30 in 39 1⁄3 innings.
Boone and Stanton both licked their chops (figuratively).
"You see it coming, right?" Boone said. "When they go to the lefty there, they’re kind of putting their chips in there with getting Rizzo out."
Stanton said he was thinking "they better get him out. They better get Rizzo out because I’d obviously rather face a lefty than a righty at any time."
Rizzo saw five pitches outside the strike zone (he swung through a high 2-and-0 fastball). On 3-and-1, Hernandez drilled Rizzo on the leg to load the bases.
Because of the three-batter rule, Cora had to let Hernandez face Stanton. Stanton connected and watched the majestic flight of the ball. After his trip around the bases, he did a pirouette, which he explained is something he does when the Yankees’ dugout is on the third-base side so he can share the moment with his teammates.
Stanton also got to share the moment, in a way, with the many Yankees fans on hand in the sellout crowd of 36,103. Not always a fan favorite at home, he was one for the Yankees rooters at Fenway on Saturday night.
"Great feeling," Stanton said. "Lot of emotions going on. Just glad I was able to do it."