Technically, the Yankees didn’t take the bat out of Giancarlo Stanton’s mighty hands with Wednesday night’s game against the White Sox hanging in the balance.
Stanton was holding it as he watched Gleyer Torres get thrown out at the plate, trying to score on a pitch that sailed to the backstop in the fifth inning.
Maybe the throw from catcher Kevan Smith was delivered to the perfect spot, though he short-hopped the ball in front of the plate. Maybe the pitcher Reynaldo Lopez made a great scoop, snatching it backhand as he applied the tag to Torres coming in feet-first (he gets points for that).
But the only certainty about that play is that it should have never happened. Not with the bases loaded, two outs, the Yankees trailing, 3-1, and Stanton standing at the plate.
Even Torres wasn’t sure it was the right idea. How do we know? Watch the replay. He clearly hesitated, despite the ball flying wide of Smith, and the poor jump wound up costing him as well as the Yankees in the bigger picture.
It was a desperate act for a Yankees’ team that was playing a bit too tight in what turned out to be a 4-1 loss to the White Sox, their surprising second win of the series but only their fourth victory in the past 19 games in the Bronx, dating to 2013.
“You can’t look back at that,” Stanton said afterward. “If he’s safe, it’s a good job. If he’s not, you look at all the negatives about it.”
There’s only one negative -- that Torres bolted in the first place. To risk wasting Stanton like that, the ball better be pinballing around the on-deck circle, well out of Smith’s reach. Remain safely at third, and Stanton -- who figures to be due for career homer No. 300 any minute now -- can put the Yankees on top with one swing.
Sure it’s been a while. Stanton hasn’t homered in 10 games, an eternity for him, and Wednesday’s 0-for-3 performance (with a walk) dropped him to .103 (3-for-29) over his past eight games, with zero extra-base hits and 13 strikeouts. That doesn’t mean he’s not close. In his first at-bat, Stanton smoked a line drive, but it was directly at third baseman Yolmer Sanchez.
It’s possible that Stanton may just be getting tired. He’s missed only one of the Yankees’ 133 games, and despite breaking up that workload with 67 starts at DH, it still takes a significant toll. After Wednesday’s game, when Stanton was asked if he could use a day off, he made a somewhat surprising admission.
“Yeah,” Stanton said.
Therein lies the problem. Aaron Boone, with his fractured roster, doesn’t feel like he can give him one. Stanton already has been nursing a sore hamstring for a while now, which is why Boone choose to keep him at DH for the extended period rather than use him in rightfield in Aaron Judge’s absence. But that’s not the same as giving him a rest day, and Boone is wary of doing that as long as Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius are on the shelf.
Remove Stanton from the equation, even this diminished version, and the Yankees’ lineup gets that much shorter, despite Miguel Andujar’s recent heroics and the damage done by Aaron Hicks and Neil Walker. Boone believes he needs Stanton’s intimidation factor, and the player understands that, so Stanton keeps telling his manager he’s good to go, as hard as that may be at times.
“We need to push,” Stanton said. “If I’m out there, I feel like I’ve got a chance to help us.”
Just not lately, and when Stanton was set up to be a difference-maker Wednesday night, the Yankees blew the chance, through no fault of his own. The good news? Stanton should be getting some help over the next few days, with Gregorius expected back from his bruised heel and Sanchez (groin strain) finishing up his rehab stint at Triple-A Scranton. As for Judge, his return from the fractured wrist is anyone’s guess, and at best, it’s looking like mid- to late-September.
The Yankees still have won nine of 12, but Wednesday night’s loss dropped them to 7 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, effectively wiping out the weekend’s momentum. Fortunately, the lowly Tigers (53-80) are next up in the Bronx, another AL Central softie. It’s just a matter of whether or not the Yankees can treat them like one.