BOSTON — When Giancarlo Stanton first dug his cleats into the batter’s-box dirt Tuesday night, the Fenway Park crowd filled the frosty air with loud, sustained booing.
He must have felt right at home.
Stanton, of course, was treated just as harshly in the Bronx during his opening week in pinstripes, a tortured debut that featured a pair of five-strikeout games. It didn’t matter that the Stanton trade was supposed to virtually guarantee the Yankees’ coronation.
Turns out, Brian Cashman & Co. are going to need much, much more than Stanton to stay with these sizzling Red Sox, if Monday night’s 14-1 massacre is any indication. And right now, here in mid-April, Stanton has been as threatening as a balloon poodle, other than his two-homer Opening Day in Toronto.
The Yankees were non-competitive in the first meeting between the AL East rivals, as the Red Sox gradually wore down Luis Severino and later used their own winter prize, J.D. Martinez, to provide the finishing blow with a two-run double during a nine-run sixth inning. It certainly didn’t help that Stanton again was a non-factor, doing nothing more substantial than pad his skyrocketing K total.
Stanton whiffed in his first two at-bats against Sale, on a total of seven pitches, to give him 22 Ks on the season. But right before this game went complete dumpster fire, Stanton did hammer out a single off Sale to end his 0-for-14 skid in the fifth inning. Later, he led off the eighth with a rocket double into the leftfield corner. With the Yankees trailing by a touchdown and two field goals, it was meaningless. But hey, any time Stanton makes contact has to be a positive, right?
“Much better,” Stanton said. “I saw the ball better. I was on time. It was good progress.”
In his first time up, Sale struck him out with three fastballs, and for one of the rare moments this season, Stanton actually did hear cheers — supporting Sale, but taunting him in the process. When Stanton came to the plate in the third inning, the Yankees only trailed at 4-0 and had two runners on, thanks to singles by Neil Walker and Aaron Judge.
That was the shot at redemption, the opportunity for one gigantic swing to wipe away a largely miserable week. It didn’t happen. Stanton stretched this at-bat to four pitches, but the result was the same: another K. He was swinging so wildly Sale didn’t even need to deploy his wicked slider.
“I just wasn’t picking the ball up,” Stanton said afterward. “Like it’s been.”
Stranding those two dropped Stanton to .150 (3-for-20) with runners in scoring position this season, and he didn’t have another trip to the plate that mattered for the remainder of the evening, other than those two hits possibly pumping up his confidence going forward. The sputtering Yankees need Stanton to join the party, sooner rather than later.
“Hopefully, it’s a building block for him,” Aaron Boone said.
The rest has been a learning experience and part of the adjustment process, from striking out at a dizzying pace to getting booed on numerous occasions in his own stadium, by people wearing the No. 27 jersey they couldn’t wait to buy when the December trade was finalized.
In these types of situations, when a team is under siege at its own ballpark, taking the show on the road can be a good thing. And no one was more in need of a change of scenery than the reeling Stanton, who arrived at Fenway batting .167 (7-for-42) with three homers (two on Opening Day) and 20 strikeouts. Amid the embarrassment of the series-opening rout, at least Stanton emerged with two badly-needed hits.
“That was the main thing,” Stanton said. “Just get a pitch to hit and don’t worry about the outside noise.”
Good idea, because the noise isn’t going away. Stanton’s first visit to Fenway as a Yankee was expected to be his chance to pepper the Green Monster with his laser-shot line drives or launch a few over it onto Lansdowne Street. Instead, it was a dud, much to the delight of the frozen Sox fans, whose hearts were warmed in cheering for Stanton’s demise.