TORONTO - Minutes after unleashing Giancarlo Stanton on the Blue Jays, the man responsible for bringing the game’s most terrifying home run machine to the Bronx stood by the entranceway to the visitors’ clubhouse.
Brian Cashman was doing his best to stifle a cat-that-ate-the canary grin, but it had to be excruciatingly difficult. The Yankees had just clobbered the Blue Jays, 6-1, for an Opening Day victory at Rogers Centre and Stanton was the sledgehammer, smashing a pair of home runs — the first an opposite-field laser beam on only the second pitch he saw from J.A. Happ.
What else was there to say, other than asking Cashman how it felt to watch his offseason prize demolish an opponent.
As Cashman tried to suppress what sounded an awful lot like a diabolical giggle, he managed a few words. “It was nice,” the general manager said.
There were dozens of other ways to describe what Stanton did Thursday, but coming from Cashman, that was perfect. Just sit back, admire the slugger’s handiwork and dream of the carnage to follow. Because this Opening Day was only a taste of what’s on deck for the next six months (seven if we’re counting October).
As long as Stanton is deployed somewhere between Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, there will be no sanctuary for opposing pitchers.
“I’ve never seen a debut like that,” Dellin Betances said. “Those balls were hit out in less than two seconds. Guy just has massive pop.”
Take Stanton’s first rocket shot, which soared into the right-centerfield seats at an exit velocity of 117.3 mph, the fastest speed recorded for an opposite-field homer in the four years of Statcast. Brett Gardner, standing on first base, didn’t even bother to watch the no-doubter.
Hopefully, the fans were wearing hard hats. “It almost took the guy’s chest off,” Neil Walker joked.
The second, off Tyler Clippard, came in the ninth. Clippard tried to flip a full-count, 78-mph changeup past Stanton, who launched a dome-scraper that touched down in the second row of the appropriately named “Flight Deck” in centerfield. Maybe Statcast was malfunctioning at the time, because the distance officially registered at 434 feet. We’d tack on another 50.
Aaron Boone looked like a genius when he told Cashman before the game that Stanton was his “pick to click” for the opener. To Boone, the signs were obvious. “For a guy with his talent, with his power, once he gets on time, he’s deadly,” Boone said.
While Stanton said he’s been in a good groove, he also admitted being a bit over-amped once he stepped in to face Happ. For a few moments, the situation was a little overwhelming.
“I tried to be as calm as possible going up. The anticipation was big for me,” said Stanton, who also had an RBI double. “But I was able to settle it down, understand it’s still just a game.”
Stanton took Happ’s opening fastball for a strike, then destroyed the next heater. Afterward, he compared the sensation to hitting the first home run of his career, a grand slam on June 18, 2010. He hit it off the Rays’ Matt Garza (and was batting seventh at the time).
After the second homer, Stanton crossed the plate, gave a forearm smash to Sanchez near the on-deck circle and stepped down into an empty dugout. With all of the Yankees perched at the railing — the classic silent-treatment stance — Stanton low-fived with trainer Steve Donohue and then spun around, slapping imaginary fives to himself.
“I wasn’t ready for that one,” Stanton said, smiling. “ I got to have a better act the next time.”
And there will be a next time. And a time after that. Stanton’s two homers gave him five in four career games at Rogers Centre. When asked if there is something he likes about the ballpark, he shrugged.
“Good dimensions,” he said.
Everyone laughed. Probably none louder than Cashman, privately, later that night.