There’s no one-size-fits-all “True Yankee Moment.” For Giancarlo Stanton, the measurements were almost beyond human comprehension Wednesday night, when his walk-off home run in the ninth inning of the Yankees’ 7-5 victory over the Mariners seemingly bent the laws of physics.
Stanton transformed an 0-and-2 slider from Seattle reliever Ryan Cook into a bleacher-seeking missile that shot over the visitors’ bullpen in a blink. The exit velocity, as registered by Statcast, was 118 mph. The distance, 453 feet. And somehow, those numbers don’t fully convey what it was like to witness such a spectacle.
“That ball was killed,” said Aaron Boone, laughing at the ridiculousness of it. “That ball was absolutely scalded . . . He’s a different animal.”
Stanton’s blast left the park so quickly, from sonic boom to touchdown, that he barely had time to react. As the late-night remnants from the crowd of 46,047 roared, Stanton found himself sort of frozen after making contact. The feeling of exhilaration must be almost paralyzing.
“It better have gone out,” Stanton said, smiling. “Because I stood there for a little bit.”
He deserved to admire those few seconds, and enjoy the electric stroll around the bases that followed. The Bronx — his new home — had been an incredibly frustrating place for Stanton during these first three-plus months, filled with more hostility than applause, because he was hitting a meager .213 with a .699 OPS at Yankee Stadium.
The booing had become commonplace, with only the sporadic home run granting him a temporary reprieve. Through the first eight innings Wednesday, Stanton had been 1-for-3 with a single and struck out twice with men on base, contributing precious little as the Yankees clawed back from a 5-0 deficit to tie the score on Gary Sanchez’s two-run homer in the eighth.
But in the ninth, after the first two outs, Didi Gregorius kept hope alive with a single to centerfield. And then it was up to Stanton, who took an 84-mph slider for strike one, then fouled off a 96-mph fastball to slip into the 0-and-2 hole. Everyone in the Stadium had seen this too many times before to be tricked into believing. But when Cook hung the next slider, Stanton hammered the pitch as if it were on a tee.
As the fans erupted, Stanton’s smile no doubt could be spotted from the upper decks, and coming around third, he began windmilling his right arm, helmet in hand -- “I was trying to decide whether to bowl it or throw it,” he said — as the Yankees crowded at the plate for him. Instead, the helmet flew straight into the air and Stanton jumped into the middle of the pile, as Brett Gardner dumped the Gatorade bucket on him.
Afterward, at his locker, Stanton was asked if he was familiar with the term, “True Yankee Moment,” a slightly obnoxious phrase coined specifically for these uniquely pinstriped events. Stanton looked quizzically at the media scrum around him, not having any idea of the concept. But after hearing the explanation, he laughed.
“Cool,” Stanton said. “I’m part of it now.”
Absolutely, and maybe Stanton appreciates it even more because it took him a little while to get there, with plenty of bumps along the way. In the days leading up to Wednesday’s heroics, Stanton was growing increasingly short with reporters as his frustration seemed to build, and he was especially irritated by questions involving his batting stance.
Despite those testy exchanges, Stanton had a four-hit, two-RBI night Monday in Washington, then followed it up with a first-inning homer to spur Tuesday’s 7-2 win over the Mariners. Through it all, Boone assured everyone the MVP Stanton would arrive soon enough, and Wednesday proved the manager was correct. It was Stanton’s sixth career walk-off hit, and fourth walk-off homer, but only his first since 2014.
As for the degree of difficulty, Stanton is just the second Yankee to smash a walk-off home run on an 0-and-2 count since 2000, joining Jason Giambi (’08). While these are fun statistics to bat around, the bottom line is that Stanton was overdue for his “True Yankee Moment”, even if he didn’t realize it until Wednesday night.
“I’m not worried about me personally,” Stanton said afterward. “Me, I’ll be fine.”
The only difference now? Those pinstripes fit a little bit better.