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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Yankees’ Big Three hitters finally let loose on opposing pitching

Yankees designated hitter Gary Sanchez, left, greets Yankees

Yankees designated hitter Gary Sanchez, left, greets Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge after his two-run home run against the Rays during the fourth inning on Wednesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Reduced to cold numbers, for the data freaks out there, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez combined for 1,246 feet of home runs Wednesday in the Yankees’ 7-2 thrashing of the Rays. They each lit up the exit-velo guns well into triple-digits, with Stanton’s 117.9-mph blast into the leftfield upper deck credited as the hardest-hit ball of this early season, according to StatCast.

For the analog crowd, those less into the analytics scene, the eye-test was sufficient. Geez, can those three wreck a baseball game. Just as the Yankees drew it up when Brian Cashman swiped Stanton from the cash-strapped Marlins back in December. This was the blueprint, the Yankees’ nefarious plan to conquering the AL East — and beyond. Turn this three-headed monster loose on a helpless pitching staff like the Rays’ threadbare outfit and delight in the carnage.

“Special?” Judge said. “No, it was just another day. Just doing our job.”

Maybe to those guys. When your business is destroying baseballs, and that power trio goes way deep as they did Tuesday, then business is good. To the rest of us mere mortals, however, nothing about watching the Yankees’ Big Three is ordinary. Maybe the most surprising thing was having to wait so long (six games, lol) for the combination to click.

“Every time they go out there, it’s a show,” said the 5-8 (no way) super-utility man, Ronald Torreyes. “You just wait to see what happens.”

The curtain usually goes up with batting practice, when Stanton, Judge and Sanchez strafe the second-deck seats from pole to pole. Because of the brutal Northeast weather, however, the Yankees are yet to take the field for any pregame hacks, so their tune-ups have taken place at the indoor cages.

That’s a big loss for the fans, who were scheduled to have early access on Opening Day before a snowstorm wiped out the BP opportunity. Both Judge and Sanchez were kept in the building during their four-day stay at Rogers Centre, and Stanton had cooled somewhat after his two home runs in last Thursday’s season opener.

Since that night in Toronto, the Big Three were homerless in a combined 63 plate appearances, which doesn’t seem like much — unless you’re talking about a trio that accounted for 144 HRs last season. After a while, sluggers of this size tend to get restless. It’s fine when Judge takes his walks and pokes a single or two, driving up his on-base percentage in the process. But their purpose is to put balls over the fence, and the sooner that happened, the better.

In Stanton’s case, he had some frustration to work off after his five-strikeout “platinum sombrero” performance in the Bronx opener, a disappointing home debut that prompted boos from a fan base that had just welcomed him to the Stadium. Although Stanton seemed at ease talking about those Ks, he didn’t look truly happy again until the first inning Wednesday, when he hammered a two-strike slider into the upper deck, then added a modest bat flip.

Stanton’s two-run blast off Blake Snell instantly wiped out the Rays’ quick 1-0 lead before Sanchez and Judge crushed any lingering hope in consecutive innings. With one out in third, Sanchez turned on a 3-and-1 changeup for a two-run rainbow into the leftfield seats, ending an 0-for-17 skid as well. In the fourth, Judge battled Rays reliever Matt Andriese for seven pitches before pulling the eighth, a full-count changeup, far past the leftfield fence to put the Yankees up, 7-1. That was career No. 57 for Judge, who matched Rudy York for the fastest through 188 games.

“The sounds coming off their bats were special,” Austin Romine said. “It’s nice to see your big guys swinging well and having the pitcher’s back.”

History tells us this isn’t supposed to happen very often. Before Wednesday, according to Stats.com, the Yankees had their Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters each go deep only five times in the same game. At home, they accomplished the feat only once — in 1937, when Red Rolfe, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig flexed some combined muscle. As rare as it may be, we have a feeling Wednesday won’t be the last time.

“With guys like that, guys you know are going to hit and mash,” Aaron Boone said, “someone’s going to pay the price.”

And the Yankees will enjoy every tape-measure moment of it all.

New York Sports