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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Giancarlo Stanton flexing muscle, and Yankees are stronger for it

Home run against Rangers, breaking exit velocity record, shows slugger's impact.

Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees

Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees follows through on a fifth inning home run against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Giancarlo Stanton’s short home run to rightfield in Chicago Wednesday night was more important, in that it resulted in a grand slam that won a game for the Yankees over the White Sox.

But Stanton cannot be judged by production alone. His appeal also flows from his prodigious – dare we say Judgian? - power, which made Thursday night’s sequel, a mere solo shot for an insurance run, just as memorable.

His fifth-inning missile to leftfield off the Rangers’ Ariel Jurado was estimated to have traveled 449 feet and exited at a velocity of 121.7 mph, the hardest hit home run in the four years Statcast has been keeping track of such things.

Stanton surpassed a 121.1 mph homer by his teammate, Aaron Judge, in June of 2017, and the two now have combined for the 13 hardest-hit home runs of the past four seasons.

Oh, and Stanton also hit a record 122.2-mph single last season.

Stanton said he was aware of the dugout’s reaction to his blast, and the numbers that came with it.

“It’s cool to bring a buzz to the clubhouse and locker room like that,” he said.

But he insisted the result mattered more.

“It’s cool when you get the numbers like that,” he siad, “But in general, if it goes over the fence it goes over the fence. I’ve hit balls 95 miles an hour. As long as it goes over the fence, it’s good enough.”

Aaron Hicks, who hit a home run of his own on Thursday, said, “The way that he’s able to make contact on a baseball is God-given.”

It was only one of five home runs the Yankees hit in a 7-3 victory – including two by Neil Walker – but it served to put Stanton’s rocky start as a Yankee one step further into the past.

This was the start of a season-long 11-game homestand for the Yankees, which for a spell in the spring would have been a bad sign for Stanton, who was welcomed to the Bronx with regular booing and regular strikeouts.

When he narrowly missed grounding into double plays in his first two at-bats, one could hear the slightest murmur of discontent from some in the big crowd.

But Stanton has earned the benefit of the doubt by this point, what with helping to keep the offense pointed in the right direction in the absence of the injured Judge and Gary Sanchez.

Sure enough, he came through again, at a point where a 5-1 lead had become wobbly when the Rangers scored twice in the top of the fifth.

Stanton is batting .303 with seven runs, two doubles, four home runs, 10 RBI and three walks in his last eight games, and he has hit five home runs in the 13 games Judge has missed, including the past three in a row.

Some considered Stanton overkill for an already loaded lineup. But he now fills a crucial role.

The style points are fun for his friends and colleagues.

“You see it hit off the bat and everyone’s taken aback and you’re, ‘OK, where it’s going to land?’” manager Aaron Boone said. “Then you kind of go to the scoreboard and, ‘What’s the exit velocity?’ . . . It really is amazing how hard he hits the ball when he really squares it up.”

This sort of thing could be very helpful in October.

“He’s a superstar player,” Boone said. “With that one swing of the bat as much or more than anyone in our sport changes the game, and when we’re really whole as a lineup it’s just another massive presence that you have to work through.”

Stanton hopes this is a prelude to bigger home runs to come.

“That’s ideal,” he said, looking toward the playoffs. “This is practice for that. You can put some games like this together in the postseason, good things can happen.”

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