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The sleeping giant has awakened.
The 2021 Yankees morphed into Sultans of Swat, finally, and resembled the muscle-bound team they were advertised to be and believe they are.
No one is ready to celebrate them as a modern-day Murderers’ Row, certainly not with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and even DJ LeMachine in various states of Hole In The Bat Gang inertia, but they did remember who and what Bronx Bombers are supposed to be and are paid to be by blasting four home runs Friday night in a 5-3 victory over the Indians in Cleveland.
And it was a reeling Giancarlo Stanton who rose up as the biggest, baddest Savage in Aaron Boone’s Box.
“You don’t see balls hit like that, and to hit two of ’em like he did in the game, it was two really impressive swings,” Boone said. “When he’s locked in, when he hits ’em like that, it’s just different than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Stanton had been in a 3-for-35 funk when he scorched a season-best 118.9 mph screamer into the left-field seats to lead off the third. Yanks 4, Indians 3.
Then he barreled another fastball in the fifth off Trevor Stephan, 418 feet to right-center, and it was 5-3.
“Hey, I found the barrel,” Stanton said, and smiled, “so that’s how those felt.”
See ball, hit ball works as well as anything.
“The thing that gets me in trouble is if I try something for four at-bats, then change it, or go back and forth, it’s already a failure-first sport, you don’t know what’s gonna work,” Stanton said.
Here was hitting coach Marcus Thames talking about all that ailed Stanton before the game:
“Pitch selection. I talked to him the other day about like, ‘You gotta still go up and hunt your pitch in your area and don’t let the pitcher dictate what you’re gonna do.’ You come up with your game plan and you have to execute it and don’t get off of it. He’s gotta get back in the strike zone and be committed. Take swings with conviction.”
Boy, did he ever.
“It’s just sticking with something and letting it ride out, making slight adjustments with that,” Stanton said.
Aaron Hicks and Rougned Odor each homered in the second inning to erase a second straight 3-0 deficit, and Stanton’s heroics carried the day after Jordan Montgomery had toughed out a slow start to work into the fifth inning. The best bullpen in baseball (take a bow, Lucas Luetge, first win in eight years) sealed the deal.
When your Pinstriped team has knocked and knocked, but failed to kick down the championship door, it is never too early for the natives to become restless.
When that team holds itself to the high and mighty tradition of Bronx Bombers, and it crawls out of the gate as a cruel tease, it can feel as if it is getting late early even in April.
The Panic Room predictably filled early this season with fans and media alike. It always does. In every city. Especially in The Bronx.
Everybody chill. There are 143 games left to catch the Red Sox.
“I think we’re gonna be a juggernaut on offense,” Boone said.
The dream Gerrit Cole-Shane Bieber pitching duel is on tap Saturday night, and Yankees fans driven batty by their team went to sleep Friday night not necessarily wishing it would be Justin Bieber on the mound instead.
“It’s much better when we’re winning if I’m not contributing,” Stanton said. “If there’s an easy way, it’s if we’re still winning. We weren’t doing either so, yeah, it was very frustrating. One good game isn’t anything either so, I gotta just feed off of it.”
He leads the Yankees now with five HRs. Boone’s Boys all have the track record, the back of the bubble gum card and all that. They are battle-tested and driven. They ought to have developed thick skin dealing with the great expectations year after year after year. They wouldn’t be Yankees if they didn’t.
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