NEW YORK -- It’s still too early for Aaron Boone to break into a celebratory I-told-you-so dance, but the Yankees manager did in fact say a day like this was coming. He has been saying it, even as many doubted the veracity of his claims.
Maybe he does know what he’s talking about, in this particular case, at least.
Two weeks after the Yankee Stadium masses first turned on one of the newest Bronx Bombers, Giancarlo Stanton, they were cheering his name in refrain Friday night. With another shaky performance from part of the Yankees’ pitching staff, Stanton could be forced into making the sound of those supportive chants a regular occurrence.
“Hopefully, he’s gaining a little traction and coming around a little bit,” Boone said of the middle-of-the-lineup hitter who had been struggling for most of the young season.
Early in Friday’s 8-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Stanton heard the echoes of joyous, gleeful screams the moment he lined an opposite-field, go-ahead two-run home run into the right-field stands. He heard them again minutes later as he jogged out to his position in right to start the fourth inning. As he warmed up, a loud ovation arose from the same group of fans who had just scrapped for his souvenir.
At long last, after a dearth of homers across 50 Stanton at-bats, they got what they had come to see.
“We’re all here for the same goal. So for me to help contribute even though we didn’t get the win feels good,” Stanton said of being cheered.
Sure, the Yankees have been here before with Stanton during this season. He did, after all, homer during the Yankees’ second home game, one day after posting an 0-for-5 Bronx debut that included five strikeouts.
After that home run, Stanton proceeded to wallow in a 9-for-50 (.180) slump, one that didn’t include a homer until Friday’s third-inning shot.
All of that is to suggest this particular performance from the slugger might end up meaning very little. He very easily could fall right back into a hit depression, unable to connect on anything for a while.
But given the way he has been viewing pitches at the plate of late, and given this most recent display of power, the patience Boone has been exercising as it pertains to Stanton appears to have been correct.
“I’m seeing [the ball] much better. I’m having a better plan up there,” Stanton said. “You’ve got to have the right balance, find the right release points and whatnot. Sometimes you lose that a little bit and you’ve got to reconnect.”
For a couple of weeks, Boone has been preaching the very same thing. He has thought Stanton was close to tracking pitches better than he had at earlier points in the season. Boone's belief is that once the power hitter gets rolling, he won’t slow down for a while.
This possible precipice of a Stanton turnaround comes after Boone dropped the slugger down a spot in the order from hitting third to fourth. In the eight plate appearances since Stanton was moved to cleanup Thursday night, he has seen 42 pitches. He also has drawn four separate full-count situations.
Boone considers that strong pitch recognition, and it gives him even more of a reason to believe Stanton is on the brink of putting these early struggles behind him.
While it might appear Boone’s patience in Stanton was rewarded Friday, his patience in his pitching staff during the game revolted Yankees fans. Sonny Gray labored to 73 pitches in a 3⅓-inning outing and left a jam that the first reliever to replace him, Domingo German, had difficulty getting out of.
Despite the three home runs that the Yankees hit, their pitchers allowed eight runs, seven of them charged to Gray and German.
“I expect a lot more from myself,” Gray said. “When we get a two-run homer and then I give up a two-spot the next inning, and we get another two-run homer and take the lead, and then I give the lead right back up ... that’s frustrating not only for myself, but for the rest of the guys in the locker room, for sure.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Gray induced only two whiffs on 25 swings Friday night. That’s the second-worst swing-and-miss total of his career. The right-hander also failed to strike out a batter for the second time in his 127 career starts.
“If we’re going to be a good team, we’ve got to pitch. And the good news for us is I believe we’ve got the guys in that room to get it done,” Boone said. “[For Gray], it’s in there, and we’ve got to be part of the solution with him.”
With Stanton, the Yankees’ patience was one short-term solution.
Only time, and added consistency from Stanton, will tell if it will remain that way in the long term. As Gray and the Yankees’ pitchers try to get back on track in their own regard, more performances like this from Stanton could be necessary.