When the smoke had cleared the Yankees had a 7-2 victory over the Rays behind a robust performance from the middle of a lineup that may become a modern-day Murderers’ Row.
“It’s good that we all got one today,” Stanton said. “And hopefully, soon, we’ll put some back-to-back-to-backs in there.”
Stanton’s home run was his first since the Yankees’ season opener against the Blue Jays in Toronto last Thursday, when he hit two.
But his first appearance before the demanding Yankee Stadium crowd, which often seems to want to put players through a uniquely Bronxian rite of passage, ended with the sound of boos after his five strikeouts. Even the result — an 11-4 Yankees win — did little to quell the fans’ disappointment with Stanton’s debut.
“You put up a performance like that, you should get booed,” Stanton said after the home opener.
The sense of discontent clearly lingered overnight; more than a few boos were heard as Stanton headed to the plate in the first inning against Rays’ starter Blake Snell on Wednesday. But Stanton quickly elicited a more positive roar from the crowd when he lined a hanging slider into the second deck in left field, and punctuated the blast with a resounding bat flip and by taking a mock football handoff from Yankees coach Phil Nevin as he rounded third base.
There was clearly some satisfaction in hitting that first home run before a Bronx crowd that in previous years had booed slow starts from such future stars as Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi, and Didi Gregorius, who had the unenviable task of replacing Derek Jeter at shortstop in 2015.
Still, even a home run as impressive as Stanton’s earns only so much equity in New York; he struck out in his next three at-bats, with the crowd grumbling a little louder each time. Stanton has now struck out in eight of his first nine Yankee Stadium at-bats.
But as Manager Aaron Boone pointed out, the benefits that come from players like Stanton, Judge and, to a lesser extent, Sanchez are often accompanied by strikeouts. Yankees batters struck out 14 times on Tuesday and 11 more on Wednesday, but won both games, scoring 12 of their 18 runs on homers.
“I think the strikeouts are going to come with it,” Boone said. “We have guys with huge power that are also going to punch out from time to time. The bottom line is, I want competitive at-bats out of them. Between him and Aaron, as long as they’re getting on base a lot and hitting for power it’s a recipe for success.”
Sanchez, who came into the game batting .053, with only a double in his first 19 at-bats, followed Stanton’s first strikeout of the game with his first home run of the season, a high fly ball into the left-field seats off Snell that made it 4-1. Two innings later, Judge, who was hitting .278 but had gone 25 plate appearances without a home run, hit his first, another two-run shot to left that extended the Yankees’ lead to 7-1.
Luis Severino (2-0, 1.38 E.R.A.) settled down after a rocky first inning in which he allowed a run on two hits, including a run-scoring double by C.J. Cron that sailed over Stanton’s glove in left, limiting the Rays to just two more singles before leaving with one out in the eighth inning.
“We lean on those guys a lot,” Boone said, referring to Stanton, Judge and Sanchez. “Those three guys are going to make you pay when you make a mistake. But G set the tone for it all. When he squares it up he really makes an impact.”
Which makes it easier to accept the many times that he doesn’t.