SAN DIEGO — So far, so prescient.
Giancarlo Stanton’s white-hot start to the postseason helped the Yankees win their first three games and worked toward eradicating his reputation as a pinstriped bust. As a bonus (or the opposite of a bonus, depending on your leanings), Stanton’s offensive explosion enhanced the broadcasting reputation of a certain ex-Yankee who could relate to his travails.
Yes, it was just last week when Alex Rodriguez told The Post that Stanton was “set up beautifully here in this postseason.”
He entered Tuesday night’s American League Division Series Game 2 against the Rays, here at Petco Park, off to a beautiful start, for sure, tallying a .273/.400/1.091 slash line with three home runs, one in each game. His ninth-inning grand slam off Tampa Bay’s John Curtiss in Monday night’s series opener increased the Yankees’ lead from 5-3 to 9-3, putting the game on ice.
“I’m having good at-bats. That’s what it’s about,” Stanton said. “Just wear these pitchers down and it’ll click eventually. If they don’t give you something, you take your walk and you keep it moving.” Stanton had drawn three walks against four strikeouts, a darn good ratio for him.
Stanton’s Yankees narrative, like most, oversimplifies his performance since joining the team for the 2018 season. His first postseason did prove indisputably brutal, as he hit .222/.222/.222 against the Red Sox in the Yankees’ feeble ALDS loss. Last year, however, Stanton displayed signs of breaking out, at least getting on base in the team’s ALDS sweep of the Twins and then homering off Zack Greinke in an AL Championship Series Game 1 victory, before suffering his fifth and last injury of the 2019 season, a right quadriceps strain, and playing just once more (Game 5).
Throw in a shaky return from the injured list (again) last month, as Stanton struck out 16 times in 35 at-bats, and it became easier to find an enthusiastic mask-wearer in Alabama than an enthusiastic Stanton-supporter in The Bronx.
Nevertheless, the retired Yankees great A-Rod, who of course broadcasts for ESPN and Fox, offered three reasons why he thought Stanton could be the Yankees’ most valuable player this month. The first, that Stanton would be returning to his Southern California roots if he and the Yankees could get through the Indians in Cleveland, already has been confirmed by Stanton.
“I can’t really put it past SoCal,” said Stanton, who had gone deep here nine times in 63 at-bats through Monday, plus won the 2016 Home Run Derby here. “I grew up about an hour and a half, two hours away, I usually have my family here and my friends. [This was the] first game my parents were able to come to [this season], so that helps. My dad for sure doesn’t miss a month at a time, let alone we’re in October now.”
The second reason? No fans, besides family, in the ballpark. “He can get in a zen moment and go off,” A-Rod said. It has to help Stanton that his first four Ks of the playoffs resulted in zero boos.
And finally, “He really has nothing to lose,” A-Rod opined. “The year has been a wash because of injuries. He has the opportunity to have one big moment, and he can be a hero forever.”
Stanton has produced a few big moments already, if nothing quite on the scale of A-Rod tying two 2009 playoff games with homers in the Yankees’ last at-bats.
The 30-year-old refused to entertain a question concerning his reputation or narrative, saying, “I’m not really looking at it that way. After this interview, after I shower, we’ve got more to do.”
He has more to do to fully confirm A-Rod’s bold call. But Stanton, and therefore A-Rod, sure look good so far.
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