If neither Giancarlo Stanton nor Aaron Judge makes another big swing over the last six games of the Yankees’ regular season -- hard to believe off what we saw from them last weekend at old Fenway -- just the season they’ve given their team so far is all any Yankees fan could have hoped for. From both of them. This is the kind of power the Yankees hoped they would see from their two power forwards from the time they made the trade for Stanton and put him in the same batting order with All Rise Judge.
Stanton hit home runs against the Red Sox that you thought would end up in the Charles River, or maybe at Harvard, all weekend long, including a monster shot of a grand slam in the eighth inning on Saturday. Judge helped break open Sunday night’s game after the Red Sox had twice given him reprieves -- a foul ball off first base that Bobby Dalbec should have put in his pocket, and then what would have been a strikeout on a foul tip if Christian Vazquez hadn’t dropped the ball on the transfer -- with a rousing double into the alley.
That was right before Stanton hit another ball out of sight, against Adam Ottavino, that turned a 4-3 game into 6-3 and ensured that the Yankees were about to sweep the Red Sox and pass them in the Wild Card race before going to Toronto to play the Blue Jays, who are now just one game behind Boston.
Stanton brought his team all the way back in the eighth inning on Saturday, with one rather epic swing of the bat. Judge got his reprieve, got his big double, then Stanton pretty much did the rest off Ottavino. So twice the Yankees came back in the late innings at Fenway. Sunday night, they came back from their own mistakes, after DJ LeMahieu couldn’t catch a pop foul and Joey Gallo dropped a routine ball in short left field. (Is there really any other kind at Fenway?)
“We’re certainly not afraid to make things interesting,” Stanton said when the sweep was over.
Stanton missed 181 regular-season games in 2019 and '20. Now he has played 133 so far in 2021. Judge had missed 142 games over the past three seasons. He has now played 142 games this season alone. And with three games left against the Jays and then three against the first-place Rays at Yankee Stadium, Stanton and Judge have amazingly similar stat lines:
Stanton has 33 homers, 93 RBIs, a .277 batting average. The rest of his line looks like this: .359 on-base percentage, .520 slugging and an OPS of .879. Judge is hitting .284, with 36 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .370/.533/.903 slash line. Neither one of them is going to get to 50 home runs, even though both of them have 50-homer seasons on their resumes, and Stanton, when with the Marlins, came within one home run of hitting 60. By the way? The only previous time the Yankees ever had two guys in the same batting order with 50-homer seasons in the books was when they had Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
And though Judge is the only one who seems to have a legit shot of getting to 40, they have both shown lately that if you hit them at the right time, which means in the thick of a postseason race like this, being mid-30s home run guys is plenty. And they have shown how formidable they can be when Joey Gallo is hitting homers in the same games they are. Between the Rangers and the Yankees, Gallo has actually hit more home runs this season -- 38 -- than either Stanton or Judge. The problem with Gallo, of course, is that his batting average with the Yankees, is more than 100 points lower than either Stanton or Judge at .164.
Now the Yankees, after a season of wild mood swings, when they can win 13 games in a row -- their longest winning streak in six decades -- and then turn around and play such bad, sloppy baseball that they were briefly on the outside of the Wild Card race, can control their destiny with one good week against Tampa Bay and Toronto. And it is impossible to believe, if they do end up with the first Wild Card and a home game the first week of October, that it won’t be Stanton and Judge carrying them, and the offense, the rest of the way.
Judge is even going so good lately that when he dislocated his left pinkie finger with his slide into second after his double Sunday night, he popped it back into place himself.
“I really don’t need it to hit,” Judge said after the game, “so we should be in first place.”
He and Stanton aren’t carrying the team alone. But right now, this minute, they are exactly what the Yankees always hoped they would be, carrying the offense the way they were supposed to, at the time when the team needs them the most. We always wondered what the Yankees would look like if you could keep them on the field. Now we know.