TORONTO -- Giancarlo Stanton is big on “mentally mastering each at-bat,” understanding that there will be games when he swings and misses through fruitless plate appearances -- the kind that can prompt observers to wonder if he’ll ever barrel the ball again. This wouldn’t be one of them.
After saying he was dissatisfied with his process through his first three at-bats, Stanton hit the reset button and continued his scorching run. The reigning American League Player of the Week homered for the fourth straight game, helping power the Yankees to a 7-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Tuesday evening.
“I always want to succeed in those moments, and I have to prepare myself in all aspects to do so,” Stanton said. “It’s good to be able to come through in those moments and just help us win at the end of the day. That’s what it’s about. If I have four or five opportunities at bat, I can do something good.”
Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela also homered as the Yankees rallied for their seventh consecutive victory, a streak that coincides precisely with the players’ adoption of a pet turtle, Bronxie. New York (90-67) has moved two games ahead of the Red Sox (88-69) and three ahead of the Blue Jays (87-70) in the American League Wild Card chase with five games remaining. But that's not all. The surging Mariners (88-70) are suddenly in the picture, just 2 1/2 behind the Yankees after beating the A's, though Seattle has only four left to play.
“We’re playing for keeps; we’re playing for a lot,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think ‘G’ is embodying that right now. He understands how important every pitch is, every inning, every at-bat. He’s taken nothing off. He’s in a really good place right now.”
Stanton’s three-run homer off Trevor Richards broke the game open, a titanic blast that sailed into the second deck in left field. The homer, Stanton’s 35th of the season, came on an 84.5 mph changeup that hovered only 1.26 feet off the ground -- the lowest pitch that Stanton has ever homered on.
“I don’t know how you can hit a ball like that,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That ball was almost in the dirt, and he went and hit it out.”
But that is the way it has been going of late for Stanton, who has 13 RBIs in his last four games, going 9-for-17 (.529) over that span. Stanton acknowledged that he feels as locked in now as any time during his Yankees career; to find a comparable stretch, he’d have to go back to 2017, when he won the NL MVP Award by hitting 59 homers for the Marlins.
“I feel like any big moment, any big situation, you know he’s going to come through,” Judge said.
Stanton was a one-man wrecking crew in last year’s postseason, but the return of fans has added a new quality to this stretch drive. There are live audiences to thrill -- Toronto was permitted to increase its capacity to 30,000 for this series -- and Stanton has provided a show.
“Like I say all the time, he’s a unicorn,” Boone said. “We just kind of shake our heads sometimes.”
It wasn’t all good news for the Yankees. Making his return from the injured list, right-hander Jameson Taillon lasted only 2 1/3 innings before exiting with an aggravation of his right ankle tendon injury. Taillon is almost certainly out for the rest of the regular season, and he may not be considered available until the later rounds of a potential playoff run.
After Taillon permitted a first-inning run, Judge tied the game in the third inning with a solo homer off Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ryu. It was the 37th long ball of the year for Judge, who dislocated his left pinkie finger on a slide into second base on Sunday against the Red Sox.
“It doesn’t feel too good, but it’s just something you’ve got to put up with,” Judge said. “You’ve got a couple games left down the stretch, a big playoff push, and I just want to be out there. It’s all good.”
Corey Dickerson’s fourth-inning RBI double off right-hander Michael King briefly gave Toronto the lead, but Anthony Rizzo chased Ryu in the fifth with an opposite-field RBI single and Judge lifted a sacrifice fly that put New York on top.
Stanton said that the team’s recent play has shown “the perfect amount of confidence.”
“We’re going to be down at times, we’ll make mistakes,” Stanton said. “But if there’s outs left, we’ve got an opportunity to win. It’s just about understanding that until we’re back in the clubhouse.”