'He’s a unicorn': Stanton hits 471-foot slam

Judge also swats first HR of 2021; Montgomery sharp over 6 scoreless

April 6th, 2021

NEW YORK -- felt the sweet crack of baseball against bat and just knew, allowing himself a split second to savor the blast as it rocketed toward a terrace area in left-center field, then tossing his bat aside in celebration. This was one worth admiring.

Stanton launched his eighth career grand slam to highlight a five-run fifth inning, and also lifted his first home run of the year, supporting ’s strong effort as the Yankees posted a 7-0 victory over the Orioles on Monday evening at Yankee Stadium. It was a familiar sensation for Stanton, and one that never gets old.

“Sometimes there’s no sound -- there’s not anything except you watching the flight of the ball,” Stanton said. “You don’t know anything else that’s going on, and it’s a very cool feeling. It’s hard to describe very specifically, but it’s kind of like a blacked-out zone and an in-sync feeling. You’ve got to enjoy it and make sure you have a nice finish on it.”

After standing tall as one of the Bombers’ most productive hitters in last year’s playoffs, Stanton heard boos during this season-opening homestand, hitless in his first 10 at-bats before stepping in against Shawn Armstrong.

Stanton greeted the right-hander by crushing a 471-foot souvenir that came off his bat at 115.1 mph, his third grand slam as a Yankee. Armstrong immediately crouched at the back of the mound, sure that his outfielders would not need to budge.

“The way he hits them, it’s just different,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s like nothing else. He is a unicorn. That ball was so pure.”

Judge expressed relief after reaching the short porch in right field with a fourth-inning drive, a shot that measured a modest 344 feet compared to Stanton’s missile.

“You always want to get that first hit out of the way, you want to get the first RBI and the first home run,” Judge said. “When you get it off your back, now it’s time to go. I don’t think mine went as far as Big G’s, but wherever they go, they still count.”

The Yankees improved to 8-0 in contests when both Judge and Stanton homer, including three postseason wins, and are 24-3 in their last 27 games against Baltimore (since April 4, 2019).

“We know that when those guys are in the lineup together and healthy, they’re capable of doing special things,” Boone said.

Aaron Hicks set up Stanton’s slam by working a bases-loaded walk. That also came off Armstrong, pitching in relief of starter Jorge López, who walked the bases loaded in the fifth and was charged with four runs over 4 2/3 innings.

“Just great at-bats,” Stanton said. “You’ve got to put pressure on their guys. Sooner or later, they’re going to make a big mistake when you do that.”

Montgomery was stellar in his first start of the season, generating plenty of his trademark soft contact. The left-hander retired 12 of the first 13 batters faced and pitched around trouble in the fifth inning, holding Baltimore to four hits over six frames.

Generating 14 swings and misses, Montgomery struck out seven and did not walk a batter, pounding the zone by tossing 55 of 73 pitches for strikes. His fastball velocity touched 94.5 mph, having averaged 92.6 mph across 44 regular-season frames last year.

“My consistency was pretty timed up throughout the game and I executed a lot of spots where I wanted to,” Montgomery said. “I had a lot of run support, which was awesome today. Gary [Sánchez] was great behind the plate. I’m going to keep working.”

Luis Cessa fired two scoreless innings before Aroldis Chapman entered to complete the shutout. Having been suspended for the first two games of the season, Chapman struck out the side around a walk in his 2021 debut, dealing the O’s their first loss of the young campaign.

“We’re still rising,” Judge said. “We haven’t started clicking on all cylinders yet; it’s only four games into the season. We’ve still got quite a bit of time to get rolling and get everybody on track. It was good to see. It was a good night.”