Bader emerging in postseason ... and making Yankees history

After playing just 14 games following trade, center fielder is making Yankees history in ALDS

October 17th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- Heralded for his defense,  is thriving in the postseason spotlight. 

On Sunday night at Progressive Field, with New York staring down the prospect of elimination in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, Bader found the seats for the third time in this series. He hammered the first pitch he saw from Guardians starter Cal Quantrill in the second inning, launching a Statcast-projected 429-foot blast to left-center field.

Bader’s two-run bomb proved to be decisive as the Yankees earned a 4-2 victory over the Guardians, ensuring that there will be a win-or-go-home Game 5 on Monday night in New York to decide which team will advance to the AL Championship Series, which begins Wednesday night in Houston.

“He’s electric, really,” said Yankees starter Gerrit Cole, who put together a clutch performance of his own to force Game 5. “Impact player. He’s got moxie, baseball awareness, gets after the ball on defense. [I have] a lot of good things to say about that guy. And yeah, he’s having a really good series so far. It’s obviously been fun to watch.”

After waiting in the wings while his injured right foot healed, appearing in only 14 games down the stretch in September, Bader has emerged in a big way on this postseason stage. His homer in the Yankees’ Game 1 win -- the first of his postseason and Bombers career -- tied the contest against Quantrill, against whom Bader is now 5-for-7 with four extra-base hits. His homer in Game 3 on Saturday night, a solo shot in the seventh, almost certainly would have provided the Yankees with a key insurance run, if not for the stunning walk-off loss they went on to take in the ninth.

“He loves to play the game,” said manager Aaron Boone. “The power showing up here in the postseason for us has been big.”

Bader’s Game 4 homer might very well be the reason the Yankees could go on to earn a 2019 ALCS rematch against the Astros. Bader is the first Yankee with three or more homers in a single postseason series since Giancarlo Stanton hit four in his otherworldly 2020 ALDS vs. the Rays. Stanton is also the only Yankee with more homers in a best-of-five postseason series; Bader moved into a tie for second place with Bernie Williams’ 1996 ALDS and Paul O’Neill’s 1995 ALDS.

For that performance, Bader was bestowed with the wrestling-style championship belt the Yankees use to reward their most valuable player in each win. As Cole, who made his own case for the recognition, put the finishing touches on a seven-inning, 110-pitch effort, he offered a piece of advice to his teammates in the dugout given the high stakes of the contest.

“Gerrit said it really, really well,” Bader recalled. “You just play each out, each at-bat as just a singular event, and you go from there and keep repeating it until the game is over.”

The Yankees' center fielder has already displayed that mentality with his patience and presence at the plate, as illustrated by his three homers in his first four postseason games in pinstripes. You’d have to go all the way back to 1939 to find the last Yankee to do so: five-time World Series champion Charlie Keller.

Bader also joined Williams (who did it three times) and Mickey Mantle (twice) as the only Yankee center fielders with three homers in a single postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

It’s a legacy the Bronxville, N.Y., native is very familiar with, as he has spoken about it frequently since he became a Yankee in a last-ditch swap with the Cardinals for starter Jordan Montgomery at the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline.

“There are a lot of organizations that are not like the New York Yankees,” Bader said. “What I mean by that is just the standard that the players hold themselves to day in and day out, the staff that’s surrounding the players -- it is just such a winning culture, a winning mentality. The fans, the level of expectation they have is high, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I just view being traded here very serendipitously, and I look to take advantage of it every single day.”

That’s exactly what he has been doing so far in October, authoring one of the best ALDS performances by a Yankee in franchise history.

Now, largely because of him, there’s one more chapter left to be written.

“It’s going to be a great day,” Bader said. “I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and get to it.”