Yanks feeling the Soto Effect: 'We're not going to give up'

Never-say-die club improves to 3-0 behind new star's clutch first homer

March 31st, 2024

HOUSTON – As the Yankees explain why the first 27 innings of this season look so different, they continue to arrive at one conclusion: the effect. Most of their at-bats have felt like a heavyweight battle, drawing a direct through-line to the approach of their new star outfielder.

Soto has pretty much done it all through his first series with the club, spraying line drives across the outfield while making sliding grabs and strong throws. Now he has cleared the fences, too, belting his first Yankees homer in a 5-3 win over the Astros on Saturday evening at Minute Maid Park.

“It’s been pretty nice; it’s been pretty fun,” Soto said. “To win a game is always fun. It’s tough to win a game in the big leagues, and winning the way we’ve been winning these games, it’s incredible.”

As the Yankees rallied for their third come-from-behind win in as many games, Soto delivered the go-ahead blow in the seventh inning, lashing a line-drive homer to the left-field Crawford Boxes facing reliever Bryan Abreu.

Soto’s Statcast-projected 349-foot drive came three batters after Oswaldo Cabrera continued to swing a hot bat, lifting a game-tying two-run homer just over the right-field wall.

Cabrera, who is filling in at third base for the injured DJ LeMahieu, said Soto’s impact has been immeasurable. Consider that the Yankees have walked 19 times through three games -- that patient, grind-it-out quality seems to be lifted directly from Soto’s DNA.

“He’s incredible,” Cabrera said. “He’s not just a good baseball player. Outside of the field, he’s an amazing person, too. Everybody loves that guy, inside and outside of the field. When we are in the cage, I’m like a kid just watching a hero.”

Said manager Aaron Boone of Soto: “He embodies what we want to be. It’s a fight every time he walks into the batter’s box.”

Anthony Volpe added an eighth-inning homer as the Yankees improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2003 and notched their sixth consecutive win at Minute Maid Park, dating to last September.

“It shows that we’re not going to flinch from anybody,” Volpe said. “We know this is a really good team that we’re playing against, but we trust our guys. We’re not going to give up.”

The Houston blast marked a minor milestone for Soto, who has stated his hope to complete his set of homers in every current Major League park. He’d never hit a regular-season blast in Houston, though he did homer here twice for the Nationals during the 2019 World Series.

“If you want to put it in the regular season, now it’s checked,” said Soto, who is 25-for-30 and can now turn his attention to road games later in the year against the Guardians, Angels, White Sox, Rangers and Mariners.

Soto, who also singled and scored a run in the third inning, has reached base in nine of his first 15 plate appearances as a Yankee and in a career-high 36 consecutive games since Aug. 26, 2023. It is the longest active streak in the Majors.

“He’s going to be one of those guys that I’m talking about when I’m a granddad, that I got to play with him,” said Yankees starter Marcus Stroman. “He’s a generational talent.”

Soto’s continued excellence overshadowed a sharp effort from Stroman, who tossed six innings in his Yankees debut.

The right-hander was charged with three unearned runs, resulting from throwing errors committed by Cabrera, Volpe and Stroman -- all of whom would atone in various ways.

“My biggest thing out there was trying to keep it at three runs because with this lineup, anybody can strike at any time,” said Stroman, who scattered four hits and walked two in a 101-pitch effort (58 strikes), striking out four.

While the Yankees have worked over starters to take advantage of a leaky Astros bullpen in this series, their own relief crew has been spotless. Ian Hamilton fired two innings, striking out a pair, and Clay Holmes worked a clean ninth for his second save.

New York’s bullpen has now tossed 11 2/3 scoreless innings to open the season -- one of the few things, perhaps, that it won’t credit to Soto’s presence. Though, then again …

“Look, it’s three games in a long, long season,” Boone said. “But I love our mindset, I love our compete, I love our hunger. If we can maintain that, we can be the team we want to be. But we’ve got a long way to go.”