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Carter comes up huge with HR in key spot

First baseman hits decisive three-run homer in 8th vs. Bucs
Special to MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- For those wondering why the Yankees signed Chris Carter, the big slugger provided a clue Saturday.

Carter strikes out, a lot. He won't hit for average, and he is not a deft first baseman. He does, however, hit home runs, for distance and with frequency -- he had 41 last season with Milwaukee -- although there was no evidence of that through the first 27 at-bats with his new club. Carter produced just four hits, a triple and three singles, and nine strikeouts.

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PITTSBURGH -- For those wondering why the Yankees signed Chris Carter, the big slugger provided a clue Saturday.

Carter strikes out, a lot. He won't hit for average, and he is not a deft first baseman. He does, however, hit home runs, for distance and with frequency -- he had 41 last season with Milwaukee -- although there was no evidence of that through the first 27 at-bats with his new club. Carter produced just four hits, a triple and three singles, and nine strikeouts.

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Finally, at PNC Park, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Carter broke through against the Pirates, belting a three-run, pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning that untied a 5-5 game and led to an 11-5 Yankees victory.

A career .218 hitter since breaking in with Oakland in 2010, the right-handed swinging Carter hit for reliever Dellin Betances and laid into lefty Felipe Rivero's first pitch, a changeup, sending it 425 feet into the Pirates' bullpen.

Video: NYY@PIT: Carter on his pinch-hit, go-ahead home run

Yankees manager Joe Girardi acknowledged the difficulties of coming in cold off the bench but said of Carter, "I feel like his last few starts he's been getting closer, he's been getting the ball in the air. He's had some really good swings. Obviously today's hit was a huge hit."

It was Carter's 132nd home run since 2013, and a shot as big as any.

"I'm just happy to come through when we needed it," Carter said, adding that he felt no anxiety waiting for his first homer with his new club.

"I've been working every day, just trying to get my swing right and trying to stay ready during games," he said. "And I finally got one. Hopefully, we can keep going from here.

"It's tough coming off the bench, something new for me," he said. "But I think what I've been doing in the cage every day, trying to stay ready, is gonna start working for me. ... I've struggled a little bit in the past before and been able to come out of it. I didn't really press too hard about it."

The Brewers did not tender Carter, 30, a contract during the offseason and he languished on the free agent market until February, as teams perhaps viewed him as one-dimensional. His 212 strikeouts in 2013 rank fourth all time, and his 206 whiffs last season stand seventh.

"It was definitely tough waiting around, with Spring Training just around the corner," Carter said. "I was happy to get Spring Training started and get out there on time."

Once he did sign, Yankee fans did not universally applaud the news. Carter claimed to be oblivious to that.

"I don't have any social media or anything, so I haven't read anything," he said. "I don't know what people are saying. That doesn't really matter."

Speaking of social media, Hall of Famer and former Yankee Dave Winfield, who hit a few home runs (465) himself, retweeted a clip of Aaron Judge's 457-foot homer Saturday, which came after Carter's, his sixth of the season. Listed at a Paul Bunyanesque 6-foot-7, 280 pounds, Judge has, in a very short time, created his own kind of folklore as baseball's next big thing. Literally.

Tweet from @Yankees: 457 feet ... ������ https://t.co/QznoCPf5AU pic.twitter.com/J3NoXL3vlE

"Never in my life would I have thought Winfield would re-tweet one of my swings," said Judge, a central Californian who maintains a low-key air of humility despite the wave of attention building from the nation's largest media market.

Video: NYY@PIT: Judge launches a 457-foot homer into orbit

Considered a rookie despite appearing in 27 games (with four homers) last season, Judge has met with Winfield several times to "pick his brain," he said. "What did you do in certain situations, what was your approach? It was pretty cool to pick the brain of a Hall of Famer."

Apparently, Winfield thinks it's pretty cool, too.

Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

New York Yankees, Chris Carter