NEW YORK -- Giancarlo Stanton threw his arms up in the air and let them hang as he flipped his bat and began an electric home run trot. He rounded the bases while his teammates jumped for joy out of the dugout and into a pileup at home plate.
It’s a feeling Stanton has experienced all too rarely since the titanic blast that helped him earn the Chevrolet All-Star Game MVP Award on July 19 at Dodger Stadium. He made sure to savor it.
With all the attention at Yankee Stadium focused on Aaron Judge on Tuesday night amid his quest for the American League’s home run record -- he hit No. 60 of the season to lead off the ninth inning -- it was Stanton who came up with the biggest swing of the game, launching a walk-off grand slam to propel the Yankees to a 9-8 win over the Pirates.
“It’s about damn time,” Stanton said. “[It means] a little bit of everything.”
Stanton’s Statcast-projected 410-foot blast to left field capped a five-run rally off Pirates closer Wil Crowe, who did not record an out against the top five hitters in the Yankees’ order. After Judge’s historic homer opened the frame, Anthony Rizzo knocked a double into center field, Gleyber Torres worked a walk and Josh Donaldson hit a fly ball that dropped into right -- all of which set the stage for Stanton’s heroic slam.
“I kind of lost my mind,” Judge said. “I was sitting next to [Jameson] Taillon, and we’re going through the at-bat, what he might throw. And we both kind of said, ‘If he hangs [Stanton] anything in the zone right here, he’s going to do some damage.’
“And sure enough, right when he hit it, that’s a signature Giancarlo Stanton laser to the outfield. So I had a good front-row seat for that one, and I think the whole team lost its mind and the stadium erupted. That was a pretty special moment right there.”
It was Stanton’s third career walk-off grand slam, putting him in a tie with Alex Rodriguez, Vern Stephens and Cy Williams for the most by any player in Major League history. It also gave the Yankees their MLB-leading 15th walk-off win of the season, which is tied for the second most in franchise history with the 2009 World Series-winning squad, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. (Only the 1943 Yankees had more with 17.)
Stanton became the second player to join MLB’s “ultimate slam” club this season, and both are Yankees; Donaldson hit a game-ender on Aug. 17 against the Rays. An ultimate grand slam is classified as a player hitting a bases-loaded, walk-off homer with his team trailing by three runs. In that sense, it’s as dramatic a climax as there is.
“For [Stanton], he’s not going to be affected by the moment or anything like that,” said manager Aaron Boone. “He’s up there to do a job, and I know he’s locked in on that.”
But before Stanton was inundated with cheers, he was sent off the field with boos after his third strikeout of the night just two innings prior. In that moment, he may have seemed to be an unlikely savior for the Yankees.
That’s especially true considering it has been a hard road back from injury for the 32-year-old. Stanton went on the 10-day injured list with left Achilles tendinitis on July 24, less than a week after that All-Star Game triumph, and he didn’t return until Aug. 25. Since then, he has struggled to regain his usual form; entering Tuesday, he was batting .130 with a .463 OPS during that stretch.
But with one swing of the bat -- on a ball struck with an exit velocity of 118 mph that Boone quipped “felt more like 130” -- Stanton showed that he could be turning a corner, and the timing couldn’t be better for the Yankees. Tuesday’s victory kept them 5 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays in the American League East standings, with a showdown between the two rivals coming up in a three-game series next week in Toronto.
“He’s one of the biggest pieces of our offense, if not the biggest. When he gets hot, there’s no telling what he’s going to do on a nightly basis,” Judge said. “Even tonight, he had a couple of rough at-bats to begin with, but the guy, he didn’t care. He’s getting booed, doesn’t matter. That just shows you how mentally tough he is.
“He’s a leader in that clubhouse, and we ride and die with everybody.”