Bader's big October an encouraging sign for '23

Yankees CF goes deep in ALCS Game 4, finishes postseason with 5 HRs

October 24th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Harrison Bader trade still has more fruit to yield after his brilliant 2022 postseason.

A glimmer of hope throughout a frustrating American League Championship Series for the Yankees, Bader closed out his year with a three-hit night in New York's season-ending 6-5 loss to Houston in Sunday’s Game 4. That performance included a go-ahead solo home run in the sixth inning that made him only the fifth Yankees player with five or more homers in a single postseason.

The center fielder’s efforts weren’t enough to help the Yanks avoid getting swept, but on a night when New York’s bats seemed to rise back to life, Bader was its defibrillator. Now, he has a healthy offseason ahead before putting on the pinstripes again in 2023.

“I'm very disappointed,” Bader said. “You do your best to put your best foot forward and play hard. And it didn't shake out the way we wanted it to. But it's important to take every ounce of positives from the season and carry it into the offseason.”

Bader collected at least one hit in each of the four ALCS games. He also hit two out of the three homers in the series for New York. As swings-and-misses plagued the club’s lineup from top to bottom, Bader closed out his postseason with a .333 average, a 1.262 OPS and five home runs -- the same number he collected over 86 regular-season games (all of which came during his 72 games with the Cardinals).

On Sunday, the 28-year-old Bader batted leadoff for the second time in three games, swinging with conviction to set the tone early.

The Yankees grabbed an early lead after Bader led off with a single against Lance McCullers Jr. and then scored on a Giancarlo Stanton RBI single. New York’s 2-0 lead after the first was the first time the club led Houston at the end of a full inning all series, or at any point in 2022. In seven regular-season meetings between the two teams, the Yankees led twice -- both times after walk-off hits by Aaron Judge.

The discrepancy between both clubs was visible throughout the ALCS.

“We got beat by a better team right now, and that's the reality of it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “They're clearly setting the mark in this league that we're aspiring to get to.”

Bader’s resurgence still went down as an encouraging development, though. He’s in line to become the Yankees’ everyday center fielder after an Aug. 2 deal with the Cardinals brought him into the fold ahead of the Trade Deadline, when he was still sidelined due to a nagging right foot injury.

“There were times during this year, specifically, where I thought my season was lost because of the lingering nature of my injury,” Bader said. “To get back to a position where I could again be effective for myself and my teammates, as a result of the medical staff doing their job properly, was a massive, massive step for me. So, I'm just going to continue to carry that momentum moving forward.”

Bader, a Bronxville, N.Y., native has one season remaining on a two-year contract he signed with St. Louis last offseason, which means he’ll get another chance at helping New York end its World Series championship drought, which is now at 13 seasons.

“The quest continues for a championship,” Bader said. “I know we kind of just lost, but it's the only thing on my mind.”

The Yankees struck out 41 times over the first three games of the ALCS, managing only 12 hits off the Astros’ pitching staff. New York recorded only three hits in a 5-0 shutout loss in Game 3, a performance that yielded a shower of boos in the Bronx.

But behind Bader, the Yanks' lineup made some necessary adjustments to spark competitiveness and bring the crowd back to their side in Game 4.

“Hopefully, [I’m] making a positive impact on the fans,” Bader said. “But at the end of the day, it's really out of my control. I can only play my game, prepare to win. And hopefully, people receive that the right way.”

Still digesting the loss, Bader isn’t thinking too far ahead, but his goals for the future remain clear.

“Your expectations, many times in my opinion, you can lead yourself down the wrong path,” Bader said. “I think it's just important to work very hard, day in and day out, keep the big picture, keep the perspective, always.

“And that is winning a World Series.”