It’s been a tough season for Giancarlo Stanton.
With less than a month remaining, the Yankees slugger has been absent for almost half of it and his production has been up-and-down. That has led to criticism from the New York media and a lot of jeers from the Yankee Stadium crowd.
Tuesday night, however, the boo birds transformed to raucous applause as Stanton hammered his 400th career home run to help the Yankees beat the Tigers, 5-1.
“Pretty cool feat. I didn’t have a number in mind when I first started this game but it’s pretty cool to be here now and keep it going,” Stanton said of the homer after the game.
Stanton became just the 58th player in MLB history to reach 400 career home runs. He’s also the fourth-fastest to reach the milestone, taking just 1,520 games to achieve it. Only Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez were faster.
Aside from the historical relevance of the homer, the long ball came when the Yankees needed it most. With the score tied 1-1 in the sixth and starter Gerrit Cole giving his team all he had on a hot, humid night in the Bronx, Stanton crushed an 84 mph slider over the wall in left-center field to give the Yanks a 3-1 lead.
The moment led to a standing ovation from the 31,000-plus in attendance and a curtain call from the slugger, something he hasn’t gotten much of lately.
“It was awesome to see all our teammates excited and have fun with it,” Stanton said of the moment. “And to be able to go out for the curtain call is a cherry on top.”
“Really excited for him. I know what he puts into it and what it means to him,” manager Aaron Boone said of the curtain call after the game. “We have a lot of guys in there that aren’t selfish players. They’re doing it to win at the highest level and [Stanton] has embodied that. It was really cool for him to get that moment and in a big spot.”
Cole was one of the first Yankees to congratulate Stanton when he returned to the dugout. The home run not only gave New York the lead, it ultimately gave Cole the win as the ace continues his pursuit of his first Cy Young award.
The right-hander told a story about Stanton after the game from when they were on different teams. Cole was on the Pirates and Stanton was with the Marlins, and before a game in Florida the two spoke in the outfield. Both players are from California and quickly bonded to the point where the slugger asked Cole to throw a fastball down the middle during the game so he can work on going the other way.
Cole would oblige, but Stanton took him deep and tied the game, while at the same time costing Cole a chance at a win.
“What a blessing it is for me to have played against such a wonderful talent and to now be on the same side of such a wonderful talent,” Cole said. “A true professional in how he goes about his business and what he brings to the park every day. And to leave it at this, he totally redeemed himself giving me the win tonight.”
Stanton’s 400th home run may have sparked the Yankees’ win on Tuesday night, but it doesn’t erase a terrible season by the slugger’s standards.
While his power numbers are still impressive — 22 home runs and 55 RBI in 86 games — his availability, batting average and on base numbers have taken a hit. Despite that, the 33-year-old is looking toward finishing the season strong.
“It’s a cool little wake-up call. Bigger picture, it doesn’t change much in terms of how the year has gone but we do have a month left,” Stanton said. “That’s all I can focus or pay attention to. There’s still a big hill ahead of us but we got things to do.”
“It means a lot to him because he’s a great teammate, a great competitor,” Boone added. “This season hasn’t obviously gone the way he’d like. He’s still grinding and has a chance to finish in a very special way. Even through it all he’s had a lot of big hits for us and tonight was another one.”
The Yankees are 69-69 and are technically still alive in the playoff race. They’re 7.5 games back of the third and final Wild Card spot with 24 games to go, and Stanton sees going on a run as their only option to end the season.
“We’re not out of it until we’re out of it,” he said. “Every day it’s one game, one win at a time. There are a couple of teams ahead of us, we face the Blue Jays twice and Boston once, that’s ours to take.”