Entertainment First homestand ends with boos for Stanton

NEW YORK — It’s hard to imagine a player of his stature having a poorer start with a new team than Giancarlo Stanton has had in his first week as a New York Yankee.

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Giancarlo Stanton struck out five times in his first home game at Yankees Stadium, but it didn't matter. The Yankees easily beat the Rays, 11-4. play

Giancarlo Stanton struck out five times in his first home game at Yankees Stadium, but it didn't matter. The Yankees easily beat the Rays, 11-4.

(The New York Times)
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In his first 10 games in pinstripes, Stanton has batted .167.

He has three home runs, two of them on opening day, and has driven in seven runs, but his on base percentage-plus-slugging is a middling .700.

Oh, and he has struck out 20 times in 42 at-bats, including 16 times in the six-game homestand that concluded Sunday with an 8-7 loss in 12 innings to the Baltimore Orioles. To put that in perspective, consider that Joe DiMaggio struck out 13 times in all of 1941, a season in which he won one of his three Americal League Most Valuable Player Awards.

Even accounting for the differences in the way the game is played now, Stanton has a startling amount of swings and misses. Twice, he had at least five strikeouts in a game during the homestand, including Sunday’s game, in which he went 0 for 7.

But the numbers only tell part of the story on Stanton’s rough transition from the warm weather of South Florida to the relative pressure cooker of the Bronx.

The Yankee Stadium crowd already has loudly delivered its negative reviews of the early performance by Stanton, who is signed through 2027 and is owed $295 million on the 13-year, $325 million contract he signed with the Miami Marlins in 2015.

They booed him vociferously after every strikeout Sunday, and never more viciously than in the 12th inning, when the game ended with Stanton swinging through a Brad Brach fastball, stranding the tying run at second base. It was the sixth time in seven at-bats that Stanton was in a position to do what the Yankees acquired him to do — single-handedly change the game — and the sixth time he failed.

The most humiliating instance had come in the 10th inning. Faced with the choice of pitching to Aaron Judge or Stanton with two outs and the potential winning run on second, Orioles manager Buck Showalter opted to try his luck with the player who had led baseball with 59 home runs in 2017. Showalter’s decision paid off when Stanton jumped at the first pitch from lefthander Richard Bleier and tapped harmlessly into an inning-ending forceout.

Asked if he could remember the last time a manager at any level walked the hitter in front of him, Stanton said, tersely, “I don’t know.”

Stanton was not the only reason the Yankees lost Sunday. There was starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who was staked to a five-run, first-inning lead but gradually gave back four and left the game after surrendering a two-run home run to Danny Valencia after 4 1/3 innings. There was Domingo German, sent out for a third inning of relief by manager Aaron Boone, who gave up a two-run home run to Anthony Santander — the first of Santander's major-league career — to give the Orioles a 7-6 lead in the seventh. There was Adam Warren allowing a walk and two singles in the 12th, the last one by Craig Gentry driving in the eventual winning run.

And there was the moment in the bottom of the 12th when the Yankees found themselves in a position they could only dream about — bases loaded, no one out, and Judge and Stanton, who hit 111 homers between them last season, coming up.

But Judge hit a comebacker that Brach turned into a double play, followed by Stanton’s game-ending strikeout.

“I think it’s just timing,” Boone said. “I really believe it’s as simple as that. I think once he gets that synced up, he’ll take off.”

But Boone rejected the idea that the crowd was getting into Stanton’s head. “No, he’s too good a player for that," Boone said. “That’s just something you have to deal with as a big leaguer. It grinds you down mentally, I’m sure, when you don’t perform to your best. But I think that once he does lock in that feeling we look for as hitters, he’ll explode.”

Stanton, who handled his first five-strikeout game with self-deprecation, and even some cheer last Wednesday, was noticeably more uncomfortable with the attention Sunday.

“Things aren’t going well,” he said “You’ve just got to look at it as a bad week. The season’s much longer than a week. A couple good games and I can turn it around and help us win.”

Asked if he expected this kind of crowd reaction in his first week as a Yankee playing at home, Stanton said, “Sure. They’re not going to cheer for that. So what do you expect?”

Stanton did not have a blazing start to 2017, either. In his first 14 games, he batted .226 with three home runs and 19 strikeouts before rebounding and eventually winning the National League MVP Award. He had to waive his no-trade clause in order to clear the way for the Yankees and Marlins to make the deal, a factor Boone cited as evidence that Stanton knew just what he was in for by coming to the Bronx.

“I really feel that he’s prepared himself for this,” Boone said. “I don’t think he just came here on a whim, I think he came here prepared for a big change. And I think he’s such a diligent worker and his prep is so detailed that I think he’ll get locked in. Once that happens, he’ll get rolling and be a dominant player. And it will happen in a big way.”

If there’s anything positive to take from Stanton’s first week as a Yankee, it is this: Odds are things can only get better.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

WALLACE MATTHEWS © 2018 The New York Times

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