Stanton’s 3-run smash ‘threw the first punch’

Slugger ties Beltrán’s record with 11 HRs over 1st 23 postseason games

EW YORK — Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is the guy that most people expected would provide the bulk of New York’s power in the postseason. After all, he hit a Major League-leading 62 home runs in the regular season. But teammate Giancarlo Stanton has also been providing the long ball and did so again in the first inning of Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Guardians on Tuesday afternoon. The Yankees went on to win, 5-1, advancing to play the Astros in the ALCS.

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With Cleveland right-hander Aaron Civale on the mound at Yankee Stadium and runners on first and second, Stanton clobbered a 2-0 cutter into the right-center-field stands to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead that they never relinquished.

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“We threw the first punch and we had them chasing us the whole game,” Stanton said. “Luckily enough, we were able to stay on top. The fans have been riled up. They have been riled up since yesterday. It’s awesome, and they are still here for us.”

Stanton on early lead, Game 5 win
According to southpaw Nestor Cortes, Stanton’s home run calmed him down and helped him pitch five innings of one-run ball on three days’ rest in the clincher.

“Incredible. I knew from that moment on, all I had to do was throw strikes and be able to get us as deep as possible,” Cortes said. “And for him to give us that three-run lead in the first from the get-go, too, was huge for me and calmed me down to go out there and do what I do.”

Cortes hurls five strong innings
It was Stanton’s second home run of the series. Stanton has now hit 11 home runs in his first 23 postseason games, tying Carlos Beltrán for the most all time in that category.

Stanton’s blast also tied the all-time MLB record of three career homers in winner-take-all postseason games until Judge broke the mark with a home run of his own in the following frame.

Aaron Judge’s solo home run
After several years of playoff experience, Stanton has figured out why he shines during the postseason.

“It’s go time. It’s now or never. We’ve got to do it,” Stanton said.

Stanton the quiet leader

Stanton doesn’t normally say much. He leads by example, according to Cortes. But as the old saying goes, when he talks, people listen. In fact, Stanton addressed his teammates before the ALDS started. It was obvious Stanton wanted to win his first World Series title.

“He said, ‘Hey, we are tired of looking around and not being where we want to be,’” Cortes remembered. “We need to take it upon ourselves to get to the next step.

“He basically said, ‘Whether you get scored on, whether you go 0-for that day, nothing matters. What matters is the next moment.’ He did a good job of translating that message.”

Nestor Cortes on Game 5
Now the Yankees face the Astros in the ALCS for the third time in five years, with the Astros having won the pennant in 2017 and ‘19. Will the Yankees finally get revenge against Houston? Time will tell.

“We’ve got to take it to them,” Stanton said. “There are no excuses. We have an interesting couple of days. Let’s get ready to go and get on this plane and go get them.”

With Aaron Hicks possibly out for the ALCS after he injured his left knee on an outfield collision in the third, there is a possibility Stanton could play the outfield, but manager Aaron Boone isn’t sure about that.

“We’ll see. We’ll have that conversation. Possibly,” Boone said.