NEW YORK — As Giancarlo Stanton struck out on three straight pitches, angrily yelled something at himself and the boos rang down again, you had to think how this whole night would have been simpler for him if one of his ex-teammates had just grooved him a fastball he could blast into the Bronx sky.
Here were the Yankees, up 11-0 against the lowly Miami Marlins in the seventh inning. It was the type of game – 12-1 when it was all finished — that made Yankees legend-turned-Marlins CEO Derek Jeter’s decision to stay home a smart one. Just to save him the embarrassment of watching his old team doing that to his new team. It was a shellacking. The type of lopsided victory where you think there’s no way the hometown fans could be booing one of their own.
But here was Stanton, striking out for the second time of the night, following a foul out with the bases loaded in his previous at-bat, following an 0-for-5 performance in his previous game, following a .191 start to his first April in pinstripes.
He got booed when he fouled out. He got booed again when he struck out. After the first strike, one fan on this cold night at Yankee Stadium yelled at Stanton for being a bum. Three months ago, before he’d even swung a bat in this stadium, these same fans were counting the World Series rings that were coming. Now, 15 games in, they were booing him with their team up 11-0?
Tough crowd. Maybe too tough?
You know that thing about New York sports fan being tougher than almost every other city, well there you go. Even on a night where everything went right for the Yankees — Aaron Judge hit a homer, Didi Gregorius hit two, Luis Severino looked fantastic on the mound — none of it was enough to get Stanton off the hook. Not even an 11-run lead was enough.
The Yankees had 15 hits Monday night. Stanton had zero. Every Yankees starter had a hit — except Stanton. And if it wasn’t clear already, it was clear by the time this game was over: the reigning NL MVP has uphill battle to win over these fans in New York.
He gave them two homers in his first game and just one since. Sure, he had a good series in Boston — six hits, a homer, three RBIs — but that was almost a whole week ago. Now he’s back home hitting .107 for the season at Yankee Stadium.
Fair or not, that’s not going to fly in New York City.
“I’m feeling all right,” Stanton said afterward, with a throng of New York reporters standing in front of his locker.
Well then, one asked, where’s the success?
“First game of the homestand,” Stanton responded.
He walked in the first inning and scored a run. He was hit by a pitch in his next at-bat. Then he K’d. Then the whole place held its breath when he came up with the bases loaded. It exhaled (or booed) when he hit an easy foul out to the first-base side. Then was the final K of the night.
Stanton’s highlight? Blasting a first-inning foul ball that would have been a homer if not for a few feet in the wrong direction.
“I thought he grinded through his at-bats and didn’t have much to show for it after those first two,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
“It’s just finding that elite timing spot and then when he does, he’ll take off,” Boone said. “I don’t think he’s far off.”
For what it’s worth: April has been Stanton’s worst month throughout his career. It’s the month in which he’s hit the fewest homers and had the lowest batting average. It’s also the month he’s had the second-most strikeouts.
Does that make it wrong to boo him when he has a bad game? Of course not. Fans bought their tickets and can do what they want — within the rules of the game — when they’re at the ballpark.
There aren’t many places where the fans might focus on the one guy who didn’t have a hit when their favorite team has an 11-run lead. But Stanton now plays in one of those places. So this is what comes with it.
He was standing on deck when Jace Peterson struck out to end the eighth inning. With the Yankees’ huge lead, Stanton wouldn’t get another chance to bat.
You had to think, on this night, that was for the best.
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