OAKLAND — Giancarlo Stanton didn’t have time for narratives or dissecting what was going on with the Yankees while he was on the injured list. On Tuesday afternoon, Stanton only had time to get ready for his return to the lineup.
“We’re gonna turn it around. We’ll be fine. I think there’s plenty of time to change whatever narrative is going on right now,” Stanton said. “We’ll be fine.”
The Yankees should be in a better situation on this West Coast swing with a boosted roster. Though they are 11-18 in their last 29, they are coming off three straight wins, including beating the surging Blue Jays on Sunday and then sweeping the Mets. And Thursday night, when they begin a 10-game road trip against the A’s at the Coliseum, the Bombers expect to have Stanton back in the lineup for the first time since July 24.
And that makes the Yankees lineup, which had been struggling for runs during their second-half slide, immediately better. Since Stanton went on the IL with left Achilles tendinitis, the Bombers have been averaging two fewer runs a game. The slide, coming after they had the best record in baseball during the first half of the season, was dramatic. The Bombers went from having the best record in the American League and a 15.5 lead in the AL East, to starting Thursday 7.5 games ahead of the Rays and trailing the Astros by 3.5 games in the jockeying for postseason seedings.
The threat of the 32-year-old slugger simply makes the Bombers lineup better, makes it more likely that Aaron Judge is going to see better pitches to hit and makes it deeper.
In 80 games this season, Stanton was hitting .228/.309/.498 with a .807 OPS with 24 home runs and 61 RBI.
Stanton understands the urgency. He will be the DH when he comes back and then work his way back to playing the outfield on the fly.
“I just want to jump in there and get some games under my belt to get a better gauge of it,” Stanton said. “But I help the team better when I’m in the outfield. I guess we’re more dynamic, so [I’ll be out there] just as soon as possible.”
Part of the reason to believe that the Yankees will be fine is the return of Stanton, but also the emergence of Andrew Benintendi in the last four games.
In his last four games, Benintendi has hit 7-for-14 with three runs scored, two doubles and a home run. That home run was a monster shot into the second deck in right field, the blast the Yankees needed to end a three-game losing streak and start this current winning streak. He drove in runs in all three of the Yankees’ wins. That also makes the lineup more dangerous.
“Like I said when we got him, I was looking forward to getting him over here because he’s a guy that puts the ball in play. He’s a guy that comes up in big moments. He’s played in big games, and we’ve seen that the past few games now,” Judge said of Benintendi. “It’s just another tool that we’re lucky to have and that’s for sure.”
Also, Judge seemingly is back on track.
After a nine-game home run drought, Judge is back on pace to break the American League home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. During that slump, Judge hit just .133/.278/.167 with a .445 OPS and 12 strikeouts. In the last two games, Judge is 4-for-8 with two homers, three RBI and two strikeouts.
Those home runs aren’t just important for Judge’s personal pursuit, but they make the offense go. The Bombers are built on power and it’s pretty a simple formula; when they hit homers they win more. When the Yankees go without a home run they are just 10-21 this season.
“I think it’s tough to have a little bit of swagger when you keep losing games and dropping series and not playing your brand of baseball,” Judge said. “But I think the swagger’s always been there. I think it just took a little reminder of who we are and what type of baseball we play and going back to doing the basics. We got it back.”