I was there, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was loud. “Electric” is how I described the atmosphere. After two years of not making the playoffs, the Yankees made it back to the postseason and were hosting the Houston Astros in the AL Wild Card game on October 6, 2015. It was also the first playoff game I had ever attended in person. My excitement could not be contained.
Sure the Yankees had sort of stumbled into the playoffs, but that didn’t change anything for me. The first few innings were as loud as I had ever seen Yankee Stadium. They didn’t care about how the Yankees got there, they were just excited they were there. After a few innings, though, it started getting quieter. The Yankees were never technically out of the game, they only lost 3-0. So the Stadium was never really defeated, but each passing inning made runs look like the scarcest commodity. Thanks for that, Dallas Keuchel.
Sure today’s Yankees are much different than the ones that night. Only Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius (who batted ninth that day), and Greg Bird are Yankee regulars from that game. Still, I get nervous anytime the Yankees have to face a left-handed pitcher, especially a soft-throwing one. It wasn’t just that game that Keuchel has shut the Yankees down.
In seven career starts against the Bombers, Keuchel has a 1.74 ERA across 51.2 innings pitched; his 50 strikeouts in those games help boost his 8.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That’s his best against any team, with the Cardinals at 7.50 (across only two starts and three games) as the closest, and the Mariners (3.72) behind them. The point is that Keuchel tends to own the Yankees. In the first six of those games, he didn’t allow a home run to the Yankees. Enter: Giancarlo Stanton.
From the offseason trade to his multi-homer Yankee debut, to his subsequent “struggles,” much has been made of Stanton’s brief Yankee career. I put struggles in quotes because he’s still been an above average hitter (121 wRC+). People were quick to write him off and fans at Yankee Stadium were booing him already. Despite his pedestrian numbers in the early going, he’s been doing one thing extremely well: hitting lefties.
Prior to Wednesday night’s game, Stanton slashed .400/.441/1.133 with six home runs, which is good for a 301 wRC+ against lefties this year. Five of his six home runs against lefties came against J.A. Happ, Drew Pomeranz, and believe it or not, Keuchel. It took the Yankees getting literally the reigning NL MVP, but a Yankee had finally homered off Keuchel. And he did it twice!
In that May 2nd victory over the Astros, Stanton’s two home runs were enough to power the Yankees to a 3-0 win thanks to a Luis Severino complete game shutout on the other end of the ball. Then this past Tuesday, while Stanton wasn’t the only offense, he generated the only two runs off of Pomeranz where the Yankees beat the Red Sox 3-2.
Outside of those four home runs, the Yankees weren’t able to muster up anything against either of those two. It’s been a recurring theme for the Yankees for a while now. Though the Yankees were able to get to Keuchel a bit in Game Five, he shut them down for seven innings in Game One of the ALCS last year.
Sure, Stanton could be hitting better, but history tells us he’ll get there. He’ll break out soon. Until then, the rest of the team is there to pick him up. It’s no secret, though. With a crafty, soft-tossing lefty on the mound, the Yankees lineup has struggled. With Stanton, however, Brian Cashman may finally have found a weapon to deploy against one of the offenses’ few weaknesses.
*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.