Giancarlo Stanton is putting on a power show, but the New York Yankees are only tied in their American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Stanton will look to send more pitches into orbit and the Yankees will try to regain the series lead when the teams meet Wednesday in Game 3 at Petco Park in San Diego. New York will be the designated home team after the Rays were “home” for the first two games of the best-of-five series.
Stanton homered twice and drove in four runs in Game 2, but New York fell 7-5 as Tampa Bay evened the series at one game apiece. Stanton has homered in four consecutive games to start the playoffs and has hit five overall.
The only players to homer in more consecutive games in one postseason are Daniel Murphy (six games in 2015 with New York Mets) and Carlos Beltran (five games in 2004 with the Houston Astros).
Stanton’s second homer on Tuesday was a blast for the ages. It cleared the second-deck seats in left field at Petco Park and landed in an area of patio tables and stools known as Estrella Jalisco Landing.
“I was just glad to put the barrel on it,” Stanton said. “I didn’t really care how far it was going, I knew it was out. I put a good swing on it, and that’s all I was worried about. You kinda blank out sometimes on those.”
Stanton also is etching his name in Yankees’ lore. His five blasts tie Reggie Jackson (1977) for the third-most homers in a single postseason. He is one behind the franchise record shared by Bernie Williams (1996) and Alex Rodriguez (2009).
But the Yankees had just three hits other than Stanton’s homers in Game 2, and Tampa Bay pitchers combined for 18 strikeouts to set an all-time record for a nine-inning postseason game.
“Well, the Rays have pitchers that strike out a lot of guys,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “They’re going to have nights like that every now and then.”
Tampa Bay put on its own power display in Game 2, tying the franchise postseason record of four homers.
Mike Zunino and Manuel Margot launched two run-homers, and Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows hit solo shots. Arozarena also homered in Game 1 when the Rays lost 9-3.
Three of the four Game 2 homers came off fastballs, and Tampa Bay catcher Zunino said that was by design.
“It’s one of those things where guys are staying aggressive, and they have a heck of a pitching staff over there, so we’re just trying to hunt good pitches and put good swings on them, and it worked out in our favor,” Zunino said.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said the team’s success is tied to the expectation level.
“When you have the type of record we did this year — 40-20 is pretty impressive — you build a culture of expecting to win,” Cash said. “These guys expect to win. They were frustrated last night, but I can assure you that by the time they got on the bus, it was over with and they were ready to compete again.”
Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will start Game 3, looking to rebound from a poor start against the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the first-round series.
Tanaka was roughed for six runs and five hits in four-plus innings. He received a no-decision as New York rallied for a 10-9 victory to close out the series.
The 31-year-old from Japan has an 11-5 career mark and 3.31 ERA in 21 starts versus the Rays.
Kevin Kiermaier (12-for-39), Zunino (6-for-22) and Meadows (5-for-19) each have hit two homers against Tanaka.
Right-hander Charlie Morton will start for the Rays in his first appearance since Sept. 25. While he has yet to pitch in the playoffs this year, he is no stranger to postseason pressure. He earned the win for the Astros in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, and he is 4-2 with a 3.70 ERA in nine all-time playoff appearances (eight starts).
Morton, 36, struck out eight in five innings in a no-decision against the Philadelphia Phillies in that outing. He gave up four runs (three earned) and seven hits.
Morton is 4-2 with a 3.83 ERA in 10 career starts versus the Yankees. The hot-hitting Stanton is 9-for-26 with a homer against Morton, while Brett Gardner is 8-for-22 with three blasts.
–Field Level Media