NEW YORK — A bit of half-remembered high-school French: voit is the third-person present singular form of voir, to see. On Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, though, 27-year-old Louis Linwood (Luke) Voit was less the beholder than the beheld; the team’s September folk hero spun his legend onward into October with a display witnessed by scores of baseball fans who, less than three months ago, couldn’t possibly have known who he was.
“How crazy is this?” he asked postgame in the clubhouse, with drops of champagne raining on him from a faraway magnum. “I’m just a Missouri boy, I never thought I’d be playing for the Yankees. And now I’m playing on center stage of the world, having the time of my life.”
The final score of New York’s wild-card win was 7-2, meaning, yes, that the decisive run had already been scored by the time the Yankees’ sturdy Missouri boy (and first baseman) made his way to the plate in the sixth inning with two men on and no one out. But at the time, the game did not seem so settled. The Yankees had just added a run to their lead, making the score 3-0, and Oakland had countered with its All-Star closer, Blake Treinen, in hopes of shutting down New York’s righties. Treinen had a 0.78 ERA and had allowed just eight extra-base hits all year. Giancarlo Stanton, batting cleanup, walked.
Treinen threw nine pitches to Voit. The first eight were sinkers averaging 96.7 miles per hour. Voit fouled off four of them, including pitches six, seven, and eight, overmatched, barely staying alive. Pitch nine was a slider, and pitch nine Voit walloped all the way to the top of the rightfield wall. With Stanton on second (having stolen a base), and Aaron Hicks on third, the fly ball was bound to score two runs.
Problem was, Voit thought his hit was bound to score three. He dropped his bat, crow-hopped toward first, and pointed skyward with his right arm. He hadn’t made it halfway down the basepath when he realized the error of his optimism. “When it hit the wall, I panicked,” he said. He’s a below-average runner, even for a first baseman. But when it’s the biggest hit of your life, as Voit acknowledged it was, you can haul some ass. Treinen hadn’t allowed a triple all year; Voit had never hit a triple in the big leagues. When the ball finally made its way home after a tough bounce in right field, though, Voit was standing on third, bashing elbows with coach Phil Nevin, screaming “F— yeah!”
The Yankee faithful bellowed his name—Luuuuuuuke!—in the manner they had all September, fortissimo this time. “The Luke chants were louder than they’d ever been. It was awesome,” he said. “Words can’t describe it; it’s almost like a Christmas morning kind of thing.”
What Voit has done over the last six weeks after St. Louis shipped him to the Yankees for a couple of spare-part pitchers might have previously eluded notice. The righty slugger, who has been up and down between the majors and high minors for the last two seasons, hit 14 home runs in 39 games for New York with a .333/.405/.689 batting line. Over the season’s last 30 days he had the AL’s fourth-best OPS, trailing only MVP contenders Mookie Betts and Mike Trout and—avert your eyes, John Mozeliak—fellow Cardinals castoff Tommy Pham. Including the regular season, he now has a six-game RBI streak, with seven homers in his last 12 games.
All of this alone would make him a star here. But there happens to be something plain magnetic about Voit, too, with his barrel chest and louché top-two-jersey-buttons-undone style. He has the look of a man who might challenge strangers to push-up contests. In the clubhouse, though, he was as giddy as a little kid, eagerly receiving every champagne dousing sent his way. “Oh-ho, I want it so bad. I’m drinking as much of it as I can, and I’m having a blast.”
So, indeed, are Yankee fans, crazy about their out-of-nowhere thumper, Luke Voit, who, to be believed, must be seen.