BOSTON — The Yankees' big win over the Red Sox on Saturday night will forever be linked to Giancarlo Stanton's heroics in the eighth inning, smashing a go-ahead grand slam out of Fenway Park.
That swing clinched what turned out to be a 5-3 win for the Bombers, but if it wasn't for this catch, who knows how this ballgame would've turned out for New York.
In the bottom of the fifth, with the Yankees already down 1-0, Bobby Dalbec went the other way on a two-strike fastball, slugging a fly ball destined for Boston's bullpen. Red Sox relievers made way for the incoming home-run ball. On the mound, left-hander Nestor Cortes put his hands over his head, hoping the ball stayed in the park.
That's when he saw right fielder Aaron Judge sprinting toward the fence, battling the sun to locate the baseball and make a spectacular catch, reaching over the wall.
"Huge game changer right there," Cortes said after the game. "The ball goes over the fence, God knows what happens. Obviously Judge is a great defender out there and I'm glad he's playing right field for me."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone had a similar reaction to the play, a sentiment in line with his comments about Judge's defense all season long.
"I had a good sight line with Judge so I saw that he got off to a good break and he knew he had to kind of get on his horse and kind of put his nose down and get after it to cover the ground and he was able to do that. It was a really special play," Boone said.
Judge has reminded everyone why he's considered one of the better defensive right fielders throughout this season. He'll track down balls in the gap—even patrolling center field at times—before showcasing his elite arm.
In fact, the right fielder almost turned a double play after robbing the homer as well, firing a strike from the warning track to Anthony Rizzo at first base. A feet-first slide from Kyle Schwarber arrived at the bag just before Judge's toss.
"I didn't even consider that part," Boone added. "I just saw the ball coming in and it turned out to be actually pretty close. But just a really special play in a big spot."
As Cortes alluded to, that play would've changed the trajectory of the game had it landed in the bullpen rather than Judge's outstretched glove. A three-run lead heading into the top of the sixth could've altered the way Red Sox manager Alex Cora used his bullpen.
That in mind, perhaps Giancarlo Stanton wouldn't have had an opportunity to hit his stunning grand slam. And even if he did, Dalbec's solo home run off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth would've surely had a different impact on the final result, rather than serving as just a bump in the road en route to an easy save for the Yankees' closer.