NEW YORK — Facing a club like the Orioles—a team 50 games below .500—Friday night's series opener felt like a must-win game for the Yankees.
It wasn't pretty, and New York needed 11 innings, but the Bombers got the job done.
After right-hander Clay Holmes tightroped out of a jam in the top of the 11th, keeping score tied, a walk-off single from a red-hot Giancarlo Stanton secured the 4-3 victory.
Stanton got every bit of the line drive back up the middle, sending the sinker from right-hander Dillon Tate 121.1 mph back up the box. Aaron Judge, who started the frame on second as the automatic runner in extra innings, made it home just in time, clinching Stanton's second walk-off single of the season.
It was Stanton's booming solo home run in the fourth inning that got the scoring started for New York, halting John Means' modest bid for a no-hitter.
From there, as the Orioles began to battle back, the Yankees struggled to capitalize in run-scoring opportunities. Other than two RBI from DJ LeMahieu (a sacrifice fly in the fifth and game-tying single in the 10th), the Yankees were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
That's even with the return of shortstop Gleyber Torres from the injured list, adding one more starter to New York's high-octane lineup.
Nonetheless, the RBI singles in extra innings were enough to drive this team past their lowly division rivals.
LeMahieu's clutch knock in the 10th came after left-hander Wandy Peralta allowed a run-scoring base hit to Orioles first baseman Ryan Mountcastle in the top of the frame. The throw home from right fielder Anthony Santander was on the money, but an acrobatic slide from pinch-runner Tyler Wade—twisting around Pedro Severino's glove toward the plate—was the difference.
"No, I was scoring," Wade said, cracking a smile. "Especially in the late innings like that and runs we're coming at a premium, I was doing everything I can to score it there."
Baltimore threatened again right away, as Holmes allowed a single to put two runners. The right-hander retired the next three batters he faced in order, though, soaking up the experience of coming up big in front of a boisterous crowd in the Bronx.
"Yankee Stadium is a place that's electric in times like that," Holmes said. "I'm happy to be able to just experience the environment and be able to come through and see the fans react the way they did. It was an awesome experience."
As for Stanton, who sent those fans home happy with his game-winning laser beam, the slugger continues to tear the cover off the baseball at the plate. Going 2-for-5 on Friday, Stanton has reached safely in 27 of his last 28 games (since August 2), hitting .333/.405/.667 (34-for-102) with 18 runs, 10 home runs and 27 RBI in that span.
Sure, 26 homers on the year—six in his last nine games—is nice. A recent hot streak is great, too. For Stanton, however, it's the tally in the win column that matters most.
"It's been awesome," Staton said. "Helping us win, putting up some good numbers at the same time, it's huge. But the most important thing is the win."
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