NEW YORK — Hitless through his first two games this season, Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton was bombarded with boos on Monday when he struck out in his first at-bat.
A few innings later, the boo birds returned in the Bronx when the designated hitter chopped out harmlessly to Orioles starting pitcher Jorge López in front of the mound.
Stanton was 0-for-10 on the year as he stepped in with the bases loaded and two men out in the fifth. A strikeout or any sort of weak contact surely would've sent Yankees fans into a frenzy.
Instead, Stanton proceeded to crush one of the longest home runs of his entire career, a 471-foot moonshot to left-center field. The grand slam, gone as soon as it left Stanton's bat, gave New York a commanding 6-0 lead in a series-opening victory over Baltimore.
"The way he hits 'em, it's just different," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the 7-0 win. "It's like nothing else. He's a unicorn. That ball was just so pure on a night where it's probably not flying great, and just hits it through the stadium."
It may be just the fourth game of the year, but as the fastball from right-hander Shawn Armstrong connected with Stanton's bat, the crowd of 9,008 Yankees fans at Yankee Stadium erupted into the loudest roar that's occurred in this building since long before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Stanton's grand slam goes down as the fourth-longest home run hit at Yankee Stadium since Statcast was introduced in 2015. It cleared the visitor's bullpen, sizzling through the air at 115.1 mph.
Not many people can hit a baseball that hard and that far. It's a feeling that even someone as experienced with it as Stanton has trouble describing.
"Everything rolls in sync," Stanton said. "There's no sound, there's no anything except you watching the flight of the ball. You don't know anything else that's going on. It's a very cool feeling. It's hard to describe, very specific, but it's kind of like a blacked out zone."
The homer wasn't just a tape-measure shot, it was a big blow for Baltimore. The Orioles were hanging in striking distance, but Stanton's blast put the game out of reach.
"I had a good view for it from second base," fellow slugger Aaron Judge said. "He connected on that one when we needed him to. He really busted it open for us."
All spring long, Stanton's teammates and coaches have spoken eloquently about the improvements the slugger has made. Yankees manager Aaron Boone articulated on multiple occasions that he believes the 31-year-old is a better hitter now than he was when he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2017.
With 158 games left this year, Stanton has a long way to go before he's putting up those kind of numbers. Staying healthy will be half the battle as well, considering Stanton has battled a myriad of injuries since he was traded from Miami to New York before the 2018 season.
Asked about the smattering of boos he's received so far this season, dating back to his 0-for-5 performance on Opening Day, Stanton said he gives it his all every time he takes the field.
He's not worried about the reception he gets from the fans, especially this early in the season.
"You guys like to make a big deal out of nine at bats," he said. "If you throw that in in two months, I don't even think someone's yawning about it. You can't just laser focus in on the first couple of games just because it's the beginning of the season. This is baseball. That's how it goes."
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