There isn’t enough season left for him to make an epic bell-lap chase. Most MVP voters made up their mind in July after falling hard for Shohei Ohtani. Some have shifted their affinity to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It is probably too late in the game for Giancarlo Stanton to win the plaque that commemorates the AL Most Valuable Player.
But it is hard to believe there is anyone more valuable than him in the whole sport right now. It is hard to believe there is any hitter in either league that a pitcher would less like to face, now that every game has extra meaning attached to it. He is that raging hot. He isn’t just difficult to get out right now, it’s damn near impossible to keep him in the ballpark.
“It’s impressive, and in the recent he’s scorching hot,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after watching his team take one giant leap closer to clinching a postseason berth, beating the Blue Jays before a raucous crowd at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, 7-2. “He’s a special player, his focus right now is tremendous, just walking up there with a lot of conviction knowing what he wants to do.”
Stanton homered for the fourth straight game, and for the third straight it came late, and it eased the Yankees’ path toward victory. This time he hit a ball that was about an inch north of his shoe tops, a blast that would’ve made Bryson DeChambeau blush, a three-run shot that removed all mystery and most of the drama from a 3-2 game.
It quieted the nearly 29,000 who’d flocked to the former SkyDome on a night when attendance capacity was expanded in advance of a last-week playoff push by the Jays. And it was one more reminder that as frustrating a player as Stanton can be, you probably don’t mind having him on your team, in your batting order, at this time of the year.
“It’s good to come through in those moments and help us win at the end of the day,” Stanton said. “If I have four opportunities, if I can do some good, we’re most likely going to be in a good situation.”
For the Yankees it was a seventh straight win, and for all the slings and arrows they have endured to get here, the place in which they sit with five days left in the regular season couldn’t possibly be more ideal.
They are now two up on the Red Sox (who committed the 2021 baseball mortal sin of losing to Baltimore), 2¹/₂ games up on the red-hot Mariners and three up on the Jays, solidifying not only the likelihood of their participation in the postseason tournament but also the site of that wild-card game: Yankee Stadium.
If the worst thing to be said about the Yankees is that they’re too streaky a team … well, this is a good time of the year to be on a good streak. That, of course, is the same complaint about Stanton, who this year — as in most years — has endured vast swaths of season when he couldn’t get out of his own way. With those cold spells have come a million oaths from Yankees fans wishing he would be exiled. They filled so much of the summer.
You don’t hear much of that now.
What you hear, mostly, is the distinct sound a baseball makes when it properly connects with the business end of Stanton’s bat. The Red Sox became intimately acquainted with that particular crunch over the weekend, specifically on Saturday (when he hit a game-changing grand slam in the eighth inning) and Sunday (when his two-run blast put to bed a sweet sweep of the Sox).
Tuesday it was just a matter of time, because the feeling around Stanton now is awfully similar to what it was last year, when he was easily the Yankees’ most dangerous October weapon, when he hit six home runs in seven playoff games, drove in 13 runs and compiled a ridiculous OPS of 1.426. He was a one-man wrecking crew.
And looked an awful lot as he looks now; he’s 9-for-17 with four homers and 13 RBIs since Friday, in Boston and Toronto, the Yankees officially diving into the deep end of the pool.
Would you want to pitch to him right now?
“He’s in a really good place right now,” Boone said. “We’re playing for keeps, we’re playing for a lot and G is embodying that. He understands how important every inning, every at-bat is.”
He won’t win the MVP. No matter. Right now, this moment, he is the most valuable weapon in the sport. You don’t get a plaque for that. But the rewards can be even better.
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