Yankees right fielder Giancarlo Stanton reacts after his third strikeout against the Baltimore Orioles on April 8, 2018, at Yankee Stadium.

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Block: Yankees Limp Into Red Sox Series For Season’s First Real Test

Stanton Looks To Snap Out Of Slump Against Archrivals

Benjamin Block
April 10, 2018 - 11:17 am
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Back away from the ledge, Yankees fans. 

First-year manager Aaron Boone’s laissez-faire demeanor through his club’s underperforming 5-5 start and Giancarlo Stanton’s first homestand punctuated by two five-strikeout games haves fans riddled with angst as the Yankees limp into a three-game set with a red-hot Boston Red Sox team Tuesday night in Fenway.

Stanton has struggled at the plate, yielding 20 strikeouts in 42 at-bats to go along with an insipid .167 batting average. And Boone has been more impressive in his navigation of the press thus far than his decision-making in the dugout. He’s especially done a less-than-stellar job handling the bullpen, which has been heralded as one of the strongest and deepest around the league.

The thought of being swept by the Red Sox, which is a real concern for the Yankees considering how they just dropped three of four to the lowly Baltimore Orioles, could be catastrophic. If that were to happen, the Yankees would fall to 5-8 and the Red Sox would go to 11-1, a swing that could qualify as panic time in the Bronx.

MORE: Murti: Dent Relates To Aaron Boone's First Fenway Experience As Manager

However, the Red Sox’s blistering 8-1 start has been compiled against two bargain-basement teams — the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins. And they haven’t faced a team with the firepower or pitching prowess of the Yankees, despite New York’s inconsistencies so far.

“You just keep pushing forward,” Boone said after Sunday’s demoralizing 8-7 loss to the Orioles in 12 innings, a game that the Yankees led 5-0 after one inning.

Stanton also stymied any overreactions.

"The season's much longer than a week," he told reporters when asked about his struggles at the plate. "A couple of good games and I could turn it around and help us win."

MORE: Murti: 15 Years After The Homer, Respect Runs High Between Aaron Boone, Tim Wakefield

But fans aren’t feigning any sympathy for Stanton, who is earning a little more than $154,000 a game. Yankee Stadium boos crescendoed with each one of his strikeouts over last week's six-game homestand.

Not to dismiss how underwhelming Stanton has been in pinstripes to start 2018, but through the first 14 games of last season, he batted .226 with three home runs and 19 strikeouts. He ended that campaign with 59 homers and National League MVP honors.

Yet, in joining an established winning culture in New York, Stanton won’t be afforded, the same luxury to find his rhythm as his offensive compadres Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird (when he returns from injury), as they benefit from the “homegrown” sentimentality from fans.

As is the case with virtually every season, it will be the 19 games against the Red Sox this year that define the Yankees' identity, but more importantly, shape Stanton’s reputation in meaningful games. And as that narrative begins Tuesday night, so should a clean slate for Stanton.

BY THE NUMBERS

Since the reigning NL MVP spent the last eight seasons in Miami, he has a very small sample size against Boston’s pitchers.

He’s never faced Tuesday’s starter, ace and lanky flamethrower Chris Sale. However, two of Stanton’s seven hits this season have been long balls off of lefties. 

His success against southpaws will especially serve him well when he’ll step into the box Wednesday to face David Price, whom he has the most experience against of any Boston pitchers. Stanton is 3-for-10 with a double and an RBI against Price.

The biggest question mark for Stanton will be Rick Porcello, who is slated to start the series finale Thursday. In just one career plate appearance against Porcello, Stanton has a double that generated three RBIs.

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As far as Stanton versus the depth of Boston’s bullpen, it’s anyone’s guess.

Stanton also has never faced relievers Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Bobby Poyner, Carson Smith, Hector Valazquez or Marcus Walden. He is, however, 2-for-7 versus Joe Kelly, and against closer Craig Kimbrel, Stanton is an anemic 1-for-8 with three strikeouts.

Sanchez and Judge need to get it going as well, of course, but right now, it’s Stanton who has been failing to epic proportions. A strong series from him is most crucial. He needs to show that he can produce against good pitching in a tough environment. And if he can do that over this three-game series, it would pay serious dividends for the rest of the season.

Yankees-Red Sox has a way of revealing the character of a player. That said, we’ll find out who the real Stanton is soon enough.

Follow Ben on Twitter at @benjaminblock21