Giancarlo Stanton has been playing semi-regularly in the outfield for nearly four weeks, so it certainly was not a surprise to see him manning right field when the Yankees began an interleague series Monday night in Atlanta.
Starting for the 11th time in the Yankees’ past 23 games in the outfield, Stanton also continued his offensive surge through that stretch, blasting another homer and driving in three runs in the sizzling Yankees’ 10th straight win, 5-1 over the Braves at Truist Park.
“I think [playing defense] has helped kind of just not focusing on hitting,” Stanton said after the game. “You always want to be your best in the box, and feel like you’re in the best mind frame. But that also means turning it off for a second and using that focus somewhere else. … So yeah, it helps in some way.”
The 31-year-old Stanton didn’t play in the field at all last season nor in any of his first 100 appearances this year until starting in left field July 30 in Miami, where he was a four-time All-Star outfielder during his first eight big league seasons.
Stanton’s usage in the outfield in recent weeks also largely has cleared the designated hitter spot for Luke Voit, helping to alleviate a logjam at first base and the corner-outfield spots after the trade deadline acquisitions of outfielder Joey Gallo and first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
“I think if anything, physically it’s helped him, moving around and keeping his body going,” said Aaron Boone. “It’s been a seamless transition right back out there. Looks like he’s been playing regularly all year, the last couple of years.
“As soon as we started doing it, you always know there’s gonna be a conclusion drawn. It’s because he’s in the outfield, he’s doing this or isn’t doing that. Sometimes it’s just baseball, and the ebb and flow of the season. … That said, it’s very possible that being out there has helped him a little bit.”
Voit was named the American League Player of the Week earlier Monday, but he was not in the lineup with the DH spot eliminated in National League parks.
Stanton perhaps got a head start on this week’s award with a solo shot against Braves starter Huascar Ynoa leading off Monday’s second inning, driving a 2-2 slider away over the wall in right for his 21st of the season.
Stanton later snapped a 1-1 tie in the sixth, with a blistering two-run double to left at 119.2 mph before Boone double-switched him out of the game in the bottom half. Over his last 23 games since his initial return to the outfield, Stanton is batting .316 with five homers, 13 walks and 18 RBIs.
“He’s a unicorn, he does things every night that are a little bit different than anyone else,” Boone said. “Every time he hits one, I think everyone gets a kick out of going to the [score] board [to see] how hard he hits it.”
To that end, Stanton said his teammates usually joke with him “is that all you got?” When Boone’s “unicorn” comment was relayed, Stanton added, “That’s pretty cool. He’s seen a lot of baseball, so it’s cool if I can do something that guys out there every day for years are seeing something new.”
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