The Red Sox claimed a 4-3 win over the Yankees last night to avoid a season-opening sweep in New York, and we all know the storylines. But if you’re looking for angles that bear watching going forward, here’s one of them:
How the Red Sox handle Giancarlo Stanton.
Entering last night – and including last year’s one-game playoff – Stanton had homered in six straight games against the Red Sox, going 12-for-24 with six home runs and 14 RBI. Overall, he has hit in 14 straight against the Sox going back to July of last season, batting a whopping .431. Last night, he went 3-for-5 against them.
The good news? At least he didn’t hit another homer.
And there might be a reason for it.
In the first inning, after the Sox had claimed a 2-0 lead, Stanton came to the plate with one out and runners at first and third. Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck then fell behind 1-0 before pushing Stanton off the plate with a fastball up and in, then threw a slider away that a bailing Stanton hit off the end of the bat for a soft lineout to second base for the second out. The Yankees did not score in the inning.
ESPN announcer Eduardo Perez was all over the sequence, which you can see here:
Now, while Stanton ultimately got three hits last night, all three were singles. And while the Sox probably got a little lucky along the way, there is no question that moving Stanton off the plate certainly helped the Sox get a big out early in the game and may have planted a seed in his head for future at-bats.
As many remember, Stanton was hit in the face with a pitch in 2014, which is why he wears a faceguard on his helmet. A resulting injury obviously changed him as a hitter, and he changed his stance dramatically in part to prevent him from pulling off the ball. (You can the alterations to his stance in a series of screen grabs below.)
The point? Stanton isn’t pulling off the ball as much as he used to. So as is often the case with power hitters, you need to move them off the plate to reclaim the outside corner, which Houck and the Red Sox did quite effectively in the first inning last night.