Giancarlo Stanton New York Yankees
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The New York Yankees on Wednesday in the Bronx defeated the Houston Astros by a score of 6-3 (box score). That win in tandem with Tuesday's victory means the Yankees have now clinched the best-of-three series. The win also moves the Yankees to a season-best two games above the .500 mark. 

In this one, the Yankees got a quality start from Jordan Montgomery and three combined scoreless innings from the four relievers behind him -- including closer Aroldis Chapman, who has yet to allow a run in 11 appearances this season. Had the Yankees lost the game, the story would be Aaron Judge and his five strikeouts in five trips to the plate. Instead, the story is slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who continued his recent habit of blistering the baseball. 

Stanton went 3-for-4 with a walk, four RBI, and this third-inning home run off Luis Garcia

That one left the bat at 107.2 mph and traveled 435 feet. That's Stanton's eighth home run in 26 games this season. Thanks to injuries, he was limited to a total of 41 games over the prior two seasons combined. He hit seven home runs over that span. 

That blast also extended Stanton's hit streak to 11 games, and he's got five home runs and 24 hits across that stretch. He's got at least three hits in five of his last six games. Not so long ago, Stanton was struggling badly to start the season. Just prior to the beginning of his 11 game hit streak on April 23, Stanton had an uncharacteristic slash line of .158/.238/.333. Now he's batting .314/.363/.590. Not coincidentally, the Yankees are 8-3 over that span. 

When it comes to crushing baseballs, Stanton, now 31, isn't showing any hints of decline. Consider: 

  • His current average exit velocity of 98.9 mph (!) would be a career-best mark by a wide margin. To put that figure in perspective, the average exit velocity off the bat for an MLB hitter is 88.3 mph. Stanton's current figure leads all of baseball. 
  • His maximum exit velocity this season of 120.1 mph also leads all of MLB. 
  • His hard-hit rate of 65.8 percent leads all comers, as well. 
  • Stanton's barrel rate -- or the rate at which he hits pitches with the ideal combination of exit velocity and launch angle -- is in the top 9.0 percent of the league. 
  • More than 70 percent of his batted balls this season have gone up the middle or to the opposite field (mostly up the middle). That's a sign he's not selling out for pull power to compensate for, say, declining bat speed. 

For Stanton, the issue will always be injuries. He's been on the injured list seven times in his career, and just three times has he managed to play in 150 or more games in a season. In 2019 and 2020, Stanton dealt with biceps, knee, and hamstring injuries that cost him major playing time. He'll always have those red flags, and recent history suggests he's a significant injury risk this season. Thus far, though, he's been able to answer the bell, much to the chagrin of opposing pitchers. Given the Yankees' questionable rotation depth, they'll need a potent lineup and, by extension, better health among position players. That starts with Stanton.

The Yankees on Thursday will go for the sweep of Houston with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound.