Stanton, a highly prized slugger in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup, has struggled in past Octobers, sometimes hindered by injuries. But with Tuesday’s performance, he now has five home runs in four games this postseason. He had four home runs in 23 games during an injury-slowed regular season.
He joined Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig as the only Yankees to homer in four straight postseason games. The only other player in major league history with five home runs in his team’s first four playoff games in a single year was Juan Gonzalez, who accomplished the feat with the Texas Rangers in 1996.
“That’s pretty cool, but that’s stuff you look at after the year is done,” Stanton said.
If the Yankees don’t advance out of this series, they may look back at Game 2 in a harsh light. Entering Tuesday, there was always a possibility the Yankees could use Garcia as an opener — a strategy popularized by the Rays in past seasons and employed by the Yankees last year, but not during the 2020 regular season.
While the Yankees believed in Garcia, the team’s youngest starting pitcher in postseason history, he wasn’t nearly as experienced as Happ, who had emerged as the team’s No. 3 starter during the regular season with a 3.47 earned run average. Garcia said he know he wasn’t pitching deep into Tuesday’s game, so he wasn’t surprised when he was lifted after one inning.
“I have a lot of trust in the manager,” he said.
Soon after taking the mound, Happ coughed up a two-run home run to Rays catcher Mike Zunino. An inning later, he surrendered a two-run blast to Manuel Margot and made a wild throw to first base. Happ lasted two and two-thirds innings, allowing five hits and four earned runs, and the Rays continued to pile on against Yankees relievers Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Loaisiga.
Asked after the game if he had been put in a position to succeed, Happ said, “That’s not a question for me to answer. When I’m out there, I’m trying to do the best I can.”
The Yankees will next hand the ball to Masahiro Tanaka, normally a postseason stalwart, for Game 3 on Wednesday. Beyond that, the Yankees’ pitching plans are less than desirable: Jordan Montgomery, who posted a 5.11 E.R.A. during the regular season, could be in line to start Game 4, and Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ ace who led them to a Game 1 win, may have to pitch on short rest for the first time in his career in Game 5.