HOUSTON — For the first time in nearly three months, Giancarlo Stanton finally returned to the outfield for Game 1 of the ALCS.
The Yankees slugger started in left field against the Astros at Minute Maid Park in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Astros, his first start in the field since July 21 before he dealt with Achilles and foot injuries.
After a few shaky moments early, Stanton made a highlight-reel catch in the fourth inning when he ran back to the warning track and stretched out his left arm to snag a line drive off the bat of Yuli Gurriel. Stanton made the catch a few feet in front of the wall, then braced himself by putting his hands out and knocking out a piece of the scoreboard on the left-field wall.
“Off the bat, I’m like, ‘No way,’ and then he makes the play,” manager Aaron Boone said. “So that was really good to see him moving around.”
In the first inning, Jeremy Pena drilled a line drive to left-center field that got over the reach of Stanton, who did not get a great jump on it.
But Stanton also continued to produce at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double.
“I thought he had good at-bats all night,” Boone said. “G’s locked in up there in the fight, and definitely encouraging.”
Moving Stanton out of the DH spot allowed Matt Carpenter to get his first start of the postseason there against Astros ace Justin Verlander. It will not be a permanent move to the outfield for Stanton — especially when the series returns to Yankee Stadium, which features a more challenging left field than Minute Maid Park — but having him available to play the field offers the Yankees greater lineup flexibility with left field and shortstop likely to be in flux throughout the ALCS.
“It’s something that I started really putting on G’s board a few days ago,” manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday before Game 1. “I actually considered it for Game 4 in Cleveland. I talked to him a little about it the night before after Game 3, and then ultimately decided, kind of told him the morning of Game 4, I just said, ‘Let’s do it Game 1 in Houston.’ That kind of makes the most sense, ballpark-wise and everything.
“He’s eager to do it.”
Aaron Hicks had started the last two games of the ALDS in left field but suffered a season-ending left knee sprain in Tuesday’s Game 5 against the Guardians when he collided with shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera going for a bloop hit to left.
With the Astros starting left-hander Framber Valdez in Game 2, Carpenter is expected to return to the bench with Stanton going back to DH and Cabrera to left field.
Boone did not rule out Stanton, who got some pregame work in left field before Wednesday’s ALCS opener, playing the field when the series heads to The Bronx, though it would be a tougher ask because of the stadium dimensions.
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