Stanton, Yankees on the rise following sluggish start

The Giancarlo Stanton era for the New York Yankees began with jeers and taunts from the home crowd at Yankees Stadium, but a month later he and New York appear to be rounding into form. The Yankees lead MLB with 172 runs scored and 44 home runs, which is a big reason why they’ve won 11 of their last 12 games to challenge the Boston Red Sox for the AL East lead. Stanton has done his part to add to the slugfest with seven homers, although he could stand to strike out much less.

Stanton hit a pair of home runs on Wednesday in a 4-0 road victory over the Houston Astros, who defeated the Yankees last postseason in the ALCS and went on to win the World Series. Aside from a 2-1 loss on Monday, New York has had the upper hand against the division champions in the four-game series, which concludes Thursday. Stanton’s seven home runs place him third on the team behind Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, who are ahead of Stanton in RBI as well, while Aaron Judge also has seven home runs in New York’s stacked batting order.

Stanton’s performance on Wednesday followed two straight three-strikeout games, which were more reminiscent of how he looked early in April while he was still getting comfortable with his new team. Strikeouts have been an issue for Stanton, who has already whiffed a team-high 47 times in 121 at-bats. The problem is particularly bad at home, where Stanton has struck out in close to half of his at-bats and his batting average is a paltry .182, which might explain why Yankees fans have been relentlessly booing him for much of the season’s opening month.

This Yankees lineup was built to crush the baseball, and they are doing just that now that they’re in rhythm. The Yankees were a .500 team prior to their nine-game winning streak in the latter half of April, but now they are just two games behind the division-leading Red Sox, who visit New York next week. If Stanton can bring his strikeout rate down to a more reasonable level and start hitting better at home, the Yankees will look like the team to beat in the American League before long.