The excitement surrounding Jesus Montero right now is flat out enthralling. Yankee Stadium had an almost playoff-like feel today, with the place absolutely erupting after each of the 21-year-old phenom’s two homers. Montero received two curtain calls — something that manager Joe Girardi said he’s never seen before for a rookie — capping the most exciting day of his young career.
“I’ve seen everybody doing that, and I was dreaming of that before,” Montero said of the curtain calls. “I’ve seen Jeter and Posada and everybody doing that, and I’ve always told myself, ‘One day, I’m going to be one of those guys.’ It was an amazing moment. I’m so happy right now.”
Montero said that it was Jorge Posada, of all people, who was telling him to climb the steps of the dugout and acknowledge the fans. A pretty classy move if you ask me, considering Montero is basically seizing Posada’s job.
“He was telling me, ‘Get out there! Get out there! The fans want you. They want you to say hi!’ ”
What really stands out to me is the manner in which Montero hit both homers. They just about landed in the same spot, and neither was a cheapie. Montero crushed both balls the opposite way, depositing them in the right field seats.
“You know (Jim) Johnson is not an easy guy to hit a home run off of, because he’s got such a great sinker,” Girardi said. “I’m not even sure that the second one he hit was a strike. It might have been been below the zone. We’ve always said that this kid has a lot power all over the field. He can drive the ball to right. His first home run it looked like he got a fastball up a little bit, but the second one was special.”
Girardi compared Montero’s opposite field power to a young Alex Rodriguez. Now that’s a lofty comparison. The fact that he could stay back on those balls and drive them with such ease is incredible less than a week into his major league career. Girardi had been DHing Montero against lefties, but he hit both home runs against righties.
“You have to be able to do that to hit a ball like that out,” Girardi said of Montero’s ability to stay back on the ball. “It’s using you lower half to elevate low pitches, and that’s the other thing that he does well.”
It’s hard not to think that Montero should be the full-time DH, considering the fact that he pulled two hard singles against a left-handed pitcher yesterday. Offensively, he seems to be the complete package.
“His numbers kind of speak for themselves,” Curtis Granderson said. “He’s always hit in the minor leagues, and sure enough, he’s swinging the bat really well so far.”
Girardi talked about how Montero has sparked the team.
“It can energize a team when young kids come up and perform at a high level, especially in the dog days,” he said. “We’re going at it pretty hard here. Our guys generally get excited when young guys have success.”
When asked if he believes Montero will be a key component in the postseason, Girardi offered some cautious optimism.
“The one thing is you don’t get too giddy over one game, and you don’t get too down on another,” he said. “You wan tot watch him over a period of time. But we’ve always said that this young man can really swing the bat.”
I agree, but this is a tough game not to get giddy over…
Here are some more notes from the game:
• After all of the pregame talk about Freddy Garcia’s success this season, he simply didn’t have it today. For only the second time all season, Garcia failed to give the Yankees five innings. He was knocked out before the end of the third, allowing seven runs. The Orioles hit just about everything hard. I don’t want to make too much out of one bad start, but it would be difficult to argue that Ivan Nova isn’t the Yankees No. 2 starter right now. “They hit every pitch that I threw,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t one pitch. They hit sliders, split, slow curve, fastball. They hit everything that I have. I’ve got to forget about it, and just think about my next start.”
• Luckily for the Yankees, Baltimore starter Brian Matusz didn’t have it, either. He didn’t make it out of the second inning. In total between the two teams, 12 pitchers were used. “It was a hitters day,” Garcia said.
• What felt like the big blast before the Jesus Show was Robinson Cano’s grand slam in the second inning. After going down 5-2, the Yankees fought back to make it 5-4. Cano came up with the bases loaded, fought off some tough pitches, and then absolutely smoked at ball out to the Bleacher Creatures in right field. In year’s past, people have discussed his inability to come through with runners in scoring position. But this season, he seems to have drastically improved his focus in those situations. You just feel like he’s going to get that big hit. The grand slam was his third of the season, and seventh of his career. “That was a huge hit for us,” Girardi said. “Robbie has been dynamite all year. The one thing I’ve said about Robbie is that I wouldn’t count him out of that (MVP) race yet.”
• Mark Teixeira also homered for the Yanks. He went 2-for-4, including a hard hit single from the left-side, where he has been struggling.
• The Yankees brought in former Joe Torre whipping boy Scott Proctor for the first time since his September call-up. It was his first appearance in a Yankee uniform since July 27, 2007 (against Baltimore, ironically). He pitched two innings, allowing three hits and one run. The most impressive relief performance came from Luis Ayala, who gave the Yankees 1.2 innings without allowing a hit. He’s been an unsung hero, with an impressive 1.90 ERA. “Sometimes it’s tough to do your job when you don’t have a role, so the one thing that I try to do is do my job in any situation,” Ayala said. “Sometimes I come in early, sometimes late, it depends… When Joe gives me the ball in any situation, I just try to keep the ball down and make quick outs.”
• Girardi said that both Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano were unavailable today. He’s clearly getting cautious about their workloads here in the home stretch.
• Mariano Rivera had a bit of a rough inning, allowing one run, but still held onto to pick up his 597th career save. He’s now four behind Trevor Hoffman for first-place all-time. “I thought he threw some pretty good pitches,” Girardi said. “He gave up some hits, but that’s going to happen. What I didn’t like was that they put up on the board that he had only given up two hits in eight innings.” (He was joking about that last part.)
• UPDATE: One thing I forgot to get to, guys. Girardi said at his press conference that Hector Noesi will rejoin the team tomorrow. There was a rumor flying around the Dellin Betances may be in line for a call up, but Girardi wouldn’t confirm it. He said they still have to discuss if anyone else will be brought up besides Noesi.
• The Yankees have now won five straight, and with Boston’s loss, have extended their lead in the division to two and a half games. Phil Hughes will get the start against Tommy Hunter tomorrow at 7:05 p.m.
• I’d like to personally thank everyone who’s been following me on the blog and on Twitter these past few days. It’s been an incredible experience for my first time covering the Yankees, and I’ll be back with you all soon enough. Stay as passionate as you are! It makes this that much more fun!