NEW YORK — On May 19, the Texas Rangers released Matt Carpenter from their Triple-A team because they didn’t see a place for him on their big league roster. The decision was described as mutual, and when Carpenter opted out of his deal with the Rangers, there was no guarantee that he’d ever step on a big league field again.
On Saturday, he set the Bronx ablaze with a pair of three-run home runs, lifting the Yankees to a 14-1 win over the Red Sox. Carpenter not only put two balls over the wall and seven RBIs in the scorebook, he got a curtain call from the fans and big ovations from the bleachers every time he took his position in right field. When he had to settle for a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning, many fans made their way to the exit, likely feeling like they were robbed of a chance to see something even more cosmic.
The Carpenter transformation has been, in the literal sense of the word, unbelievable. This is a man who not only couldn’t crack the roster of a middling Rangers’ team (though that’s more on the Rangers for failing to unlock whatever the Yankees have), it’s also somebody who hit .176 with seven home runs for the Cardinals between 2020 and 2021.
He now has seven home runs in July 2022 alone.
It takes a lot for someone in pinstripes to outshine Aaron Judge at Yankee Stadium the way Carpenter did. Carpenter’s second long ball of the night came in the fifth. One inning later, as though he was trying to direct the spotlight back toward himself, Judge launched his second of the night. Still, everyone in the sellout crowd was wrapped around Carpenter’s finger. The latest Yankee cult hero has hit multiple homers in 15% of the games he’s started for the Yankees. This was the second time this season that Carpenter has knocked in seven runs, putting him in a class where Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth are the only other members.
The list of unbelievable feats goes beyond Carpenter, who now has 20 starts with the Bombers and three two-homer days. When Judge’s second of the night clanged off the back wall of the Red Sox’s bullpen, he matched Roger Maris for the most home runs by a Yankee (33) before the All-Star break. If Judge has one more multi-homer game this year — a near certainty given how well he’s swinging the bat — he’ll tie the club record for most multi-homer games in a season, tying Gleyber Torres (2019), Alex Rodriguez (2007), Mickey Mantle (1961) and Ruth (1927).
Saturday was the second time this year that the Yankees had two hitters go yard twice in the same game, joining Carpenter and Kyle Higashioka on June 12. Judge also broke a tie with Jason Giambi for most multi-homer games in Yankee history, putting No. 99 in sole possession of sixth place.
While this one isn’t as historic, and is admittedly cherry-picked, Jameson Taillon also became just the fourth pitcher this year to put together this line: six innings with five or more strikeouts, no walks, two hits or less and one earned run or fewer without having to throw 80 pitches.
You can forget all those headache-inducing stats now (there’s not much else to do during a 14-1 laugher). In simpler terms, everything went right for the Yankees. Most of the narrative around the team this week has centered on them hitting their first potholes of the season. The Yankees lost their previous series to the Cincinnati Reds, who are bottoming out, and sent both Luis Severino and Miguel Castro to the injured list while Judge grappled with a mini 4-for-29 slump.
Oh, how quickly things can change in this sport. You already read about what Carpenter and Judge did, and the rest of the hitters did more than enough to make the beleaguered bullpen a non-issue on Saturday. By posting a 10-spot in the first six innings, manager Aaron Boone was able to go to his low-leverage relievers, keeping the important guys rested for the rubber match on Sunday.
Ryan Weber took the hill after Taillon. He spun the final three innings to earn his first MLB save, which also has to be one of the least stressful since the save became an official stat.
A note to the Yankees for the future: whenever things start to feel slightly off, just have two guys team up for four home runs and 10 RBIs while the starting pitcher turns in one of the most efficient performances anyone has enjoyed all year.