Making his first career postseason start on Monday night, Yankees’ outfielder Clint Frazier wasted no time making the most of an opportunity.
On the second pitch he saw in his first at-bat—leading off the third frame—Frazier unloaded on a fastball from Tampa Bay Rays’ ace Blake Snell, sending a no-doubt solo home run over the left-field wall at Petco Park.
Considering Frazier was out of the starting lineup for both of New York’s Wild Card Series games against the Cleveland Indians, seeing his name on the lineup card and making the most of it made the moment as “special” as can be.
“It was exciting,” Frazier said after the 9-3 series-opening win. “Obviously I didn’t get the playing time I wanted last series and to have my first postseason hit in my career be a home run in that moment was special for me and special for the team.”
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The 1-0 fastball to Frazier wasn’t just high in the zone, it was nearly at his shoulders. No problem for the 26-year-old and his renowned bat speed, however, as he turned a 95.6 mph fastball into a 105 mph missile destined for the second-deck 418 feet away.
“With Snell, he’s a guy that likes to throw up in the zone a lot and his fastball plays up so I was going into that at-bat anticipating him to try to go to that pitch up in the zone,” Frazier explained. “It’s not often you hit that pitch because it’s so difficult, it’s a tough one to hit and it’s probably the first one in my career I’ve ever done like that and it came in a big time.”
It wasn’t just Frazier’s first postseason knock in his fourth big-league season, it gave New York a lead. The Rays would bounce back, but the Yankees closed out Game 1 of the ALDS with seven unanswered runs.
Frazier’s manager Aaron Boone has advocated for the outfielder all season long, even dating back to when he was optioned to the club’s alternate site early in the campaign. Through it all, as Frazier earned more playing time as the summer progressed and while filling in for injured teammates, he’s made his skipper proud.
“He’s answered the bell at every turn this year,” Boone said. “The focus, the work, the professionalism he’s been able to show. … He’s a big reason why we’re in the postseason.
“Doesn’t start the first two games, gets his opportunity tonight and yeah, he’s answered the bell at every turn and I’m just really proud of how he’s handled things. Shown himself to be a real pro.”
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Frazier stumbled into the postseason with one of the worst slumps by any Yankee hitter this season. Over his final six games, he hit .050 (1-for-20) with 11 strikeouts. It made his batting average on the season plummet from .306 down to .267.
Factor in those struggles, his consistent pursuit at playing time over the last several seasons and the stakes of the ALDS, and Frazier was beyond excited to be a part of it.
“I blacked out running around the bases,” Frazier said. “The last few weeks had been frustrating for me at the plate and I didn’t finish the season the way I wanted to and obviously didn’t play in the last couple games as much as I would have liked but it meant a lot because tonight’s all that mattered. … It was big for me, big for everyone and it’s just really exciting to be a part of.”
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