Yankees getting clutch factor from an unexpected place

harrison bader, yankees
May 5, 2023; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) celebrates after he hit a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees caught a glimpse of outfielder Harrison Bader’s potential during the 2022 postseason following a plantar fasciitis injury. They moved starting lefty pitcher Jordan Montgomery in the hope of adding exceptional defense to centerfield and injecting some power at the bottom of the order.

Bader recorded five home runs and six RBIs across nine playoff games, hitting .333 with a .429 OBP. It was the first opportunity for Yankees fans to witness Bader’s remarkable athleticism and clutch factor in the batter’s box. However, he began the 2023 season on the injured list due to a lat issue.

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The Yankees are getting a big impact from Harrison Bader:

The 28-year-old missed the first 30 games of the season while recovering, but his impact over a small sample size has been extraordinary. In just four games, Bader is hitting .308 with a .308 OBP, producing one home run, five RBIs, and a 7.7% strikeout rate.

On Friday night, he hit a three-run homer, which nearly enabled the Yankees to snatch a win from the Tampa Bay Rays. Regrettably, they could not capitalize on his significant contribution, but Bader pinch-hit for Jake Bauers during Saturday afternoon’s game, replicating his heroics.

“He definitely brings some intangible things about him,” Boone said. “Obviously, there’s a settling feeling about him being in the lineup and being in the middle of the diamond with as well as he plays out there — and the threat he is at the plate as well, the threat he is on the basepaths. But I think there is a joy that he plays the game with that I do feel like is a little bit infectious.”

Via The Atheltic.

The truth is, Bader is not known for his offensive prowess, as he is a career-average player in that regard. He has a career .245 average with a .317 OBP and hit a PR of 16 home runs in 2021. Ultimately, the Yankees do not anticipate him stepping up in crucial moments and making things happen—that’s why they have superstar players like Aaron Judge.

harrison bader, yankees
Sep 20, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) reacts after hitting a two run single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

However, Harrison has embraced that role since joining the Yankees, delivering an opposite-field single against the Rays on Saturday, driving in two more runs and giving the Yankees the lead.

“We stuck with it, stayed confident and found some ways to sneak in there to get rolling,” Bader said. “It’s just a really good team win to bounce back off [Friday] night. That’s what this team’s made of.”

Bader has emerged as an unexpected clutch factor, with the outfield struggling offensively and the Yankees finding it nearly impossible to score runs.

For goodness’ sake, consider Aaron Hicks, who started Saturday’s game in the outfield. He currently has a -6 wRC+, hitting .135 with a .196 OBP. The fact he is even receiving playing time is baffling. Isiah Kiner-Falefa managed to contribute two hits, and the Yankees have quickly observed Oswaldo Cabrera’s struggles becoming a significant issue. The 24-year-old is hitting a dismal .188 with a .218 OBP, walking 3.9% with a 26 WRC+.

One way or another, the Bombers desperately require offensive support, which should be addressed when Judge returns this week. He is expected to fully recover and join the Yankees on Tuesday against the Oakland Athletics, the second game of a three-game series. If they can secure the series finale against the Rays on Sunday afternoon, they may be able to overcome a nine-game deficit in the AL East.

However, Bader cannot be the only one stepping up in crucial moments. They urgently need other players to build on their confidence and start hitting with runners in scoring position.