Yankees’ Todd Frazier proving vital to team’s playoff success

NEW YORK—As Todd Frazier watched his line drive zip over the rightfield wall for a three-run homer in the second inning, he leapt so high into the air that he had to make sure to hit first on his way down. He chucked his fist forward then pointed up toward his family in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium, where he watched all 15 innings of Game 2 of the ALDS in 1995. The Toms River, N.J. native is overjoyed to simply be in the postseason playing for the team he grew up cheering for. To him, all the big at-bats are gravy. To the Yankees they’re proving to be vital.

Down near the bottom of the order this October, Frazier has continued to be pesky with two outs, piecing together long at-bats and extending innings to allow the Yankees to score important runs. It began in the ALDS and has extended over to the next round, where he revived one inning on Monday night and kept another breathing long enough for the Yankees to put the game away.

With New York facing elimination in Game 4 of the ALDS, Indians starter Trevor Bauer nearly escaped the second inning without allowing a run, but Frazier reached down to yank an RBI double down the line in left, giving the team first of four runs they’d score that inning. Cody Allen was on the verge of keeping Game 5 a one-run game before Frazier drew a nine-pitch walk, setting the stage for Brett Gardner to have the at-bat of the postseason and the Yankees to seal a series-clinching win.

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Even in the fourth inning on Monday, after Charlie Morton mowed down Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks with a runner on second, Frazier extended the inning with a walk and later came around to score as part of a four-run frame. Without Frazier, either Jacoby Ellsbury or Chase Headley—a combined 1-for-29 this postseason—would be up in those spots. The Yankees may never have had those innings, and might not be playing right now. With two outs this postseason, the Yankees have been lucky to have their third baseman up.

“Two-out RBIs in the postseason are like giving up a three-run homer, it feels at times,” said FOX’s John Smoltz after the double off Bauer.

They’re really just lucky to have him around, in general. In July, the rebuilding White Sox struggled to field offers for Frazier, who was struggling to keep distance with the Mendoza Line and replicate the power on display during his 40-home run season in 2016. When the Yankees finally swooped in to acquire him, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from Chicago, it was the latter two that were supposed to make the impact, shoring up the team’s bullpen for a playoff push. Sure, the team hoped for an improvement in Frazier’s bat, but they couldn’t have seriously anticipated one from someone whose average had declined steadily over the past few seasons.

Not only has Frazier’s bat helped power the Yankees this postseason; his energy has lifted a team that’s been in tough spots time and time again in October. His display of emotion rounding first base on Monday lit a fire inside the dugout that continued to burn through the night.

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“The energy he brings, it’s obviously beneficial for everyone around,” said Brett Gardner. “He’s having the time of his life, we’re just trying to have fun along with him.”

Before a late-season Sunday night game, ex-Yankee and current ESPN analyst Mark Teixeira stopped Frazier in the hallway outside the team clubhouse to ask about his short tenure in New York as the media shuffled out. “Ah, man,” he started with a smile, “this is the show.”

If that—a regular-season game under the lights in the Bronx—was the show, then this is the after-party. And no one has fun like Todd Frazier.

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