Twenty years after celebrating his eighth birthday with a Yankees logo on his birthday cake, Harrison Bader put on the pinstripes he rooted for while growing up. This time, he had thousands cheering him on.
Bader drove in three runs with a pair of go-ahead singles, going 2 for 4 in a stunning 9-8 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night that marked his injury-delayed Yankees debut.
“I think it’s great for the fans here to have a New York native,” he said before the game. “A lot of the fans that cheer us on during the games — I was that when I was younger. So it definitely is special. I just want to be the best version of myself for them. I think (Derek) Jeter said it best when he said that fans boo because they want to cheer. So I’m going to go out there and and do my best to give him something to cheer for and hope it’s a win after nine innings.”
Baker’s hair was cropped short, in contrast to his long locks with the Cardinals. The 28-year-old Gold Glove winner had not appeared in a big league game since June 26 for St. Louis because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Oswaldo Cabrera reached leading off the fourth when center fielder Bryan Reynolds dropped his deep fly for a three-base error as right fielder Diego Castillo converged on him.
Bader, who took a called third strike in the second inning, reached down for a slider and grounded it past third baseman Ke”Bryan Hayes, who was playing in, to tie the score 1-1. He advanced on a groundout and read Jose Trevino’s pop to short center perfectly, using his speed and scoring with a headfirst slide.
With the Yankees trailing 3-2 and Bader batting in the sixth, Duane Underwood threw a wild pitch that put runners at second and third. Pittsburgh moved the infield in, and Bader slapped a cutter on the outside corner past diving second baseman Rodolfo Castro for a 4-3 lead.
Before the game, Bader’s uncle sent a photo of the 2002 birthday cake to a New York sports talk show hosted by a Yankees broadcaster.
Bader was acquired on Aug. 2 for left-hander Jordan Montgomery. He was hitting .256 with five homers, 21 RBIs and 15 stolen bases at the time of the injury.
During a six-game injury rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Somerset, Bader hit .286 with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs.
“He’s been chomping at the bit for a while,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I think he’s been looking forward to this day.”
Bader is a graduate of Horace Mann School in Bronx, about 5 miles from Yankee Stadium, and a native of suburban Bronxville. He left tickets for his parents.
“I only left it for my family members,” Bader said. “Have a lot of messages about it, so I was pretty harsh about it, so I apologize to everyone I didn’t respond to on texts.”
Aaron Judge moved back to right field and hit leadoff. He hit his major league-leading 60th homer leading off the ninth to kick off the Yankees’ winning rally, which Giancarlo Stanton concluded with a game-ending grand slam.