With Aaron Judge sidelined by lower-body tightness, Aaron Boone turned to Clint Frazier in right field Wednesday night against the Braves.
In his first game of a bizarre season, Frazier did his best Judge impersonation in front of Hal Steinbrenner, who watched from his box with general manager Brian Cashman, and helped carry the Yankees to a 6-3 victory at Yankee Stadium.
Recalled from the alternate site in Scranton on Tuesday to take Giancarlo Stanton’s roster spot, Frazier morphed into a mini Judge by going 3-for-4 with a homer, single and a double.
“I think he can be an impact player in this league right now,’’ Boone said before the game. “When his number is called, I expect him to be a serious threat in our lineup.’’
The victory gave the Yankees a sweep of the two-game series, and they have not lost any of their past 27 series in The Bronx.
Gary Sanchez homered in front of Frazier in the second, and DJ LeMahieu went 4-for-5 to lift his AL-leading average to .431.
Masahiro Tanaka hurled four innings in which he allowed two runs and five hits. Jonathan Loaisiga followed Tanaka and worked two-plus innings before Chad Green surfaced with runners on first and second and no outs in the seventh. Working for a second straight game and Thursday an off day, Green retired three straight to keep the 6-2 lead intact.
Jonathan Holder produced a helping of anxiety in the ninth, when Dansby Swanson doubled with one out and scored on Travis d’Anaurd’s single and cut the Yankees’ lead to 6-3.
That forced Boone to summon Zack Britton to get the final two outs. Britton walked Freddie Freeman to bring the potential tying run to the plate in Marcell Ozuna. His line drive to center was gloved by Aaron Hicks for the second out and Britton posted his seventh save in as many chances by retiring Adam Duvall on a slow roller to the right side.
After losing five of seven to the Phillies and Rays last week, the Yankees (12-6) take a two-game winning streak into a four-game series against the Red Sox at home beginning Friday night.
As for Frazier, he made the Opening Day roster but was sent to the alternate site in Scranton two days later. On the way out, he met with Cashman and Boone to ask where he fit on a club with talented outfielders.
“There were a lot of questions like what was expected of me when I go down there. What do I need to do to get back and ultimately where is my place,’’ said Frazier, who hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 69 games last year. “It’s a really good team and I feel I am ready. There have been a lot of guys in front of me and it’s been frustrating. I feel like I am ready and hoping to make the most of an opportunity.’’
In years past Frazier, 26 next month, has been criticized for drawing attention to himself. Those traits didn’t surface in the first spring training by design.
“Obviously I have been faced with a lot of situations whether it was warranted or unwarranted but I wanted to show up to spring training giving people one thing to talk about and that was performance,’’ Frazier said. “There is a lot of stuff that comes with being a New York Yankee. Unfortunately, I found out a way to become a distraction in some areas. I am just here to find my role and fit that role.’’
In his third start of the season, Tanaka worked four innings and left with the Yankees leading, 4-2. He gave up two runs, five hits, walked two and struck out three. He threw a season-high 66 pitches and didn’t post a clean frame.
LeMahieu’s second single in as many at-bats started the fourth and he scored from first on Hicks’ double off the center-field wall to break a 2-2 tie. Hicks scored from second on Gleyber Torres’ two-out single to right to make it 4-2.
None of Tanaka’s initial three innings was easy. Swanson singled on the first pitch of the game but went nowhere. Johan Camargo sent a two-run homer into the right-field seats in the second and the Braves loaded the bases with two walks and a single after there were two outs in the third. In the fourth, Tanaka gave up a one-out single to Austin Rile and stranded him there.
Facing Nick Markakis, who had singled ahead of Camargo’s homer, Tanaka retired the left-handed hitter on a soft roller to first baseman Luke Voit. LeMahieu saved Tanaka a run when he smothered a ground ball in short center field that prevented Freeman from scoring from second and left the bases loaded for Markakis.
Sanchez entered the night hitting .093 (4-for-43), but Boone said before the game that the catcher’s at-bats had been trending in the right direction even if they weren’t producing hits.
Sanchez made Boone look good leading off the second with a towering homer to left that cut the Braves’ lead to 2-1. Frazierfollowed with a home run that landed in the Braves’ bullpen in left-center that tied the score, 2-2. It was the first back-to-back homers by the Yankees this year.