Todd Frazier began his season with the White Sox, who were far from a playoff contender. On July 18, the New Jersey native was traded to the Yankees along with David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.
Frazier has contributed to a close clubhouse, and his thumbs-down celebration has taken off. And the Yankees are winning. “I think all that stuff kind of intertwines with everything,” Frazier said before Game 4. “A lot of stuff happens during the season. Lucky for us, we had some guy put the thumbs down kind of thing and it kind of just took off.”
New York tied the ALDS at two games apiece with a 7-3 win over Cleveland on Monday. Frazier drove in the first run with a two-out double that hit the chalk down the left field line. The Yankees would score three more times in the inning. “I saw the ball hit the line,” Frazier said at his locker after the game. “It was perfect. Perfect placement on my part.”
Frazier wasn’t done, scoring on a sacrifice fly to center, extending the lead to 6-3. Jason Kipnis spent most of the season at second base, so Frazier took a chance. “He hasn’t played there a lot, so why not take a chance? He could’ve easily thrown me out,” said Frazier, who went on his own and not advice from the third base coach. “Why not take the chance up three runs?”
Frazier, whose son joined him in the locker room, had been on the Yankee Stadium field next to Derek Jeter after winning the 1998 Little League World Series. Frazier was also at Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS which ended on Jim Leyritz’s 15th inning home run. The raucous crowds for the three playoff wins this week seem to have the same swagger and intensity as the Bronx fans from 20 years ago.
“It pretty much brings back all those memories,” Frazier said on Monday afternoon. “From watching them to being at a couple of them, I remember even a regular season game against the Red Sox, Nick Johnson hit a big home run, and it’s just — I remember now guys are still telling me, you know, the stadium’s shaking still.”
Frazier has been in the LDS once before. In 2012, he was on the Reds team that took the first two games in San Francisco and had three chances to win one game in Cincinnati to move on to the NLCS. The series turned when the Giants pulled out a 2-1 win in Game 3.
“The momentum kind of shifted a little bit,” Frazier said. “And I remember Hunter Pence had — like we talk about camaraderie, he had these speeches he would do before games and we heard about it. And we’re like, ah, you know, whatever, that’s nonsense, whatever. Next thing you know, they win the next game by five runs. Next thing you know, we’re playing at home and we felt like our backs were against the wall. Eventually, we ended up losing three straight.”
Frazier is hoping for a happier Game 5 ending than the series from five years ago. The Giants beat Dusty Baker’s Reds 6-4 in that one. Jay Bruce, who has homered twice for Cleveland in this series, was on that Reds team too.
The Yankee third baseman can definitely hit one out on Wednesday. Since 2012, his 169 homers are second among third baseman, only behind 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson, who has hit 173. And his solid glove kept him in the lineup, even when his batting average was creeping close to the Mendoza Line.
When asked if the upcoming game will be the biggest of his career, Frazier acknowledged that the Wild Card game last week was the biggest, and each subsequent playoff game becomes the biggest.
The Yankees are hoping a trip to Houston against the Astros in the ALCS awaits them. Whatever happens, they’re feeling good going into Game 5. “We have confidence every game,” Frazier said. “This will be our fourth game with our backs against the wall, understanding win or go home. We have experience in it. We’re confident, like we should be, and we understand take that one game at a time approach, and hopefully we come out on top again.”