It was all familiar for Giancarlo Stanton when he arrived at Marlins Park on Tuesday, signed a couple of autographs, posed for a photo and then walked into the players’ entrance at the ballpark that had been his home for six years. But then, instead of taking the familiar left turn and heading to the plush, roomy home clubhouse, he turned right for the visitors’ clubhouse.
“It feels weird for sure,” said Stanton, dressed in his traveling gray pants and navy workout top as he spoke to a couple of dozen reporters in the dugout before the Yankees defeated the Marlins, 2-1, in 12 innings on Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly.
Stanton, who steered a trade to the Yankees last December, arrived here with mixed emotions: happy to be gone from the penurious Marlins, off on another rebuild, but quite comforted to be returning to a city where he grew not only into stardom but into a man, a place where he still owns a home and where he won the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player Award.
As central as he was to the Marlins, Stanton, the captivating slugger they began to build around after lavishing upon him a 13-year, $325 million contract, is now an anchor for the Yankees as they try to nail down a playoff berth that seemed a formality at the All-Star break.
The Yankees limped here without their latest injury casualty — shortstop Didi Gregorius, who on Tuesday was placed on the 10-day disabled list after he bruised his left heel on Sunday — and limped out of the clubhouse at the end of the night, uncertain about the status of closer Aroldis Chapman, who departed after throwing six pitches in the 12th inning because of pain in his left knee. Chapman will have an M.R.I. exam on the knee on Wednesday in Miami.
“For him to call us out where it was affecting him tonight, yeah, it’s a huge concern,” said Manager Aaron Boone, who was summoned to the mound along with trainer Steve Donahue after Chapman had thrown one pitch to Rafael Ortega, the second batter of the inning.
Though Chapman has largely pitched through the discomfort he first experienced in late May, it has begun to affect his performance. He left a game July 7 in Toronto because of knee discomfort, and has twice had to be relieved while trying to close games since the All-Star break.
“The discomfort is constant,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “When I’m pitching, as I use my legs and put more effort on my legs and my knees, I feel it more.”
When Chapman left, with a runner on base, Tommy Kahnle got the final three outs, the last coming when Kyle Higashioka, who had scored the winning run, threw out Isaac Galloway trying to steal second.
The Yankees got to that point thanks to two great escapes by relievers Chad Green, in the ninth inning, and A. J. Cole, in the 12th, each stranding the potential winning run at third after nobody was out. If Chapman goes on the disabled list, he will have company with Gregorius, right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez — leaving the Yankees without what would optimally be their Nos. 2, 4 and 5 batters.
Gregorius’s absence places a greater burden on the rookie Gleyber Torres, who is beginning to emerge from a slump that he has dealt with since missing three weeks in July with a right hip strain. Torres, who slid over from second base, was 0 for 17 on the Yankees’ recent homestand, but had his third consecutive multi-hit game.
“When you’re out, you lose a little bit of timing,” Torres said. “That’s the most difficult thing when we come back.”
It also increases the need for Stanton to continue his production. Since the day Sanchez was initially hurt, Stanton has been batting .337 with 14 home runs, 38 runs batted in and a 1.010 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. His bat, which might have seemed superfluous to a power-packed lineup at the start of the season, has been so vital to the Yankees this month that he did not play in the field between Aug. 7 and Tuesday night to protect his tender hamstring. He went 2 for 6 on Tuesday with a line-drive double that just missed clearing the wall in left field.
When Stanton saw the Marlins in mid-April, he was mired in a tumultuous start, twice racking up five-strikeout games at Yankee Stadium. Before that series, Stanton had dinner with three former teammates with the Marlins — infielder Miguel Rojas and relievers Kyle Barraclough and A. J. Ramos, who is now with the Mets and shares an apartment with Stanton.
“He was perfectly fine,” Rojas said. “He knew that he was going to be good. That’s the beauty of this game — there’s 162 games.”
There was, however, one element of his return that Stanton was not happy to embrace — the giant home run sculpture in center field, which emits flashing lights, twirling fish and plumes of water when a Marlin homers. He derided it as circuslike when he left.