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HomeSportMLB'The bat! The bat!': Cabrera credits Clemente for HR

‘The bat! The bat!’: Cabrera credits Clemente for HR

‘The bat! The bat!’: Cabrera credits Clemente for HR

Yankees outfielder goes deep one day after holding late Hall of Famer’s lucky lumber

PITTSBURGH — As Oswaldo Cabrera entered the dugout after slugging a home run in the eighth inning on Saturday night at PNC Park, a jubilant Estevan Florial greeted him.

“The bat! The bat!” Florial yelled.

“The bat?” Cabrera asked himself, then quickly realized. “Oh! The bat!”

A superstition had played out.

  • VOTE NOW: 2023 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Capital One

Cabrera’s homer, which helped secure a 6-3 win and a series victory over the Pirates, came after a visit to the Roberto Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh. There, he held a gargantuan 40-ounce bat of Clemente, who typically hit with bats in the range of 36-38 ounces; today, bats are typically closer to 33 ounces.

There’s a belief that holding Clemente’s bat brings luck to a player the next day, typically via a home run. In fact, Cabrera said he was told during his tour of the Clemente Museum on Friday that would probably be the case.

Well, funny enough, the prognostication held true. And maybe there was an even stronger magic at work, given that Cabrera held the bat on Roberto Clemente Day on Friday, then sent his home run past the “21” emblazoned in the right-field grass and over the 21-foot Clemente Wall at PNC Park.

Too good to be true?

“I can’t describe that,” Cabrera said. “I can’t imagine that that happened today. I’m so happy.”

By the time Cabrera stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, the Yankees’ offense had already made its mark. The Yanks struck for three runs in the first inning, including a two-run single from Florial, who joined Cabrera on the tour of the Clemente Museum. Giancarlo Stanton crushed a Statcast-projected 418-foot home run in the third, then Clemente Award nominee Aaron Judge scored on a wild pitch in the sixth.

New Yankees pitcher Luke Weaver also gave the team much-needed innings after a slew of injuries to its pitching corps. He admitted the adrenaline was rushing in his Yankee debut, leading to two quick runs against him on Bryan Reynolds’ two-run homer in the first inning, but he settled down to strike out seven batters over four innings and hold the Bucs to three runs.

“I never thought I’d be a Yankee, honestly. So it’s pretty cool,” Weaver said. “I’ve pitched in this ballpark plenty of times, but it just had a different feel.”

That combination of solid pitching and crucial offense gave Cabrera a relatively stress-free moment late in the game to deliver his first home run since June 3. Since that day, Cabrera has been optioned to Triple-A and recalled twice as he’s tried to earn staying power in the Yankees’ lineup.

“I was up and down at Triple-A, and I just was working a lot to get that consistency back, so I’m working on it,” Cabrera said. “I’m still working every day.”

The work has paid off. Cabrera has raised his batting average by 14 points over the course of his six-game hitting streak. If he can get his offense to the point where he’s producing consistent hits, he could be an all-around player for the Yankees.

“I’m so excited with where he is right now, offensively,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “First time all year where it’s been a week or 10 days of really good [hitting]. And even tonight, he had the homer, but two other balls were absolutely scorched.

“It’s a peek into why we do really like him, especially with all his defensive versatility.”

And maybe it wouldn’t hurt to let Cabrera take one more trip to the Clemente Museum to hold the bat before the series finale and let the magic of “The Great One” power him again.

“It’s a really fun story,” Cabrera said.



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