As Jim Johnson’s 0-1 fastball slightly elevated in the fifth inning of a tie game, Jesus Montero simply put the barrel of the bat on the pitch and launched it well into the right field seats for a solo home run.
Two innings later, Montero did it again with a two-run drive into a similar location well beyond the right-field fence.
“I just threw my hands on it,” Montero said. “I just put the barrel on it. I just swing. I don’t know how I did it.”
Montero became the first Yankee to hit his first two home runs in the same game in over 13 years during Monday’s 11-10 victory over the Orioles.
Montero’s two swings linked him with Shane Spencer, whose first two home runs occurred Aug. 7, 1998 against Kansas City. Spencer hit 10 home runs during the final months of 1998, but was not the prospect Montero is. He lasted through the 2001 season in pinstripes.
Montero’s blasts were greatly anticipated because of the belief in his capability to become a regular right-handed power bat in the lineup. And it also led to decisions not to trade him for established major league talent at the deadline.
“Johnson’s not an easy guy to hit a home run off because he’s got such a great sink and I’m not even sure the second one was a strike, it might have been below the zone,” manager Joe Girardi said. We’ve always said this kid has a lot of power, all over the field and he can drive the ball to right.”
Montero’s two swings were similar to Alex Rodriguez’s opposite-field power when the Yankee third baseman is completely locked in. They also drew two curtain calls at the urging of Jorge Posada, whose DH job Montero could occupy in the playoffs with several more showings like yesterday.
While Girardi was not about to reveal Montero’s role a month from now, his excitement was apparent. General manager Brian Cashman stated that Montero was better than any prospect dealt at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
“It’s one thing to hit home runs on the pull side,” Girardi said. “It’s another thing to be able to go out the other way on balls like that. Obviously you have to have a lot of strength and you have to have bat speed off a guy like Jim Johnson and he’s special.”
Montero’s blasts were even more important because the Orioles hit virtually every type of pitch thrown by Freddy Garcia, who allowed seven runs (two home runs) and nine hits while facing 18 hitters in 2 2/3 innings. They proved even more crucial because the Orioles scored two late runs off the Yankee bullpen and had the go-ahead run in scoring position in the ninth.
Even the potential for a loss was not going to ruin Montero’s first big Yankee moment and the first of what the Yankees hope are frequent occurrences.
“He’s going to be good over here,” Andruw Jones said. “He’s hard-working, so we’ll see what happens.”
“I was blessed enough to see him earlier in Scranton,” Scott Proctor said. “He’s just a gifted individual.”
Follow Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher for Yankees news and live updates from the ballpark.