When the New York Yankees acquired center fielder Harrison Bader from the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Jordan Montgomery at the trade deadline, it came as a surprise to many. Some even saw it as a losing deal for New York after Montgomery finished the regular season strong in St. Louis, but it’s clear after one postseason game that Bader may be the difference maker the Yankees have been looking for.

In Game 1 of New York’s ALDS matchup against the Cleveland Guardians, the team trailed 1-0 going into the bottom of the third inning when Bader hit a solo home run off starting pitcher Cal Quantrill to tie it. The Yankees went on to win the game 4-1.

Bader is not traditionally a home run hitter, having hit five in the 2022 regular season and 52 over the course of six years in MLB. Though power hitting is unlikely to be his lasting contribution for the Yankees, who already enjoy plenty from big bats like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, Bader could be the sort of player who makes the difference as the postseason wears on.

Should the Yankees defeat the Guardians, which they’re heavily favored to do, a likely matchup with the Houston Astros awaits. As a World Series favorite, Houston enjoys superior pitching and a lineup on par with New York’s. If they upset the Astros, the Yankees would then have to play the winner of the NLCS, likely the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves.

In order to defeat any of these top contenders, the Yankees will have to improve in a number of areas, but a lineup with holes is a surefire way to lose any series. Production from Bader in the nine-hole allows the team to get back to the top of the order, typically spearheaded by Judge and Anthony Rizzo.

What appeared to be a minor roster improvement at the trade deadline could prove to mean much more for the Yankees’ postseason run, as Bader has already demonstrated an ability to perform in big spots. New York plays Cleveland in Game 2 at home Thursday night.

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