NEW YORK — The Yankees’ best reliever has allowed five runs over his past three outings. Three of their starting pitchers have been lost due to injury over the past few weeks. Their first-half MVP has struck out in a major-league record 34 straight games. But their best hitter? He’s as hot as anyone in baseball.
With his 22nd home run of the season and a career-high five RBIs, Gary Sanchez lifted the Yankees to a 7–5 victory Thursday night over the Mets, continuing a torrid pace that’s reminiscent to his ludicrous August last season. Over the past nine games, Sanchez is hitting .406 with five dingers, 12 RBIs and a 1.354 OPS, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Just as the Yankees looked to be in peril with two straight losses to Boston, a hero emerged—and his name is Gary.
“Oh man, it’s unbelievable,” says third baseman Todd Frazier. “It’s fun to watch, he’s smooth as silk and he’s just nice and relaxed, man. You know, he’s not worried about defense, he’s not worried about anything else, he’s going out there hitting.”
Sanchez’s benching in early August for defensive reasons seems like a distant memory. He’s been adequate behind the plate, and far and away the Yankees’ steadiest hitter, helping the team cope with the struggles of Aaron Judge. While other aspects of the team have looked weak, Sanchez’s presence alone might be enough of a reason to take the Yankees seriously in the AL East race.
With two on in the first inning of Thursday’s game, Sanchez slugged a home run that few can hit. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, he pulled an 83 mph changeup low and away from Steven Matz—a pitcher he had never faced before—into the leftfield seats at 98 mph off the bat. He turned around a slow pitch nearly 15 mph faster, and he did it with one hand.
“I didn’t think it was going out,” Sanchez said postgame through a translator. “I hit it right on the barrel, but I was a little off-balance so I didn’t think it was gonna go out.”
This is the same type of feat we saw so often from Sanchez in his historic August last year, in which he hit 11 home runs in 24 games. These days, just like then, it seems like Sanchez could crack one at any moment.
“He can explode and hit a home run at any second,” Frazier said. “So him, to get us going with that three-run lead early, I think that put a big dagger in the Mets today.”
Sanchez’s surge is keeping the Yankees afloat amid a rough patch, and if the rest of the Yankees return to form, the race to the top of the AL East could be one worth watching. He may not be able to hit a ball as far as Judge, or hit for average like DidiGregorius, but he is Gary—the Yankees’ most well-rounded hitter.