NEW YORK — Beer cups rained down from the grandstand level. Popcorn flew toward the heavens. The Yankees’ baby faced assassin had returned, and his re-emergence was given a proper celebration.
For some of the season, at least, Gary Sanchez was the Yankees’ best hitter. He played in just 122 games, missing time due to a biceps strain, but still managed to slug 33 home runs. Twelve of them came in August, when the Yankees’ offense was trying to survive Aaron Judge’s miserable slump. Even for part of June, when Judge established himself as one of the league’s most formidable hitters, Sanchez somehow burned even hotter.
For some of the postseason, though, he’d been the worst Yankee at the plate, entering Game 4 of the ALCS hitless in his last 18 at-bats. On Monday night, he watched as Judge finally broke through off Astros pitching. On Tuesday, it was his turn.
Sanchez awakened his slumbering bat in the Yankees’ 6–4 win on Tuesday night, driving in three with hard-hit balls to right in consecutive innings. The first, a liner into the glove of Josh Reddick, brought Didi Gregorius home from third to cut Houston’s lead to two in the seventh. The second, a two-run double hammered into the gap at 113 mph, put the Yankees ahead for two. In a postseason where the Yankees’ youngest have shone bright, Sanchez finally had his moment.
“Emotions are raw,” Sanchez said through his translator. “You’re standing on second base and can’t even control them.”
On most other teams, Sanchez would be the main attraction. He blends his massive power with steady contact at the plate, something that’s becoming increasingly rare in an age where strikeouts are accepted as a product of gaudy home run numbers. Yet in New York, a 6’7” shadow was cast over his brightest moments.
When he hit nine homers in June, Judge hit 10. When he made waves around the league by slugging 12 in August, Judge hit 15 in September. Even when he knocked Giancarlo Stanton out of the Home Run Derby with 17 homers, Judge hit 23. For most of the season, Sanchez’s production has come rather quietly, but he made a big splash on Tuesday.
Sanchez’s arrival to the ALCS only makes this Yankees lineup—one that scored eight in a Game 3 win—even scarier to the Astros, who are suddenly slipping. For the most part, Judge and Sanchez haven’t had hot streaks at the plate at the same time. The only period of the season which they did, in June, the Yankees scored a season-best 177 runs.
“It can only mean more exciting things to come,” Todd Frazier said of Sanchez’s night. “I’m pretty excited.”
Just as quickly as their bats abandoned the Yankees—Judge’s after a blistering hot September, and Sanchez’s after a solid start to October—they’ve returned. The Yankees were practically out of this series after six and a half innings on Tuesday. Now, with Sanchez in on the fun, they suddenly look like they may be the favorites against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5.