Yankees' Catcher Gary Sánchez Shows That He's Moved Past His 'Bad Funk' on Offense
Gary Sánchez has figured it out at the plate.
Not only has the Yankees' catcher been swinging a hot bat over the last week, moving past a season-long slump up to this point, but he's coming through in clutch situations as well.
With the Yankees down to their final out on Friday night in Boston, Sánchez delivered a game-tying solo home run in the top of the ninth, sending the series opener with the Red Sox into extra innings.
New York would go on to win 6-5 in 12 innings, extending the club's winning streak to nine games.
Sánchez's homer, a 112.6 mph missile just high enough to clear the Green Monster at Fenway Park, was his 10th of the season and third in his last four games.
"I'm thinking put the ball in play," Sánchez said through the Yankees' interpreter. "Take a good swing at it. You never go out there looking for homers. For me right now, it's just a matter of making contact and putting the ball in play."
All three of the balls Sánchez put in play on Friday night were hit above 103 mph. That includes his clutch, two-RBI double in the seventh inning to cut New York's deficit down to two.
"Good at-bats again for Gary tonight," Yankees' manager Aaron Boone said after the win. "Smoked the ball to left his first time for the out, big double to get us back in the game with the bases loaded and then obviously the homer to tie it. Really encouraging to see."
One week ago, midway through a doubleheader on Sept. 11, Sánchez's batting average had dipped to .119 (13-for-109) on the season. Through 35 games, the Yankees' catcher had struck out 51 times and had yet to record more than one hit in a single game.
Since the nightcap of the twin bill on that Friday in the Bronx, however, Sánchez has been a completely different hitter. In his last seven games, including Friday's night loss, the 27-year-old is hitting .296 (8-for-27) with three home runs and nine RBI.
He's still hitting .156 overall on the season, but to focus on the positives, Sánchez has noticed a big difference in this past week.
"Something is definitely changing in the right way for me," Sánchez said on Thursday night. "I’m very thankful for everybody here just giving me the opportunity to play and hit myself out of a bad funk."
If Sánchez's night at the plate on Friday wasn't enough, what he did the night before could end up being the performance that officially turned his season around as well.
His homer in the seventh inning Thursday night off Toronto's right-hander T.J. Zeuch, a towering blast that soared 372 feet, was New York's 19th home run in the club's three-game series against the Blue Jays. That's the most long balls for a single team in a three-game span in baseball history.
While the home run was nice, the cherry on top of a 10-7 Yankees win, it was Sánchez's blistering two-bagger earlier in the game that showcased exactly what he's capable of with lumber in his hands.
Sánchez ripped a line drive into the left-center field gap in the fourth, driving home Clint Frazier, to give New York a lead it wouldn't relinquish. It left the backstop's bat at 117.5 mph, the second-hardest ball hit in play this season in all of Major League Baseball, according to Statcast.
Over the past two nights, Boone has explained that while the results have certainly been on full display, his catcher has been having better at-bats for several weeks. It was only a matter of time in his eyes until Sánchez, who he called a "game wrecker," put it together.
"I feel like if we go back and look at the last week or two weeks of at-bats, they’ve been better," Boone explained. "The at-bats have been more competitive, he’s getting into a lot deeper counts, he’s not chasing, he’s a different guy than he was three-four weeks ago, clearly. Now, it’s just about starting to get results and really locking it in to being what we know he can be."
Not long ago, Boone sat Sánchez for a few games during the height of the catcher's slump. If he can continue to produce and get these results at the plate, New York's lineup—one that several key contributors have referred to as "scary" during the Bombers' hot streak—will be even more dangerous.
Ask Sánchez and the best way for him to continue to get better in the batter's box is to keep playing.
"The more you play, the more opportunities you have to make adjustments in the game and find the one that works for you," he said. "It’s been a lot of work with the hitting coaches here, and they’re finally showing up."
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