Gary Sanchez can’t press a rewind button and return to square one during spring training. The proof of his fruitless and injury-plagued regular season appears in the box scores. It’s unerasable.
But the 25-year-old catcher has been given the opportunity to make up for lost time in October, and on Saturday night, the Yankees were handsomely rewarded for their unwavering faith in his abilities.
With two monstrous home runs worth four runs, Sanchez spearheaded the Yankees’ offense en route to a 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALDS at Fenway Park. The best-of-five series is now knotted at one game apiece, with Game 3 scheduled for Monday night at Yankee Stadium.
“I always stayed positive throughout the whole season,” said Sanchez, who hit a measly .186 and led the majors with 18 passed balls in 89 games this season. “I know it was a rough season for me. It was a tough one. But you know that’s the regular season, and that’s done. We’re done with that. Now we’re playing the really exciting baseball. So to have an opportunity now to keep on playing and produce at this time it’s actually more important. And, you know, just keep on working and once the offseason comes, try to improve in all aspects.”
While Sanchez’s second inning solo shot off Red Sox starter David Price helped set the tone early, his seventh inning three-run blast, which traveled a staggering 479 feet and struck the Green Monster’s light tower in left-center field, squashed Boston’s hopes of a comeback. These two swings also made Sanchez the second catcher in franchise history to have a multi-home run game in the postseason. The other one? Some player named Yogi Berra, who accomplished the feat back in 1956 during Game 7 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“I definitely did not know that,” Sanchez said through his translator, Marlon Abreu. “But I can tell you it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, a legend of baseball. It’s an honor to me.”
The Yankees’ first run of the night came off the bat of Aaron Judge, who also launched one deep into the Monster seats during the first inning. But even his 445-foot homer paled in comparison to Sanchez’s towering drive.
“I mean, everybody knows that Judge has way more power than me. You know, I don’t have to tell that to anybody. But a homer is a homer. And if we have the opportunity to score runs like that, you know, even if it’s 300 feet, I’ll take it. Anytime we score and we’re helping the team, I’m going to take those.”
Back on September 22, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman reaffirmed the team’s confidence in Sanchez, explaining how important it was for them to “double and triple down” on his potential with the postseason nearby. Despite Sanchez’s lingering issues on defense, Cashman never harbored any doubts about his playmaking ability, or his aptitude for the big hit with pressure mounting.
So, Sanchez’s performance on Saturday night was for the critics, who had been steadfast in their support for backup catcher Austin Romine. It’s abundantly clear who should be starting behind the plate in these games. It’s abundantly clear which option possesses the highest ceiling.
“We know Sanchez capable of that,” Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone said of Sanchez. “And you know, first three games into the playoffs, too, you know, almost more importantly he’s caught really well. I think he’s been really good back there from the receiving, blocking, game-planning, all those kind of things. And then tonight just a monster night.
“You know he’s capable of that. We all know he’s capable of that. That’s kind of what we’ve been waiting for to some degree where he can take over a game on offense. He was huge, obviously, tonight.”
The Yankees just caught a glimpse of what Sanchez once was. And if he keeps this groove, it’ll be due in large part to a relationship that has stuck together through the thick and thin.
‘They definitely have had a lot of confidence in me. And I have confidence in myself,” Sanchez said. “Although it has been a tough season for me, I knew that I was able to produce the same way I produced last year. Like I said before, they have a lot of confidence in me, and I have it too.”