Crazy enough month for you, Gary Sanchez?
Any busier, and he might have destroyed social media altogether.
Fittingly, the Yankees’ lightning-rod catcher closed August with a bang, contributing significantly to the team’s vital, 6-2 victory over the Red Sox on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, closing the American League East gap to 4 ¹/₂ games and preventing a slip into a tie with the Twins for the top AL wild-card spot. Sanchez went 2-for-5 with a third-inning homer and two RBIs.
Fittingly, again, the 24-year-old will kick off September in a conference room at Major League Baseball’s headquarters, appealing the four-game suspension he received for his role in the Yankees’ epic Aug. 24 brawl with the Tigers at Comerica Park.
“Every year you have your ups and downs. That’s how baseball is,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “You have hot streaks and cold streaks. If it was easy, we would hit 1.000. That’s just the way the game is.”
That doesn’t quite capture the drama of Sanchez’s August, which featured a benching, a celebrity encounter and the brawl. Oh, and 12 homers, along with an outstanding .287/.347/.468 slash line. His 28 homers as a catcher lead the majors and represent the most by a catcher since Colorado’s Wilin Rosario hit 28 in 2012.
“When Gary gets going, it’s fun to watch,” Greg Bird said. “He can do it on both sides of the ball, too. With him going, it’s good for us.”
Bird is going, too, his sixth-inning, two-run homer and seventh-inning RBI single giving him nine RBIs in six games since returning from the disabled list. Yet the more you watch this Yankees team, with Aaron Judge getting two walks and nothing else from the sixth spot in the batting order, the more you appoint Sanchez as the straw who stirs the drink.
Like his friend and mentor Alex Rodriguez, Sanchez appears destined for many homers and headlines in the years to come. Like A-Rod, the good mentions will greatly outnumber the bad, but the bad will feel bigger because of the talent.
On Thursday, Sanchez’s solo homer to center field off Sawx starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez tied the score at 1-1. In the top of the fifth, after winning pitcher CC Sabathia caught Mookie Betts looking at a fastball for strike three, Sanchez fired to Starlin Castro at second base to catch Andrew Benintendi for an inning-ending, strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play.
And in the bottom of the fifth, he got a gift when his pop fly to short right-center field eluded Red Sox second baseman Eduardo Nunez, the former Yankee, and landed safely for a single as Brett Gardner scored from third to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
His teammates took care of the heavy lifting from there. Really, though, Sanchez did plenty in August, and his numbers only begin to tell the story.
On Aug. 4, in Cleveland, he played such poor defense that Girardi deployed his rare tactic of calling out his catcher, and then the manager started Sanchez at designated hitter on Aug. 5 and didn’t play him at all on Aug. 6.
On Aug. 11, he had lunch with A-Rod and his girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, as The Post first reported.
And last week’s brawl with the Tigers, while absolutely not started by Sanchez, featured him in a prominent role, as cameras caught him sucker-punching Tigers icon Miguel Cabrera on the ground. Both Sanchez and his backup Austin Romine, who earned a two-game suspension for his role, will plead their cases Friday in front of special assistant to the commissioner John McHale.
“I think he’s handled it all pretty well,” Girardi said. “I think sometimes we forget how young he is and how inexperienced he is.”
Thanks to the weekend’s arrival, Sanchez and Romine probably won’t learn their fates until next week, which means that the Yankees should have their most impactful hitter for the entirety of this Red Sox series. That for sure represents good news for them.
And if Sanchez replicates his August, warts and all, in September? The Yankees will probably have themselves an October, too.