Gary Sanchez was one of three regulars out of the Yankees’ lineup Friday night against the Orioles.
None needed to use it as a springboard into the final days of the regular season quite like Sanchez.
The Yankees catcher was hitless in his past five games (15 at-bats), sinking further into a slump as the Yankees entered the final 10 days of the regular season still playing critical games.
With the AL East officially settled after Thursday’s loss to the Red Sox, the Yankees turned their attention to locking up the top wild-card spot. But one of their top priorities beyond that in the home stretch remained trying to get Sanchez back on track.
“We’re doubling down and tripling down on Gary Sanchez because we know the ceiling that is there and the capabilities this player has on both sides of the ball,” general manager Brian Cashman said before the Yankees’ 10-8 win over the Orioles. “We have a short time frame to get a number of players finding their groove. He’s one of them.”
Manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees will ride Sanchez the rest of the way, and the catcher believes he still has enough time to get hot for the postseason.
“Of course. At any given moment, it can happen,” Sanchez said through an interpreter.
It just hasn’t happened in any extended fashion since May.
The Yankees believed they were getting a key boost when Sanchez came off the disabled list on Sept. 1, but he hasn’t yet been able to deliver results. Since rejoining the roster, after his second stint on the shelf with a right groin strain, Sanchez has nine hits in 54 at-bats (.167).
Sanchez has clubbed only two home runs and two doubles in that 16-game stretch, though he has drawn 11 walks while trying to stay patient.
“The times that I’ve walked, I’ve been able to score several times,” said Sanchez, who has also continued to have issues defensively behind the plate. “But I don’t want to stop there.”
After an 0-for-3 showing Thursday, Sanchez’s batting average fell to .184 across 82 games. Boone wanted to get him off his feet Friday after the four-hour marathon, only his second day off since returning from the disabled list.
Cashman cited Sanchez coming in on the day off Monday for extra work as a sign of his desire to turn things around.
“You don’t see that very often, but that shows again his interest level and commitment to try to unlock what he typically does best, which is hit the ball hard,” Cashman said. “Gary has had a rough stretch. We do believe that maybe the best is yet to come.”
At this time last year, Sanchez was putting the final touches on an All-Star campaign in which he finished with 33 home runs and a slash line of .,278/.345/.531. He wasn’t immune to struggles in his postseason debut, though, batting 11-for-53 (.208) with three home runs and a .633 OPS while starting all 13 games.
Still, Sanchez was a threat to do damage whenever he walked to the plate, an element that has gone missing this year.
Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar joined Sanchez on the bench Friday night, as Austin Romine, Brett Gardner and Neil Walker slid into the lineup. Boone said he will be looking to get days off for Aaron Judge, among others, in the final week of the season.
Given that Sanchez has missed 56 games this season while on the DL, though, he feels plenty fresh to endure a heavy workload the rest of the way.
“I feel good overall,” he said. “Now I just need to get going.”
— Additional reporting by Dan Martin
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