Gary Sanchez repaying Yankee brass’ faith in him with monster stretch at the plate

BALTIMORE — Gary Sanchez wasted no time on Tuesday. After helping the Yankees scratch and claw their way back into Monday night’s game — and then delivering the win with a ninth-inning, three-run shot — Sanchez put it out of the way in the first in Tuesday night’s 11-4 win against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Hitting eight of his 14 homers in the last 18 games, Sanchez has once again reminded everyone why Yankees manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman spent all last season and winter defending him.

Sanchez was hampered by a groin injury that forced him onto the disabled list for most of July and August and a shoulder issue that required minor offseason surgery. He never seemed to be able to get going offensively. He finished the season hitting .186/.291/.406 with 18 homers and 53 RBI in 89 games.

Sanchez came into spring training lighter and in better shape. The results have been a stark contrast to last season. Sanchez went into Wednesday night’s game hitting .263/.336/.653. To go along with his 14 home runs, he has 30 RBI, two doubles and his career-first triple.

“He’s been good,” Boone said. “I thought he had a couple other at-bats (Tuesday) night too where he was right on some pitches. Fouled a pitch off that I thought he was on-time with and in position to do some damage with, just missed a ball he popped up. So, even though he didn’t get results after that first one, I thought from a timing-standpoint and everything, he’s on point and he’s in a good place and really dangerous out there right now.”

And that makes the Yankees, who extended their lead over the Rays to two games on Tuesday, dangerous too. Unlike last season, when they struggled against sub .500 teams, the Yankees are beating up on the teams they should beat, like the Orioles. They remained undefeated here in five games this season and are 8-2 against the Birds in 2019. They lost seven games to the Orioles last year.

They are doing it with power.

The Bombers have hit three or more home runs in five consecutive games here, tying the longest streak by any team at any park in major league history. They have hit 20 homers over that span.

Sanchez has hit eight home runs this season against the lowly Orioles and driven in 17 of his 30 RBI against them.

While it helps to be facing a pitching staff that has allowed 100 home runs in 48 games, a major league record, Boone sees Sanchez as a hitter in control of himself at the plate. He’s attacking his pitches and controlling the strike zone.

“It’s so important for him. If he does that, he’s lethal. Period. He’s as lethal as anyone,” the Yankees manager said. “When he’s making sure he gets his pitch and even in those situations where he really wants to do something, he’s doing a better job of not expanding the zone when he gets in a really good count. He’s pretty dangerous.”

For a team that has lost most of its big-name stars to injuries, Sanchez has been clutch to keeping them on track. He is hitting .333 in “Late and Clutch,” situations and has three go-ahead home runs in tie games this year.

“In situations like that, I try to stay as calm as possible, just look for something in my zone I can swing at,” Sanchez said. “I think that’s the key, just staying calm in a high pressure situation.”

Boone made a point to show Sanchez how much he believes in him this winter. After his dismal season in 2018, Boone went to the Dominican Republic to spend time with his catcher.

He reinforced what he has always thought about Sanchez: he just had a bad season in 2018. With a fresh start in 2019, Boone’s faith in Sanchez is simple.

“I always go back with Gary just trying to get him really to focus on good at-bat. Just go and have a good at-bat, don’t get caught up in results,” Boone said. “A good swing and the results will take care of themselves.”

So far that has paid off for Sanchez and the Yankees.

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