Aaron Boone is standing by Gary Sanchez, and might even be willing to stake this Yankees season on it.
Boone definitively said Saturday that Sanchez, who is struggling at the plate and behind it, will be his starting catcher in the do-or-die wild-card game. Sanchez, who batted eighth and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Saturday in the Yankees' 3-2, 11-inning victory over the Orioles, is hitting .182, and his two defensive gaffes in the third inning handed the Orioles an unearned run. His passed ball allowed a runner to reach third and his throwing error allowed the run to score.
“I just go back to I think he's such a natural hitter that I think it's hard to hold those guys down for such a long period of time,'' Boone said. “So that's what I'm going on and hopefully there is that stretch in him where he really gains some momentum with some good and positive at-bats where he gets some results and then it can kind of snowball from there because of who he is as a hitter.”
Boone was echoing the sentiments of Brian Cashman, who on Friday said the Yankees are “doubling down” on Sanchez, “tripling down on him.”
Added Sanchez: “Winning is everything. The stats and numbers and the many different numbers that come from playing baseball don’t mean anything if you don’t win.”
Since returning from the disabled list on Sept. 1, Sanchez is 9-for-58 with 20 strikeouts in 17 games. He has two homers and five RBIs in that span.
Pressing at the plate might be one of the reasons for Sanchez's struggles, Boone said.
“You can almost want it a little too bad sometimes,” Boone said. “I think that’s where the press comes in. You’ve got to strike that balance, I believe, between pouring into your craft, working into your craft, having a game plan but then having a little bit of a 'the heck with this; I'm going to go play' and almost not caring about the results. I think that's when you're playing at your best.”
Chapman middle reliever
In an effort to get Aroldis Chapman back in the groove after nearly a month on the disabled list, Boone used him in the seventh inning of a tie game on Saturday. Chapman allowed no hits and struck out two. The plan, Boone said, is to build him back up to the closer role by the time the postseason rolls around.