BOSTON – Man, does Gary Sanchez like hitting against David Price.
Sanchez continued his power display against Price with a second-inning home run on Saturday night in Game 2 of the ALDS at Fenway Park.
Sanchez led off the inning by crushing a 1-and-1 pitch to leftfield over the Green Monster to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. That made Sanchez 7-for-14 with six home runs against Price.
The Yankees, who were down 1-0 in the best-of-five series, had to shuffle their lineup for Game 2 because of the hamstring injury suffered by No. 3 hitter Aaron Hicks in Game 1. Hicks did not start on Saturday night but was available if needed off the bench.
Sanchez, who went 0-for-6 with a walk from the eighth spot in the order in the Yankees’ first two postseason games, moved up to fifth against Price but got only one at-bat against him. The Yankees knocked out the lefthander later in the second inning when they took a 3-0 lead on Andrew McCutchen’s RBI single off the Green Monster.
Aaron Judge homered off Price in the first, a 445-foot blast to left-centerfield. Price has given up 11 home runs in five games against the Yankees this season.
Sanchez was a question mark coming into the postseason because of his poor defense behind the plate and poor season at the plate. Sanchez had a MLB-high 18 passed balls despite appearing in only 76 games as a catcher. He also batted only .186, although he did hit 18 homers and drive in 53 runs. Some outside forces were clamoring for the Yankees to start Austin Romine at catcher over Sanchez.
But that was never an option in the Yankees’ minds, and Sanchez had a strong defensive outing in the Yankees’ 7-2 win over the A’s in the AL Wild Card game on Wednesday night.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Sept. 22 that the team was “doubling down and tripling down” on Sanchez because of his impressive basket of skills. Cashman repeated that confident tone on the field at Fenway Park before Friday’s series opener
“I believe in the player, clearly, and next season’s now,” Cashman said. “I thought he played really well in the Wild Card game and hopefully he’ll do what Gary Sanchez is capable of doing on both sides of the ball in this series. October is the second season, so that’s why [I'm] hoping we’ll see what we’re used to seeing from Gary, which is a great player.”
Yankees pitchers also have been steadfast in their defense of Sanchez’s defense (other than blocking balls). Cashman agrees.
“I think he’s our best game-caller,” he said. “I think he shuts down the opposing team’s running game. Obviously, he’s a threat at the plate every pitch. He’s by far our best option behind the plate.”
Sanchez struck out in the third inning against righthander Joe Kelly, who replaced Price and threw 2 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.
With the Yankees leading 3-1 in the fifth, Sanchez came up with two on and two out against Ryan Brasier and struck out to end the inning.
Gary Sanchez's career numbers against David Price:
Home runs: 6