The home runs keep coming for Gary Sanchez. Every game seems to produce another shot at history. And Sanchez is nonplussed by it all.
Sanchez’s fourth inning home run against the Orioles in the Yankees’ 13-5 victory Saturday gave the rookie catcher 11 homers in the first 23 games of his big-league career. None of the all-time greats from Ruth to Mays or Mantle started that way. “It’s a nice feeling to hear that my name it’s somehow along somewhere near these guys,’’ he said through a translator. “They have been so good in baseball. So it’s a nice feeling.’’
As for his record, Sanchez added, “I hadn’t really thought about it. Just learned about it. On the other hand, the preparation before the game is giving me the results. I’m just trying to put a good swing on the ball.’’
Sanchez earned his first Yankee Stadium curtain call from the crowd of 38,843. “I heard them and then following that my teammates told me to like go out,’’ he said. “Very exciting to hear your name being called out by the fans. It’s a very exciting moment.’’
Sanchez has homered in three straight games, nine of 10, and is batting .400 with 21 runs batted in. The Yankees are six games over .500 and are now firmly entrenched in the wild- card race. And Sanchez has been the catalyst.
“I told you we’re here to win games,’’ Joe Girardi said. “I think [Sanchez] definitely has something to do with it. You’re winning, you scoring runs, you’re going to look energized as a club and obviously he’s been a big part of it.’’
Sanchez insists he isn’t feeling pressure to keep up his torrid pace, saying, “No, not at all, I’m just trying to do my job. Like I said before I go out there to put a good swing on the ball. Good results are coming out. But no pressure.’’
Sanchez only had one of the Yankees’ 18 hits, but he was the centerpiece. The Yankees were leading 4-2 when Sanchez came up with two outs and none on. Sanchez hit Dylan Bundy’s 1-and-2 pitch over the wall in right center and the crowd started chanting his name even before he crossed the plate. “It’s unbelievable,’’ said Starlin Castro, who went 4-for-6 and hit his 18th home run.
Aaron Hicks had a two-run homer and three runs batted in, Mark Teixeira had an RBI double, Didi Gregorius had two hits, an RBI and stole home on a double steal. Brian McCann had three hits and two RBIs.
Sanchez stole the show. “It’s fun to watch,’’ Castro said. “Every time he goes to the plate we feel like something is going to happen. In a good way.’’
Sanchez also threw out Julio Borbon on a laser-like throw that was only inches off the ground. Asked if teams will think twice about running on him, Sanchez said, “It’s hard to say, you can have the strongest arm and they will still try to steal bases.”
Sanchez came up with the bases loaded in the sixth and struck out looking. “When you’re so in the moment, you feel disappointed right there because you want to put the ball in play’’ he said. “So, you want to hit a ground ball the other way you score a run or you want to to hit a fly ball to score another run and help the team. At the same time, you have to kind of put it away and look forward to the next at-bat.’’
That will come Sunday in the finale of the three-game series. Sanchez doesn’t know what might come next or how he is accomplishing so much. “So I don’t have an explanation for it,’’ he said. “I’m doing the same routine that I was doing in the minor leagues I’m doing here. I’m getting really good results right now. That’s it. It’s great, let’s see if I can keep on going.’’