TORONTO — Joe Girardi sensed it.
Aaron Judge, too.
Asked about Gary Sanchez’s relatively quiet season before Thursday night’s game, Girardi disagreed with the premise.
“I think we’re probably judging him off of last year, when he wasn’t human,” Girardi said. “But his numbers really aren’t that bad. He’s been on base, his OPS is good. To me, he hasn’t caught fire yet. We believe that he’s going to and the numbers will even jump more.”
Quite a few of them did Thursday night. He crushed a pair of second-deck homers as the Yankees racked up 15 hits in beating the Blue Jays, 12-2, in front of 37,722 at Rogers Centre.
“Seeing his cage work and his BPs and how his swing’s been looking,” Judge said afterward, “I was like, ‘He’s about to really take off here.’ ’’
Sanchez, who came in hitting .263 with a .358 OBP and .768 OPS, now has six homers. Some considered it a slow start given when he did last year, when he hit 20 homers in 53 games, 19 of them in a 37-game stretch.
“I had been working hard with the hitting coaches because I felt that I wasn’t at the point I want to be,” he said through his translator. “But I see improvement every day and every day I’m feeling better and better and better.”
The Yankees (31-20) received a fourth straight strong start from CC Sabathia and four hits and six RBIs from Aaron Hicks.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Hicks, hitting .317 with a 1.016 OPS after hitting .217 with a .617 OPS last season. “We’ve been winning ballgames and I’ve been able to put together a pretty good season so far. Last year was not the best year, but you can’t think about the past.”
Sabathia (6-2, 4.12 ERA) cooled off the Blue Jays (26-28), who had won eight of their last nine games and gone 20-10 since a 6-17 start. He allowed one run, five hits and no walks in 6 1⁄3 innings, striking out seven, and did not allow a run until Kendrys Morales led off the seventh with a home run to make it 9-1.
After compiling a 1.47 ERA in his first three starts and a 9.58 ERA in his next four, Sabathia has gone 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA in his last four. “Cutter was good, changeup was really good, backdoor slider was good,” he said. “So we had three pitches today that we could work with.”
Sanchez had plenty of support in driving righthander Marco Estrada — one of Toronto’s best starters and a Yankees nemesis of late — from the game after 3 2⁄3 innings.
Hicks had three doubles, the most significant a two-out, bases-clearing drive in the first inning that made it 4-0.
Judge, who came in with an MLB-high 17 homers and ranked second in the AL in OBP (.428), slugging (.690) and OPS (1.118), had an RBI single in the first for a 1-0 lead.
Girardi had Judge hit third for the first time in the rookie’s big-league career — he started the season hitting eighth before being moved to fifth — and he figures to stay there a while.
“My job doesn’t change,” Judge said. “My job is to touch first and touch home, and if there’s anybody on base, try to drive them in. Same thing I was trying to do in the five-spot. My job doesn’t change.”
Brett Gardner, who had a .327/.400/.673 slash line with nine of his 11 homers in May, started the four-run first by ripping a 0-and-1 fastball into the rightfield corner for a double. After Judge’s RBI single, a single by Matt Holliday and a walk to Starlin Castro loaded the bases, Didi Gregorius struck out for the second out, but Hicks picked him up with his three-run double.
Sanchez made it 5-0 in the second, driving Estrada’s changeup into the second deck in left.
Gardner singled with one out in the fourth and Sanchez followed by launching a changeup in the same vicinity in left for a 7-0 lead.
Hicks’ two-out double in the seventh made it 8-0. Chase Headley followed with an RBI single. Hicks doubled home two runs and scored on Headley’s single in the ninth.
After getting all that run support from various sources, Sabathia shook his head and laughed at the prospect of Sanchez perhaps recapturing some of his 2016 form. “If we get him hot,” he said, “this lineup is going to be tough to deal with.”