Gary Sanchez, the slugger, made a thunderous reappearance to the scene on Wednesday at the Stadium. The Yankees catcher waited patiently for a pitch he could drive from Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy and got one on the righthander’s third offering, a changeup. Sanchez crushed it for a three-run homer into Monument Park.
The blast put the Yanks up 4-0 in the bottom of the first in their 6-5 victory and it was the start of a vintage Sanchez day — the kind not seen in quite some time — as he went 3-for-3 with a walk. He singled to left and scored on Mike Ford’s two-run single in the sixth and also had a single up the middle in the eighth.
Sanchez was in an 0-for-18 slump when he suffered a groin injury and went on the 10-day IL in the last week of July. He was 1-for-11 in his first three games back, but now is 5-for-7 with four RBIs in the past two games and the Yankees lineup has grown even more potent.
“Gary’s a game-changer offensively,” manager Aaron Boone said. “When he’s locked in, he’s a guy you fear. Hopefully we can get him rolling like he’s capable of here down the stretch and what we hope is some October baseball. When he’s right and controlling the zone, he’s as lethal as anyone.”
Sanchez, perhaps eager to make an impact after his return, hadn’t been as disciplined about the strike zone, Boone had suggested. There was nothing wrong with his swing.
The home run came on a 2-and-0 count. In the fourth he drew a five-pitch walk from Bundy. His sixth-inning single off Bundy came after he worked the count to 3-and-1. The eighth-inning single off Mychal Givens was on a 1-and-1 count.
“I definitely felt better the last two games. I made some adjustments and definitely felt better these last two games,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “[I’m] trying to keep it simple: Stay away from bad pitches, look for pitches inside the zone and hit up the middle. It’s just simple things.”
Sanchez terrorized opposing pitchers for the first third of the season — slashing .274/.340.652 with 23 homers and 52 RBIs in the opening 56 games — and was the starting catcher for the AL All-Star team. His batting average had tumbled to .229 before he got injured legging out a ground ball in Minnesota on July 23.
“Last night he got into some good counts and really squared a couple balls up,” Boone said. “And then today, all day long, got into some favorable counts and didn’t leave the zone. He really clipped a couple of them.”
Asked if this is best he’s felt at the plate in a while, Sanchez replied “of course — if you look at the numbers, they show that . . . But I'm feeling better right now and I’m looking to stay consistent the next few games.”