TORONTO — Gary Sanchez didn’t look good in his first at-bat since July 23, striking out swinging to lead off the second inning Saturday.
During his second at-bat, though, the catcher looked like his first-half self, crushing a 2-and-1 slider from righty Jacob Waguespack 426 feet to left for his 25th homer and a 1-0 lead.
“Felt good at the plate today,” said Sanchez, who finished 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Yankees' 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays. “I was able to put a good swing on that ball. I felt good.”
Sanchez returned to the club after missing 16 games with a left groin strain.
The catcher had a scare in the seventh inning when he took Bo Bichette's foul ball off his right hand, but he stayed in. “A little sore, but I’m fine,” said Sanchez, whom Aaron Boone planned to sit Sunday afternoon anyway. “Everything seems to be in order.”
Before the game, Sanchez said he hasn’t felt the groin strain since “probably five days” after he was put on the IL.
“[Haven’t] felt any discomfort in the area,” he said through his translator. “I feel good, I feel like I’m going to be able to run normally. But at the same time, just be smart running. But I feel good.”
Sanchez was in a horrific slump before he got hurt, going 9-for-81 with one homer and six RBIs in his last 20 games. That dropped his slash line from .273/.339/.634 to .229/.299/.508.
“Struggles in this game are a part of the game,” said Sanchez, voted in as the starting catcher for the American League in this year’s All-Star Game. “Those struggles will come, it’s just part of the sport. It’s in the past; looking forward to today.”
Boone said the primary issue he noticed was Sanchez not being as selective at the plate.
“Just controlling the strike zone and his at-bat quality,” Boone said. “If he’s doing that, the results will be there over time just because he’s so talented. Sometimes he starts chasing results a little bit and expanding the zone. That’s when he gets himself in a little trouble. When he’s not doing that, obviously, he’s a beast.”
Kyle Higashioka was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as a corresponding roster move. Higashioka and Austin Romine performed well in Sanchez’s absence, with the pair hitting a combined .328 (20-for-61) with seven homers, five doubles, 12 runs and 19 RBIs.
“Great job by those guys,” Sanchez said. “That’s the team we have. That’s part of the game — next man up.”