As good as the Yankees have been and as potent as their lineup is, they are certain that they will be even better with Gary Sanchez healthy and hitting. They always like their chances when he is around.
This is true even after Friday night, when he returned from the disabled list and squandered some golden chances. He left two runners on base in the third inning, struck out with runners on first and third in the seventh and struck out again with the potential tying run on third in the eighth of a 7-5 loss to the Mets at Yankee Stadium.
All told, the Yankees are happy to have him and need him, especially after they fell 5½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
“You definitely don’t feel good about that,” Sanchez said through an interpreter of his contribution to his team’s total of 14 runners left on base. “I had two opportunities there where I could have helped my team and I didn’t.”
He did not have the worst night of any Yankee. Domingo German shone a spotlight on the club’s starting pitching woes by allowing four runs in 3 2⁄3 innings to a team that has trouble scoring runs. Afterward, he was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. A pitcher will be called up to replace him Saturday and Luis Cessa will take his place in the rotation, Aaron Boone said.
Sanchez’s place in the Yankees’ universe is more important, and there was an optimistic spirit for the first game after the All-Star break because the catcher was back after missing 20 games with a groin strain. That was despite the .190 batting average he carried into the game (he actually raised it a point by singling to right in the sixth).
“I expect more of myself. I know I can be better in certain areas. The focus is now to help the team,” Sanchez said before the Subway Series opener. “You want to improve in everything. I want to improve my defense. I want to be more selective at the plate.”
His franchise, its fans and opponents all nonetheless recognize what he can do. Every time his name was mentioned strong cheers went up.
“Huge. When he’s right, he’s a true impact hitter, obviously,” Boone said. “I think sometimes, as we’ve seen in the first half, he gets a little swing happy. When you struggle a little bit, you chase those hits. I just want him to go up and have good at-bats, control the at-bat. If he’s doing that, he’s elite.”
As for the Friday night game, the manager said, “I thought the second to last bat against [Seth] Lugo was actually his best at-bat of the night, where I thought he was on some pitches. He just couldn’t deliver tonight but it was a first start to hopefully getting him back and going.”
Sanchez said he felt fine, despite appearing to have run gingerly toward first on a groundout in the second inning.
He added that he did not put extra pressure on himself in the big situations. “No, not at all. Just trying to make contact. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen,” said the man who likes his chances of doing better from now on.