In the span of two at-bats on Saturday, the Yankees conjured an image of what can be.
These were the first two hitters to bat in the fifth against lefthander Ryan Yarbrough in what would become a 4-1 win over the Rays at the Stadium. Giancarlo Stanton reached down for a changeup and drove it over the wall in leftfield. Gary Sanchez followed by hitting a two-seam fastball over the wall in dead center and onto the netting protecting Monument Park.
The Yankees have the best winning percentage in baseball and have done it without either Stanton or Sanchez playing at the level that had been expected. Sanchez went into the game with a .189 batting average. Stanton, the 2017 National League MVP, was hitting .242, and his .790 OPS was more than 100 points below his career mark.
What does Stanton think of the notion of the Yankees with both at the top of their game?
“Everyone knows what we’re capable of if we all put it together out there,” he said.
“We’ve kind of dipped into here every now and then,” Aaron Judge said of an all-cylinders-firing lineup. “Once it starts heating up a little and guys start coming around, it’s going to be a fun summer.”
Sanchez has 13 home runs and 39 RBIs, but there is no denying that he has been slumping badly. On Friday, he had a three-run double to snap an 0-for-20 skid. Saturday’s drive ended his home run drought at a career-high 18 games — a total of 66 at-bats — and gave him RBIs in consecutive games for the first time since late April.
“Yes, [I’m] definitely feeling better,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “Now it’s just to keep it going, you know? Keep getting one hit or two hits [and] help the team.”
“I don’t feel his timing has been off,’’ manager Aaron Boone said. “I feel like he’s chased results a little bit so he’s expanded his zone at times, maybe trying to make it happen instead of letting it come to him. The way his swing is, I always feel like he’s so close to busting out, and hopefully these last two days — a big hit last night and the big homer today — hopefully that really starts to get him to settle in offensively.”
Stanton was in a 3-for-23 funk before his 16th home run. It was an impressive piece of hitting. Yarbrough’s changeup did exactly what it was supposed to, diving down out of the strike zone, but Stanton went down and got it.
“He located them well. Even in [my] at-bat before [a groundout], he kept them low in the zone,” Stanton said. “I had to be ready to go get it if he gave me another one.”
If anything has made it easier for the two sluggers, it’s that their subpar hitting hasn’t weighed the team down.
“When you don’t contribute every night and [the team] is able to knock out series, knock out wins over and over again, it helps,” Stanton said. “It makes it for this stretch much better.”