ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gary Sanchez admitted the obvious. “I should have run harder,” he said after not hustling out of the box with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning in the Yankees’ 7-6 loss to the Rays on Monday night.
It was the continuation of an overall rough season for the catcher, whose effort also came into question in the first inning when his unhurried pursuit of a passed ball allowed Jake Bauers to score from second.
Sanchez’s lack of hustle has given Aaron Boone one of his first significant tests as manager. How will he deal with it?
Boone said he needed to watch a replay of the game-ending grounder before commenting, but a read between the lines of his answers indicated that a conversation with Sanchez — who said he’s completely recovered from the groin strain that recently had him on the disabled list — might be forthcoming.
“He’s got to find his gait quickly and he should be able to do that now,” said Boone, who also made that “gait’’ comment last week after a similar jog.
Of having a talk with Sanchez, Boone said: “We always address our players. I want him running at that smooth clip. Part of that is getting out of the box.”
The Yankees (63-35) dropped to 13-13 in their last 26 games and fell six games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox.
The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the ninth — with runners on first and second, Boone chose to have Didi Gregorius drop a sacrifice bunt even though he knew Giancarlo Stanton (4-for-4) would be intentionally walked — but Aaron Hicks grounded into a forceout at the plate. Sanchez then hit a grounder to overshifted second baseman Daniel Robertson on the shortstop side of second. He fielded the ball and flipped to shortstop Willy Adames on the move, but Adames was too late to get a forceout at second as the hustling Hicks beat him to the bag. That appeared to allow the Yankees to tie the score, but Adames then threw to first and easily got Sanchez, who jogged most of the way before picking up the pace much too late.
“I could have done a better job there for sure running,” Sanchez said through his translator. “I hit the ball well. When the play developed and I saw the runner safe at second base, I tried to beat the play but I couldn’t.”
With Bauers at second in the first, Sanchez had a slider from Luis Severino ricochet off his right foot and roll more than halfway toward third base. Sanchez walked after the ball, and when Bauers saw that, he never slowed down. Sanchez’s late throw to Severino hit Bauers, and the Rays had a 1-0 lead.
“That’s another instance there where, if I would have done a better job being quicker, getting that ball, maybe we have a chance of getting him out at home,” said Sanchez, who was publicly chastised and benched for a few games by former manager Joe Girardi for similar lapses. “That’s my fault. It was a cross-up on the signs there and I should have gotten to that ball quicker.”
Severino, who took the mound on 10 days’ rest after throwing 128 1⁄3 innings in the first half, was charged with seven runs (six earned) and allowed 11 hits in five innings-plus.
After allowing six homers in his first 18 starts of the season, Severino has given up six in his last three outings, a span in which he’s allowed 14 runs (13 earned) in 15 innings.
“I was feeling good,” said Severino, who fanned eight and became the third pitcher to record 500 strikeouts with the Yankees before his 25th birthday. “But I made a couple mistakes in the middle and this is a team that’s been playing well. You can’t have those kind of mistakes.”