BOSTON — General manager Brian Cashman said Sept. 22 that the Yankees were “doubling down and tripling down” on Gary Sanchez in the postseason despite outside doubts about the catcher’s shaky defense.
Imagine what the outcry would have been if Sanchez had messed up Wednesday’s AL Wild Card game with a passed ball or two. But Sanchez did the opposite — he had a terrific game behind the plate in the 7-2 victory over the A’s.
Sanchez handled the difficult-to-catch Luis Severino and the even-more-difficult-to-catch Dellin Betances and three other pitchers with aplomb as the Yankees advanced to the ALDS against the Red Sox.
“It’s a huge factor for us and really important for us that he plays at a high level behind the plate if we’re going to get to where we want to go,” manager Aaron Boone said Thursday night at Fenway Park. “I feel he’s capable of that. I feel like he got off to a great start.”
Said Betances: “I never lost confidence in Gary. I feel comfortable pitching to him. So do a lot of the guys in there. As a team, we never lost confidence in him. Obviously, there was a lot of talk, but we know the type of guy he is, the type of catcher he is. He can impact the game on both sides. It’s a luxury to have a guy like him.”
Sanchez went 0-for-3 at the plate, but his biggest moment came behind it with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth and the Yankees up 2-0.
Ahead of Marcus Semien 0-and-2, Severino threw a vicious slider in the dirt. Sanchez stopped what would have been a run-scoring wild pitch, and Severino recovered to strike out Semien to end the threat.
The Yankees never had any serious thoughts of not starting Sanchez on Wednesday even though he had an MLB-worst 18 passed balls in only 76 games.
“I’ve talked to you guys a lot about that question the last couple of weeks,” Boone said. “As I’ve said, I feel like there’s been so much good back there that I felt like he’s been very close to having that complete game, and we saw it last night. He was absolutely a factor in helping hold down a really good Oakland offense. I felt like just the look he had from the time he got to the ballpark to really diving in with the game plan and with Sevy, I thought they were clicking.”