Fernando Rodney’s fastball hit Gary Sanchez’s bat and quickly disappeared in the afternoon sunlight, along with the Twins’ chances of beating the Yankees.
As Sanchez made his way around the bases, the crowd — many of them kids bused in from local schools for the Thursday matinee — roared in frenzied delight. He was mobbed when he touched home plate, and he wasn’t quite sure where the Gatorade shower came from, but he did know it was colder than he expected.
It’s good to write these sorts of things down, you know, because this is one moment Sanchez won’t want to forget.
In what he called one of the best moments of his career, Sanchez sent his team on a seven-game road trip in style, hitting a walk-off three-run home run with none out in the ninth inning as the Yankees defeated the Twins, 4-3, and completed a four-game sweep.
The Yankees have won six in a row, are clicking in every way they dreamed of during spring training and head to Anaheim as the hottest team in the American League. It was Sanchez’s first game-winning home run in the major leagues and one of only two walk-offs in his entire pro career (he also had a walk-off homer in Triple-A, he said).
“It’s definitely a very exciting moment, [one of the most exciting] in the moments that I had in the big leagues,” Sanchez said through a translator. “The other special moment for me is when we made it to the playoffs last year. This one is definitely up there.”
Held hitless for the first 5 2⁄3 innings by Kyle Gibson, the Yankees entered the ninth trailing 3-1. Didi Gregorius reached second on Miguel Sano’s throwing error and Giancarlo Stanton reached on an infield single to bring up Sanchez, who pulled a drive down the leftfield line and into the lower deck.
Before that, Dellin Betances struck out Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer and Sano in the ninth inning, looking every bit vintage Betances on his way to his first win of the season. The Yankees also were able to shake off the psychological toll of having to wait quite a while for their first hit, Brett Gardner’s two-out single in the sixth. Gibson, who already had a brush with history in his first start of the season when he was pulled after 7 2⁄3 innings of no-hit ball, allowed only that one hit, with three walks and a career-high 10 strikeouts in six innings.
“We always feel like [the big comeback] is possible,” Aaron Boone said. “The problem was Gibson was great . . . Fortunately, we were able to get him out of the game. [And] if we can get traffic on the bases, we’re always one swing away with these guys.”
Despite not having his best stuff, Jordan Montgomery was serviceable, but a two-out walk in the third came back to bite him when Eduardo Escobar followed with a homer to right-center to put the Twins up 2-0.
Things stayed relatively quiet until the sixth, when Montgomery’s high pitch count forced Boone to go to his bullpen. With two outs, Robbie Grossman rocketed a changeup from Domingo German over the wall in right-center, just over Stanton’s outstretched glove, to make it 3-0.
Montgomery allowed two runs, four hits and three walks in five innings, striking out six.
The Yankees finally got on the board against Addison Reed in the seventh. Stanton led off with a double, advanced to third on a one-out wild pitch and scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly.
“We kept battling throughout the game and did a great job,” Sanchez said. “After [Gibson] came out of the game, it was just a matter of keep battling and it ended up [working to our advantage].”