Can Sanchez surge?

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Pete Caldera The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record USA TO­DAY Net­work

Yan­kees catcher has had a for­get­table sea­son, but Oc­to­ber is a chance at re­demp­tion.

NEW YORK – The post­sea­son rep­re­sents Gary Sanchez’s sal­va­tion.

As a per­son­ally for­get­table 2018 sea­son draws to a close, Sanchez’s passed ball to­tals have risen while his bat­ting av­er­age has re­mained flatly on the in­ter­state.

But a far bet­ter fin­ish could be writ­ten with a long and pro­duc­tive Yan­kees play­off run.

“Hon­estly, win­ning for me is ev­ery­thing,” the slug­ging catcher said through an in­ter­preter af­ter the Yan­kees clinched an Amer­i­can League wild-card spot. “Stats and num­bers … they don’t mean any­thing un­less you win.”

Due to Sanchez’s of­fen­sive abil­ity and the likely need to free up the des­ig­nated hit­ter spot for Gian­carlo Stan­ton, man­ager Aaron Boone af­firmed that Sanchez would be catch­ing the Oct. 3 wild-card game.

And no, Boone isn’t think­ing of sub­bing Sanchez out late in games, the way he does with rookie third base­man Miguel An­du­jar to pro­tect a lead.

In a sea­son twice in­ter­rupted by dis­abled-list stints due to a strained right groin, Sanchez owned a .674 OPS through 84 games, un­rec­og­niz­able next to his .876 in 2017 and his 1.033 in 53 games as a rookie in 2016.

“He’s such a nat­u­ral hit­ter that it’s hard to hold those guys down for such a long pe­riod,” Boone said. “That’s what I’m go­ing on and hope­fully there is that stretch in him where he re­ally gains some mo­men­tum.”

Yan­kees gen­eral man­ager Brian Cash­man also has reaf­firmed his con­fi­dence in Sanchez.

“He’s a big rea­son why we had the suc­cess we had last year ... we’re bet­ting on him,” Cash­man said. “We’re dou­bling down and tripling down on Gary Sanchez be­cause we know the ceil­ing and the ca­pa­bil­i­ties this player has on both sides of the ball.”

Yes, Cash­man ac­knowl­edged the short time frame for the likes of Sanchez, closer Aroldis Chap­man and right fielder Aaron Judge (both re­cently re­turned from the DL) to find their stride.

And yet “if we can get these guys as close to their happy zone as close we can, they’ll give us much bet­ter chances of ac­com­plish­ing those dreams we had of win­ning this whole sea­son,” Cash­man said.

The GM also ref­er­enced Sanchez’s com­mit­ment, hav­ing ar­rived at Yan­kee Sta­dium for ex­tra cage time on a re­cent off day.

“I thought it would be some­thing good for me,” Sanchez said of re­quest­ing time with hit­ting coach Mar­cus Thames to work on swing me­chan­ics.

“Gary is al­ways work­ing on his craft, he works re­ally hard on his hit­ting,” Boone said. “He’s started walk­ing more, he’s done a pretty good job of con­trol­ling the strike zone.

“If he con­tin­ues to do that, I feel like the re­sults will fol­low.”

But time is run­ning out, and “I think he has pressed this year,” Boone said of Sanchez “chas­ing re­sults” due to that glar­ing .182 bat­ting av­er­age on the score­board.

“You see that num­ber up there and you want to get a hit so bad,” Boone said. “And you play into the pitcher’s hands a bit be­cause you get a lit­tle over­ag­gres­sive at times.”

Since the 2018 reg­u­lar-sea­son stats can’t be sal­vaged, Boone’s chal­lenge to Sanchez is to “go up and have a good at­bat,” and to em­brace the sec­ond chance that Oc­to­ber of­fers.

“The next play, the next day is so im­por­tant and the script can change in a hurry,” said Boone, who can of­fer his own per­sonal his­tory as a guide.

Boone didn’t start Game 7 of the 2003 AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries, but his 11th-in­ning home run vs. Bos­ton sent the Yan­kees to the World Se­ries.

“If you have the bat still in your hands, you (have a chance to) change the nar­ra­tive,” Cash­man said, quot­ing Reg­gie Jack­son. “And that’s a big bat we’re talk­ing about in Gary Sanchez.

“Maybe the best is yet to come be­cause he’s ca­pa­ble of do­ing a lot of good things when he’s in align­ment and right.”

Per­haps he’ll be bat­ting eighth in the or­der, but Sanchez will get his sec­ond chance.

“I’m def­i­nitely happy, hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to go back to the play­offs,” Sanchez said. “Now, the fo­cus is to win that (wild-card) game ... and move on.”


Yan­kees catcher Gary Sanchez says, “Stats and num­bers … they don’t mean any­thing un­less you win.”

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