Game 71: Gary Sánchez and the defense deliver again

What a finish! The Yankees snuck past the A’s this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, 2-1. It took some clutch hitting from Gary Sánchez (who else?) and an incredible triple play to bail out a shaky Aroldis Chapman in the ninth to win this one. That’s right, the Yankees turned a game-ending triple play, as you can see in the video above, to win this one.

We’re running out of superlatives to describe Gary Sánchez. Seriously, how many recent takeaways have featured the Yankees’ catcher of late? Rightfully so, of course. He’s been brilliant over the last three weeks or so and had the biggest hit of today’s game.

That go-ahead two-run double wasn’t the catcher’s only hit to right field today, by the way. In fact, both of his doubles against Sean Manaea were to the right-center field gap. Sánchez is very pull-happy, so when you see him going to right field, you know he’s absolutely locked in. Those kind of hits are vintage Gary, the player we saw when he first came up in 2016 and 2017.

Manaea looked pretty damn terrific today, making Gary’s performance even better. Before the Yankees knocked him out in that sixth inning, he had struck out 11 batters and allowed just a couple of hits (the earlier Gary double and a DJ LeMahieu double). Manaea literally threw only fastballs (72 of 98 pitches, 20 whiffs) and changeups (26 pitches, 4 whiffs) all day and had the Yankees off balance. Except against Gary, of course.

Coming into today’s game, Sánchez had a .328/.397/.689 (191 wRC+) with six homers in his last 68 plate appearances (since May 27th). Today’s two-hit game brought up his season line to .237/.340/.480 (125 wRC+) in 200 plate appearances on the nose.

Gary’s always going to have his fair share of detractors, even during spurts like this. I’ve seen more than a few comments along the lines of: “just wait until he is horrible again soon” or “he does this every year and it’s always a mirage”. Maybe that will be the case, but instead of still griping about Gary, how about we all enjoy this terrific run? It’s been badly needed during a time that the team is still in search mode as a whole.

Jordan Montgomery was pretty good against everyone not named Matt Olson. This was a good, albeit somewhat odd performance for the Yankees’ starter. The reason I say odd is because Montgomery has been death to left handed hitters this season, and yet, the one guy he had a really hard time against this afternoon was lefty first baseman Matt Olson. He went 2-for-3 against Monty with a homer.

Entering today’s game, left handed hitters were batting .115/.179/.115 against Montgomery in 2021. That’s dominant. Olson doesn’t have a discernible split in 2021, though historically he’s fared worse against southpaws. So naturally, he hit this bomb in the first inning:

That was a 1-0 meatball. Olson nearly made Monty pay again on this hanger too:

Fortunately, he just got under it. A slightly better swing there would have made it a 4-0 ballgame, perhaps leaving today with a much different feel. Olson did get the last laugh, knocking Montgomery out of the game with a single in the sixth, but things clearly could have been much worse.

Now, Montgomery looked very good against the rest of Oakland’s lineup. Only three other A’s reached base against him across 5.1 innings while also striking out six time.

Monty’s best pitch today was his changeup. He picked up a career-best 11 whiffs on 18 swings (61 percent). He also allowed an average 79.7 MPH exit velocity against the pitch this afternoon. Against a righty-heavy lineup like Oakland’s (Olson was the lone lefty in the starting lineup), having an effective changeup is crucial.

Things worked out, but why did Lucas Luetge get the eight inning? And don’t get me wrong, Luetge has been terrific this season. But were Chad Green and Zack Britton not available? And if so, why?

Green threw 13 pitches yesterday and 23 on Thursday. Britton hasn’t pitched at all since Thursday (12 pitches). Both ostensibly should have been usable today from a recent workload perspective. Yet, neither warmed up.

Maybe Boone just wanted to avoid going back-to-back days for Green, but it’s not like he hasn’t done that already this season (four times). He’s also gone to Green three times in four days once before.

Perhaps this was a matchup thing. Olson was due up third, and even though Britton is also a lefty, Luetge is a bit more of a traditional left-on-left guy in comparison to the sinkerballing Britton. Even so, this is the age of the three batter minimum.

In any case, Luetge worked around Matt Chapman’s one out triple, including a huge strikeout of Olson. It’s still a bit disconcerting to not see Britton get loose, though. If Boone didn’t want to go to Green back-to-back, fine. But to not see Britton at all was odd. Further, when Aroldis Chapman got into trouble in the ninth, Wandy Peralta and Luis Cessa warmed up. No Britton in sight. I’m sure we’ll hear more in the postgame.

Leftovers

  • Ho hum, another excellent outing for Jonathan Loaisiga. He held Oakland scoreless over 1.2 innings and also stranded two runners he inherited from Montgomery. The righty’s ERA is now a sparkling 1.63.
  • DJ LeMahieu’s double was the only non-Sánchez hit for the Yankees in this game.
  • So, about that triple play to end the game. It’s the third triple play the team has turned this season, which ties a MLB record. The 2021 Yankees are the 12th team to do it. Still a little more than half the season remains to set the record.

With today’s win, the Yankees are up to 38-33 on the season. Boston is currently losing to the Royals, so the Yankees could be 4.5 games back of the Red Sox before day’s end. And if Tampa Bay loses again, they’ll be just four games up on the Bombers. As for what’s next: the Yankees are off tomorrow and return on Tuesday for a three game series against Kansas City. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

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11 Comments

  1. MikeD

    More often than not, when a specific reliever is not used for an obvious matchup or situation, it means they’re unavailable, likely for some physical reason, even if minor. That was the case tonight with Britton.

  2. MG309

    Some of us who have down on Sanchez just hated his approach at the plate with that big leg kick that made it almost impossible for him to either hit a fastball or adjust to a breaking ball. Hes finally dropped that approach and is using his natural ability to make contact and drive the ball.

    He’s so strong that’s all he needed to do so as long as he sticks to his approach he should continue to hit the ball.

    I will give him and the Yankees hitting coaches credit for finally making this change, the Yankees need his bat contributing consistently.

    • Smurfy

      Utterly relieved, I am, to see the apparent change of attitude, after all this trial and tribulation. (And in the midst of it, as well.) Tink he even persuaded Gleyber that they really only pay for home runs.

      Back, what?, 3 years, we all had Gary as the best hitter on the team. You got to play percentages: when your team Needs a hit, you look for the easy one. Not so hard.

    • Mungo

      That approach you and all of us hate is almost assuredly going to return, but I take that with the entire package. I know he will look great when he’s hot, and horrible when he’s not. There seems to be little in between. It’s perplexing. When he’s on, he reminds me of prime Miguel Cabrera. When he’s off, he looks like Chris Carter at the end of his MLB career. What was surprising is in 2020 he never had a hot streak. The brevity of the season magnified that, and he may have pressed too hard knowing the season was short. As much as I’m enjoying his current hot streak, I’m also enjoying his improved defense. It’s not great, he’s no threat to win a gold glove, but he’s been more solid so that his 127 OPS+ isn’t being offset by poor defense.

      As I stated a couple months back when the fanbase was ready to throw Gary out with the morning trash, one big story of the 2021 season will likely be Sanchez re-establishing himself as one of the top catchers in the game.

  3. dasit

    is it me or has sanchez dropped his leg kick since earlier in the season? instead of fully lifting his front foot, he now does a frazier-style toe swivel

    • DZB

      Yes, that looks like it was a big turning point for him. Without the moving parts and timing issues related to the high leg kick he looks much more balanced and in control. He’s so strong that he doesn’t need the leg kick to generate power, and it’s nice to see that he has recognized this.

  4. Dani

    Yankees scoring 2 runs or less: check.
    SP pitches less than 6 innings: check.
    Gary Sanchez incredibly stupid baserunning: check.
    Lineup with 4+ batters hitting below .200: missed that one, I’m sure this will be fixed in no time.
    Yankees won and don’t really know how: check.

    Looks like a typical day at the office for the 2021 Yanks 😛

    • Smurfy

      A rebel, used to being yelled at, he probably relishes it. But he was safe, did you see on the relay? That’s evidence for a crafty dodge that would be caught if you pressed it. Halleluia, though, safe.

  5. stydings2425

    Absolutely love it. And you’re right, Derek; Gary hitting to right-center feels very 2017 to me. First thing I thought about after the 6th inning double was his two-run double off Giles in ALCS G4 in 2017. Little lower launch angle, but same approach.

    • Cary

      Nice re-cap Derek! Nice to see Gary Sanchez getting some positive press also. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of his but he has been playing a lot better lately & he well deserves any positive sentiments that come his way. He won the game for his team today & his approach at the plate was very appropriate for the way he was being pitched. He came up trying to mash the ball and pull the ball in the first thing and then he adjusted so good for him.

      I tuned in to watch Chris Gittens today but was disappointed with his at bats. Looks like he’s just not a bench player. He needs to play everyday and find his groove like many inexperienced guys.

      Unfortunately it looks like he’s not going to stick, not yet anyway.

      • Mungo

        I’m happy that Gittens got the call, but I don’t believe he’ll stick. Too many holes MLB pitchers can attack. I am hoping for a well-time hot streak before pitchers figure him out, but not sure that’s going to happen as Voit is inching closer to a return.

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