Gary Sanchez went from being benched to helping send the Yankees to the ALDS.
He hit a go-ahead homer in the sixth and a game-tying sacrifice fly in the ninth in the Yankees’ 10-9 win Wednesday over the Indians in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series to advance.
After Aaron Boone went with Kyle Higashioka behind the plate for Gerrit Cole in Game 1, he went back to Sanchez, and Sanchez brushed off his season-long struggles with a homer that put the Yankees up in the sixth inning and after they blew that lead, he came up with the bases loaded and one out against Cleveland closer Brad Hand and hit a fly ball to center to score Mike Tauchman before DJ LeMahieu put the Yankees up for good later in the inning.
Prior to the game at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, Boone said he had no hesitation in putting Sanchez back in the lineup, rather than stick with Higashioka.
“I was pretty convicted last night that I wanted to go with Gary,” Boone said. “I touched briefly with a couple of my coaches about it, but I was pretty set on wanting to go with Gary in this spot.”
And that’s despite his horrific offensive season at the plate.
Masahiro Tanaka had also pitched well to Sanchez in the playoffs in the past, although that was not the case on Wednesday.
But Boone remained confident in Sanchez.
“Just because I know how capable he is, how talented he is,” Boone said. “Again, I go back to, it’s a little bit like [Brett Gardner]. Even though the results weren’t great for Gary, necessarily, down the stretch, I do feel like the last four-to-six weeks, the at-bats have been considerably better and I know the impact that he can have with certainly one swing.’’
That one swing came off Triston McKenzie after Gardner opened the sixth with a walk.
After Chad Green gave up a lead in the fifth, Gardner started the rally with a hard-fought walk. Sanchez followed by hitting a fly ball to right that carried just over the fence to make it 8-6.
Not bad for a No. 9 hitter.
Asked before the game about whether batting Sanchez so low in the lineup showed a lack of confidence in the catcher, Boone said, “When we’re healthy and the length of our lineup is at its best, I feel like 5-6-7-8-9 a lot of times are very interchangeable.”
Boone also wanted to split up the left-handed bats.
“I think it’s more a testament to the strength of our lineup and what we’re capable of,” the manager said.
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