Bryan De La Cruz, another first-year player with something to prove to the organization as the season draws to a close, also went deep. Miami concluded its trip to Atlanta and Washington by going 3-3 behind a youth movement.
“It's great to see,” said All-Star rookie left-hander Trevor Rogers, who worked around traffic to hold the Nats to one run over four innings. “Those guys obviously worked their butts off to get here and to stay here. They're constantly putting in work, getting their routines in. So to see both of those guys have that success and really just to help this team win, day in and day out, it's truly special. It's fun to watch those guys.”
Sánchez, a former Top 100 prospect, finished the road trip with five homers in six games. During that span, he also went 8-for-24 (.333) with one triple, 10 RBIs and five runs scored. Sánchez knocked a then-game-tying two-run shot in the sixth, and a go-ahead two-run tater in a four-run ninth in the series finale.
Both homers traveled to left-center -- something the left-handed-hitting Sánchez hadn’t done since his first career home run on June 19 at Wrigley Field.
“We've seen power all over the place,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We've seen power down the right-field line, we've seen power to center, we're seeing this today. It's good that he's taking advantage of that, and I think that's huge for a guy that has that kind of power to be able to use it, use the whole field. It starts to limit what they can do to you. So I think that's definitely a good sign that you're seeing him stay in left field and have that kind of power over there.”
The first homer came on a hanging slider from southpaw Alberto Baldonado, and the decisive blow came on a first-pitch sinker from righty Kyle Finnegan. Prior to that matchup, Sánchez remembered that Finnegan heavily relies on his fastball, thanks to a scouting report from hitting coach Eric Duncan.
Entering the series finale, Sánchez had a .125 average and a .292 slugging percentage on breaking pitches compared to a .260 average and a .481 slugging percentage vs. fastballs.
“That's been the pitch I've been successful with, so I decided I'm going to sit on this one, I have to sit,” Sánchez said via an interpreter. “If I make contact -- and normally I've been having good contact with fastballs -- I knew I was going to be successful, and the home run came along.”
As the club’s rookies receive regular playing time, they continue to gain more confidence. Mattingly, the rest of the coaching staff and the front office watch for body language. It’s easy when things are going well, like in this recent stretch. But what about during rough patches? Then, the team looks for consistency -- something that can be hard to come by for young players.
The 23-year-old Sánchez and Díaz still have room for improvement on that front, while De La Cruz is the model for it. After reaching base three times for the ninth time since his Major League debut on July 30, De La Cruz is slashing .336/.392/.490 in 42 games. Even more encouraging is how Sánchez was able to make both game-by-game and in-game adjustments.
In Tuesday night’s 8-2 loss, Sánchez struck out three times -- matching his amount over the previous five games combined. That is a part of Sánchez’s game that he looks to improve upon. He entered the series finale with a 31.3 percent strikeout rate in 50 MLB contests this season, after dropping it to 18.7 percent during his time at Triple-A Jacksonville in 2021.
“I think that's huge for a player to not get caught in one day, and all of a sudden they've got their head dragging and next thing you know, it's 10 games later and they're 0-for-50,” Mattingly said. “No doubt, guys that are able to turn the page, understanding, processing what happened, [they succeed more]. ‘Was it a good at-bat? Did I chase? Did I hit the ball hard and just didn't have any luck?’ Having success and stay with it type [of] thing. But however they process it, it's really important they come back that next day and just kind of start over.”