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Competitive Boxberger chooses to face Sanchez

'It didn't work out today,' reliever says of deciding against walking Yankees slugger
MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brad Boxberger would point to the competitor in him. It was his choice. Face the prodigious Gary Sanchez -- a player his own teammate compared to Babe Ruth -- or walk him with first base open and two outs to face Billy Butler, a player the Yankees picked up less than a week ago.

The righty reliever was given the choice during a mound visit from pitching coach Jim Hickey in a tied game in the seventh inning Tuesday. Boxberger's first pitch to Sanchez was a curveball right down the middle. It landed a Statcast-projected 437 feet away from home plate in the left-center field seats. It was the difference in New York's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.

Full Game Coverage

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brad Boxberger would point to the competitor in him. It was his choice. Face the prodigious Gary Sanchez -- a player his own teammate compared to Babe Ruth -- or walk him with first base open and two outs to face Billy Butler, a player the Yankees picked up less than a week ago.

The righty reliever was given the choice during a mound visit from pitching coach Jim Hickey in a tied game in the seventh inning Tuesday. Boxberger's first pitch to Sanchez was a curveball right down the middle. It landed a Statcast-projected 437 feet away from home plate in the left-center field seats. It was the difference in New York's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.

Full Game Coverage

"He said, 'You have an opportunity to face either Sanchez or Butler,'" Boxberger said of his discussion with Hickey. "The matchup was better against Butler, but it was up to me. And I wanted Sanchez. It didn't work out today."

Video: NYY@TB: Sanchez slugs a clutch go-ahead jack 437 feet

The four runs that Boxberger gave up tied a career high. He entered a game with the Rays leading, 2-1, but New York did enough damage to take Tampa Bay out of the game. Boxberger has lost three of his past four appearances and has a 10.38 ERA over his past 10. Manager Kevin Cash said he wanted Boxberger to pitch to Sanchez because he has a history of getting big outs. On Tuesday, that was a game-changing decision.

Boxberger's outing spoiled a win for Drew Smyly, who had thrown six innings of one-run ball. He had only thrown 87 pitches when he was pulled.

"I know Gary Sanchez is having a tremendous year," Cash said. "I would feel that they're going to go to [Brian] McCann, who's a very good hitter also. Had Boxberger fallen behind, maybe you think about it a little bit more, but this is a guy who has gotten a lot of big outs for us in the past, and [we] trust him to get outs."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi wouldn't comment on whether he was surprised by the decision to pitch to Sanchez. Boxberger said he liked the matchup, but he didn't want to back down against the hottest home run hitter in the game. He said if the coaching staff wanted him to walk Sanchez, they would have said so, but they didn't.

Hickey left the mound, decision made up. They were going to pitch to Sanchez. One pitch later, a tied game turned into a 3-run deficit, and the Rays dropped their 86th game of the season.

"They left it up to me," Boxberger said. "And it didn't work out this time."

Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

 

Tampa Bay Rays, Brad Boxberger, Gary Sanchez