NEW YORK -- With the Yankees trying to send a message to the defending World Series champions, two of their iciest bats found enough warmth to contribute on Wednesday evening, with Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks contributing notable knocks in a 5-3 victory over the Astros.Sanchez snapped an 0-for-19 skid
NEW YORK -- With the Yankees trying to send a message to the defending World Series champions, two of their iciest bats found enough warmth to contribute on Wednesday evening, with Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks contributing notable knocks in a 5-3 victory over the Astros.
Sanchez snapped an 0-for-19 skid in the fifth inning with a go-ahead two-run single off Houston starter Dallas Keuchel, aiming a shift-beating ground ball through the right side of the infield to log his first RBIs since May 19 at Kansas City.
"Anytime you get a hit, you're going to feel good," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "The important thing there is that I got that hit, and I was able to put the team ahead. That's the most important thing there, getting a hit, contributing, helping the team."
Having walked and grounded out in his first two plate appearances, Sanchez came to the plate with the bases loaded against Keuchel. With a 1-2 count, Sanchez got enough wood to pound a 91.2-mph sinker into the outfield, chasing home Austin Romine and Aaron Judge.
"Keuchel, that's the way he pitches," Sanchez said. "He's a pitcher that will pitch inside, pitch outside. He adjusts. That pitch right there was a sinker outside, and I just threw the bat at it. I got lucky there. To me, it was just putting the ball in play. That's what I was thinking.
" … It's obvious, I don't hit a lot of ground balls to second base. When they shift, it works against me, but not in that opportunity. I was able to put the ball there in play. I don't get many of those, and if I go to that side of the park, it's usually a fly ball to right field."
Or as Astros manager AJ Hinch put it, in something reminiscent of a Yogi-ism -- "He doesn't hit the ball over there ever, until he does."
The eight-game stretch between RBIs was the second-longest drought of Sanchez's career, eclipsed only by a 10-game span from Aug. 28-Sept. 8, 2016.
"It's the nature of a 162-game season, especially when you're up against great pitching," manager Aaron Boone said. "If you're not locked in or feeling great, great pitching can expose you for a couple of days. He'll get it going and take off at some point. He just hasn't had that long streak where he's getting multiple hits all of the time."
Despite Sanchez's offensive struggles, the knock gave the catcher 35 RBIs for the season. That leads all Major League catchers and is tied with Didi Gregorius (35) for second on the Yankees, behind only Judge (40).
"In baseball, you always go through a hot streak, a cold streak," Sanchez said. "I'm not going through a really good streak right now, but that's part of baseball. There's a lot of games to be played."
Hicks snapped an 0-for-16 slide when he extended the Yankees' lead in the sixth inning with a broken-bat drive to left field that eluded Marwin Gonzalez, finding turf for a run-scoring double. It proved to be a key hit as the Yanks held on, finishing the season series with five wins in seven games against Houston.
"I feel like it's one of those games that [says], we're here to play," Hicks said. "We know what we're capable of, and we're able to win ballgames."
Batting in the leadoff spot, Hicks also walked and scored a first-inning run on Giancarlo Stanton's sacrifice fly, hours after Boone defended his place as the regular center fielder. Hicks' batting average sits at .232, though Boone noted that Hicks gets on base close to a 35 percent clip. His on-base percentage was .339 after Wednesday's game.
"Of course I want to get out there and get hits, but I feel like every time I'm getting out there and hitting the ball hard, I'm just not getting the result that I want," Hicks said. "That's just kind of baseball."
Boone also said that he views Hicks as a "true center fielder," doubling down on that assessment after Wednesday's game while stating that Hicks will remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
"I feel like he's going to be an important cog in our lineup throughout the year, just with his ability to get on, the speed element he brings, the defensive element he brings," Boone said. "The power that he has from both sides. I expect him to be a really good two-way player for us the whole season."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.