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Sanchez's slump-busting double is cathartic

Yanks slugger tallies three RBIs as designated hitter in Game 4
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez was sunk in the longest hitless slump of his career before the eighth inning Tuesday -- some "night is darkest before the dawn" stuff for a slugger who has seemed immune to such silence over his first two Major League seasons.

Eight days, 75 pitches and 18 at-bats separated Sanchez from his last hit. Never before in the Majors had he gone through a stretch worse than 0-for-12, which is why his go-ahead eighth-inning double in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World provided a signature moment, at least for Sanchez, as cathartic as it was celebratory.

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NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez was sunk in the longest hitless slump of his career before the eighth inning Tuesday -- some "night is darkest before the dawn" stuff for a slugger who has seemed immune to such silence over his first two Major League seasons.

Eight days, 75 pitches and 18 at-bats separated Sanchez from his last hit. Never before in the Majors had he gone through a stretch worse than 0-for-12, which is why his go-ahead eighth-inning double in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World provided a signature moment, at least for Sanchez, as cathartic as it was celebratory.

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Not only did Sanchez's rocket into right field off of Ken Giles score two, it sent the Yankees to a potentially season-saving 6-4 win over the Astros, and had them smiling again headed into Game 5, with this series suddenly tied. And it shook a sea monster-sized monkey off the back of the man they call "Kraken."

"The emotions are coming out and are hard to contain," said Sanchez, through interpreter Marlon Abreu. "You're standing on second base and you can't even control them."

Sanchez clapped thrice. He raised his arms. He screamed an inaudible scream. Sanchez's teammates could barely hear themselves in the dugout amid the roar his double ignited from a rocking Yankee Stadium crowd of 48,804, delighting in the type of postseason comeback this franchise made a habit of two decades ago.

Those teams manager Joe Girardi played on -- 1996, '98, '99 -- never seemed to surrender to adversity this time of year. These Yankees also sport an air of resiliency. Tuesday was the latest example.

His team down four runs, Aaron Judge's solo home run got the Yanks on the board and chased Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. in the seventh. From there, they chipped away for two innings against three relievers, eventually stringing together an exhilarating rally in the eighth. Todd Frazier singled. Chase Headley lined a pinch-hit double, escaping a potential rundown to reach second by inches in the process. Brett Gardner grounded home a run. Judge completed the comeback with a dramatic double to left.

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"We just couldn't end the inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "They were putting really good at-bats together."

The last one came from Sanchez, who strode to the plate after a Didi Gregorius single. Sanchez had brought home a run with a sacrifice fly an inning before, but still hadn't managed a hit since Game 4 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan.

"I've seen Hall of Famers struggle in a series or two in the playoffs," Girardi said. "Eventually it was going to turn for [Sanchez], and it did tonight."

Giles' 2-0 fastball hummed over the outer edge at 98.6 mph. It left Sanchez's bat at 113.1 mph, per Statcast™, and went screaming into the right-center-field gap. Judge scored. Gregorius scored. Yankee Stadium shook.

Yankees' four-run eighth innning

"I didn't know what to do after I touched the plate," Judge said. "You can't hear anything. You're trying to talk to the person next to you, but it's deafening."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Yanks fans erupt after Sanchez's clutch hit

Sanchez doesn't usually say all that much, anyway. But teammates say he's been unflappable over the course of what's been a trying postseason, of sorts. Sanchez has heard the calls to move him from behind the plate in light of his pitch-receiving struggles, which had actually been overshadowed as he stopped hitting. Girardi didn't listen until Tuesday, but even then, the manager made moving Sanchez to designated hitter sound like a temporary thing.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Sanchez discusses his go-ahead double

Sanchez doesn't think the defensive break helped his hitting.

"I had the same approach, even when I was catching," Sanchez said. "I never thought about [the slump] … or put any pressure on myself, regarding that. I just kept working hard with my coaches. I kept doing my job. I got my first hit tonight, and I'm hoping they keep coming tomorrow."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez