Yanks flex their might at Fenway, tie ALDS at 1-1
BOSTON -- Flip the calendar back a few pages and you can revisit a period when Aaron Judge wondered if and when his aching right wrist would allow him to resume crushing baseballs. Around the same time, Gary Sanchez avoided eye contact with his statistics, instead aiming to produce a few positives that could salvage a lost campaign.
Here in October, everything resets, and the script can be rewritten on a nightly basis. Judge has returned to form as an imposing power threat, and Sanchez rescued his season with a two-homer performance -- including a staggering 479-foot blast -- as the Yankees' big bats broke out for a 6-2 victory over the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Saturday at Fenway Park.
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
"I always stayed positive throughout the whole season," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I know it was a rough season for me. It was a tough one. But you know, that's the regular season, and that's done. We're done with that. Now we're playing the really exciting baseball."
With the ALDS now tied at one game apiece, Game 3 will be played on Monday at Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees have won seven consecutive postseason contests dating back to last season. In the history of five-game series with the 2-2-1 format, when the first two games are split, the club heading home for Games 3 and 4 has gone on to take the series 21 out of 33 times (64 percent).
"We can't wait," Judge said. "I know our fans are waiting for us to come back home, especially with this series tied 1-1 like that, and we've got two games at home. It's going to be huge. We just have to keep going out there and playing our game, and we'll see what happens."
• ALDS presented by T-Mobile, Game 3: Today, 7:40 p.m. ET, live on TBS
Hours after the Yankees declared the contest a "must win," any pressure they felt evaporated with one mighty Judge swing. Connecting with a David Price cutter for a 445-foot blast, Judge hit his third homer in as many postseason contests and shifted the momentum while extending the nightmare that has been Price's postseason career.
A .186 hitter during an injury-marred regular season, Sanchez started the second inning with a blast that cleared the wall in left, marking his sixth home run in 14 career at-bats against Price. That success had been a topic of conversation between Sanchez and reliever Dellin Betances as they carpooled to Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon, Betances revealed.
"[I told him], 'Everything will be erased if you have a couple of big games in the playoffs,'" Betances said. "'This is where it counts.' I had a good feeling he was going to have a good day. I spoke to him before the game. He was feeling good before the game."
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Andrew McCutchen's RBI single in the second chased Price, who was booed lustily by the crowd of 39,151 after recording just five outs. The start combined the former Cy Young Award winner's flaws: an inability to defeat the Yankees, and an inability to log a victory in 10 postseason starts.
"I didn't execute enough pitches, and that was that," Price said. "They make it tough for me."
By contrast, Masahiro Tanaka gave his club exactly what it needed, limiting the Red Sox to Xander Bogaerts' solo homer over five innings before handing the ball to the bullpen. Tanaka scattered three hits while walking one and striking out four, improving to 3-2 with a 1.50 ERA in five career postseason starts.
"I think the experience in the playoffs last year, I think it actually helped me during the regular season as well," Tanaka said. "You kind of look back at that time and see what you did, and go about today's game."
Sanchez had a contentious exchange with reliever Ryan Brasier in the fifth inning, as the hurler gestured toward Sanchez and yelled at him to get back in the box before striking him out on a heater. Payback came against Eduardo Rodriguez in the seventh, when Sanchez connected for a three-run homer that gave the Yankees a five-run lead.
"We all know he's capable of that," manager Aaron Boone said. "That's kind of what we've been waiting on, where he can take over a game on offense. He was huge tonight."
At 479 feet, Sanchez's second homer of the game was the second longest in the postseason since Statcast™ started tracking in 2015. (Willson Contreras hit a 491-foot blast in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS.) Yogi Berra (1956 World Series Game 7) was the only other Yankees catcher to enjoy a multihomer game in the postseason.
• 5 longest postseason homers
"I can tell you, it's an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, a legend of baseball," Sanchez said.
Ian Kinsler doubled home a run off Betances in the seventh to trim the Yankees' lead to four runs before Zach Britton and Albertin Chapman finished up by each recording three outs.
"This game was huge," Betances said. "Going back 1-1, going home is going to be a lot of fun. I think the fans have been waiting for Boston-Yankees for a long time."
Judge appears to be all the way back from his seven-week absence after fracturing his right wrist. He is the seventh Yankee to homer in at least three consecutive games during a single postseason, joining Alex Rodriguez (2009), Bernie Williams (1996, 2001), Reggie Jackson (1977), Hank Bauer (1958), Johnny Mize (1952) and Lou Gehrig (1928).
• Judge played 'New York, New York' on his speakers after the Yankees' ALDS win
"What motivated me was sitting out of the grind," Judge said. "Sitting out those couple of months without getting a chance to play with my teammates, grind out the good times and bad times. That's what motivated me. I don't like sitting on the bench. I'm just happy to be back and happy to be contributing in the postseason."
HE SAID IT
"I mean, everybody knows that Judge has way more power than me. You know, I don't have to tell that to anybody. But a homer is a homer." -- Sanchez
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the seventh, Giancarlo Stanton spun a grounder to Eduardo Nunez, who made a throw that Kinsler had to lunge for at second base. Luke Voit was ruled safe at second, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora issued a challenge, and the replay showed that Kinsler got enough of the bag for the force. It wound up not making a difference when Sanchez followed by mashing that three-run homer off Rodriguez.