NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez strapped the Yankees onto his back last August, when the power-hitting catcher enjoyed a historic surge that kept the team in the postseason race into the season's final weeks. His teammates may be wondering if a repeat performance is already underway.One night after Aaron Judge
NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez strapped the Yankees onto his back last August, when the power-hitting catcher enjoyed a historic surge that kept the team in the postseason race into the season's final weeks. His teammates may be wondering if a repeat performance is already underway.
One night after Aaron Judge awed the dugout with a stunning moonshot to the third deck, it was Sanchez's turn to flex some muscle, belting his 22nd home run as part of a five-RBI performance in Thursday's 7-5 victory over the Mets at Citi Field.
"He's a guy that's capable of doing a lot of damage, and when he's locked in at the plate, it's really fun to watch," Brett Gardner said. "For us guys up at the top of the order, our job is just to get on base for him. He's a lot of fun to watch hit and I like when I'm on base for him."
Sanchez's first-inning three-run blast off Steven Matz marked his sixth homer of the month so far, with five of those homers coming in the last nine games. He tallied 11 homers and 21 RBIs last August, finishing the year with 20 home runs despite not hitting his first until Aug. 10.
"I definitely feel pretty good right now in the box," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "Last year is last year. As of right now, I'm definitely feeling better in the box. I've got a better balance."
"He's playing unbelievable," Christopher Austin said. "Offensively, he's driving the ball like he was last year. He's hitting home runs at a fast rate right now and it's fun to watch. At the rate he's going right now, it does remind you of [last year]. Every time he comes up there, he's a threat to hit a home run."
Sanchez added a two-run single off Chasen Bradford in the fourth inning and finished the night 2-for-4. In his last nine games, Sanchez is 13-for-32 (.406) with five homers and 12 RBIs, a surge that has taken place after the Yankees challenged him to improve his blocking behind the plate.
"I just think that he was due to offensively get hot," manager Joe Girardi said. "We saw signs of it. We saw what he was able to do last year and I know those are pretty big expectations, but he's a really good hitter. I just think that through his work he's gotten better and understands the importance of it."
In their first-inning battle, Sanchez had already seen Matz's curveball, sinker and fastball when the left-hander decided to throw an 83.4-mph changeup. Though Sanchez said he didn't get all of the pitch, he still crushed it a projected 385 feet, according to Statcast™.
"He's got a lot of power. We saw that last year," Girardi said. "I also think that it was on display in the Home Run [Derby], we saw how far he hit some of the baseballs. ... That's something we haven't done a lot, to score in the first inning. It just shows you how good of a hitter he is."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.