When you’ve fallen into a pit, you must permit yourself to acknowledge each small step out of it. So it was that the Yankees exhaled just a little upon defeating their old punching bags the Twins Tuesday night, 8-4 at Target Field, to end a four-game losing streak and put the brakes on a brutal 3-10 stretch.
No one on this roster resided in a deeper pit than Gary Sanchez. And though we’ve seen far too much to suggest that he’s fully beyond his legendary woes, give the young man some credit.
He has endured the sort of scrutiny and criticism that few professional athletes have faced. And he’s still standing.
“There are so many things you think about when you’re struggling and things are not working out,” Sanchez said after the game through an interpreter, “but at the same time, you understand that the only way out is to continue to work. That’s what I focused on, and I’m glad things are working out.”
The catcher navigated a competitive Twins lineup with starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who proclaimed afterward of his batterymate, “That’s my guy.”
Sanchez also singled and came around to score the (temporary) lead run in the sixth inning, and in the ninth, with the Yankees holding a two-run lead, he crushed a two-run homer off Twins rookie reliever Griffin Jax, souring his major-league debut and giving the surely anxious Yankees a cushion.
Sanchez now boasts a .739 OPS, and if that doesn’t put him in the same conversation as Mike Trout or his longtime teammate Aaron Judge, it smells a hell of a lot better than the .618 he posted last season, when he struggled so badly on both sides of the ball during the COVID-shortened schedule that some pundits, including yours truly, called for the Yankees to non-tender him and move on.
Which still might prove to be the proper counsel. Let’s not close this file. Yet given how Sanchez started this season, bottoming out at .617 (one point lower than last year!) on April 26, give the 28-year-old some credit.
“He’s never wavered with his confidence,” Aaron Boone said of Sanchez. “His work has been excellent on both sides of the ball. He’s got a long way to go still, as a lot of us do, to get to where we need to go. But without question, the last few weeks, it’s been more consistency all around for Gary.”
“I’ve said for the last three years, I think Gary’s one of the most talented right-handed hitters in the game, and I know that last year obviously didn’t go his way, and then the results early on this year may not have been exactly what he’s looking for,” said Brett Gardner, who as a Yankee since 1951 (actually 2008) knows quite well what it’s like to stumble into a pinstriped pit. “But he’s very, very, very talented on both sides of the ball, and he’s obviously a big part of our team. He’s a guy that, when he gets going and he’s ready to play, he can carry your team. We’ve seen it before in the past. I see no reason to believe that he can’t continue to do that moving forward.”
“It’s nice to hear that from Gardy,” Sanchez said, “but … I can’t carry the team by myself. It doesn’t work like that. That’s why we’re a team. We’re going to do our job and each of us has the responsibility to push forward together.”
For sure, these Yankees, now 32-29, leaping over the Blue Jays into third place in the American League East, have miles to go before they sleep. Though they had to let themselves sleep well after this one, to find comfort in the pit of their own making, and come back Wednesday in the hopes of taking another step.