As the New York Yankees continue to steamroll, their rookie catcher Gary Sanchez is starting to heat up, again.
From Aug. 4 to the 31, the rookie backstop smacked 11 home runs while slashing .396/.466/.857 with an OPS of 1.323 in just 23 games played.
In that span, Sanchez won two American League Player of the Week awards and took home the Player and Rookie of the Month awards for August.
Additionally, since that date, New York owns a 21-12 (.636) record which is the best among the five AL East teams. That record, sparked by Sanchez, has helped the Bombers pull withing just one game of a playoff spot after waiving the white flag at the trade deadline.
“Pretty impressive considering what he’s done,” manager Joe Girardi told the Daily News. “Coming up at an important time and facing good teams, it’s really impressive.”
As exciting as Sanchez’s quick rise to Yankee stardom was, he did, in fact, come back down to earth.
To start the month of September, the phenom would strike out seven times compared to just three hits in 20 at-bats (.150 BA) from Sept. 2-8.
“They’re making adjustments,” Sanchez told NJ Advanced Media through a translator. “They’re trying to get me out and I’m trying to get a hit, so that’s part of the game of baseball. They make an adjustment, I make an adjustment and we go from there.”
However, now it seems as though The Kraken is back and he has returned to doing something amazing on a daily basis. And as New York now sees their postseason dreams becoming a reality, this couldn’t have come at a better time.
On Friday night, during the Yankees’ 7-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, Sanchez not only went 2-for-4 with his 12 home run and two runs scored but he made a play from the catcher’s position that you infrequently see.
In the top of the fourth, Corey Dickerson took a little bit too much of a secondary lead on second base and following a 95-MPH fastball from starting pitcher Michael Pineda, Sanchez made Dickerson pay.
With a pop time of 1.83 seconds, he fired a strike from his knees at 84.1-MPH, according to Daren Willman, to second base to pick off the greedy baserunner to end the frame.
This kid just does something spectacular every night and during Saturday’s 5-1 win over the same Rays’ team, that didn’t change.
His day started just like every game started for this kid. In the sixth inning, he socked a home run into the bullpen next to the loading dock which tied the Yankees’ record for the most home runs (13) within a player’s first 35 games.
Another Sanchez homer? Yawn. The interestingly exciting part came in the bottom of the eighth.
With runners on second and third, Rays’ pitcher Enny Romero decided it was in his best interest to avoid throwing to the rookie star and load the bases.
The lefty tossed a 52-MPH floater that found it’s way over the plate right in Sanchez’s wheelhouse.
Somehow he was ready for it, put a drive into it with a softball swing, and got a sacrifice fly out of what was supposed to be a harmless walk. Amazingly, the ball was caught at the warning track just five or six feet from that same loading dock in left center.
That RBI not only gave New York a 4-1 lead but it also gave Sanchez 23 RBIs which is tied for the ninth most driven in by a player in Yankees’ history within a player’s first 35 games.
How can you tell the kid is hot? One: two of his last three hits are home runs, two: things are just flat-out going his way, and three: he’s putting on a show that you can’t help to watch.
More importantly, Sanchez’s hunger of success is matching with the talent he brings to the table. That, folks, is how the magic happens and that is when the ball starts rolling your way.
As he works his magic, the Yankees follow suit.
They have won seven straight, find themselves (somehow) 11 games over .500, and now find themselves on the brink of a playoff spot.
Sure, their playoff odds are still only at 18.2% according to FanGraphs and a little more magic is needed to make their visions a reality but they need to look no further than the “Gambino” to provide that very magic.
After all, that’s all he’s done since earning his promotion to the Bronx.
— Gary Sanchez (@ElGarySanchez) September 10, 2016
Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.