Who else but Gary Sanchez would come through as the hero for the New York Yankees and help snap their five-game losing skid.
The New York Yankees limped into St. Petersburg after five straight losses, including seven of their last eight, knowing they pretty much need to go undefeated for the remainder of 2016 to have a shot at the postseason.
The home run, which very well may be his last, traveled 418 feet and tied him with Duke Snider (407) for 54th place on baseball’s All-Time home runs list.
“I haven’t hit a ball right-handed like that in a long time. It felt really good,” Teixeira told MLB.com. “Everything came together. He tried to throw a high fastball by me; he had been successful doing it to all of us during the game, he just left it a little bit too close.”
Big Mike’s day would, unfortunately, conclude after his pitch count crept towards the 100 mark, but the righty held the Rays to just two runs on five hits.
Fast forward to the top of the seventh. Following two singles by Ronald Torreyes and Mason Williams, Brett Gardner slapped a base hit to right field to score the Yankees’ utility man and knot the game up at two.
Then, the man who has made this game look so easy, Gary Sanchez, turned into the hero with one swing of the bat.
With two on and two out, the 23-year old demolished a Brad Boxberger slider 437-feet into left-center at 108.0 MPH to throw New York ahead in an eventual 5-3 win for the Bombers.
That home run gave Sanchez his 17th home run in just 43 career games, matching Wally Berger (1939) for the most home runs to start a career.
Despite a solid outing from Pineda, a bomb from Teixeira, and a game-tying rally by the speedsters, it was Sanchez who emerged as the storyline, hero, and a reminder where the Yankees would be without his rise to stardom.
“He’s carried us,” Teixeira told the NY POST. “We’re not even close to talking about a playoff berth if Gary doesn’t come up and do what he does. And that’s the fun thing about power hitters. When you’re on a streak like that, you can carry a team for a month and he’s done that.”
Carried the Yankees is exactly what he’s done.
Since being called up on Aug. 3, the Yankees had gone 24-15 and improved their runs per game by almost a full run before being swept by the Red Sox last weekend.
Even after being swept in Boston, though, it was at no fault of Sanchez as the Kraken slapped two home runs while going 7-for-19 with five RBI’s.
That wasn’t quite enough to hold onto three blown leads in the four-game set, but the Yankees are back where they want to be thanks to yet another clutch shot against the last-place Rays.
With the Yankees’ 78th victory, they move within 3.5 games of the second Wild Card spot. However, the odds seem bleak as Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, and Seattle stand in their way with just 12 games remaining.
Even if the heavy lifting Sanchez has done over the last two months isn’t enough, he has burst onto the scene like no one has since the 1930’s. To be blatantly honest, it has been more than extraordinary to pay witness to.
At this moment, regardless of a postseason appearance, he has proven to be the foundation of the franchise’s direction at this point.
The sun may be setting on this season, but we’ll look back on 2016 and remember it for two reasons. 1) The year the New York Yankees came to grips with reality and broke down their roster.
And 2) The year Gary Sanchez took the league by storm with his flawless value, historically epic rookie campaign, and the representation of the newest — and brightest — generation of Yankees’ superstars.
Rookie of the year, anyone?
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.