Tuesday night was a good night for the Yankees.
First and foremost, they staved off playoff elimination by beating the Red Sox 6-4 at the Stadium. Second, they guaranteed another season at .500 or above, their 24th in a row. Third, they hit three home runs—the most important a two-run, opposite field shot by Tyler Austin which turned into the game winner. And finally, the other two long balls had some significance to the players who hit them.
Up first, we must discuss the unbelievable Gary Sanchez, who hit his 20th home run of the season. Let me say that again because it’s one of those things that doesn’t seem real. Gary Sanchez has 20 home runs. Do you know who else has 20 home runs? Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Russell Martin and Freddy Galvis. The difference between those players and Sanchez is that Sanchez has reached the 20-home run plateau in only 187 at bats.
He also matched Wally Berger with his home run on Tuesday.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 28, 2016
Perhaps even more amazing than Sanchez’s home run total is the fact that he also has 22 walks in that same span.
A month ago at my birthday dinner, the entire bar stopped talking and stared at the TV each time Sanchez was at bat. This is not hyperbole. I wish I had shot video of it on my phone. There was a group of men at the corner of the bar closest to our table, quite loud and boisterous, except for when Sanchez was up. And when he hit a home run that night, they were left in awe.
How could anyone not be at this point?
Sanchez has rescued the Yankees and had placed them on his back, and because of his breakout performance, they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Sure, it’s a long shot, but it is still within their reach.
And not to be outdone, another Yankee reached the 20-home run plateau last night: Didi Gregorius.
While he may not have accomplished his feat in as short a time as Sanchez, reaching 20 is pretty significant to Gregorius whose previous high was nine home runs—his total in 2015. It also marked the first time in Yankees history that two middle infielders each had at least 20 home runs in the same season—Starlin Castro has 21.
Gregorius belted his sixth inning home run off Boston starter David Price and it gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead. It was an 88 mph cutter that was veering toward the outer corner of the plate but didn’t quite make it and Gregorius hit it to section 105.
Gregorius is having the best season of his career batting .279/.308/.454 (TAv is .259) with the 20 home runs and 69 RBIs. He also has a career-high 32 doubles and seven stolen bases.
I like Gregorius and I felt bad for him when he first came over to the Yankees because the pressure of “replacing” Derek Jeter must have been unfathomable. And while he started off slowly in his first season, he has picked things up and has been a nice addition to the Yankees. He has been fun to watch both defensively and offensively, and he’s still only 26 years-old.
What we’re seeing right now could be a preview of 2017. Will Gary Sanchez hit home runs at the same pace? Probably not, because if he did, he’d surpass Barry Bonds’ record by at least six home runs. But, it’s a nice feeling to know that the Yankees are counting on, and more importantly allowing their young players to take them back to the promised land.
Photo: Adam Hunger / USA Today Sports