The Yankees’ season came to an end in some of the most dreadful ways possible. A late comeback fell just short against their hated rivals, who celebrated a trip to the ALCS in the Bronx on Tuesday night, finishing off the Bombers in four games.
The ninth inning rally in Game Four could have turned into an instant classic had Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly traveled five feet farther. Instead, it was caught at the warning track just short of the left field wall, pulling the Yankees to within one run instead of sending the Yankee Stadium faithful into a frenzy after a walk-off dinger. Despite just missing that Craig Kimbrel fastball, Sanchez’s sac fly was his fifth RBI of the series, and almost his fourth extra-base hit.
Sanchez was widely considered to be a major X-factor heading into the postseason. Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman made it clear that Sanchez would be behind the plate for the postseason, despite leading the league in passed balls and laboring through a season-long slump that ended with an 86 OPS+. Many felt that if the Yankees were to make a run, Sanchez would have to play more to his 2016 and 2017 self, and not cost the team runs behind the plate.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, their stay in the postseason was brief, despite the fact that Sanchez gave them exactly what they were hoping for. He was flawless behind the plate in the Wild Card Game, helping Luis Severino through four shutout innings after that battery laid an egg against those same A’s in Severino’s last start against them.
Outside of one head-scratcher in Game Four, when a seemingly harmless 84 mph slider completely missed his glove, Sanchez played sound defense and didn’t cost the Yankees a run with his struggles of keeping the ball in front of him. Considering that lone mishap — which was actually ruled a wild pitch — advanced a runner from second to third and that at-bat resulted in a RBI double that would have scored Steve Pearce had he been on second anyway, you could say Sanchez’s defense had no negative effect on the series.
Then there was Sanchez’s offense, which definitely had a positive effect on the Yanks in the ALDS, despite the rest of the team going cold when the series shifted back to the Bronx. Sanchez finished the series with a .902 OPS and 10 total bases, which was helped along by a monster Game Two when the Yanks were in must-win mode. The second of his two home runs traveled approximately four miles, and proved to be the knockout punch in what was the Yankees’ only win of the series.
Prior to his ninth inning sac fly in game four, Sanchez also ripped a ground-rule double and eventually scored on Brett Gardner’s sac fly to put the Yankees on the board. Unfortunately, the comeback fell short, but at least the team can take solace in the fact that Sanchez showed he is capable of returning to his old self, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. A full season and a half of monster production shouldn’t be forgotten after an extended slump in 2018. Fortunately for Sanchez, he ended his tough season on a high note, and hopefully his 2019 campaign picks up where he left off.