Sanchez does it again as Yanks end 5-game skid
For the first time in nearly a week, the Yankees gained ground in the American League Wild Card race. After spending four games in Boston giving up leads in getting swept by the Red Sox, the Yankees did the opposite Tuesday night by overcoming a 2-0 deficit and beat the Rays, 5-3, to end a five-game losing streak.
It would have been a tough no-decision if that Tampa Bay lead held up for Yankees starter Michael Pineda, who struck out 11 batters and walked only one in 5 1/3 innings. But the two-out jinx struck him again when he gave up a two-rub triple to Brad Miller in the third. Pineda now has 195 strikeouts, the most for a Yanks righthander since A.J. Burnett had the same total in 2009.
Mark Teixeira got a run back the next inning with his 13th home run, off Rays starter Drew Smyly, the only run the lefthander gave up in six innings. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Rays are like every team in the major leagues these days who cannot wait to take out a starting pitcher in the middle innings. Tampa Bay went with Brad Boxberger in the seventh, and the Yanks clocked him for four runs and four hits.
The big blow came from — who else? — Gary Sanchez. One out after Brett Gardner singled to tie the score, Sanchez crushed a first-pitch changeup for a three-run home run. It came right after Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey came to the mound to discuss the situation with Boxberger. First base was open so surely the message was not to give Sanchez anything near the plate, a message that obviously went unheeded.
It was the 17th home run of the season for the Yankees’ rookie catcher and came in his 44th game. The only other rookie in big-league history to do that was Wally Berger of the Boston Braves in 1930. Sanchez has six home runs in his past 11 games after a 10-game homerless drought. Of his 53 career hits, 28 have been for extra bases (11 doubles, 17 homers), including eight of his past 13 hits (two doubles, six homers).
The winning decision went to Luis Severino (3-8), who kept up his quality pitching in relief with 1 1/3 hitless innings. Tyler Clippard allowed a run in the eighth on a triple by Logan Forsythe and a wild pitch.
Dellin Betances, who had not pitched since Thursday night after sustaining two straight losses, hopped back on the bicycle and fashioned a clean ninth inning for his 12th save.
With the victory, the Yankees picked up a game on the Orioles, who lost at home to the Red Sox, and trail Baltimore by 3 1/2 games for the second Wild Card berth. The Yanks also still trail the Tigers, Astros and Mariners, however.
There was good news for another Yankees rookie. Through fan voting, Rob Refsnyder was selected as the AL East winner for the 2016 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award presented annually by the Major League Players Association for community involvement.
Refsnyder partnered with Athletes Brand to design a T-shirt that benefits A Kid’s Place, a Tampa-based organization that works to provide stability and care for children removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. His name will appear on the 2016 Players Choice Award ballots for league-wide voting to determine this season’s award winner.
Two former Yankees players were among the other division winners, relief pitcher David Robertson of the White Sox (AL Central) and Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson (National League East). Also voted onto the final ballot were Astros pitcher Lance McCullers (AL West), Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (NL Central) and Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (NL West).