Sanchez continues to make history

The Yankees’ hopes for a postseason berth grow less frail as long as Gary Sanchez keeps making history. They climbed to 2 1/2 games of the Orioles for the second American League Wild Card berth Wednesday night by riding once again the rookie catcher’s coat tails.

The Yanks have rebounded nicely from that four-game sweep at Fenway Park with two victories over the Rays at Tropicana Field. Wednesday night, they build a 7-0 lead in the second inning off Alex Cobb, a pitcher who has given them trouble in the past (5-2, 2.13 ERA entering the game) and waltzed to an 11-5 decision.

Cobb made the same mistake Brad Boxberger did Tuesday night by challenging Sanchez with two runners on base and first base open, and the result was the same, a three-run home run. With that blow, Sanchez got to 18 home runs faster than any player in major-league history. Four innings later, he got to 19 home runs quicker than anyone in major-league history with a solo shot off a 0-2 pitch from Joe Marks.

Sanchez had driven in the Yankees’ first run of the game with a single through the middle. The two-homer, five-RBI was just a continuation of a sweet ride that has put him in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award discussion. In the six games on this trip, Sanchez is batting .423 with two doubles, five homers and 13 RBI in 24 at-bats.

It has been an extraordinary run for Sanchez, who now has hit one more home run in his six weeks with the Yankees than he ever hit in a full minor-league season. He has also been first rate behind the plate working well with the pitching staff and helping to control opponents’ running games.

Masahiro Tanaka, who ran his winning streak to seven games, had a most unusual outing. Armed with a seven-run lead, the righthander was stung for four solo home runs in the third inning. He had never before given up four home runs in a whole game.

Bobby Wilson began the attack with a leadoff homer. Two outs later, the Rays went back-to-back-to-back on big flies by Evan Longoria, Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson, the last two coming on consecutive pitches.

Sanchez responded with his sixth-inning homer. Miller added a fifth solo shot for Tampa Bay, his second, in the eighth off Adam Warren, but the Yankees answered with three runs in the ninth, two on a homer by Starlin Castro fill-in Donovan Solano. The Yankees finished with 17 hits, including four by Brian McCann, who played in his 1,500th career game. McCann, who has been displaced by Sanchez as the regular catcher, has gravitated well to the designate hitter role.

Tanaka (14-4) surrendered his ERA lead as it rose from 2.97 to 3.07. He has pitched to a 2.28 ERA over his past nine starts with seven victories. He improved his season record against the Rays to 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA, his career mark against Tampa Bay to 6-0 with a 2.82 ERA and is now 6-1 with a 2.27 ERA this year against AL East competition. The Yankees are 23-8 in his starts.

While the Yankees gained ground against the Orioles, they still have three other clubs between them. The Astros and Mariners won while the Tigers were rained out at Minneapolis. Baltimore’s lead for the second Wild Card is down to one game over Detroit and Houston and two over Seattle, which is a half-game ahead of the Yankees.

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