Last season, Gary Sanchez never got on the hot streak that the New York Yankees saw in 2017 and in the final two months of the 2016 season.
After an injury-plagued 2018, Sanchez is displaying the power the Yankees saw earlier in his career. With sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge recovering from injuries, the catcher’s offense is among the causes of New York’s surge.
Sanchez hit his 18th homer Saturday, matching his total from last season, and he gets his first crack at surpassing it Sunday night at Yankee Stadium when the Yankees go for a sweep of the Boston Red Sox.
Sanchez and the Yankees will face David Price, who was 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA in four starts against New York in 2018. Although Sanchez last season hit .189 in 89 games with two stints on the injured list, he hit two homers off Price and is 7-for-14 with six homers and 12 RBIs lifetime against the left-hander.
The Yankees own a 9 1/2-game lead on the Red Sox after Sanchez hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth off Rick Porcello in Saturday’s 5-3 win. Sanchez’s homer helped the Yankees win their fifth straight and improve to 15-3 in their last 18 games.
“We’ve played really well,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “There’s no question and we’ve done it in a lot of different ways. We’ve won in a lot of different ways.”
After producing the biggest hit Saturday, Sanchez has homered in six of his last nine starts and has 12 homers in his last 26 games.
“He’s a very, very talented hitter,” Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. “When he’s in a good position to hit, even when he’s a little bit out front like that, he can still do some serious damage. We’re obviously just fortunate to have him on our side.”
The Red Sox are on a four-game losing streak and are 2-6 in their past eight games after getting within three games of the division lead on May 13.
They are hoping to rebound from tying a season high with 14 strikeouts and going 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position Saturday, when they totaled at least 10 hits for the fourth time in five games.
“We’re not closing the gap,” Porcello said. “We’re making it bigger. It’s tough. We’re in a tough spot coming in. We’re in an even worse spot right now.”
After the rough outing by Porcello, the Red Sox hope Price can keep his decent run going when he opposes CC Sabathia.
Price is 1-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last four starts.
He got two outs in Houston on May 25 before exiting due to illness and returned three days later to pitch six scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Cleveland Indians in a game Boston lost 7-5.
Price is 15-14 with a 4.90 ERA in 42 career appearances (41 starts) against New York. He is 2-7 with a 7.71 ERA in 11 starts against the Yankees since joining Boston.
Sabathia is returning from a brief stint on the injured list due to right knee inflammation and needs one victory to become the 48th pitcher in baseball history to reach 250 career wins. Sabathia enters Sunday two behind Hall of Famer Bob Gibson for 47th on the all-time wins list.
Sabathia last pitched on May 22 against the Orioles in Baltimore, where he allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits in five innings.
He is 18-13 with a 4.14 ERA in 42 career starts against Boston and is 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA over his last eight starts against the Red Sox.