In the boxscore, it accounted for just one of three Yankees’ home runs. One of six extra-base hits. One of a season-high 11 runs.
No big deal. Unless you consider the circumstances.
When Gary Sanchez drilled an opposite-field, two-out, solo home run against Angels’ high-strikeout pitcher Andrew Heaney in the first inning of an eventual 11-5 win, the Yankees were losers of four straight and had just been called “as bad as you can be” by general manager Brian Cashman. The small but restless Yankee Stadium crowd would’ve booed at the first sign of negativity if the Yankees’ bats stayed quiet yet again.
“I thought it was big,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Heaney gets the first two guys [out] and then Gary puts a really good swing on one. It looked like something soft backdoor that he stayed through and rode out of here — a no-doubter into the second deck.”
Sanchez’s home run for a 1-0 lead allowed the Yankees to breathe easier on a 94-degree night at Yankee Stadium. It was the first time they scored first in a game since Thursday.
“We’ve been having trouble at times punching through in that first inning,” Boone said, “so to get one on one swing right there I think certainly laid some groundwork for the night.”
Sanchez isn’t one of the three American League finalists at catcher on the All-Star ballot, but none of the others are as dangerous as he is right now. And the Yankees need the Sanchez of the last 28 games — hitting .311 with nine home runs, seven doubles and 21 RBIs — more than Sanchez needs a third All-Star selection on his résumé, even if MLB player ballots deem his hot streak worthy of a once-improbable spot as a reserve.
“We’ve been a different team when we can score first,” Sanchez said. “Like we say in the yard, ‘When you score first, you are winning.’ ”
After hitting became as contagious as not hitting had been, Sanchez came up big again in the fourth inning. With the Yankees leading 6-3, Sanchez’s two-out double scored Brett Gardner. He was the first of four straight hitters to reach base as suddenly the lead ballooned to 10-3.
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