Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Homer Happy

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Homer Happy

Article excerpt

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Gary Sanchez might have arrived late to the AL Rookie of the Year award conversation, but he keeps on slugging his way into consideration.

The Yankees catcher belted two more home runs Wednesday night, and drove in five runs while leading his team to an 11-5 victory over the last-place Rays before 12,192 fans at Tropicana Field.

Sanchez has five home runs in his last four games - including the go-ahead shot in Tuesday's series-opening win. And he's kept the Yankees' faint heartbeat going in a thick AL wild-card race.

With 11 games remaining - seven of those against wild-card leading Toronto and Baltimore - the Yanks (79-72) are 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles for the final spot, though Seattle, Houston and Detroit remained ahead of Joe Girardi's club.

Before the game, Girardi said of Sanchez's accomplishments: "I think you kind of say, 'What's next?' because of what we've seen in these 160 to 170 at-bats. It's been fun to watch."

The joyride resumed in Wednesday's first inning, as Sanchez (3- for-4, walk) had one of the Yanks' three RBI singles in a three-run frame against right-hander Alex Cobb. In his next at-bat, Sanchez smashed a three-run homer off Cobb (1-1).

Sanchez crushed a sixth-inning, 0-and-2 pitch off lefty Justin Marks for his 19th homer of the year in just his 44th big-league game -- that's a record. The solo shot gave the Yanks an 8-4 lead on a night when Masahiro Tanaka was less than sharp.

In six innings, Tanaka (14-4) surrendered four solo home runs - all of them coming in the third inning, and three of them hit consecutively by Evan Longoria, Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson.

Miller's second homer of the night, off Adam Warren, cut the lead to 8-5 in the eighth. Sanchez has eight homers in his last 12 games after his third multi-homer game of the year. Designated hitter Brian McCann had four hits and an RBI for the Yankees.

When the subject of his Rookie of the Year qualifications came up after Tuesday night's game, Sanchez wouldn't entertain any thoughts about the award.

"My focus is to win ballgames," Sanchez said through his interpreter after his 17th homer of the year had lifted the Yankees to a 5-3 win at Tropicana Field.

But Sanchez ought to figure prominently in the voting even if he plays in about 54 games this year. …

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