Oscar Mercado slammed his bat down in frustration and started walking back to the visitors dugout at Yankee Stadium. But Gary Sanchez lost the high pop-up behind home plate in the sun. He lept backwards with his glove, but saw it too late and that kept the door open for the left fielder and Cleveland. They rushed through that crack and beat up the Yankees in a devastating loss 11-3 Saturday.
This is the second costly loss in a week for the Yankees, who were one strike away from sweeping the Orioles on Thursday when a wild pitch got past Sanchez as they went on to lose to the worst team in baseball. Cleveland may not have as ugly a record as the Birds, but this is a team no potential playoff team should be losing to. That is especially true for the Yankees who are neck-and-neck with the Blue Jays and Red Sox in a race for an American League wild card spot.
The Yankees will now have to try and make up for these two losses to sub .500 teams against the likes of the Red Sox, Blue Jays and division-leading Rays in the final nine games of the season.
Giancarlo Stanton hit his 30th homer of the season in the seventh inning, the only life the Yankees bats showed. Luke Voit hit his 11th, a two-run shot in the eighth.
Luis Gil, who had been so stellar in his first three big league starts, wasn’t able to slam the door on Cleveland. He gave up a solo home run to Yu Chang and then got in trouble in that fifth inning.
He had gotten one out and looked like he had Mercado too when the foul pop up dropped off Sanchez’s glove. Gil then hit Mercado. He walked Jose Ramirez to end his day. Fellow rookie Albert Abreu gave up an RBI-double to Franmil Reyes and then hit Harold Ramirez before giving up a two-run double to Chang. Owen Miller singled in another run before former Mets’ prospect Andres Gimenz crushed a three-run home run.
Andrew Heaney came in and gave up a two-run homer to Reyes in the sixth and a solo shot to Ramirez in the eighth.
Sanchez has had a rough week and a history of defensive issues that all come flooding back in these situations. Clay Holmes had two wild pitches get by Sanchez in the bottom of the ninth in Camden Yards Thursday, which immediately brought back the criticism of Sanchez.
An offense-first catcher, Sanchez has struggled in the past to block balls, which has drawn the ire of fans. In these days of analytics, however, the emphasis from the organization has been for their catchers to focus more on framing pitches, because they feel there are more chances to impact a game with that. After a dismal 2019 season, the Yankees brought in catching specialist Tanner Swanson to help Sanchez. He had the 28-year-old revamp his catching stance, dropping down to one knee, so he can frame the pitches better at the bottom of the strike zone. Some former catchers have pointed out that also puts the catcher in a less athletic position to react to pitches that go wild.
Sanchez is third among qualified catchers in the American League with seven passed balls this season and the worst in defensive WAR -0.2.
The Yankees are built on power. They planned to have their power hitters and power pitchers smooth over the rough spots in their game. Unfortunately, for them, their power hitting has been sporadic at best. Already, they’ve shown that they realize that was a miscalculation when they finally moved Gleyber Torres out of shortstop last week because of his mistakes.