That’s probably a good thing. At long last, it’s probably the right thing.
The catcher, who went 0-for-4 Sunday against the Mets to drop his batting average to just .190, wasn’t in the Yankees’ lineup for Tuesday’s series opener against the Nationals. He won’t be in there Wednesday, either. With Sonny Gray on the mound, the Yankees are planning to once again have backup catcher Austin Romine work with the pitcher, much the way he has the past month.
Sanchez’s back-to-back bench days — barring a last-minute decision by manager Aaron Boone to use him as the designated hitter — come on the heels of Monday’s team off-day. This means the struggling slugger likely will have three days down before returning to action Thursday.
The combination of a heavy recent workload, what Sanchez calls an “aching” calf, and a string of disappointing at-bats led the typically patient Boone to finally sit the slumping star.
“He’s had just the wear and tear of catching, whether it’s shoulder, knee, calf,” said Boone. “He’s fine, he’s good to play, but overall he’s a little banged up and maybe that’s leaking in a little bit.”
Across his past 15 games, Sanchez has compiled an .075 (4-for-53) average with 18 strikeouts. His batting average in that span is the worst among major leaguers with at least 40 at-bats since May 22.
In addition to struggling to simply make contact, Sanchez’s power numbers have taken a massive hit. He’s on a 16-game homerless streak, the longest of his career by four games.
“The reason I’m not hitting is because I’m missing pitches I usually hit,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “Maybe I’m overthinking a little too much and that’s why I’m missing those pitches I don’t usually miss. I’ve swung at some pitcher’s pitches, really good pitches, and I’ve missed those.”
He didn’t miss the last pitch he swung at, a line drive right into the glove of Mets third baseman Todd Frazier to end a Yankees loss Sunday night. According to Statcast, the liner left his bat at 92.2 mph. A few feet in any other direction and Sanchez could’ve had himself a timely RBI double.
Sanchez might be banged up, but this time off appears to be a much-needed mental break too.
It hasn’t been all that common for Boone to bench his struggling players for multiple games. Save for an occasional off-day, the first-year manager has regularly opted to give his scuffling hitters their at-bats, hoping routine will eventually ease them out of it.
Boone has done that with Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner, and, until now, Sanchez. For Gardner, who went through one particularly horrid 5-for-42 (.119) stretch in May, the manager’s patience was reassuring and confidence-building.
“It’s important for guys to know that their manager, their hitting coach or whoever it is has their back,” Gardner said. “I think to myself, those four or five, however many weeks to this season, and just to keep running me out there in the leadoff spot, getting me my at-bats and letting me continue to see pitches and work out of it. That’s important to kind of just stay the course.”
It’s easier to give players who aren’t hitting more opportunities to turn it around when others around them are hitting well, the outfielder acknowledged.
“We’ve got a great lineup, and when you’re winning and scoring runs and pitching well and things are going well, you can afford to give guys a little more time to work out of things,” Gardner said.
Gregorius, who had his own 1-for-42 slump that at one point last month dropped his average by nearly 100 points, took comfort in other hitters — such as Gardner, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres — heating up as he struggled.
“Like I say, if it was just about one person, then the team would not be doing good. But everybody picks each other up. That’s one thing that we always have here,” Gregorius said. “One guy’s struggling today, but then the same day, somebody else is going to pick him up anyway.”
Regularly this season, Romine has been there to not only pick up Sanchez but to help carry the team. In 76 plate appearances, Romine is batting .348 with a 1.027 OPS. He’s been especially good with runners in scoring position, hitting .474 with 15 RBIs in 24 chances. On Tuesday, he drove in a runner with a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Sanchez has posted a .721 OPS to go along with a batting average below the Mendoza Line. In 69 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, he’s batting .236 with 24 RBIs and 18 strikeouts.
Boone’s patience isn’t only evident in the opportunities he gives struggling players. It has been evident in comments he’s made publicly about those players. The phrase “I believe he’s close” has been a mainstay in the manager’s lexicon.
Before Sunday’s game, he said something similar about Sanchez.
“He’ll settle in and the hits will start to follow and the hitter we know will be soon after,” Boone said. “One of the things I talk to Sanchie about a lot is go up there and have a good at-bat. Because of who you are and the talent you have, the results will be there. The results will follow when you’re having good at-bats.
“It’s simply a matter of time before he gets rolling again.”
Sanchez’s teammates echo that.
“For me, he’s too talented to continue doing what he’s doing,” Gardner said. “That’s not a knock on him; it’s just a matter of things will find a way of evening themselves out over the last half of the season.”
That’s how Sanchez feels, too.
“Slumps are part of baseball,” Sanchez said. “The same way they begin, they end.”
Chris Sale dominates Mariners, shows he’s among best pitchers
BOSTON — They used to say “Don’t pitch a lefty in Fenway Park.” The Green Monster is so close and gives up so many cheap home runs to right-handed batters and so many cheap doubles off the wall that it will eventually get in your head if you’re a southpaw. Whitey Ford was one of the best lefties of all time and Casey Stengel basically refused to pitch him there; Ford started 43 times against the Red Sox in his career, but just 12 times at Fenway.
The way Chris Sale pitched on Sunday, you could have put him on a Little League field in Colorado and the Mariners might not have scored off him. Sale shut down the Mariners in a 5-0 victory with 13 strikeouts over seven brisk innings, throwing 71 of 93 pitches for strikes, and fanning Mike Zunino with a 100.5 mph fastball on his final pitch — the fastest pitch of his career. I’m not sure how the Mariners got four hits off him.
Sale is serving notice that you shouldn’t forget about him in what could be an epic American League Cy Young race — John Smoltz said a few days ago it could be the best one ever. Justin Verlander may be the leader at the moment with his 1.60 ERA, but Corey Kluber and Luis Severino actually rank 1-2 in WAR with Sale fourth entering the day behind Verlander. Throw in Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell and Gerrit Cole and you have seven starters with ERAs under 2.60 and dominant peripheral stats to match.
“He was amazing,” manager Alex Cora said of Sale after the game. “Velocity-wise, location-wise, the tempo. It was a big game, you win the series, you move on. From the get-go, from the first at-bat against Dee [Gordon], you could tell. He looks fresh, he’s throwing the ball well, we’re very pleased with where he’s at right now.”
Over his past four starts, Sale has allowed four runs in 28 innings with 43 strikeouts and just 15 hits allowed, a meager .155 average. For the season, he’s 7-4 with a 2.56 ERA and ranks first in the AL in strikeouts, third behind Verlander and Cole in batting average allowed and second to Kluber in innings. His average fastball velocity has ramped up from 92.5 mph in April to 95.6 in May to 97.0 in June.
That final pitch? “Got two strikes in the inning, the crowd’s into it, just rear back and let it eat,” Sale said.
Hovering over all of this is what happened down the stretch last season. Sale entered August as the Cy Young front-runner with a 13-4 record and 2.37 ERA. Thanks to a couple of seven-run outings against the Indians, however, plus two other games in which he allowed a combined seven home runs, his ERA over the final two months was 4.09.
“The whole plan this year has been recovery, feeling good and staying strong. I think we’ve had a good building-up action from spring training up to now,” Sale said. He’s made 17 starts and mentioned that he’s probably thrown fewer innings and fewer pitches than at the same time last season.
He’s right. Through 17 starts last year, he’d thrown 120 2/3 innings and thrown 1,853 pitches; this season, he’s at 109 innings and 1,715 pitches. That may not seem like a big difference, only eight fewer pitches on average per start, but the uptick in velocity at this point in the season is at least anecdotal evidence that the offseason plan Sale and the front office put together with Cora and the coaching staff is working.
“I know a lot of people talk about what happened last year,” said Cora, who was a bench coach for the Astros when they eliminated the Red Sox in the ALDS. “I do feel that his stuff was still there. In October, he was throwing 97-98, just a matter of a few pitches in the heart of the plate and [the Astros] took advantage of it. The stuff was there. The last game here in Game 4 he dominated.”
In baseball-obsessed Boston, where the media will never forget even small failings, Sale will face questions about his durability the rest of the season. That’s part of the fun of playing in Boston. It takes a certain mental strength to deal with these things. For Sale, it’s simply focusing on controlling what you can control.
“The main focus right now is just winning games. We’ll worry about the future when we get there,” he said.
About that Cy Young. The one thing working against Sale is the win-loss record, which is mostly about a lack of run support. The Red Sox are third in the majors in runs per game with 5.11, just a hair behind the Astros and Yankees, but they’ve been shut out twice in Sale starts and he’s had five no-decisions when he has allowed two runs or less.
“Sometimes I walk around and wonder when he’s going to get upset,” Cora joked.
While it’s true that wins don’t rule the Cy Young voting the way they once did, they could factor into a race with so many strong candidates, and with Kluber 11-3 and Severino 11-2. Sale also is on the short list of best pitchers to never win the award, riding a streak of six straight top-six finishes, including runner-up honors to Kluber last season.
But, as Sale said, that’s in the future. At the present, one of the best pitchers in the game is riding a crackling fastball, an unhittable slider that batters have hit .108 against, plus an underrated changeup to one of the best months of his career.
Oh, he’s also not afraid of the Green Monster. He has a 2.96 ERA at home since joining the Red Sox.
Diamondbacks vs. Pirates – Game Recap – June 24, 2018
PITTSBURGH — Everything was going Clay Buchholz‘s way. Then, a swing-and-miss led to an injury that turned what could have been a gem into a routine solid outing.
The right-hander retired the first 11 batters he faced before Pirates centerfielder Starling Marte doubled down the right-field line with two out in the fourth inning. Despite throwing just 53 pitches (42 strikes), he was pulled to start the sixth inning after informing manager Torey Lovullo of some pain stemming from swinging at the first pitch of his at bat in the top of the fifth.
“I’ve had oblique, whatever it is, before. It was a lot worse than this one,” Buchholz said. “I went out (in the bottom of the fifth) and the last two outs, that’s whenever I felt it a little bit more. I was just trying to get through that inning. It’s more precautionary. I’ve gone through things before where I’ve tried to get through it, pitch through it and go another inning, but that’s always led me in the wrong direction.”
Lovullo said Buchholz (2-1), who allowed two hits with five strikeouts in five innings for his first win since June 1, would continue to be evaluated throughout Sunday. More information is expected Monday.
“He was attacking the zone with the fastball and driving his fastball on both sides of the plate, and then throwing some quality secondary stuff,” Lovullo said. “We want to give him a night to let everything calm down and evaluate him.”
“It’s nice to get a couple runs in the first, always,” Murphy said. “I was leading off the second and was looking for a fastball. Got one in a pretty good spot.”
Pirates right-handed starter Trevor Williams (6-5) took the loss after allowing the two-run home run to Peralta with two out in the first inning and a lead-off solo homer to Murphy, which made it 3-0 in the second. Those three runs came on five hits in six innings pitched with six strikeouts.
“Unfortunately, that was the game today,” Williams said. “From there on, I thought I was making all my pitches and being successful the second time through the lineup.”
Pittsburgh has scored eight combined runs during its current five-game losing streak after winning four of its previous five games.
“We’re going to keep playing,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The season’s not going to stop. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. These guys are working hard in here to get better. We haven’t gotten better.”
Diamondbacks: RHP Braden Shipley was recalled from Triple-A Reno on Sunday morning. RHP Jake Barrett was optioned to Reno following the game Saturday.
Pirates: RHP Michael Feliz was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation on Sunday and recalled RHP Clay Holmes from Triple-A Indianapolis. Holmes allowed one walk in two innings of relief.
Diamondbacks: RHP Shelby Miller (0-0, 0.00) is expected to come off the 60-day disabled list to make his season debut against the Marlins on Monday. After undergoing Tommy John surgery for a torn UCL sustained last season against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miller allowed 10 runs on 20 hits with 28 strikeouts and six walks in a combined 19 1/3 innings during his four rehab starts, two with Double-A Jackson and two with Single-A Visalia.
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (4-6, 4.03) will look to find some consistency when he starts against the New York Mets on Monday. He is 2-6 since winning his first two starts of the season against the Minnesota Twins on April 2 and the Cincinnati Reds on April 8.
Chicago Cubs swept by last-place Cincinnati Reds as bullpen falters again
CINCINNATI — Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon must feel like every move he makes is the wrong one right now as his team was swept by the last-place Cincinnati Reds after an 8-6 loss on Sunday, getting outscored 31-13 over the four games.
The Cubs led 5-0, but a move to the bullpen once again backfired as reliever Pedro Strop gave up a three-run home run to Jesse Winker on his first pitch, part of a seven-run seventh inning that turned a 6-1 deficit into an 8-6 lead for the home team. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the four-game sweep was the first for the Reds over the Cubs since April 1983.
“That’s a tough one to swallow,” Strop said after the Cubs’ fourth consecutive loss. “We lose three games and this one we thought we should have had [after leading 5-0]. You just give it up. It’s a tough one to swallow.”
Strop said he had no command of his fastball as five straight batters reached base after he relieved starter Mike Montgomery with two on and no outs in the seventh. This came a day after reliever Brian Duensing allowed inherited runners to score in another Reds win. It has been a disturbing trend for them this month while they play without top bullpen arms Carl Edwards Jr. (shoulder) and Brandon Morrow (back). Cubs relievers have allowed more than 40 percent of inherited runners to score in June after allowing just 19 percent in May.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work out,” Maddon said. “Give the Reds credit. They really did swing the bat well.”
That’s the secondary storyline as Cincinnati is 29-30 under interim manager Jim Riggleman after starting the season 3-15. The Reds are not a typical last-place, rebuilding team, but the Cubs are built for October, and with another four-game series in Los Angeles coming up, things can slide the other way quickly.
“It hurts,” infielder Javier Baez said. “We do get mad, but at the end of the day that doesn’t make you better. It gets everything out of you, but you still have to make adjustments.”
Some may be critical of Maddon’s bullpen moves as a few of his relievers may be overworked, but both Duensing and Strop were well rested before they imploded. Right or wrong, whoever he calls upon is getting hit hard right now. There are other issues as the Cubs are leaking water in plenty of facets of the game as their defense, starting pitching, offense and, of course, bullpen came up short over the weekend.
“They kind of kicked our ass this series,” Montgomery said.
The relaxing news for the team is that they’ve been here before. In fact, coincidentally, in each of the past two Junes, the Cubs have struggled mightily, only to right the ship after the All-Star break, en route to back-to-back division titles.
“We beat the Dodgers two out of three [last week] and we’re the best team since the 1927 Yankees,” Maddon said Sunday morning before the latest loss. “Then Cincinnati beats us for three days and all of a sudden it’s doom and gloom. I cannot live my life that way.”
Tell that to Cubs fans who are on an emotional roller coaster that won’t end on Monday in Los Angeles. That’s where the Cubs will allow 2012 second-round pick Duane Underwood to make his major league debut, as starter Tyler Chatwood left the team Sunday for the birth of his first child. It’s just another stumbling block for the Cubs, who have trailed the Milwaukee Brewers in the standings for most of the first half.
As the team packed to leave Cincinnati, Maddon preached calmness. He and his coaches are wearing bib overalls for the trip to Los Angeles. A four-game sweep by the Reds — during which the Cubs allowed six or more runs in each contest in a sweep for the first time since 1970 — isn’t changing that decision.
“This was pre-planned,” Maddon said of wearing overalls. “You still eat. You still sleep. You still pet your puppy and move on.”
World Cup 2018: Portugal v Iran live blog, score, start time, video, teams, Group B
#Collapzilla – Club team loses seven wickets for 1 run in 11 balls
Next Chelsea manager: Maurizio Sarri deal appears done as bookies suspend betting
Deontay Wilder suggests ‘brainwashed’ Anthony Joshua is a fake during bombshell interview
World Cup 2018: Spain v Morocco live blog, score, start time, video, teams, Group B
Tennis deal puts Australia Tests back in HD
Russia team news: Predicted Russia line up vs Uruguay at World Cup – Midfielder sidelined
Check out Saquon Barkley in the 2018 Body Issue
Chris Sale dominates Mariners, shows he’s among best pitchers
World Cup 2018: Australia v Peru start time, teams, betting odds, how to watch
Boxing15 hours ago
Boxing news: Eddie Hearn RIPS INTO Deontay Wilder over Anthony Joshua contract delay
Soccer24 hours ago
Harry Kane is 'ready to join a big club': Cesc Fabregas transfer claim ahead of England
Golf10 hours ago
PGA Tour: Bubba Watson creates history after capturing Travelers title
Soccer18 hours ago
World Cup 2018: Robbie Kruse shocked at abuse
Soccer14 hours ago
Arsenal transfer news: Unai Emery makes 'personal call' to Sevilla star Ever Banega
Cricket24 hours ago
‘Who made the yo-yo test a pre-requisite for selection?’
Soccer10 hours ago
Chelsea news: Maurizio Sarri jets into London, makes decision on house
MLB18 hours ago
Injured Kris Bryant missing second consecutive game for Chicago Cubs