Yankees Flex Muscles and Even Series With the Red Sox

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Yankees 6, Red Sox 2 | Series is tied, 1-1.

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Gary Sanchez after his second home run of the game, a three-run shot in the seventh that gave the Yankees a 6-1 lead.CreditCreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

BOSTON — The last six months have been largely forgettable for Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, lost to injuries, embarrassing lapses behind the plate and a mystifying disappearance of his bat. Sanchez has been so dreadful at times that he invited questions about whether the Yankees would turn to his steady, unspectacular backup, Austin Romine, in the postseason.

But the Yankees knew that if they hoped to reach the World Series, it would be considerably more difficult without a contribution from Sanchez. With that in mind, General Manager Brian Cashman said he was doubling down and tripling down on his starting catcher.

It proved to be a wise bet on Saturday night as Sanchez washed away the disappointment of the regular season with two home runs, carrying the Yankees to a 6-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox that evened their American League division series at one game apiece.

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka allowed three hits, including a solo home run by Xander Bogaerts, and departed after five innings with a 3-1 lead.CreditBen Solomon for The New York Times

Sanchez hit a solo home run in the second inning, boosting the Yankees’ early lead to 2-0 and hastening an early departure by Boston starter David Price, and he then put the game out of reach by clubbing a three-run, seventh-inning home run off another left-hander, Eduardo Rodriguez.

The home runs were enough on their own for the Yankees, who had Masahiro Tanaka deliver a solid start before Dellin Betances, Zach Britton and Aroldis Chapman kept the Red Sox at bay.

The series heads back to New York, where the Yankees have won seven consecutive playoff games dating to last season — a streak that had left the Red Sox feeling a sense of urgency about winning Game 2 even through they were already up a game in this series.

Aaron Judge started the Yankees’ Game 2 long-ball attack with a solo home run off Boston’s David Price in the first inning on Saturday.CreditBen Solomon for The New York Times

“I know the rivalry and everything, we played some games there and it’s been loud, but nothing like the way it’s going to be there on Monday,” said Red Sox Manager Alex Cora, who was the bench coach for the Houston Astros last season, when they won the World Series but lost three straight playoff games in the Bronx.

Cora had to feel a little uneasy about handing Game 2 to Price, the pitcher with a $217 million contract and a pair of inconvenient goblins — he can’t win in the playoffs and can rarely beat the Yankees. Price’s teams — Tampa Bay, Detroit, Toronto and now Boston — have lost all 11 of his career playoff starts. And since signing with the Red Sox before the 2016 season, he is 2-8 with a 7.95 earned run average against the Yankees.

In recent weeks, Price has not tried to hide from his playoff failings.

He said on Friday that he would go one pitch at a time in Game 2 and treat it like any other outing. When a reporter followed up, asking if he had not done so in past postseasons, Price laughed.

David Price as Gary Sanchez started rounding the bases on his first home run of the night, a solo shot in the second inning.CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

“No,” he said. “I just don’t have an answer for you guys. I’ve been asked that for quite a while now. I can’t really put my finger on it. That was my generic answer.”

But any good vibes stemming from Price’s candor, or from his invigorating second half of the regular season (7-1 and a 2.41 earned run average over his last 12 starts), lasted just two batters on Saturday night, or until he threw a 1-2 cut fastball to Aaron Judge that crept over the middle of the plate.

Judge crushed the ball, sending it soaring into seats above the farthest edge of the Green Monster, the ball landing between the light tower and the flagpole.

Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner caught a fly ball by Mookie Betts to end the fifth inning.CreditBen Solomon for The New York Times

As Judge made contact, Price cringed.

It turned out to be not an aberration, but a prelude. Sanchez, who entered with five home runs in 13 at-bats against Price, led off the second inning by lining another Price offering over the wall in left. It was the 11th home run Price had allowed to the Yankees this season.

Price then retired Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar, but he walked Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner. And when Andrew McCutchen singled off the top of the Green Monster, scoring Torres to make it 3-0 and sending Gardner to third, Price’s night was over.

The maligned Red Sox bullpen kept Boston in striking distance. Joe Kelly, along with Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman and Eduardo Rodriguez, held the Yankees scoreless until the seventh.

Reliever Brandon Workman leaving the game in the sixth inning after allowing two hits and getting just one out.CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

That’s when Sanchez, with two runners aboard, crushed a 2-1 pitch from Rodriguez deep to nearly the same spot that Judge had hit his home run.

The home run was gratifying for Sanchez not only in the context of his season — he batted just .186, missed about two months with two stints on the disabled list for a groin injury — but also for him on this night. In his previous at-bat, Brasier had barked at Sanchez to get in the batter’s box and then promptly struck him out.

Sanchez also had a hand in helping Tanaka navigate his way through a lineup that had troubled him this season; in four starts against Boston, Tanaka had allowed 29 hits and 16 earned runs over 19 innings. Nor had he pitched well in his last two starts of the regular season, lasting four innings apiece against the Red Sox and Tampa Bay.

But the right-hander, rediscovering his split-fingered fastball and mixing it with his fastball and slider, kept Boston at bay on Saturday, allowing just three hits and a walk in five innings. The only run he allowed was on Xander Bogaerts’s home run to center field.

The other Red Sox run came when Ian Kinsler doubled home Mitch Moreland in the bottom of the seventh, but it was not nearly enough on a night when Sanchez awakened.



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