The baseball season is three days old, and the question must be asked:
Did someone forget to unleash the Kraken?
OK, to be fair, Gary Sanchez has displayed a few signs of life at the plate in this very young 2019 campaign. Yet few Yankees could have benefited more from a burst out of the gate than their controversial catcher, and instead, his throwing error Saturday afternoon led directly to his team’s first defeat.
When a bottom-of-the-ninth-inning rally fell short at Yankee Stadium, the team found itself on the wrong end of a 5-3 loss to the egregiously awful Orioles, dropping the season record to 1-1. James Paxton’s stellar pinstripe debut went for naught as his teammates stranded 11 runners on base, and DJ LeMahieu, also registering his Yankees launch, mitigated his overall impressive showing at third base — his first game there since 2014 — by committing a costly throwing error of his own that led to a pair of Baltimore insurance runs.
So Sanchez hardly operated alone in this loss to this expansion-caliber club on which the Yankees should routinely pound. He stands the highest, however, because of what we know he can do, and what we saw him not do last season.“That’s my fault,” Sanchez said, through an interpreter, of his bad throw in the top of the sixth inning. “I take responsibility for that play there, because if I [make the play], they don’t score.”
The 26-year-old showed off his accountability multiple times last year, when failures of offense (a .186/.291/.406 slash line), defense (18 passed balls) and effort placed him on the griddle. That stand-up behavior is not new. What the Yankees would like to see new from Sanchez is actually old: the player who captivated them with a brilliant rookie campaign in 2016 and a thoroughly impressive, if at times rocky, follow-up in 2017.
The Orioles had just tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the sixth, Dwight Smith Jr.’s single scoring Jesus Sucre from third and advancing Richie Martin to second, when they tried a double steal with a 1-and-1 count on Trey Mancini. Rather than try to get the lead runner Martin at third, Sanchez fired to second, and his throw fell short and to Gleyber Torres’ left, skipping into center field. Martin strolled home for the 2-1 lead that the O’s never relinquished.